Searching For Relevance

Who We Listen To

October 12, 2017

Every day it is my practice to rise, do a morning devotion, and then glance through the latest news headlines — perusing a great variety stories journaled by publishers of all persuasions.  I want to know what’s going on so that I might have some sense as to what my parishioners might be feeling or facing, globally as well as locally.   Pew Research released a survey this past week revealing that Americans are the most anxiety ridden people in the world.  Why?  Well, trying to understand that, is one of the reasons I go through this practice every day.

One of the headlines I came across Tuesday was Mike Ditka, former NFL player and coach saying, he "has been aware of no racial oppression in the U.S. over the last 100 years”.  Really?  Did you fail your college course in American history or were you simply unfortunate in your instructor?  It was a statement beyond my understanding!

But my real concern is, Why in the world would Mike Ditka’s opinion matter in the first place?  Why do we even give it the importance of publication?  Nothing personal, but since when do we derive our perspectives and values from individuals who might have excelled in a particular arena - screen, stage, or sports — to begin with?  Yet, this is not uncommon as we seem to care more about what entertainers or athletes or politicians say, than those whose lives have been dedicated to assisting us in developing our ability to critically think about our values, ethics, and morals — scholars, educators, and . . . preachers.

Once upon a time, the tallest building in any community (and it was usually at the literal center of the community) was the church.  Likewise, there was a time when the Monday issue of the New York Times printed the Sunday sermons of preachers in the pulpits of that metropolis.  This was done, not to agree with everything these individuals said, but as a means of encouraging the newspaper’s readers to “think” critically about what was going on from the perspective of divergent people.

Now, I’m not claiming or saying that any sermon I have preached is “the truth”, but what I am encouraging us to ask ourselves is, “Who do we listen to and what is their agenda?”  Are they simply expressing a personal opinion based upon subjective facts and individual bias?  Or, are they individuals who have personally wrestled with the matter at hand, not trying to persuade everyone to their way of thinking, but rather encouraging them to actually . . . THINK!!

It concerns me that we are witnessing the demise of educated clergy in our country, which is chipping away at the important ministry of being a thinking contributor, from a spiritual perspective, to the social conscience of the land.  There are large churches with huge pastoral staffs, but have you ever stopped to look at where these individuals were educated, and theologically if, at all?

Which brings us full circle back to my original question, “Who are we listening to?  Are we really considering this, discerning why?”  There are many “talking heads” out there, which ones do you give the privilege to of catching your ear?


Rev. Dr. Keith Haemmelmann