- The death of the stump-speech. If I read Pressler and Patterson correctly, one block in the foundation of the Conservative Resurgence was a simple, effective stump-speech outlining the problems with the SBC and a proposed solution. Conservatives carried this stump speech throughout the country to groups small and large, building grassroots support for the movement. A good "elevator talk" is still quite helpful, but here's how things have changed: In our world of telecommunication, your stump speech is likely to be promulgated throughout the convention the very first time you give it. On the one hand, that's a good thing, right? I mean, you're getting widespread exposure for your message. On the other hand, in a week (and I'm really stretching it by giving it a week), your stump speech is old news. You can't post the thing over and over online. When you go to deliver it in person, people will yawn. So, one of the changes before us is that the tasks of convention politics are becoming less like the activities of a vocational evangelist and more akin to the work of a pastor in a local church. You need new material on a regular basis. The "sugar sticks" will be depleted in a hurry.
- The impotence of "declarations" or platforms. When's the last time you read a stirring discussion centered on the Memphis Declaration? The authors of the Memphis Declaration stopped referencing it almost before the housekeeping staff had emptied the Coke cans (and who knows what else) out of the hotel room trash cans in Memphis. And the Joshua Convergence's Principles of Affirmation? Even less effective than the Memphis Declaration. I don't know that static documents are any more helpful than static speeches these days. People come to know what you stand for by interacting with the stream of material that you provide. Over time, the recurring themes and passing inconsistencies of your work become evident to all, and they make an assessment on that basis.
- The power of listening. Not necessarily agreeing, but listening. The most effective blogging involves fielding questions. Think Fox News, not CBS. The result is not always dialogue—people sometimes just scream their talking points past one another—but the most effective person in this platform is the one who will genuinely listen to those who disagree and then effectively rebut their arguments. I'm not talking about the kind of "listening" where we sit in a circle and hold hands. I'm talking about listening as a polemical weapon. When it becomes clear to the reader that you aren't listening to the arguments of the other side, the reader can only wonder whether you are just incapable of understanding the arguments of the other side (or worse, have no answer for them).
- The doom of insincerity. The only way that you can produce a steady stream of convincing material and be prepared to engage those who disagree in genuine dialogue is if you sincerely believe what you are saying. At least, that's the only way I can do it. Publication enshrouds; conversation probes. Eventually, inauthenticity will out. You can be riddled with inconsistencies, but they must be your inconsistencies, if that makes sense at all. One underestimated political force today is the compelling value of authenticity and transparency. Of course, there are limits. Admit to some taboos and you will get no credit for your transparency in revealing them. But some willingness to come to grips with your own foibles is almost necessary. There is a fine line somewhere between the tenacity of a bulldog and the stubbornness of a mule. The former is purposive, while the latter is mere disposition.
- The elevation of writing. Radio and television made writing of much lesser importance than speaking. People wrung their hands about the dawning of illiteracy. Blogging is all about writing. Blogging is not the only force at work in the political world, and speaking is still incredibly important. Nevertheless, blogging provides a more influential medium for writers than they have had in recent years.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
The Demise of the Denominational Stump-Speech
I have said before that blogging is more like conversation than publication. Let me add that, in my estimation, politicking up to this point has been more like publication than conversation. Since (and even before) Paul started raising money to contribute to the Jerusalem church whose blessing he desired for the Gentile mission, churches have always been political and always will be (and "political" is not a bad thing). But the politics of church and church-related institution is changing right before our eyes. Blogging typifies the direction that it all is going—more toward conversation. As a result, I pronounce the following new political realities: