Whoever controls the terminology of culture controls the narrative. Whoever controls the narrative controls the ideology. We have seen many various entities work hard to redefine terms for their own purposes. For a long time, leaders have realized that the real war is with words, and that kingdoms rise and fall, populations are freed or subdued, and cultures are brought into conformity with the power of phraseology. The ancient cultures knew it, and modern authorities are no strangers to it. Businesses, professors, journalists, and governments live or die by language. In recent history we know about the propaganda practices of Soviet Russia and communist China. We know about the enhanced financial reports of businesses and government spin. Words can be powerful weapons; they dictate and redesign societies. Words can create realities. Whoever controls the terminology controls the ideology.
Consider how our culture has created conformity with words. “Politically correct” nudged itself into first place as the pinnacle of morality (who can resist what is correct?). Anyone who is opposed to homosexuality on moral grounds is “homophobic” (declaring irrational fear, not conscientious objection). What does “freedom of speech” mean anymore? Tolerance?
The church generally doesn’t play these games. We deal in truth. But since American culture no longer recognizes the currency of truth, the church no longer has much of a voice. Ours is considered a position of intellectual poverty.
We Christians have been warned not to be deceived by empty words (Eph. 5.6) or to fall to quarreling about words (2 Tim. 2.14). But too much of the Church is certifiably disengaged, still speaking a language of half a century ago, fighting a battle that isn’t on the field anymore, all the while the culture is dancing in the dark, having won long ago by capturing the man on the street by redefining words. Young Americans are leaving the church in droves, listening to the siren song of tolerance, relativity, and individual morality.
The Church must wake up. We have been called to demolish arguments (2 Cor. 10.4-5), reasonings imaginations, and pretensions that set themselves in opposition to the knowledge of God. Instead of alliterated 3-point sermons, we need to create a vocabulary of truth and power, speaking with clarity, conviction and persistence. We need to direct the ideology instead of bow to it by being more assertive in the war of words. Instead of only rehearsing familiar images in warm words, preachers need to plow new ground with prophetic voices and transforming language: Truth with power, clarity with conviction, love without anger, authority without browbeating, and superior reasoning instead of comfortable clichés. The Church needs to rise up, dispatch old paradigms and create a new voice, a culturally-transforming vocabulary of reconciliation and redemption. It’s time for the Church to recreate ourselves to captivate our lost and dying culture. Our traditions have become shackles and render us meaningless to a mocking world. It’s past time for a colossal change.