False narratives go all the way back to the Garden. They don’t come down from above, bringing liberation and life—they bubble up from culture and are all just different forms of bondage. They all do the same thing—seek to enthrone us and dethrone our Father.
False narratives can affect anyone, at any time and any place, but they tend to have a greater impact upon the less experienced—those who simply haven’t been around long enough to have lived through the rise and fall of multiple narratives. Those who have been around for a while (and have been paying attention) are more likely to see the latest false narrative for what it is and not get seduced by what was said by Barbie on the Bachelorette, some woke person with all the answers or whoever is trending on Twitter. They’ve seen a lot of flavors-of-the-month come and go and they realize that not all that glitters is gold.
But most of all, they understand the tipping point of truth: They don’t try to understand God’s word in light of their experiences; they understand their experiences in light of God’s word. That makes all the difference in the world. Eve stumbled because she decided to understand God’s word in light of her experience (the feeling that God was somehow withholding something good from her as Satan had suggested), rather than understanding her experience in light of God’s word (that He was good and therefore she had been given a false narrative).
We tend to define false prophets as religious teachers who advocate something that conflicts with a major truth of Scripture. That’s fine as far as it goes, it just doesn’t go far enough. It’s my perception that cultural (false) prophets do much more harm than religious ones. A cultural prophet is anyone who who has substantial influence and uses it to advocate ideas/lifestyles that lead people away from the life that is in Jesus. It could be an entertainer, an athlete, a celebrity, an academic, a politician—you get the idea. The average person isn’t affected much by false religious prophets, but they are by false cultural prophets because their influence is absolutely everywhere. For example:
- On International Men’s Day, the ACLU posted on Twitter that “There’s no one way to be a man. Men who get their periods are men. Men who get pregnant and give birth are men.” (Yes, you read that right). Most people reading this will see it for the utter nonsense it is but remember, it is the young and inexperienced who are most vulnerable to this kind of thing. For example . . .
- During the Democratic primary campaign last year, a nine-year old boy asked Pete Buttigieg if he would “help me to tell the world I’m gay?” Apparently, there were no adults (or parents) among the 4,000 people at the rally because no one told him that nine-year- olds aren’t ready to tell the world anything—much less what they think their sexual orientation might be. Their feelings might be very real but that doesn’t mean they are true. Mr. Buttigieg encouraged the boy in his decision.
- Recently Stephen Spielberg’s daughter announced she was entering the pornography business. Another person in the business said, “I think we’re really living in a changed world where it’s becoming accepted and celebrated in many ways . . . if she wants to do this and live in her truth and her authenticity, and she loves sexual performing, go do it!” Eve was also “living in her truth and her authenticity.”
We’d like to think of these things are rare, isolated and of no threat to anyone but we can’t afford to be so naive! We’re much more worried about the Coronavirus, but false cultural prophets were here long before the virus and they will be here when it is no longer a threat. They spread their contagion so quickly and efficiently. Someone hears a song celebrating something destructive, then they see a movie or tv show glamorizing it, then they read what some celebrity or politician said on social media belittling anyone who doesn’t accept it—and the next you know it becomes the framework for how they look at life, love, money marriage, sexuality, gender and even Jesus. And if and when they do look at Scripture, they do so with the distorted, destructive sense of individualism that comes straight from the Garden.
False prophets and false narrative were not just a first-century problem. Jesus spoke about them and we must too.