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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hats off to my Good Friend, Alma Sarett

When used properly, what is the value of religious discipline? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1346).

What is religious discipline and how can such a thing be used improperly? Is not all self-disciple good? Self-disciple is only as good as the ends it serves. It can take tremendous self-disciple to pull off a successful crime (which inevitably hurts others), but the purposes of that self-disciple negates its value. I had a teacher in undergraduate school that literally wrote the text. The text was Basic Principles of Speech, Third Edition (1958) by Lew and Alma Sarett and William Trufant Foster. My teacher was Alma Sarett. Their challenge was to write a text on speech after having seen the likes of Adolph Hitler and various bottom feeders in our own country using the medium of speech to wreck havoc. Therefore, they realized that speech skills could not alone make one an able speaker. At the outset they propounded seven basic principles of speech. They are:

  • The able speaker is an able person.
  • The able speaker thinks rationally and creatively.
  • The able speaker's immediate purpose to to communicate ideas and feelings to his listeners.
  • The able speaker's basic purpose is to relate himself to his listeners toward the achievement of some productive end.
  • The able speaker made a sound analysis of the speech situation and adapts his speech to it.
  • The able speaker achieves an effective speech style through the integration of language, vocal expression, and bodily action.
  • The able speaker is a good listener.

As with religious discipline, speech discipline requires various conditions to be good. The able speaker is an able person (Here we see the necessity of trustworthiness, sincerity, and goodwill—not being emotionally sick—for “speech is more, ever so much more, than skills and techniques” (ibid, 41). “The ultimate test of speech is the effect on speaker, listener, and society. Dr. Albert Schweitzer uses speech to promote life, not to negate or destroy it” (ibid, p 41). The speaker thinks rationally and creatively—reason and imagination are used to perceive and attack problems. The able speaker's basic purpose is to relate himself to one or more other people to achieve some end, to get something done. The able speaker always asks: Is my communication appropriate to the situation? Finally, the able speaker is a good listener. I list these principle at some length for it is simply untrue that ethics can be divorced from speech—as from the use of any other resource or tool in life.

Likewise ethics cannot be divorced from religious discipline. Question: Is it possible to be unethically religious?—answer, read about the prideful self-righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. The answer is obviously yes, as it is egregiously possible to be a treasonous patriot. The value of religious self-disciple when properly used makes room for the Holy Spirit in our lives and provides both governor, goal, and inspiration to realize the fruit of the spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23).

Our times, therefore, do not require a clarion call for speech making, religious stances, or zealous patriotism; what we need on a personal and community level is ethical dynamism penetrating all of life. We need multiple disciplines all dedicated to the tasks of achieving productive ends yielding widespread abundance. This is only possible with the regency of ethical intangibles.

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