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(RNS) — I am frequently invited to sign a declaration on some topic of public concern. These days more often than not I decline to add my name to the list of signatories, even though I often actually agree with what the statement says.
Sometimes it is a call — usually issued by academics or church leaders — for peacemaking. Or it is a petition about some justice-related matter.
Statement - Impression - Folks - Document - People
I typically read the statement carefully. Often I get the impression that the only folks who will read the document carefully are like-minded people. The declaration may be framed as “speaking truth to power,” but the “in power” types will really pay no attention. The drafters of the petition may realize that, but they take seriously an obligation to be “prophetic.”
I talked a lot about being “prophetic” in my early days of social activism,” but I don’t use that word much these days. A while back I did a word search in my laptop files for everything I have written over the past couple of decades, and I did not find myself at any point explicitly advocating being “prophetic.” When I have used the word at all, I have typically been quoting other people, or discussing biblical “prophetic” literature, or arguing with my Mormon friends about whether a church these days has to be headed up by someone who is officially labeled “Prophet.”
Decades - President - Money - Circles - Donors
A cynic might suggest that having served for two recent decades as a seminary president, I was attempting to raise money in circles where being “prophetic” does not attract donors with considerable giving capacity. I have tried to stay honest with myself about that possibility.
But I do have what I consider to be some good theological reasons for avoiding engagement in “prophetic” activity.
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