â€śSpeak truth to power.â€ť 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 truthâ€”as well as justice, fairness and compassion. The phrase rings powerfully true in situations such as that of Robert Mugabeâ€™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.