Presidential candidates, preaching, and the feminization of discourse...

(Tim, parts held over from the last presidential race) Assuming when the normal American goes through church doors he doesn't go through a paradigm shift about the nature of leadership, it's interesting to note what the secular authorities advise concerning the speeches of Bush and Kerry and to consider how this advice applies to our preaching, today:

(John Kerry) uses what George P. Lakoff, a professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkley, calls "hedges," words and grammatical constructions that imply uncertainty or qualification.

"There are certain forms of grammar that don't commit you, phrases like 'I believe' or 'I think,'" Mr. Lakoff said. "Kerry has to learn not to do that."

"It is possible to be decisive and not sound decisive," said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. "People who speak in sentences that contain parenthetical phrases, people who begin a sentence and then deflect to add a series of illustrative examples before they end the sentences" do not seem authoritative, she said. "The language of decisiveness is subject, verb, object, end sentence." (Alex Williams, "George 'The Squinter' Bush vs. John 'The Grinner' Kerry--A Showdown of Style!" New York Times; Sunday, September 26, 2004.)

Is preaching authoritative today or have we learned to use "hedges?" Does our preaching...

"imply uncertainty" and are we careful to "qualify" our proclamations?What a contrast to the preaching of the prophets, apostles, and our Lord Himself:

As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ. For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:9-12).

For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:18,19)

Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell--and great was its fall."

When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.(Matthew 7:24-29

Comments

I had the terrifying realization recently that a nation that loves Joel Osteen would absolutely elect Barack Obama. They are the same person in different skin.

You mean Osteen is half black?!?! (hehehee)

Kamilla

No, we don't preach like Paul anymore and certainly not like Christ. However, we say to ourselves, "Well, they could do that, how could we presume to be as certain as they?" Also, we don't want to take responsibility for possible wrong statements so we qualify them or otherwise water them down. I can't hardly say anything without inserting an "I don't know but..." or "I think..." and when I say, "This is something I've seen is true..." then I get rebuke from Christians and non-Christians alike and it's not like those statements are even that definitive. I've been forcing myself (and feeling convicted) to say things like, "This is a biblical truth..." but then it requires me to back it up with scripture which is hard, it's much easier for lazy folk such as myself to say, "I think..." So I'm trying to fill my heart with scripture more every day but it's majorly uphill I am so incredibly lazy - I can't seem to ever get scripture memorized, just the general gist.

Not to end this on a whiny note but for me another thing is that I've spent many years feeling certain of things in scripture only to have had more educated men tell me I'm wrong, "if you know the Aramaic then you'd see plainly..." or "if you conjugate the Greek verb then you realize ..." So I have at times all but given up that I can rightly discern scripture - but the Holy Spirit has given me renewed assurance in recent years - but what happened to me is happening in so many churches today - like a child that has been put down too many times by their father, we simply stop thinking we know anything and decide to turn off our understanding and live forever like children or rather like a dog that's gotten kicked too many times, we're afraid to stick our neck out anymore.

So what's the solution? It's one I've had the good providence of seeing in many churches and various people - it's good preaching and teaching so we can grow in our understanding and confidence. Then we can speak boldly about the truths of scripture and what they mean in our fallen world.

But sometimes we can't afford to be definite; I grew up in the Pentecostal tradition at a time when there was far too much speculation about the Last Days and how the End Times would definitely play out. As a result, I am (almost) an agnostic on this particular issue, believing the Creeds where they say, "He will return in power and great glory to judge the living and the dead, and His Kingdom will have no end" - and leaving it at that.

That aside I do agree with the points above about being definite where Scripture is definite, and try to follow that principle in my own preaching.

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