Verbal Manipulation

All of the statements, then the spin and counter spin on those declarations, during the Democratic National Convention have been weighing heavily on me this week. Determining who and what to believe is not an easy task. Then in our study group on Saturday morning I noticed something different. There was no attempt at spin during disagreements, instead there was an honest seeking of the truth, and the desire on the part of all in attendance to arrive at the proper interpretation of what we were looking at. It was so refreshing.

That Saturday experience was followed up by something important in the sermon on Sunday morning. Our rector is on vacation, so the sermon was preached by one of our lay leaders, Herb Lowe. Herb is extremely well studied in the Judaic heritage of Christianity and his topic was the Kingdom of God. During the sermon he talked about an interesting approach to the Sermon on the Mount taken by Dallas Willard in his book The Divine Conspiracy. In it Willard, a professor of philosophy at USC, has a table of the beatitudes taken from Matthew 5 in which he maps the situation Jesus is discussing along with the old righteousness (Judaic beliefs and traditions) versus kingdom righteousness (Jesus’ new demands on the heart). In Matthew 5:33-37 Jesus talks about swearing and oaths and attempts to attest to the truth of something. Willard tracks the passage this way. [emphasis added]

Situation Old Righteousness Kingdom Righteousness
Wanting someone to believe something. Keep vows or oaths made to convince. Only say how things are or are not. No verbal manipulation.

That really struck me. No verbal manipulation. In other words, no spin.

There are a lot of people working for both the Democrats and Republicans who claim to be Christians. I make no value judgment on their faith or on the veracity of their statements, but one thing I will do and that is to challenge all of them to live up to Jesus’ demand in Matthew 5:37 “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No'; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” In other words, no verbal manipulation; no spin. It’s the least we who claim Christ as Lord can do to try and redeem the current political discourse.

  3 comments for “Verbal Manipulation

  1. August 2, 2004 at 10:27 am

    But can you imagine the urge to place your words in the best light possible without actually lying when in a position with so much power? I know George Bush has a lot of people praying for him, but the urge to spin must be overwhelming.

  2. August 2, 2004 at 11:33 am

    Yes, I can imagine an honest defense to charges and I am not implying clarification or explanation, neither of which have to be verbal manipulation but should be an attempt to elucidate the truth, as being wrong or against what I propose. But let’s face it, not only have things gotten out of hand, it’s the order of the day.

    A few scriptures to think about from Isaiah.

    “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.” Is. 5:21

    “Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” Is. 29:14

    “who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense…” Is. 44:25

    “You have trusted in your wickedness and have said, ‘No one sees me.’ Your wisdom and knowledge mislead you when you say to yourself, ‘I am, and there is none besides me.’ Is. 47:10

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