When you live in a small town with a major employment base being the school district, you’re not particularly popular when you speak against the party line. But since the friends you make by constantly agreeing with others aren’t real friends, I had no problem writing a letter to the editor against a $20 million bond (you got that right — a $20 million bond in a county of 4,000 people), outlining why it wasn’t such a good idea.
While I was prepared to be vilified, shunned, laughed at, or ignored (these are all strategies used to quiet dissent), I was surprised by the number of people who stopped me, literally, in the street, and thanked me for writing the letter.
“I’m on a fixed income, and there’s no way I could afford this,” was the general statement, consistently followed by — after I encouraged them to write a letter of their own — “I couldn’t do that — the pro-school lobby, you know. I can’t risk the backlash.”
Welcome to the world of speaking up.
Afraid to Speak or Write
There are a lot of voices out there — pro-this, anti-that — but reality is, the ones you hear the most are those that are funded the best — so it is with any school levy: because the opposition does not have the coordinated lobbying force with corresponding dollars to print signs and buy advertising space, its primary voice consists of individual people, one by one, writing letters and speaking up, those who aren’t afraid to, that is.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t (in this case, the levy — which even the proponents knew to be outrageous — failed, but don’t worry: they’ll be back, and back, and back, trimming and finessing until they get what they were after in the first place), but the sheer forces against us can’t discourage us to the point that we shut up.
Voices, Clamoring Like a Cymbal
Within Christianity, there are many many voices telling us all sorts of things: how to pray, how to not pray, how to read the Bible and with what study resource, how we should vote, whom we should hate or be afraid of, what qualifications it takes to be a “leader,” and how important it is to follow those leaders. Mega-pastors and celebrity Christians meet with political principals, visit the pope, and purport to speak for all believers when they push domestic and international policy issues.
There is a strong message, aimed at the sheep, to render obeisance to these leaders: buy their books, listen to their radio programs, be one of the thousands in the football stadium at their event, follow their teaching because they, somehow, have greater wisdom and learning than others. No part of our lives is too private or intimate for their not to have an opinion on it; we look to them for advice on how to use our faith to raise our children, interact with our boss, manage our finances, and lose weight the Christ-sanctioned way.
And we acquiesce to their expertise because you can’t argue with credentials:
“These people are men and women of God,” we are told. “They have studied the Word and they have the letters they need after their name.
“Have you gone to seminary? Then what makes you think that you can speak about spiritual truth?” Acquiring truth, it is impressed upon us, requires attending institutions created and run by men, with the ultimate goal of earning a piece of paper because one has taken the classes, written the papers, and done what one was instructed by those men. This is about as logical as saying that you can’t write a letter to the editor about a school bond unless you are a teacher.
The next time someone says that you are unqualified to speak out about spiritual matters, trot out this name:
“The Nation’s Most Influential Evangelical Leader”
Wikipedia describes this author and political figure, who was phenomenally instrumental in introducing psychology into Christian circles, as being,
“In the 1980s . . . ranked one of the most influential spokesmen for conservative social positions in American public life.”
It goes on to say,
“Although never an ordained minister, he was called ‘the nation’s most influential evangelical leader’ by Time while Slate portrayed him as a successor to evangelical leaders Billy Graham, Jerry Falwell, and Pat Robertson.”
You Can Figure Out How To Raise Your Kids
Did you get the part about, “never an ordained minister”? And yet this man is revered, in some circles, as integrating God’s truth with psychology, not to mention politics.
Thousands of families have raised their children with his books in one hand but not necessarily the Bible in the other, dependent upon him — through “Christian” psychology — to tell them how to do this “scientifically,” without ever asking whether or not they could achieve parental wisdom themselves, simply by reading the Bible, praying, and asking God, for guidance.
You may or may not agree with Dobson; you may or may not even know who he is (“Man is like a breath; his days are like a fleeting shadow” — Psalm 144:4), but the point is this:
He spoke up on matters of Christianity, and he’s not an ordained minister. His lack of ministerial credentials was no impediment to his being embraced, accepted, promoted, and promulgated as a voice for Christianity, and the very argument levied against ordinary, everyday Christians — that they have no ministerial qualifications — was not an issue when it came to him.
So why is it such an issue when it comes to ordinary, committed, mature, Christians?
It isn’t, unless we allow it to be so.
While it’s a given that, as ordinary people who work regular jobs and are limited by a lack of funding, promotional influence, and media attention, we will not be heard as well as the Celebrity Christians, it is for this very reason that it’s so important that we everyday, real Christians speak up — in letters to the editor, in blogs, at the church annual meeting — because otherwise, we leave the voice of Christianity to very, very few, and there is no guarantee that those very, very few are speaking, and teaching, true Christianity.
Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity, where my consistent message to individual Christians is this: be strong in Christ by focusing you attention on that relationship. Read the Bible for yourself. Pray, every day and continuously, for God’s wisdom.
Learn from others — who earn your respect because they are wise and humble — but never let respect tip over into worship.
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