“Speak truth to power.” The phrase resonates with the biblical prophets and the courage it takes to challenge those who become preoccupied with maintaining their power at the expense of truth—as well as justice, fairness and compassion. The phrase rings powerfully true in situations such as that of Robert Mugabe’s rule over Zimbabwe or the stonewalling silence of a church in the wake of a sexual abuse crisis.
Yet in American culture, and especially in mainline Protestantism, the phrase has become hackneyed. Pastors invoke the phrase in sermons; seminary professors call on it in classroom lectures; groups organize around it. One person even suggested to me that the phrase is not just an element of pastoral ministry, but the very heart of the pastoral vocation.