Monday, October 22, 2007,3:36 PM
He with the Loudest Voice Wins
Forget "come let us reason together." Forget "love wins." These days it feels like whoever has the loudest voice wins. I know that sounds really cynical but I'm getting tired of being drowned out by those voice. Let me explain.

We do church differently at our church - call it emerging or postmodern if you like. We don't (generally) preach at people, but instead attempt to engage people in discussion and reflection. This works really well for people who are used to us or who have an bit of an intellectual bent. But occasionally we get people who show up who after listening to part of the conversation say something like "But Joel Osteen says _____". That's the end of the discussion for them. Joel Osteen has a TV show so therefore his voice being the loudest and most prominent is correct. So if we are talking about self-sacrificially serving others based on texts from Luke, but Joel Osteen said that we can have it all if we just have faith, Joel Osteen must be right. There is no interacting with the issue, no trying to determine which message holds the truth, just allegiance with the guy with the loud voice.

Then there are the issues with the radio preachers (as the Out of Ur blog recently discussed). These guys can say whatever they want and because it is Christian radio people believe them as Gospel truth. It doesn't matter if your church preaches one thing on Sunday, if the people in your church listen to Christian radio they will believe the radio guys' over you. If they are on the radio they have the loud voice and therefore must be right. So if you are say in the emerging church, but the radio preachers tell their listeners that the emerging church is a cult where they sacrifice children and have sex with Satan (or something similar) they will believe the radio guys and condemn you to hell. No honest intelligent dialogue. No pursuit of truth. Just automatic default to whatever the guys with the loudest voice are saying.

I've personally experienced this phenomenon in a women's Bible study I was in a few years ago (which yes was just as painful as it sounds). Not much deep engagement went on at this thing. Our discussions involved reading whatever answer we filled in the Beth Moore blank with or occasionally reading the study notes from the NIV. Any attempts to push the conversation further were met with confused looks of "that wasn't in the book." One week our topic was on Rahab, and I was determined to bring up the alternative view that perhaps she wasn't a prostitute. Before I could one of the other ladies chose to read from Liz Curtis Higgs' Bad Girls of the Bible on Rahab. Essentially the passage claimed that Rahab has to be a prostitute because she represents our potential to be saved from the baseness of our sexual nature as women and if you question her role as a prostitute you are unbiblical and challenging the saving work of Christ. Which of course I disagreed with even more. At the risk of being labelled unbiblical (which I eventually was at that church) I tried to speak up and was immediately shut down. Who was I to question Liz Curtis Higgs the others asked? She's the expert on bad girls of the bible, you can't question the expert. So faithful exploration and biblical study don't matter in the face of a loud voice.

The "loud" voices, the ones with clout, are considered more believable because they are prominent and reach a wider audience. As we in the emerging church attempt to rethink patterns of theology we run up against these loud voices. They don't engage us in dialogue or a willingness to learn. Instead they ridicule, spread rumors and lies, and inoculate themselves against feedback by screening their calls and emails and deleting negative (or just basically insightful) comments on their blogs (if they allowed them in the first place). I guess it's hard to remain a loud voice if you don't just shut out all other voices.

So what do we do with this? People are allowed their own opinions, and I can ignore individuals who make fun of what I am a part of, but what about my family and friends who believe lies about me because of a few loud voices? Or who at least write me off for things I truly believe because they have been exposed to a bad representation of those things? Or what about those of us who have lost jobs because of the loud voice of others? How can we encourage church members and friends to actually think for themselves instead of swallowing whatever the loud voices tell them to believe? How can we do this without getting too cynical?

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posted by Julie at 3:36 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


13 Comments:


  • At 10/22/2007 08:07:00 PM, Blogger gerbmom

    Um, Julie....what happened?

     
  • At 10/22/2007 09:51:00 PM, Blogger Julie

    Nothing specific. Just sick of being always on the defense in conversations. It's kinda hard to be yourself if your always perceived as wrong automatically...

     
  • At 10/23/2007 07:31:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    I know...it gets to me sometimes too.

    I don't read the Bible as much as I used to but as best I recall...didn't Jesus say it would be like this?

    I think this is exactly what Brian McLaren's discussion of framing stories in his latest book is all about. When Christians become the Loud Voice it often means they have bought into the wrong story, the story that is not about the Kingdom of God but about humans with the most power/money/influence taking advantage of others to make the world a better place only for the privileged few - and worse for everyone else.

    Ask Jesus how to deal with lots of people misunderstanding you...he must have figured that out...

     
  • At 10/23/2007 07:44:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

    I think I can relate to what you are feeling Julie. My wife and I experienced something similar in a hyper-Calvinist church about ten years ago, where we were the only ones asking questions about concern for the poor, just how much doctrine should be treated as non-negotiable, where is the beauty in our worship, my wife with her master's degree in education couldn't teach Sunday school above sixth grade because anything beyond that would have her, a woman, instructing young "men" contra the scriptures, etc. Loud voices and/or condescending attitudes were the primary responses to our questions. I feel like I've read everything RC Sproul ever wrote, I've had him quoted at me so much. So, I can relate. As a result of that experience, we ended up in the Episcopal Church for about 7 years.

    At the same time, I have another parallel response which is "what did you/we expect?" Some/most of what you describe is human nature, isn't it? Not the sole province of conservative evangelicals. If someone went to Doug Pagitt's church, Rob Bell's Mars Hill or an Emergent gathering and started gently but persistently trying to argue for a complementarian view of scripture, a more positive view of globalization, and a more logic and rationality-based faith, they would probably feel similar to how I felt in that calvinist church 10 years ago. Either condescended to, or else drowned out by loud angry voices citing A New Kind of Christian, Velvet Elvis, Everything Must Change and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger along with a mind-numbing array of statistics and sociological data that just shut them down and left them feeling unheard and depersonalized.

    When we swim upstream, we shouldn't be surprised to encounter resistance, should we? When we are knowingly going against the flow and experiencing what that feels like, in our surprise are we a little like the punked out kid with spiked orange and pink hair and a chain connecting his nose ring to his earring, who has a chip on his shoulder about why people stare at him?

     
  • At 10/23/2007 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    Karl - I know debate will happen, I want that to happen. I'm frustrated by people who are too stupid to think for themselves who never even dream of asking questions. As in discussion is good, being a mindless drone is not.

     
  • At 10/23/2007 09:12:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    At the same time, I have another parallel response which is "what did you/we expect?" Some/most of what you describe is human nature, isn't it? Not the sole province of conservative evangelicals. If someone went to Doug Pagitt's church, Rob Bell's Mars Hill or an Emergent gathering and started gently but persistently trying to argue for a complementarian view of scripture, a more positive view of globalization, and a more logic and rationality-based faith, they would probably feel similar to how I felt in that calvinist church 10 years ago. Either condescended to, or else drowned out by loud angry voices citing A New Kind of Christian, Velvet Elvis, Everything Must Change and Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger along with a mind-numbing array of statistics and sociological data that just shut them down and left them feeling unheard and depersonalized.

    Karl, I'm glad you said this because it's easy to be upset with other groups for not being open to different ideas yet we can be just the same way in our own groups.

    I wrote about the Range Of Acceptable Answers (ROAA) on a blog last year. I think all groups tend towards having one and rejecting answers outside it, unless they put effort into being open to different ideas than their own.

     
  • At 10/23/2007 09:14:00 AM, Anonymous Karl

    "I'm frustrated by people who are too stupid to think for themselves who never even dream of asking questions. As in discussion is good, being a mindless drone is not."

    I agree with that. I felt the same way in the Episcopal church encountering people who mindlessly and unquestioningly spouted the (liberal) spirit of the age and clearly had never even considered the best arguments of the other side from a fair and thoughtful perspective. Mindless drones exist in any ideological or theological camp. The Episcopal, "God is a liberal democrat" drones were no more thoughtful and open than the fundamentalist, "God is a conservative Republican" drones, just more sophisticated and faux-intellectual. It was equally hard to have meaningful discussion with either. Again, I think we're talking about a tendency in human nature rather than a unique characteristic of one "side".

     
  • At 10/23/2007 12:21:00 PM, Anonymous Karl

    Helen, I like your term "Range of Acceptable Answers" and think that's a helpful concept to keep in mind.

    I also think Julie's term "Loud Voices" is useful. Which voices are the Loud Voices depends to a large degree on your context.

     
  • At 10/23/2007 02:02:00 PM, Blogger Lainie Petersen

    Julie:

    Thanks so much for posting this. I too have often found that people will respect the "loudest voice", although this can sometimes mean different things.

    For example, the "loudest voice" can sometimes be the most articulate or belong to an "expert". The loudest voice might be that which is on radio or TV...who are we mere mortals to challenge a media star?

    Of course, none of this has anything to do with the truth, but it nonetheless seems to be a formula for (the loud voice's) success.

     
  • At 10/24/2007 07:34:00 AM, Blogger Helen

    Thanks Karl!

     
  • At 10/26/2007 08:31:00 AM, Blogger paul

    I must stop speed reading... I read this sentance

    "but the radio preachers tell their listeners that the emerging church is a cult where they sacrifice children and have sex with Satan (or something similar) they will believe the radio guys and condemn you to hell."

    as "they will believe the radio guys and condom you to hell"

    but i guess that would be having your cake and eating it :)

     
  • At 12/26/2007 02:11:00 AM, Blogger Rafael

    Once again, Joel Osteen's utter failure to uphold Christian truth in an age of apostacy only further supports what is all too clear about his teaching: it is spiritually bankrupt.

    Here is a link to articles our ministry has created on Osteen's heretical compromise that is anointed as "Christianity" today.

    http://www.spiritwatch.org/behindsmile.htm

     
  • At 11/20/2011 08:31:00 PM, Blogger sport

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