Spiral of Silence

2 Corinthians 4:13 “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”


Over the past few weeks I have been hearing a lot about the “spiral of silence” and decided that I would do some research and see what it is all about and how it pertains to us.


Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann was a German political scientist who came up with the ‘spiral of silence’ that gave an explanation of how public opinion can influence individual opinions or actions. For example, in 1991 support was measured for the Gulf War. The researchers wanted to know if the support was a consensus view or did media coverage contribute to a spiral of silence that dampened opposition to the war? They concluded that those who watched television and sensed that the public supported the war were more likely to support the war as well. They found that this study supports the ‘spiral of silence,’ that people can be swayed by public opinion rather than face social isolation.


Wikipedia says: “The phrase “spiral of silence” actually refers to how people tend to remain silent when they feel that their views are in the minority. The model is based on three premises: 1) people have a “quasi-statistical organ,” a sixth-sense if you will, which allows them to know the prevailing public opinion, even without access to polls, 2) people have a fear of isolation and know what behaviors will increase their likelihood of being socially isolated, and 3) people are reticent to express their minority views, primarily out of fear of being isolated.”


This brings out several things that we need to consider.


First, even if we are in the minority (or think that we are) we must speak the truth and not what is “politically correct.” I am afraid God’s people have been too silent when it comes to expressing God’s truth. Instead of allowing people who are opposed to God’s truth shaping public opinion we, the church, should be the shakers and shapers of society.


Secondly, we know that Satan has divided this world into little kingdoms (or one could call them prisons) and the bars that hold people in are not made out of steel, but acceptance and rejection. These are the needs that every human being has – to be accepted and not face rejection or isolation. We want people to be released from these prisons and be able to enter the Kingdom of God. This is what the Gospel is all about. We read in Ephesians 1:6 (KJV) “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.”


All our needs have been met in Christ.


Thirdly, we need to do what Paul told the Corinthian church to do and that is to examine their faith. “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” 2 Corinthians 3:5 (KJV) Is our faith a preference or a conviction? There is a difference between the two. We see this coming out in Daniel 3 with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego when they were confronted with the fiery furnace.


Public opinion was to bow down and give allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar by falling down and worshipping the statue that he built. This was a classic example of the ‘spiral of silence.’ We see that these three men were willing to speak out, face the consequences and give God the glory. At the end, we see the results: “Then Nebuchadnezzar spake, and said, ‘Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who hath sent his angel, and delivered his servants that trusted in him, and have changed the king’s word, and yielded their bodies, that they might not serve nor worship any god, except their own God.’”


We might not be faced with a fiery furnace, but on many issues, we will be faced with public opinion. The question is: Will the ‘spiral of silence’ kick in or will we speak out. We do not need to speak out in an argumentative way, but we should speak from our conviction and from our study to show ourselves approved unto God like we read in 2 Timothy 2:15 “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.”


Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak.” (2 Corinthians 4:13) Paul was saying, he knows that what he believes is real and because it is real – he speaks. So, it should be with us.


Someone said: “Christians today are in danger of being sucked into such a ‘spiral of silence.’ But this is not inevitable. We can break the ‘spiral of silence’ (1) if we are really persuaded of the truth of the Gospel and the Christian worldview, and (2) if we will simply begin to speak up when opportunities arise, trusting the Lord to use our words as He will.” (Luke 12:8-12)


May God give us the boldness and courage to stand, and to be accountable.


Remember the words of Thomas Jefferson: “Reformation in government follows reformation in opinions.” Let us speak up and get God’s truth and opinions out in the public square!


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