The Common Good
May-June 2001

The Prophetic Voice

by John DiIulio | May-June 2001

The church's prophetic voice is, if you will, its greatest comparative advantage. It's what calls us to the better angels of our nature. Prophetic voice has to be backed by prophetic ...

The church's prophetic voice is, if you will, its greatest comparative advantage. It's what calls us to the better angels of our nature. Prophetic voice has to be backed by prophetic action. And the action can't just be "Let's have a rally; let's write a really nasty article." Where the prophetic voice has been backed by action, it moves government, it moves philanthropy, it moves the private sector. Where the prophetic voice is all talk and no action, where it's "faith without works," it's dead. There is no power on earth that we know of for the past 5,000 years of history, for good and ill, greater than people of faith moving out to claim space in the public square.

The issue is, do they move out on behalf of brothers and sisters they haven't met yet? Or do they move out for narrowly self-interested, self-aggrandizing political purposes? Do they move out to divide and conquer, or do they move out to conquer with love? That to me was the story of the civil rights movement—it conquered by example. It conquered by works, not just words. The words soar when the works are good.

I don't fear the prophetic voice of the church will be stifled. I do fear that we've had too much over too many years of the prophetic voice being a voice of cynicism, of nastiness even, not a voice that encourages fellowship. When the church does the right thing, there's no more powerful example.

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