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Elephant in the Room - “Ignoring Truth”

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Those who have read my material on the new churches, will know that I doubt the position of The Gospel Coalition. The Coalition hosted ‘The Elephant Room’ idea, which is fine if debate is between equal partners, but not if some partners in the debate are unsaved or heretical. This article is not about the Coalition or the ‘Elephant Room’ debates. Rather, it looks at the origin of the saying ‘The Elephant in the Room’.

The original source is not known, but it is accepted that the saying is from the USA. At its plainest, the saying refers to any topic that is big but not discussed, or is avoided. This happens much in Christian circles as they rally around a particular teacher or teaching. I know from experience that many churches avoid certain topics or teachings for fear of having a riot on their hands! Pastors do not talk on certain subjects for fear of members leaving in a huff for another church that agrees with their views. This, of course, should not be! The pastor must have the courage to speak out… if he loses his pastorate, then that is the price paid for truth. If he thereby loses members, then so be it – it is the price they pay for remaining ignorant and rebellious.

An elephant in a room is far too big to be ignored! That is why the phrase was coined. Yet, how many Christians avoid certain topics, or pussy-foot around them just in case someone gets annoyed or upset? Above all people, Christians should be marked by their absolute integrity and adherence to absolute truth, as given in scripture, otherwise they pander to lies, deception and half-truths. Sadly, few Christians are of this kind, even though it is required of them by God.

The saying, ‘The elephant in the room’ was used with clarity in a book called ‘An elephant in the living room: a leader’s guide to children of alcoholics’. No-one wanted to discuss the matter because it went on behind closed doors. Today, homosexuality is the biggest elephant in the world in a very small room! No-one actually discusses it publicly, though it is one of the biggest killers in the world and the most hideous fascism known to man since the fall of the Nazi regime. Yet, it cannot be ignored, for it pushes in your face and fills space around you!

Another elephant in the room is Arminianism. Arminianism is a Romanist ploy, and ‘another Gospel’, yet most Christians avoid criticising it! It is a barrier to truth, and preaches salvation that is not salvation – it is a false gospel! But, the elephant fills the room and no-one dares speak out about it. They would rather accommodate it.

I see a whole herd of elephants in the ‘room’ we call local churches! Whether the herd is loafing about in the river, drinking water, eating from trees, or rampaging in a frenzy, they are always there. Discuss them or not, they exist. Like physical elephants they take up a lot of space, if not most of it. Even so, lazy, ignorant, or fearful Christians prefer not to talk about them. They want a quiet life before slipping away unnoticed into the heavenly realm. If they can hide behind the baggage of war, they will do so, rather than invoke the fury of the enemy, who can often be their own spiritual peers. If the elephant they wish to pretend is not there attacks them, they will not gun it down – they will run away and hide.

By taking this avoidance stance, Christians do not make things better, or even comfortable. Elephants are not content to just stand there… they move about, change position, they run, they crush, they even kill. The real answer is not to ignore them in the room, but to just get rid of them, to roam outside the local church. But no! Christians today have no stomach for spiritual battle. Christ calls them to enter the war, but they do not want to upset the apple cart. Instead, the elephants tread all over the apple cart. In this way, issues the cowards tried to avoid were broadcast by the ones they tried to avoid!

We are in a spiritual war, and battles rage all around us. Not entering the battle is only an option for those who do not care. They would rather let the elephant sit on their sofa, eat all their food, and drop faecal matter, than shoo it away! These are Christians without backbone; they fear men and reject God, rather than stand up and fight the good fight. To them, ‘truth’ is something best kept in a book or in a preacher’s rhetoric. Once it affects the life of a Christian, the Christian turns tail and finds a quiet spot to hide in. The elephant wins and takes over the room completely.

Do you get the picture? It is hard at first to shoo away the elephant in the room, but the more experience you have at doing it, the easier it becomes. We are not called by God to stand in a dark corner pretending to be wallflowers! We are called to be soldiers of the King and to fight. This is an honour and a privilege, and it is not an option reserved just for preachers and people like me.

I do not want to fight, I do not want to be hurt, but the good name of God is sufficient reason to enter the fray. We dishonour the Lord when we avoid truth and allow that elephant to rampage. My ministry is based on dislodging the elephants in our room, our churches, our lives, our thoughts. I am saying “It’s either the elephant or me. One of us must go!” Unfortunately, because most Christians are cowards, they want to retain the elephant!

Then, to placate the elephant, they turn against the truth-teller, using ridicule, scorn, or shunning. That is what modern Christianity is like, and it stinks… just as the elephant droppings stink inside your room. The stink reaches the nostrils of our Lord, Who hates lies and deception, and loathes believers who refuse to be counted.

The fact is this – as believers we HAVE NO OPTION but to speak out, to identify the elephant in the room (it is big enough!), and to lead it outside, where it cannot affect those in the room. If it is allowed to stay it will take over and probably destroy the room. Or, by proper discussion, it can be whittled down to mouse-size.

Well, friends, that room (the local church) is not yours to allow to be destroyed. It is yours to protect and keep safe, because it belongs to God. The elephant must be talked about and a proper conclusion reached, even if you do not like it. The fact that it is an elephant and is in your room, means it is controversial. Tough! It must be discussed and, if necessary, kicked out of the room. I do not care if others are animal lovers and want to keep it… get rid of it.

Few Christians are good at discussing controversial topics. They think, without warrant, it is unchristian, unloving, unethical! But, they cannot find this in scripture. It is just their feeling, their emotional response, their very vague form of Christian belief. They have no backbone, and have limp-rag handshakes. They avert their eyes when trouble flares, and say nothing. Instead, they mumble and grumble inwardly, tainting what should be a loving relationship with their fellows.

If you have an elephant in your room, whether that room is your home, your group, or your local church – discuss it. Do not let it fill the room and fill your hearts and heads with discomfort and unloving thoughts. An elephant just stands there, taking up all the space… unless you lead it away.

For many years I was an elephant in the room. But, my local churches refused to discuss me with me. They avoided the confrontation. In the end I, the elephant they refused to discuss openly, left of my own accord. This is how many local churches deal with what they deem to be trouble: let the one they avoid just leave.

It does not really do anything good – it just means they did not deal with it. They sigh with relief when the ‘trouble’ is no longer in their midst… until another trouble raises its head and the elephant returns. They avoid that one, too, and a whole series of elephants come and go, undealt with. One day, a rogue elephant will enter and will not leave. It will stomp the life out of everyone, because they are too afraid to deal with it. And so the cowards find themselves dead. It is how local churches disappear.

I know a great deal about elephants. I am one myself. I know how fearful people are and how they will avoid truth and confrontation at any cost, even when that cost is the loss of truth, integrity, genuine Christian values, and faith.

© February 2012

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Bible Theology Ministries - PO Box 415, Swansea, SA5 8YH
United Kingdom