Recently, a friend shared a post about a political rally on social media. I started to read the post. Then, I thought about the verse about “edifying talk” from Ephesians 4.29. “Let no corrupt speech proceed out of your mouth, but such as is good for building up as the need may be, that it may give grace to those who hear.”
Political rallies are akin to rock concerts. The Nuremberg Rally of 1934 drew 700,000 supporters of the Nazi party. It emboldened its leadership to quicken implementation of anti-Semitic laws. In my friend’s social media post, the author compared a 2020 rally to the feeling of attending a rock concert.
I have never attended a political rally but I have attended rock concerts. The lights go down. People begin to cheer. And, it is exciting.
But, is the excitement of a rock concert the place for political discourse? How does the experience compare to worship services? I am much more familiar with worship services, and I have been lucky to attend various styles and types of worship. Contemporary services can be thrilling, but they do not resonate with my spiritual thirst in the same way as a thoughtful, quiet service. Taizé services are meaningful. Traditional services are familiar. Liturgical services connect me with the faith tradition. Charismatic services remind me of the presence of the Holy Spirit.
For me, worship transforms my day when I experience God. My transformative experience comes from a coherent, thematic worship, where the opening through the benediction has a reoccurring idea. In some ways, the style of worship matters less than its substance. Even though I have musical and stylistic preferences, I can grow in various kinds of worship services.
Political rallies seem to be the opposite. The point of a rally appears to be hyping up the followers of a politician or political party. The Nazis held the Nuremberg rallies to get people excited. Politicians do the same thing today. They focus on rallies for the same reason churches sometimes focus on the style of worship. Hype and excitement grab people’s attention. Thoughtful engagement takes time and is hard work. It lacks political expediency.
Politicians and Christian leaders face the challenge of engaging in thoughtful discourse without being ignored. When a clown dances on the center stage, it is hard to hear the provocative and edifying soliloquy off to the side. All we can see is the clown. Even if the clown is absurd, our schadenfreude at the clown’s silliness makes it difficult to look away. This is similar to people preferring salty, packaged food to fresh vegetables. Even if we know the vegetables are better for us, fast food satiates a lust for salt and oil.
The Ephesians verse above is personal. It is about the self and one’s own behavior. It represents the agency we have over our own words. That is, I should eat my vegetables. Sometimes I should not consider whether or not you should eat yours because I still have to work on my own self-discipline. Likewise, I need to work on my political discourse and improve my edifying speech before judging political rallies.
My goal can be to continue contributing to thoughtful and engaging worship. This is not the answer and this is not the end. Speech that is “good for building up” is a lifelong process.