At a glance, positivity culture appears to be just that – positive. We affirm people in such a way that they are not defined solely by their actions or appearance. As a society, we agree not to “fat-shame” the overweight man or “slut-shame” the promiscuous woman.
This makes sense as Christians. We don’t want others to define us by our sin, nor do we want to incur God’s judgment.
But positivity culture is not exactly what it portrays. On the surface, the movement encourages support of the overweight man or the promiscuous woman, but that support is not for them to change their ways, rather to encourage them. See, positivity culture doesn’t say, “Don’t,” only “Do.” Tolerance is not enough, we must accept.
For example, we shouldn’t tell that man to lose weight, nor the woman to stop sleeping around. We can only tell them to have fun. Or we can just keep quiet.
If you’re unsure of what positivity culture is, then look no further than the modern movements of Sex Positivity and Body Positivity. Just a few years ago, everyone was repeating the line, “Don’t judge me.” Today, judge has been replaced with shame, but the meaning remains.
Even when not spoken, we have become accustomed to ignoring what we don’t like, or pretending we do if asked. We go along to get along, as the adage goes, leaving no room for disagreement.
This is where faith disconnects from culture. There’s no surprise that as these movements have grown, America’s Christianity has weakened.
Positivity culture makes a permanent trade, shame for affirmation, disagreement for acceptance. This culture says that you cannot criticize at all. To criticize is to judge, and to judge is to shame, and to shame is to tell someone that they have done something wrong. Society says that’s bad, but as a church, we know that hearing criticism is actually good.
Some of our actions are good, but some are also bad. Ultimately, we want to replace sin with virtue and live like Jesus.
“For freedom, Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1)
So what do people really mean when they say, “Don’t judge me”? What’s their intention when they label critics as fat-phobic or prudes? Surely criticism wouldn’t be spoken if the critic was afraid. And a prudent person is more capable of identifying sexual immortality than someone who’s promiscuous.
Positivity culture hurts the way we communicate. And the less we communicate the truth to people, the more trapped we all become in sin. Embracing positivity culture is not identical to embracing the faith, nor does it help. In fact, here are 3 reasons why positivity culture is un-Christian.
“Lying lips are detestable to the Lord, but faithful people are his delight.” (Proverbs 12:22)
Positivity culture finds its roots in political correctness where one word gets replaced by another. Suddenly, prostitutes are sex workers, pedophiles are minor-attracted people, and so on.
The issue with political correctness is that as we soften our language and use two or more words to replace one, the truth becomes lost. We’re no longer trying to steer someone on the right course. Instead, we are trying our hardest not to offend. Inevitably, this leads us to lie. Either we withhold the full truth, or blanket the truth with words that won’t cause change.
A man telling himself that his overweight teenage daughter isn’t overweight will not help her health. A woman having sex with multiple people and claiming she’s happy only prevents herself from finding actual happiness. Lying causes everyone involved to stumble.
Telling the truth is not always pleasant, but it doesn’t have to be.
2. No Room to Rebuke Sin
“A rebuke cuts into a perceptive person more than a hundred lashes into a fool.” (Proverbs 17:10)
If positive culture preaches affirmation only, that means criticizing someone is a sin. Without room to rebuke bad behavior, we end up accepting and tolerating anything that comes our way. But if we look just at ourselves, are we perfect? Certainly not, and sometimes we don’t see our own imperfections. We depend on others to hold us accountable and point out our flaws.
We might complain about the one coworker who always gossips, but if no one tells her to stop, why would she? A boy who has a tendency to talk back has no reason to cease if no one corrects him.
This logic applies to every person who is indeed a sinner, flawed, and imperfect. We need room to rebuke sin because we need room to grow and become more like Christ.
Believing ourselves to be perfect is to reject the premise of the faith – a fallen people in need of a savior.
3. Not Living like Christ
“If your brother sins against you, go tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
When we lie, we don’t rebuke sin, we encourage it. When we encourage sin, we are not conformed to the image of Christ.
Jesus didn’t lie, and He did rebuke sin. While He taught people how to grow in their faith, Jesus also outlined traps that prevented such spiritual growth. He corrected people like the Pharisees in their superficial behaviors, while also criticizing those closer to Him, like the disciples, about their lacking faith.
If Jesus is willing to admonish both friends and strangers, who are we to say we won’t correct either?
Positivity Culture Is Not Christian Culture
Have you noticed that Sex Positivity doesn’t promote abstinence or celibacy? Are virgins highlighted in America today or usually the punchline of jokes? Or have you noticed that Body Positivity deals heavily with overweight people, but not with people who have physical deformities? Why is that?
Moreover, proponents of positivity culture don’t allow themselves or others to be challenged in their thinking. Their way is the right way. As Christians, we know that’s not the case. One man is the way, and He was not a part of that culture.
Remember when Jesus approached the adulteress and told her to sin no more (John 8:2-11)? Or consider when Jesus entered the corrupt temple and turned over tables (John 2:15).
If Scripture is true, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” then we all have room for improvement (Romans 3:23). Not only have we already fallen short, but we will always fall short in some way. To not admit we commit wrongs, is to pretend that we are infallible like Jesus. And to not admit such is to be a hypocrite, claiming someone is wrong for “fat-shaming,” while in turn shaming the supposed shamer.
Positivity culture doesn’t make sense, not for those in the Christian faith. So, in response, we should continue to criticize sin, but we communicate in a way that the person will receive. Not many people will respond well to being told, “You’re fat,” but more will respond well if you say, “I’m concerned about your health.” There’s a way to approach people lovingly and honestly.
Know your audience and discern how best to communicate. We are sinners living in a sinful world but, thank God, we have each other to help with our growth.
“Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Ihor Bulyhin
Aaron D’Anthony Brown is a freelance writer, hip-hop dance teacher, and visual artist, living in Virginia. He currently contributes work to iBelieve, Crosswalk, and supports various clients through the platform Upwork. He’s an outside-the-box thinker with a penchant for challenging the status quo. Check out his short story “Serenity.”