Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Myth of Neutrality

In most of America today, and among the Lord’s own people, there is an alarming phenomenon that could be called the “mediocrity syndrome.” It is a common occurrence in most religions, and in fact, throughout the spectrum of everyday life. Simply put, it inclines the timid-fearful towards the gray area known as “average” or “mediocre”—shifting them into the neutral zone. Result: good doesn’t appear good, nor the bad as being bad. Hence, individual worth is obscured by celebrating the ordinary instead of the exceptional. God requires His people to stand up and be counted, and although this may seem like an unusual topic to bring up, yet the understanding of it is vital to one’s eternal salvation.

A Lesson from a Reformer
Many years ago I was greatly impressed by the words of a famed English religious reformer of the seventeenth century, John Lathrop (1617-1653). A few years after running across some of the teachings of Lathrop, I read a biographical novel by Helene Holt about John Lathrop entitled, Exiled. In her book Mrs. Holt quotes some of the same things of which I had previously been impressed. She pointed out that John Lathrap felt neutrality was soul-destroying. Among many things, he is quoted as saying, “Neutrality is a myth, a glorified myth. Neutrality is a Trojan Horse, professing some advantage, but being inherently full of danger. Neutrality is not neutrality at all. It always favors the despot—adds to his power. Neutrality favors nothing and no one. That is the great myth!”

John Lathrop went on to say: “If a man steals from his neighbor, his act is evil. If that man happens to be your employer, his act is still evil. If no one questions the stealing employer, on the ideas it would be better to remain neutral, then the employer continues to steal. Neutrality refuses to keep evil in check. Evil unchecked will destroy good. That’s why neutrality is so dangerous. Moreover, real neutrality refuses even to identify evil as evil, in which case there is no activity to promote good as well as no activity to prevent evil. By default, neutrality is the great sympathizer and nurturer of evil. The most deadly enemy of righteousness is not evil, it’s neutrality.” (Edited from, Exiled, (1987), pp. 7-9.)

Another thing that Mrs. Holt pointed out is that there can be a difference and a conflict between liberty and loyalty—the conflict of liberty of conscience that inspires one to positive action, in contrast to loyalty to some personality which inspires neutrality, which in turn breeds ignorance and apathy.

Being neutral in a cause shows the most blatant form of permissiveness and cowardliness. Neutrality does no good for the apathetic except allowing the tyrant more freedom to continue his totalitarian rule and wickedness. It allows the oppressor the freedom to take away everyone else’s freedom and the exercise of conscience.

Those who abstain from voting against wrong when they have an opportunity to do so are, unwittingly, already casting a vote in favor of the wrong by default. A voice that does not oppose evil or wrong, by its silence, approves of it and becomes partly responsible for it by allowing it to continue unopposed.

Because of the lack of courage and valiancy of the neutral mainstreamer, such may not have a place in God’s kingdom. God cannot work with those who are not committed, those who have wishy-washy values. The Apostle James proclaimed, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8)

The Lord needs those who can become committed to their belief systems, be they right or wrong. Take the Apostle Paul for example. At first he was an ardent persecutor of the Christians, a thing to which he was dedicated. The Lord knew that once converted, Paul would also be just as committed to the cause of Christ. Paul was the type who was willing to stand for something and be counted. There is one thing for sure, there will be no neutralists or middle-of-the-roaders in the Kingdom of God. The Lord declared through John, “. . . I would thou were cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth.” (Rev. 3:15-16.)

Jesus Was Not Neutral
Jesus was anything but neutral, mediocre or mainstream. To be mediocre is to be just as close to the bottom as to the top, and He was always at the top. Mainstream consists of the majority, and history has proven that the majority has never truly been with God, and rarely have they been right. They have consistently shifted away from God towards the more popular side because it offers less friction.

Today, all are encouraged in most every aspect of life not to rock the proverbial boat. They are motivated to become mediocre middle-of-the-roaders, taking the broad and popular way—the way that leads to destruction— instead of having the courage to take the strait and narrow path. (Matt. 7:13-14.) They are not inspired by their leaders anymore to stand up for truth, speak and raise the hand against evil and oppression as they once were. Those who do so are accused of being dissenters and not politically correct, of not being in harmony with ecclesiastical leaders and of falling into disfavor with church goers.

Being neutral is to be mediocre, being in the middle between one side and the other—taking no stand. If we are to be true disciples of Christ, we are to be like Him. We must take a stand for Him and His righteousness regardless of the consequences. Moses, Isaiah, John, Paul and a host of others were anything but mainstreamers. They possessed courage.

The Strait and Narrow Way
Now there is a reason why we are commanded to take the strait and narrow way instead of the broad: the majority are too many to fit on the narrow path; they must take the B R O A D and popular way so they can all fit there comfortably with one another. But we are commanded to take the narrow way. Besides, there won’t be many there, so we shall all fit rather comfortably.

God would have us take the strait path and stand for something, be it right or wrong. Jesus said that, “No man can serve two masters . . . Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Matt. 6:23), and that, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25.) He also commanded, “Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:” (Matt. 7:13.)

Out of fear and intimidation, or the desire for approval, many people shut their mouth against known evils and refrain from standing against opposition by claiming neutrality. Such people fail to understand, as someone aptly put, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It is taking action in the face of it.”

It appears that going to church, at least for many, has become nothing more than attending a social club. The members, with very few exceptions, seem dedicated to mindless repetition and the idolization of being thought well of. I would venture to say that they are not as interested in obedience to God as they are in maintaining the status-quo. Such so-called churches are full of members with double standards and divided loyalties. Wrong is still wrong, even if it is found in the church of God, and the time will come when God will rout it out along with the those who knowingly consent to it. I am sure that many churches owe their very survival to this predictable syndrome of mediocrity.

I realize that many may feel uncomfortable with what has been discussed thus far, for denying the truth of it all helps them feel safe and secure in their lack of courage. They may also think that by ignoring the problem it will eventually, somehow, go away. Like the proverbial Ostrich with head-in-sand, the problem doesn’t go away. The silly bird only gets its tail feathers plucked. The late and famous author of western fiction, Louis L’ Amour, wrote in one of his books, Haunted Mesa, the following words of truth: “We have a saying that power corrupts. It does. Power not only corrupts he who wields the power, but those who submit to it. Those who grovel at the feet of power betray their fellows to hide themselves behind the cloak of submission. It is an evil thing.”

By a truly honest inspection of God’s written word, and the dictates of their conscience, one can know the truth of all things through the Holy Spirit. The valiant, who recognize the spirit of truth and the attending responsibility, will rise to the occasion when duty calls. And the fact is, those who inherit God’s kingdom will have a backbone sufficient to stand tall for truth, and they will not be ashamed to stand beside those who do. Because of silence, however, the unvaliant and mainstreamers are not entitled to liberty of conscience; they are only entitled to that which they sanction by their silence and mediocrity.

No one escapes when freedom fails.
The best men rot in filthy jails,
And those who cried’
“Appease, Appease”!
Are hanged by those they tried to please.
— Anonymous