Standing before adoring fans, indulgent friends, and doting colleagues, Oprah Winfrey received the Cecil B. DeMille Award for lifetime achievement at the 2018 Golden Globes. Taking advantage of her platform, she addressed the sexual harassment scandal rocking Hollywood. After thanking the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (a group of several dozen foreign reporters who report on Hollywood) for their pursuit of “absolute truth” (her phrase), she powerfully launched into this:
What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have. And I'm especially proud and inspired by all the women who have felt strong enough and empowered enough to speak up and share their personal stories… We all have lived… too many years in a culture broken by brutally powerful men. For too long, women have not been heard or believed if they dare speak the truth to the power of those men. But their time is up. Their time is up.
Hollywood lauded Oprah. Media pundits swooned, calling her “stunning” and “brave.” One Hollywood favorite opined, “I will now officially divide time like this: Everything that happened before @Oprah speech: Everything that will happen after.” Many suggested she run for President, NBC going so far as to tweet, “Nothing but respect for OUR future president.”
What should the thinking Christian make out of it? And why should the thinking Christian care what Oprah says?
Let’s start with the second question. In one sense, Oprah’s words carry no more weight than your brother-in-law’s and shouldn’t be given any more credence. Your brother-in-law, however, doesn’t have the platform Oprah has. Second, Oprah is bigger than an individual; she represents a cultural mood, a way of thinking that is becoming all pervasive. So, Oprah helps us detect the pulse of the American culture and gives us a good starting point for offering a response.
What do we make out of her words?
So what should a thinking Christian make out of Oprah’s words? At least two things. First, her phrase “your truth” is deceptively dangerous. She’s right that it is a powerful tool, but it is a destructive power, not a constructive one. To see why, contrast her words with Jesus’ in John 18. Standing before Pontius Pilate, being interrogated with His life on the line, Jesus, with true bravery, declared, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (18:37). Those are stunning words! And notice how Jesus spoke of truth; He came to bear witness to the truth. Oprah exhorted people to speak your truth. There’s a difference, and it’s a big one.
Your truth is subjective. That means it’s anchored in you, the individual. And the world is populated by 7.6 billion individuals. Does truth have 7.6 different definitions? Is each one equally true? Such a position is ludicrous, but it’s precisely where Oprah leaves us, unable to differentiate between competing truth claims. It ultimately fragments truth and leaves it lost at sea.
Jesus speaks of truth differently. He refers to the truth, truth that is objective, truth that is outside and beyond us. The truth is grounded in reality. It has one anchor – God. And, in endorsing your truth, Oprah and her Hollywood supporters are suppressing the truth, which is precisely what Scripture says sinful man does: “by [his] unrighteousness” he “suppress[es] the truth” (Rom. 1:18).
Second, Oprah’s “your truth” comment was intended to encourage female victims of sexually immoral behavior to speak out. Speaking out against evil should be encouraged because evil must be stopped, but this assumes evil can be defined in some objective sense, that it is somehow anchored in an objective truth that differentiates between good and evil. But this is precisely what Oprah has rejected! Against what, then, is Oprah exhorting women to speak? Are they merely being told to make their preferences known – that they simply don’t prefer to be sexually harassed? – Or is sexually immoral behavior truly evil? Aren’t those engaging in the behavior she condemns merely living their truth? When objective truth dies, we are left with nothing but individual truths, which are really just opinions in disguise.
Thinking Christians should be greatly disturbed by Oprah’s comments not because she has condemned sexual immorality (sexual immorality should be condemned!); we should be disturbed because when objective truth is rejected and your truth is endorsed, power is the only tool left to advance your truth/opinion and the sexual revolution is about power.
Don’t be deceived, Oprah is no friend to women or men. No one who has rejected objective truth can be. Oprah, and many of her Hollywood compatriots, are arguing out of both sides of their mouths, lobbying for sexual liberty at one moment and decrying those who put it into practice the next. What Oprah doesn’t understand is that reality won’t let her have it both ways. Either truth is objective and sexual ethics are grounded in this truth and apply to all (including Hollywood and her) or they’re not and everyone can live his or her individual truth.
The sexual liberty espoused by the sexual revolution and endorsed by Hollywood (including Oprah) is simply untenable. Sex that has been loosened from its moral anchor can’t be contained or controlled. It is too powerful and too prone to harm. And the current cultural sexual disaster is living proof.
Oprah and Hollywood’s vehement condemnation of inappropriate sexual behavior has slammed them into the Christian sexual ethic which has always differentiated between objective good and objective evil. Some behavior is evil. Some sexual behavior is objectively wrong. And not a shred of it depends on your truth.
Quite simply, if the great pandemic of sexual allegations and condemnations besetting our culture proves anything, it proves that the Christian sexual ethic stands vindicated. Christianity grounds its sexual ethic in God’s created order (described in Genesis) and lovingly insists that sex, accordingly, belongs in marriage. It has been given by God to join husbands and wives in a one-flesh, exclusive, monogamous union aimed toward the procreation of children.
SEX HAS A HOME: MARRIAGE
Sex has a home: marriage. Christ said as much:
“Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
Here Jesus, who testifies to the truth, endorses God’s created order. It is the ground for reality. God created mankind as male and female and male and female have been specifically designed for the one-flesh marriage union. We are not permitted to separate what God has joined together. Narrowly, Jesus is speaking of divorce, but more broadly He is grounding the Church’s sexual ethic in God’s created order and exhorting us not to divorce what God has united – and not just because it’s wrong, but because it opens a Pandora’s Box of evil, evil we are watching run amuck in real time today.
What we need today is not vehement condemnation of another's truth; what we need is an ardent endorsement of objective truth. This is the truth to which Jesus testifies and the truth that will ultimately restore sexual ethics. – Pastor Conner