When Dead Men Speak...

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I just finished watching the TV miniseries Chernobyl. I was brought to tears by the end of the series. In the final episode (spoiler alert, the reactor explodes), Legasov, the nuclear expert rises to speak before the Soviet tribunal tasked with determining whose fault the explosion of Chernobyl was. Legasov is a dying man. He had stood in the shadow of Chernobyl during the cleanup as untold amounts of radiation rained down upon him. At one point he acknowledged that just being in that place basically meant he would only live another five years, tops.

And Legasov stands to speak before the court. The truth is, the explosion happened, in part because of ambitious bureaucrats who disregarded the safety of others. But it happened ultimately because the Soviet government decided to cut corners and save a little money. He has been instructed by the KGB that he must not say this. He may not tell the truth. It will embarrass mother Russia.

And in a pivotal scene he decides to tell the truth even though the KGB will likely imprison or torture him. He tells the truth because he believes it will save countless lives. He tells the truth because he hopes it will motivate the Soviet government to make a change... to repair the 16 other RBMK reactors all over the Soviet Union so that nothing like Chernobyl would ever happen again. And as he stands to speak he decides to tell the truth. And we as the viewer know why he can tell the truth: because he knows that he is dying. What can they do to Legasov that the radiation has not already done? What can they do to this dying man who already is living with a death sentence? What more can they take from him? His life? He's already lost it.

Legasov can tell the truth because he is a dead man. And dead men can tell the truth, and Chernobyl ends on this note of the importance of truth and the price of lies.

This idea has me thinking about current events, especially this month. With the arrival of Gay Pride month lots of brands have begun to send the signal that they have heard the cultural message and are prepared to signal that they are on what they believe will be the "right side of history." Logos are being painted with rainbow imagery. Messages are being posted to indicate that this house has paid the cultural tax and is no enemy of the sexual LGBT revolution.

I attended a Christian liberal arts college--it was relatively conservative. I had classmates with lots of different perspectives when it came to Christianity, and I knew many of them to be what I would uncharitably term "weak kneed" in the face of the authority of Scripture, the nature of God, and of course biblical teaching on human sexuality. Many of those friends are predictably flying the rainbow flag this month. Then I had other friends I did not expect to see caving on this issue--friends I was close to and thought I knew to be firm in their biblical convictions. I thought that, of all those people I know, at least they would care nothing about what the world thinks of them. However, as it has turned out in some cases, I was wrong. This unexpected effect of the rising tide of sexual revolution has left me surprised and sorrowful. For the first time since I was in college, I feel as though the rising tide has swept my comrades out to sea, and I wonder how many more will be next.

I know that there have always been times when God's people felt like the only ones holding the line in the face of immense pressure. As He said to Elijah, I know that the Lord would say today, "I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal." That is what I know. I see those faithful ones in my own denomination who are holding the line. And yet at this moment I cannot resist the feeling that the cultural revolution really is happening...it really is sweeping up those who formerly held fast to the Scriptures... it really is the new standard of the day. The pressure is immense. 

Like Legasov, I can tell the truth because I am a dead man. Yes, the KGB is standing right over there telling me I'd better speak the party line or else. But I can tell the truth because I am a dead man. I may live another 50 years, and those could become deeply unpleasant years for someone who believes that God gives us morality, not the urges and opinions of the mob. Yes, that mob may compare me to a Nazi or white supremacist (the worst of them already do). Yes, my children will be insulted (if they are faithful) and potentially mistreated because they believe God and not man. No, I will never get a glowing obituary in the New York Times when I die, celebrating my courage and bravery to question the old dusty truths that modernity has long since rejected in favor of a more enlightened perspective that attacks Scripture while pacifying the mob.

I may never receive that respect...those accolades...and--to be honest--the part of me that does want to be lauded by the crowds grimaces at the thought - who wants to die a villain? Nevertheless, I know that I have a few breaths to speak as "a dying man to dying men." The radiation may not take me, but the grave is coming nonetheless. If it isn't an RBMK reactor that takes me it will be something else. I am a dead man. And we are all dead men. And once we are in the grave, the accolades of society, the weeping masses who were inspired by our bravery in questioning God's Word, and the pundits who respected and applauded us for promoting and spreading lies will give us no comfort. In that moment, all that will matter is the truth: were we willing to speak it, did we believe it, and what will happen to us now? In that sense, death is the great equalizer, isn't it? No more mob justice to bully us into submission, no more angry placard carrying protestors to shout us down until we repent. Just the clean court of truth and justice: "What was the truth, and did we tell it?"

Christians, let me encourage you, God has saved for himself seven thousand who haven't bowed the knee to Baal. Resolve to be part of that faithful group and speak truth to a society full of lies because you are already dead men.


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