What do Andrew Cuomo, Chris Christie, Mitch Daniels, Jerry Brown and John Boehner have in common? It’s not just that they are all rising political stars; it’s that their ascent has been fueled by refusing to use the usual exaggerated vocabulary and soaring oratory of political “stars.”
In The rise of the plain language leader, Joshua Freeman argues that voters have reacted against President Obama’s “grandiloquent rhetoric” and Sarah Palin’s “painful, packaged zingers,” and are demanding plain, simple, sober, and blunt talk. He says, “Austerity is not just the budgetary buzzword; it’s the new rhetorical style as well.” He goes on:
The more purple the prose with which you paint, the more suspicious the public is likely to be of the meaning behind the words. Pack in too many turns of phrase, and voters will start to look at you the way men look at women who wear too much makeup.
…Now, even members of the public who aren’t outright suspicious of flowery flourishes have quietly reached the broader conclusion that talk, no matter how stirring, just doesn’t get you very far. Metaphors are nice, poetry is pretty, but inspiration seems, well, a little bit frivolous when unemployment is at 9.5% and China is outcompeting us.
Such societal shifts impact and influence our congregations as well. For a while I’ve been persuaded that the more preachers work at impressing their hearers with their stylish phrases, multiplied adjectives, and oratorical flourishes, the less effective the sermons. It’s just too much make-up.
Let’s strip off the lipstick, the mascara, and the face-glitter and get back to plain, simple, sober, and blunt preaching. Does that mean cold, dull, and boring sermons? On the contrary; it’s such stripped down sermons that bring the saving power of the cross into sinners’ lives (1 Cor. 1:17).