What God says we will accomplish by meeting His way

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Article Content: A Biblical Perspective of Why and How we should Meet

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<center>Proverbs 15:22  Without counsel purposes (plans) are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellors they are established (plans succeed). 
First Monday of the Month: meeting locations vary <> Office: Family Music Center, 4110 SW 9th St -

Please RSVP to Dave Leach, 515-244-3711, music@saltshaker.us

God's Invitation for Christians

Jesus calls: “Go ye into ALL the world, and preach the gospel to EVERY creature.” Mark 16:15. Let's not deliberately neglect those public forums in which voters decide whether to pattern our laws after the principles of Heaven or of Hell. Let's shine, in those forums, the Light of what God says about our choices.

Let's move those mountains. (Matthew 21:21-22) Together, because we are strong together. Ecclesiastes 4:12. Where disagreement blocks our cooperation, let's reason with each other in love, because it is when we agree which mountain to topple that Jesus will help, Matthew 18:18-20. It is a "multitude of counsellors" (Proverbs 15:22) - a body whose members reason with each other, correct each other, study evidence together, and sacrifice out of love - that guarantees success. In other words, a “Saltshaker Forum”, or a “Holy Ghost Think Tank”, or a “Partnership Machine”, where Christians strategize how to get their Light outside their Matthew 5:13-16 “bushel”.

God's promises to answer prayer are addressed especially to groups which process the wisdom of “all”, 1 Corinthians 14:1, 5, 12, 24, 26, 31, 39. God's guidelines fill our relationships with love and wisdom able to save not only the world, but our nation, churches, friendships, and marriages.

For lots of Bible study about how to interact when we meet, see Bible Guidelines for Relationships.

Secular Invitation

Many issues merit more discussion than society facilitates

"How do we protect everyone’s right to Freedom of Religion, when some religions believe in destroying others?" That question, asked during our Iowa Caucus discussion February 3, is one of those difficult, divisive issues which merits more discussion than is available in any forum offered by American society or America's churches, where ordinary people like us can reason with each other.

There may be good answers, somewhere, but none that are widely understood or agreed upon.

There are many issues which just as stubbornly elude national consensus. For example:

  • If the choice to switch your gender is innate - something you are born with - then isn't it really discrimination to keep men out of girl's bathrooms and boys from competing in girls' sports? But if it isn't innate, how do we as a secular society determine that for sure?
  • Can courts really not tell if an unborn baby of a human is a human? That's what Roe v. Wade claimed. If there really is no human being whom abortion kills, then of course the mother's right to manage her own body really is a fundamental right, so abortion should remain legal. Only if it can be established as a matter of law that there is another human being, whose right to live trumps the mother's right to manage her own body, can a case be made for outlawing abortion. Can we make that case? If babies are humans as a matter of fact, can they be turned into non-humans as a matter of law? Lower courts say Roe v. Wade said babies are non-humans as a matter of law. Do the rest of us have any right to disagree without threatening the Constitution?

Without discussion, how can division be healed?

Because there is no such forum for most Americans, it is difficult to develop consensus about what we can do together to fix things. For example, even people who agree abortion is murder and must be outlawed, struggle to agree on what legislation to support that might accomplish that. How can lawmakers give voters what they want, when half the time voters disagree about what they want, and the other half of the time, they haven't even thought about what they want?

Laws influence morals

Most of the moral threats to our society, our children, our families, and our churches, are intertwined with laws. Government is seldom neutral about what God calls abominations. Either laws outlaw them or encourage them. So although it is true that laws can't make people moral who are determined to be immoral and criminal, not everyone is determined to be immoral and criminal, fortunately. Laws therefore influence the behavior of people who don't want to be convicted of crimes and sent to jail. And laws help teach people how to behave who don't want to be judged as immoral by the standards of society. It is only to the extent that laws are opposed by the majority of citizens that they are ineffective in controlling behavior. But even where citizens are divided, the very discussion of which laws are good focuses the attention of people on the arguments for and against, so that to the extent the arguments are good, people become good.

Even the Bible acknowledges the moral teaching value of laws: Galatians 3:24 "Therefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

So it really is important for moral people to speak up in those forums where voters decide whether to pattern our laws after the principles of Heaven or of Hell.

Not even lawmakers have a good system for reasoning with each other

But lawmakers don't have a much better system for reasoning with each other than us ordinary voters do.

"When I was a senator in the Iowa legislature," U.S. Senator Joni Ernst told an Iowans for Tax Relief luncheon 2/28/2020, "I was able to walk over to a leader of another party, on the Senate floor, when we weren't busy, and talk to him for a half hour, and we worked out an agreement. But in the U.S. Senate, maybe I can get to talk with someone for a few minutes as we pass each other, but to get a half hour, I need to schedule a meeting two or three weeks ahead." She could have mentioned that even in the Iowa legislature, lawmakers wait a long time for opportunities to reason with each other when they aren't too busy, which explains why good legislation, even that has widespread support, usually requires years of discussions, like trying to get a book read at just one paragraph a day. No, that would be two fast for our analogy: make it one letter a day.

Limitations of Lobbyists

So we have lobbyists. People who study issues in great detail, so they can talk intelligently to lawmakers. Their expertise is trusted by lawmakers; and where there is a gap in trust, campaign contributions can fill it. Lobbyists don't get more time with lawmakers than other lawmakers do, though. But if they are very organized they can get lots of people to call lawmakers and tell them they had better vote for such and such a bill. The interesting thing is that all those calls are made by people who never read the bill they are calling about, and have no desire to read more than a few paragraphs of meat sprinkled through a 4-page fundraising letter of fluff and emotion.

And lawmakers know it. Lawmakers still bend to the pressure, when they don't bend to evidence and reason. Lawmakers know, when they are asked to sponsor a 10-page bill with several areas of concern, that those calling them know nothing of those areas of concern but only know the couple of paragraphs with which their lobbyist has characterized what the bill is supposed to accomplish.

But there is no forum where lobbyists can reason with their own supporters, hear new ideas, and seriously educate their supporters so their supporters can reason in detail with lawmakers. There is no forum where a lobbyist can even discover whether all of the bill language he is pushing is really what his supporters would want if they understood it. Not that they have no discussions with supporters, but there is no forum where any supporter can go get that half hour it takes to even begin to develop consensus in detail.

The three problems with this system: (1) lobbyists are deprived of new ideas about better legislation, or better ways to promote legislation. (2) Lobbyists are limited to what detailed communication with lawmakers they can accomplish all by themselves, which means they have to reduce their goals to what they can accomplish with that limitation; and (3) the support lobbyists have from their own supporters is superficial. It is vulnerable to being lost when supporters research on their own and discover evidence the fundraising letters gloss over.

Churches are theologically opposed to political discussion

Churches, meanwhile, generally discourage political discussion because it is “controversial”, while outside church, Americans have little faith that there is enough love available for people to reason with each other productively even when they disagree. So both inside and outside church, the extensive discussions necessary to strategize and develop consensus about effective group action have little support. There is no forum open to the public and ongoing, where new ideas, and differences of opinion about the most effective action, can be studied, discussed, and implemented if they pass scrutiny.

Without opportunity to contribute wisdom, many Americans just shut down politically

I doubt if I am the only American frustrated that solutions I see receive no hearing. I suspect there are many with much wisdom to contribute, but with little opportunity to present them where they will be scrutinized seriously. I suspect this is why so many Americans just shut down politically, becoming politically paralyzed with cynicism.

The solution

An ongoing forum that is (1) open to all, (2) ongoing, (3) respectful, and (4) focused on things we can document and do something about, can make a difference way out of proportion to small numbers. A forum, done right, without requiring any commitment from anyone to take any particular action, will spontaneously inspire individuals to voluntarily take action, as promising strategies naturally materialize.

An American Vision

I believe the essence of our meetings should be the essence of America: they should be governed by rules chosen by the group, that protect freedom of speech, of religion, and an equal voice for all. I believe all participants should be free to justify their positions and conclusions by citing the highest authorities they know, whether that is scientific research, the Bible, or both. Agreement with anything or anyone should not be a condition of participation, but honesty, fairness, willingness to reason, and willingness to acknowledge evidence that can't be refuted can be.

But what I believe is not what should bind any group, but rather what the group chooses.

Practical Steps to Accomplishing Good

Such a group could:

  • invite campaign workers, who can explain the mechanics of winning elections, the apathy that drives activists to certain strategies, the intolerance for disagreement that requires careful targeting. Further understanding would come from actually volunteering, door to door, phones, etc.
  • Invite single issue activists, let them explain the issue, public receptivity to it, what it will take to prevail.
  • By studying an issue ourselves before the activist returns, if we have a particular point we would like him or her to understand or study, our consensus on the point which he may never have considered will pressure him to familiarize himself with it.
  • Candidates will come to a small group. After the election, elected officials may not come to a group much smaller than 30, but before elections they will gladly meet with half a dozen. When candidates see support, they think differently. They feel less pressure to compromise with ignorance, if they find allies to put out truth.
  • If we find a candidate who excites us, a small group willing to work can put even a poorly funded candidate over the top. At any rate working together we can acquire much experience with strategies, much experience with people. Much understanding of the obstacles ahead, spiritual and practical.
  • When we find information we feel would contribute to others, we can post informational videos.
  • We can forge ourselves into a think tank, we can practice reasoning with each other where we disagree, in order to develop our relationship skills for reasoning with others respectfully, whether our spouses, our children, our employers, our government, or unbelievers who need the Gospel. We can develop the patience with disagreement, the patient willingness to not give up or make excuses for quitting. We can prove it is possible, productive, and fills our lives with purpose.
  • Suppose we want to reason with a national activist organization, for example to offer a solution, or to correct an error in what they are saying or doing. Under the current system a single letter or email is unlikely to get a thoughtful response, much less serious consideration. Petitions are more effective, but normally the text of petitions has to be very short, close to 100 words, because most petition signers won't read more than that. Therefore petitions are generally limited to broad, popularly understandable principles, and are not possible to address technical details that require pages of explanation and documentation. But what if there were a group willing to read and discuss those pages, develop consensus on a draft, sign them, and send them? Would they be read? Would they be seriously considered? At least more so, than a letter from a single person.
  • We can forge the kinds of friendships that only the fire of serving others together can purify. We can have Fellowship.