The Immoral Majority
“You shall not follow a majority in wrongdoing . . . you shall not side with the majority so as to pervert justice.” – Exodus 23: 2
Lazy minds love expressions like, “Most everyone thinks,” or “Many people believe,” and “Everyone is saying . . .”
The practice of attributing your own negative or self-interested views to anonymous others or a hypothetical majority is a bane of church life. “You know, Pastor, I think most everyone agrees that . . .” Really?
Constructive criticism is completely legitimate and absolutely necessary. But do it like grown-ups. Say, “This is what I think.” Don’t say, “Many people are thinking.” Be accountable.
In Exodus, God’s people are warned about following the crowd, about “following a majority in wrong-doing.” What I’m talking about isn’t just following the crowd; it’s using the crowd for cover.
I know one congregation where their practice is, “If you have a complaint or concern, we (the congregation’s elected and called leaders) want to hear about it. If you allow your name to go with your concern, we will bring it to the Church Council, discuss it and get back to you. If you won’t allow your name to be used, we will listen but do nothing further.” That’s a congregation inviting people to be responsible adults.
In all sorts of human groups, institutions, and organizations, anxiety-based group-think gets rolling and somebody ends up getting badly hurt. Not just somebody; in the end, everybody.
So if you’re aren’t so sure that a self-proclaimed moral majority or someone that claims to speak for a majority is seeing clearly and acting justly, stand up and speak out. Speak for yourself. By speaking honestly and humbly for yourself, you just may — here’s a strange thing — end up speaking for more than yourself.
Grant us the humility to respect the decisions of a majority even when we don’t get our way; the courage to challenge a majority when justice requires it; and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen.
Tony Robinson, a United Church of Christ minister, is a speaker, teacher, and writer. His newest book is Called to Lead: Paul’s Letters to Timothy for a New Day. You can read Tony’s “Weekly Meditation” and “What’s Tony Thinking?” at his website, www.anthonybrobinson.com.