The Spiral of Silence

Are we cowed to silence by the loud voices of unbelief?

What We Must Do (11)

But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear… 1 Peter 3.15

Making our case
In our generation, most Christians seem to believe that, if a case is to be made for the Kingdom of God and the Christian worldview, the task falls to others more qualified than they.

Declaring and defending the Kingdom is the work of theologians, apologists, writers and teachers, and, of course, preachers. The rest of us can’t expect to make bold stands for the Gospel to our secular and unbelieving neighbors.

Certainly, theologians and preachers have a role in making the case for the glorious Good News that the Kingdom of God has come. But it would be a mistake to believe that such people are the only, or even the most important means for making our case for the Christian worldview.

That task falls to every one of us who have embraced Jesus as Savior and Lord. We must all prepare and be ready to break our silence on spiritual matters and speak boldly for Christ, like Stephen and Paul.

Trapped in a spiral of silence
Three primary means are available to us, by which we may share our views and beliefs, engage in discussions and arguments, and work to persuade others of the truth of our worldview. These are conversation, publication, and participation. And each of these is within the reach of every believer.

Thus, every believer needs to know how to make the most of opportunities for declaring and defending the Kingdom, beginning with everyday conversations (Eph. 5.15-17).

The worldviews by which people live are incubated, first of all, in everyday relationships, beginning in homes, neighborhoods, and workplaces all across the country. What parents teach their children to believe – the priorities they inculcate in them, the values they instill – these will have long-term implications for what they believe and how they live.

Additionally, what people talk about with one another as they go about their everyday tasks and conduct their relationships also shapes what they believe and how they live. German sociologist Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann explains that those who are the most active and outspoken regarding their views and positions are likely to carry the day in democratic societies such as ours (The Spiral of Silence). The more people talk about their worldview, the more open and confident they are in making their case, the bolder they become. The bolder and more outspoken they become, the more a “spiral of silence” begins to engulf those who listen to them, but believe something else. No one wants to be thought of as holding to a “minority position” on anything, so, rather than speak up when others are going on about their worldview, most people will remain silent.

Including, alas, most Christians.

This is where the Christian community finds itself at this time, trapped in a spiral of silence before a blustering but empty secular and unbelieving worldview. As David Bentley Hart observes in his book, Atheist Delusions, “One would think these would be giddy days for religion’s most passionate antagonists; rarely can they have known a moment so intoxicatingly full of promise. A mere glance in the direction of current trends in mass-market publishing should be enough to make the ardent secularist’s heart thrill with the daring and delicious hope that we just might be entering a golden age for bold assaults on humanity’s ancient slavery to ‘irrational dogma’ and ‘creedal tribalism.’” Before that veritable tsunami of ink and paper, many Christians have retreated into a spiral of silence, not knowing how to respond, and fearing to be called out for standing against the dominant worldview.

This is not what we should expect from those who are designated vessels of truth, even though we be but frail vessels (2 Cor. 4.7).

Make the most of the opportunities
So it is very important that believers in Jesus Christ make the best use of every opportunity to talk about what is good and pleasing to God. We must teach our children well and insist that our churches assist us in this process. We must learn to think through the implications of the Kingdom of God and its application for every aspect of life. We must encourage one another to be ready at all times to give a reason for the hope that is within us.

If believers will not use daily conversation – in our homes, places of employment, among our friends, with our neighbors – we can expect others to frame the worldview by which the rest of us will live. The spirit of the times, rather than the Spirit of God, will continue to shape the environment and culture in these secular, narcissistic, and unbelieving times.

But imagine a nation of scores of millions of people, deeply conversant with the Word of God, and steeped in the experience of His Kingdom, people who understand the times and are eager to discuss and able to defend their views at every opportunity. There is more power for making our case in everyday conversations than we have yet begun to wield!

If Christians are ever going to break the spiral of silence and make the case for a Christian worldview, it will begin in the day-to-day opportunities that God provides for talking with our children, neighbors, and co-workers about the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

For reflection
1.  Would you describe yourself as outside or within “the spiral of silence”? Explain.

2.  What does we mean by “everyday conversations”? Can you give some examples? Do you agree that these could be a context for declaring and defending the Good News of the Kingdom of God? Why or why not?

3.  Who are some people (first names only) you might try engaging in a conversation about the Good News? How might you go about that? What obstacles will you need to overcome?

Next steps – Conversation: Here’s a conversation starter to use in engaging the people in your Personal Mission Field this week. Try it out with two or three folks, then share the results of your effort with some of your Christian friends, encouraging them to do the same: “If I had some really good news to share with you, do you think you’d be willing to hear it?”

T. M. Moore

Our Mission Partners Outreach can help you begin sharing the Good News of Christ and His Kingdom with the people in your Personal Mission Field. The training and materials are free, and the program is available in two formats, and can be used in your Bible study group or Sunday school class. Watch this brief video (click here), and download the informational flyer to learn more.

Are you living as fully as you might the presence, promise, and power of Christ’s Kingdom? Our book,
The Kingdom Turn, can help to enlarge your vision and experience of living under the Kingship of Jesus in this day of salvation. Order your copy by clicking here.

We look to the Lord to provide for our needs, and He does so through those who are served by this ministry. Please prayerfully consider becoming a supporter of The Fellowship of Ailbe with your financial gifts. You can send your tax-free contribution to The Fellowship of Ailbe, 19 Tyler Drive, Essex Junction, VT 05452, or use the Contribute button at the website to give with a credit card or through PayPal.

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT. 

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