The Duty of Political Speech
- Friday, September 25, 2009
Knowing this, love for our neighbors demands that we speak up to help guide the ship of state in the safe waters of divine favor, lest by veering from His course we shipwreck on the icebergs of foolish choices and unforeseen consequences or the shoals of unacknowledged dangers and hidden reefs. We can make our arguments for following the ways of God on prudential grounds, showing the wisdom of following Biblical truth, without resort to preaching and Bible-thumping before those whose minds would automatically close at the first sound of such a tactic. The Word of God is good and wise and profitable to equip us for every good work. The challenge to those who want to persuade their neighbors of this truth is to discover words and ways of conversing that will keep their interest, open their minds, arrest their affections, and, thus, make room for the Holy Spirit to persuade each in a manner consistent with the degree of his or her readiness. Public speech is not evangelism, and, while we must always be prepared to give a witness to our risen Savior, sometimes, when the ship of state is at risk, the best counsel is prudence only—yet not without being willing to make our general framework and worldview known (Acts 26:21-38).
The practice of political speech
Finally we must say a few words of application based on Elihu's brief. How do we actually take up the practice of political speech as a normal part of our everyday conversation as believers? I will suggest four practices.
First, we must diligently study the Word of God to discover its teaching on matters of public policy. The Bible may not spell things out in terms specific to our times; however, the principles of God's Law, the warnings of the prophets, and the teachings of Christ and the apostles can be applied to any situation in life. Our duty is to learn to see the world through the lens of Scripture, allowing the Bible to shape our thinking and guide our actions in the public square, as in all of life. For this, we will need to be more careful and diligent students of God's Word.
Second, we must keep abreast of matters of public moment and consider how each of them intersects our Christian worldview. Here we will need to do some wider reading and to find Christian friends with whom we can share our thinking and refine our views.
Third, we must discover the avenues along which our thoughts and concerns may be most effectively conveyed to the people we hope to influence. Do we have the addresses, emails, and phone numbers of our elected officials? Do we know how to engage relevant websites? What opportunities for participating in public forums are schedule for our area? How do I craft a letter to the editor? How can I use my home as a forum for engaging others?
Finally, we must practice Biblical principles of speech in all our political speech, at all times. This means learning to be a good and thoughtful listener, guarding against becoming angry or defensive or stooping to merely ad hominen arguments, being clear and persuasive in our speech, showing respect to our opponents, and encouraging others who agree with our perspective to participate in a similar manner. If we hope to affect and shape matters of civil policy, we shall not be likely to do this through uncivil speech. We cannot expect the blessings of God when we choose to do things by the ways of the flesh.
Does this mean there is no room for confrontation? No place for blunt speech? Firm disagreement? Not at all. But even these must have solid ground beneath them and be constructed in ways that keep our manner of speech from being a hindrance to the careful consideration of our message.
Let the wary be willing
This is no time for those who are wary of the shifting ground of our political foundations to stand by and say nothing. A duty of political speech is incumbent upon everyone who cares about the Truth of God and the wellbeing of his neighbor. Let us study and pray to discover the best ways of fulfilling our responsibilities in this important area of civic life and Christian calling.
What opportunities for practicing political speech are available to you at this time? How might you improve your ability to talk about matters of public policy from the perspective of your Christian worldview?
T. M. Moore is dean of the BreakPoint Centurions Program and principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. Sign up at his website to receive his daily email devotional Crosfigell, reflections on Scripture and the Celtic Christian tradition, or sign up at the Colson Center to receive his daily study, ViewPoint, studies in Christian worldview living.. T. M. and his wife and editor, Susie, make their home in Hamilton, Va.
This article originally appeared on BreakPoint. Used with permission.
Original publication date: September 15, 2009
Recently on Pastors / Leadership
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content