In the Bible, let’s take another look at Hard Power and how we bend the knee to the same entities who now use Soft Power instead. Nebuchadnezzar strong armed the Israelites into exile where he made them kneel to his gigantic statue under pain of death. Guards were on watch to see anyone who would not bow the knee to his image. If you’ve been in Sunday School at any point in the past century, you’re familiar with the three boys who did not bow to the statue: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. They faced a very real and physical power ordering them to follow its decrees.
Today, we are simply peer pressured into accepting every sexy wind of heresy and affirming every possible sexual orientation our sideways imaginations can conjure up. More often than not, though, this peer pressure takes the form of appealing sitcoms and catchy lyrics. It’s taken time, but media has so influenced our culture that to frown upon such media or behavior doesn’t make you pious, it makes you a prude.
We have moved into a new era where pursuing righteousness isn’t just foreign to people, it’s downright offensive. In the past, when I told people I was a virgin, they may applaud my restraint. Now, however, I may be told that I am actually repressing my good desires for sex and am therefore doing something bad. It’s insane.
It seems that these strong and invisible pressures have worked their magic on more than a few Western Christians. They are SO subliminal, and following the way of Christ will always be less popular and more difficult.
Take for instance the recent release of the film Boy Erased. The observant Christian will note that the thesis boils down to this: Either your sexual urges are set in stone or your religion is. If one won’t bend, the other should. I’ll let you imagine which one the movie suggests should be more malleable (apparently God is not ‘progressive’ enough to keep up with our advanced culture).
In order to end with a glimmer of hope, let’s remind ourselves who Jesus is. The classic verse John 14:6 states simply that He is truth. He does not simply say the occasional truism, but He is the embodiment of all that is right, straight, aligned and worth believing. He is the definition of reality.
One thing He constantly tells us to watch out for is, essentially, Soft Power. When He tells us how to fight the devil, Jesus does not give some mystical sort of instruction for putting on an exorcism. He simply tells us to listen to Him because He speaks the truth and to watch out for the devil, because “when he lies, he speaks his native tongue.”
Later, in Ephesians 6, Paul draws up a pretty explicit dichotomy between the Hard and Soft Powers: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood (Hard Power), but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Soft Power).”
I think the Bible spends a lot more time warning us against Soft Power because it’s harder to spot. It’s easy to point to wars, child slavery and spousal abuse as the only evil in the world. It’s harder to identify greed, wandering sexual mores and self-worship in our own hearts.
As Tim Keller often says, “You always know when you’re committing adultery. You’re never having sex and stop and say, ‘Wait a minute! You’re not my wife!’ It’s harder to be aware of things like greed and pride because they are invisible and insidious.”
Beware of America’s Soft Power. Don’t blindly take in media of any form with your brain turned off. Just because every show on Netflix makes casual sex not only permissible but necessary doesn’t mean that God has changed His mind on adultery.
Keep your brain turned on because it’s far easier to flick it off and slip into the appealing ebb of the cultural current.
Identify the ubiquitous use of Soft Power.
May we be those who cling to truth and think with wisdom. Moreover, may we cling to Truth Himself as we grow closer to the person of Jesus Christ, although it will NEVER be the easy or popular route. May we never lose hope that He will come again to expose every lie and make plain all that is true and real.
This article originally appeared here.