Monday Musings on Manipulation

Thought I’d follow up on Saturday’s post by sharing a quote I appreciated in the book I will name this week:

You must not fear to have affective goals for the sermon as well as cognitive goals.  There is nothing wrong with trying to move the listener.  It is not manipulative to seek to engage their entire being with the truth.  Manipulation is when the preacher overwhelms the emotions (or the mind for that matter), and creates a disorientation that actually takes the power of will away from the listener. (p.106)

I like that definition in some ways.  I like the recognition that manipulation occurs when disorientation is prompted by overwhelming.  I like the recognition that such overwhelming can be of the emotions and also of the mind.  When this occurs, something is taken away from the listener – somehow their decision making is controlled by an outside force, rather than by the appropriately shaped motives of their own heart.

Is the will ever truly free?  Perhaps not, but the heart must be free to supply the values that the mind and will rely on to make decisions.  Supplanting the heart with emotional hype, or with overwhelming intellectual astonishment, or even excessive pressure on the will itself (guilt-trip preaching) . . . are all a problem, all can be manipulation.

As a preacher convinced that my role is to speak to the heart, and not just the head, I must regularly wrestle with the issue of manipulation.  I must ponder the interaction of the soul’s faculties.  I must spurn any rhetorical technique designed to manipulate the listener.  I must consider what is biblically, ethically, theologically appropriate as one who has the privilege of speaking the Word of God into the lives of others.

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