Article: Inspiring Consensus in Community: The Faith and Hope in Proximate Speech, by Joel Ward

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Inspiring Consensus in Community: The Faith and Hope in Proximate Speech

Joel S. Ward, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Communication, Geneva College

Abstract: The outlook for our current age seems bleak. We respond by conjuring up thin hopes since this appears to stabilize and sustain human communities. Genuine hope comes from its companion faith, the inner assurance of good things promised. In Romans 10:17, Paul writes that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. In this faith-learning integration essay, the author discusses the question of how hearing produces such a faith, ultimately arguing that such faith comes from proximate hearing, over any hearing made possible by telecommunication.


The roots of human community grow upon the ordinary actions of faith and hope against visible, contrary evidence. As the order of societies and cultures degrades, the call and desire for faith and hope grows. The evidence of this degradation has led both sociologists and psychologists to note the troubling decline in our sense of communal stability.[1] This decline is not without churches, businesses, organizations and neighborhoods working earnestly to produce such a sense in their members. The efforts are considerable, and the tactics sophisticated yet show little real effect in staying the decline in communities. Building communities proves to be incredibly difficult. As much as we admit that communal sense creates public good, still we find a majority interested in sustaining other’s efforts. General disinterest persists.

Much like Lewis Mumford’s description of the late Roman Empire, we seem to be “bored, surfeited people” having everything yet searching for reasons to live.[2] Instead of mustering our efforts to create meaningful rituals of culture, we vainly grasp at what can be collected from broad social and information networks. We argue optimistically that communal sense can be brought, even bought, from afar. The vanity of this optimism, encouraged by digital information technologies, has already lost its luster and so we continue to dig deeper and deeper into the network and therefore farther and farther apart.

The fascination with telecommunication technologies has overwhelmed human societies. Their helpfulness seems obvious while the costs are accepted with little resistance. Clinging to the shreds of what we think represents human identity we maintain security by only protecting important numbers. Underlying the restlessness typical of telecommunication, we find spreading disinterest in the ordinary work of building and sustaining human communities. Our age’s most visionary inventors are searching for ways to leave the planet, as if the earth no longer possesses enough value for building a habitable home.[3]  Trading the splendor and beauty of earth for distant unfriendly planets suggests that we have lost sensitivity to the glory of our surroundings. Under such restiveness lies an imperial spirit, a spirit of conquest over and against humble communities.[4] Quickened and amplified by digital networks, this spirit of conquest undermines all human community as it amplifies disinterest and insensitivity towards the reality of living with others. Communities require faithful, patient consensus unearthed through careful cultivation of human discourse. Conquest, in lieu of forbearance, supplies the means for quick expansion by amassing resources and ignoring human suffering. Conquests are accomplished through force, violence, and fear; communities are built through gentle, slow, discursively formed consensus.

Building community from consensus requires faith and hope. Hope assumes a coming age that promises good, not evil. Hope provides inspiration for times of suffering and want. Communities enduring hardship find motivation and will in the vision of a later time where difficulties cease, and plans are realized. Communities and nations characterized by hope attract people of all lands and languages.

Without its companion faith, hope is vain. Hope without faith reflects naïve optimism, not stalwart resistance and steady advancement. Hope casts a vision while faith feeds the inner will, the spirit that actively resists despair and discouragement. A hopeful community encourages a common sense and purpose. For hope to endure, faith must rest in the heart of each member of the body. Faith produces belief in hope’s vision as a genuine, if invisible, reality. Faith provides the intention and purpose to press on towards hope, a hope that when felt becomes faith, a confidence in what we hope for and an assurance of what is coming.

This kind of vision solves the many problems faced by communities, making efforts to inspire a “sense of community” even more valuable. These efforts show a faith in hope’s vision despite lack of resources, typical failures, and uncontrollable conditions that plague leaders trying to nurture a faithful and hopeful spirit in people. Hope that is devoid of faith results in idealistic requirements that require adopting a stoic’s heart. Stoicism temporarily sustains human action but does not support a common sense. Common sense requires sympathy, the emotional agility to understand the conditions of others and the constraints they face. Stoicism avoids sympathy because it requires a hardening of the eyes and the ears to suffering.[5] Stoicism is by nature unsympathetic.[6]  Common sense requires sympathy since common sense begins with shared experience. Sharing experiences and conditions provides the backdrop for seeing the same, hearing the same and sensing together what ought to be done. Communities without common sense struggle to encourage hope and faith in their members.

The notion of common sense inherits a long tradition initiated by the Greeks, extended by Vico during the Enlightenment, denigrated by Descartes, democratized by Thomas Paine, and given more recent attention by such scholars as Hannah Arendt[7], John Rawls, Albert Jonsen, Stephen Toulmin[8], Charles Taylor, John D. Schaeffer[9], Sophia Rosenfeld[10], and Alasdair Mcyntire.[11] Ancient notions of common sense suggested that dependence on mutual sense perception offered a shared source of common sense, a notion extended in existential phenomenology by Maurice Merleau Ponty, Paul Ricouer and most recently by Max Van Manen. In the interest of brevity, I simply borrow from this tradition the notion that common sense begins with common ecology rather than ideological agreement. Common sense rises, as it were, from the sounds and sights that attract and sustain our mutual attention.

Organizing any community is predicated on just such a condition of sensus communis largely because such a sense relies upon shared bodily experience.[12] In Aristotle’s thought and later Vico’s, common sense was in fact little more than shared embodied perception.[13] By applying this long held, though at times abandoned understanding of common sense, I purpose to describe the nature of consensus as occurrent within a people group experiencing similar sensory conditions, and how speaking in proximity encourages the earnestly sought after conditions of faith and hope. In contrast, telecommunication offers a false representation of this condition fostering instead doubt, despair and isolation.

Since faith and hope both point to something invisible, discussion of their possibility relies largely on testimony about the nature of human experience. Even if reduced to sociological or psychological theory, the reliance of these disciplines on human speech as the material of study elevates the importance of such testimony. Invisible experiences of a human nature are therefore best situated by an appeal to religious texts since religious discourse primarily considers human questions that cannot be answered with visible evidence. Therefore, we turn to the Holy scriptures of Christianity to provide such ground and definition. Other texts could offer similar reflection on the topic at hand, but the Christian Bible features significantly in our current conversation confirmed by a significant group of ancient and contemporary thinkers. Additionally, religious texts like the Christian Bible propose descriptions of all human experience not just cultural perspectives. Relying on such texts leans toward a commonsense result rather than an isolate historical account.

Faith Comes by Hearing

St. Paul, in his letter to the Romans writes “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God”[14]. Such a defining statement should not only be viewed as simple theological assertion but also a more general claim since Paul’s work as an early church father situates him authoritatively in the history of rhetorical studies. Scholars of communication identify him as figure of significance in the history of the discipline made clear by Paul’s facility with Stoic and Epicurean thought during his address to the Areopagus found in Acts 17. Paul’s case in this oration promotes a notion of God’s Word as near rather than far, a view foreign to the Athenians shown by their attempt appease every god that could be imagined.[15] Paul positions the one God of the Holy scriptures as one speaking from a position of closeness. Paul proposes that God, in His mercy, provides the time and the place for his Word to be heard with the express intent that people might hear and have faith. In Act 17:26-27 Paul argues, “ and he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and feel their way toward him and find him.”  Paul considers the God of the Holy scriptures as close continuing in vs. 28 “Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in him we live and move and have our being.” In other words, God speaks from nearness and by this closeness encourages a faith only fostered by such proximity. According to Paul, God shares in our situation, fostering a common sense heard by human ears. Such hearing requires that we have ears to hear, a sensitivity to His Word made possible by acknowledging the closeness of His permanent presence.

Human communities rely upon a similar common sense generated by the sustained and close presence of those speaking. Separated by physical distance, creating such a common sense increases in difficulty. Paul’s discussion of hearing clearly indicates an immediate sensory experience where we might “feel our way toward Him”.[16] Paul’s description limits the notion of a hearing leading to faith as a hearing characterized by a constant nearness.

Except God’s special revelation in His son Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit speaks from eternity into all times, so hearing God’s Word always involves what is heard without visible presence just as with some telecommunication technologies (radio, telephone, television etc.) However, we should not readily accept the electric power of telecommunication as equitable with hearing fostered by the personal power of the Holy Spirit.[17] The Holy Spirit speaks from eternity, not from a distance, because God‘s spirit enlivens all things.[18] Electronic transmission of messages across time and space begin with the premise that a sign can be separated from its source and from bodily sense experience. Modern transmission technologies assume this action seamlessly by presenting sound and images received by transfer as if they were a direct presentation of what was originally spoken. Clearly, our mediated experience of the world and conception of it have altered our perception of what we sense and hear as immediate. [19] We are unwise to presume that these technologies might serve as an analogy for God’s spirit surrounding us. From this testimony we infer that the hearing which leads to a spirit of faith and hope requires the closeness of immediate proximity.

Proposing a definition of proximate hearing in the should not be viewed as an attempt to needlessly theologize the point. Instead faith and hope receive through this application a much-needed footing. Implicit in faith’s activity we find an acceptance of an invisible reality. In hope’s expression we find evident the vision of an inaccessible future. Discussing such matters requires our acceptance of some testimony related to the nature of our human need for faith and hope.

A Doctrine of Speech Communication

Accepting the Holy Scriptures as the revealed Word of God means that His Word like him, offers both the beginning and the end of all things.[20] If God speaks a word directly about the world and the people that inhabit it, we should not approach it as perspective, but a word that subordinates and orders all other kinds of testimony.[21] I’ll be the first to admit that singularly relying on testimony found in Holy Scripture could readily be questioned, but in order to broach such a topic a questionable testimony must be allowed. In fact, an unquestionable testimony would render our point moot. Testimony, at its root suggests a discursive rather that demonstrative proof.  If faith arises not from sight but from what we hear, we must be sure that our hearing isn’t simple preference but informed by a sound doctrine of human speech. Without such a doctrine, speech becomes what we witness in contemporary politics, an overwhelming cacophony in which speech performs primary service to force. In brief, I propose a doctrine of speech that lends heft to my later conclusions about the importance of hearing in the act of faith. The Christian Bible offers the necessary commentary on what such a doctrine of speech could and should include.[22]

The Holy Scriptures defines faith most plainly through the writing of Paul in Hebrews chapter 11 verse 1 where we find written, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Here, faith is the certainty of something hoped for, something surely revealed even though it cannot be seen in the present. Faith attends hope since faith presumes that what we hope at present, though invisible, will sometime in our future will be revealed and realized. The special revelations of Daniel and St. John in Revelation make valuable distinction between those who hear God and those, deaf to His Word, are cast into an outer darkness where we assume no one can be seen or heard. The difference between hearing or not hearing God’s voice likewise bears on what we can be heard and seen presently. Without the Word of God, we are personally and corporately plagued by disloyalty and despair. In contrast, a truthful and faithful word seems to offer the promise that corporate vision affords groups of people. Shared vision supports corporate action and common sensibility.

The appearance of God’s Word incarnate in the person of Jesus Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life illuminates the communion of His people.[23] In His light those gathered can see and hear each other personally while expressing the common hope that joins them. The illumination initiated by hearing Christ’s Word, generates the possibility for appearance itself, not just appearing to others but also to ourselves[24]. Just as a mirror reflects the face, so the Word of Christ reflects that which is within us, since what we understand as our personality, our inner person, shows itself truly in the words we speak, and the words spoken by others about us. This appearance is not the appearance of likeness, but the shape of the soul since as it says in Luke chapter 6 vs. 45 “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks” and as Paul says regarding our meeting with God in 1st Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know fully even also as I am known.” Christ revealed in His written Word and heard by His people supports the space where we see Him and in the soundness of His vision we see faithful rather than deceitful forms of each other. This vision of fully knowing and of being known presents nothing less than the great hope of living faithfully in communion with others.

Christ as the incarnate revelation of God’s Word, as the Way the Truth and Life, offers a word that is straight, true, and unifying. The same cannot be said about the words that collect us through our own technological dissemination of human speech. Human words, when spread around electronically, attempt to command and control by centralizing influence and force. These words produce conformity by confusion rather than freedom and knowledge. Lastly, since Scripture describes humanity as “made in the image of God” and His image is revealed in the person of Christ, we have clear indication that when God’s Word appears, He presents in human form[25] We can trust that since God’s Word can be revealed in the humble form of human flesh, human speech can similarly reveal what is true and give hope, to those who speak His Word, and those who hear it spoken. Instead of simply representing a word, as speakers we are the very presence of truth. The presence of truth in speech carries the sound of faith and hope. The revelation of truth in sound not only directs action but gathers people together. Anywhere God’s Word reveals itself through human flesh communities flourish. Such communities contrast greatly with human attempts at organizing. The fact that Christ’s words gather human beings by fostering a consensus of vision rests strongly on well-documented history.[26]

Speech as the Presence of Faith

This concise doctrine of human speech while relying chiefly on the Holy Scriptures does not stray from nor contradict the disciplinary history of speech communication founded in Greco-Roman thought. Hannah Arendt’s analysis of Greek antiquity confirms the common function of speech as providing a place of appearance[27]. Speech serves as an opportunity to hear and be heard. In traditional terms this is what we mean when we ask to receive a hearing. Honoring a request to receive a hearing produces an orderly and just community since being received by an audience asserts several characteristics of such a gathering. First, that a single voice will be heard not only by the gathered court, but also by the one who governs that court. Second, that upon receiving a hearing, one’s speech will be judged as worthy or unworthy by that court. A good judgment establishes one’s rightful place. However, even a verdict against a person positively indicates the position they have taken. By revealing the limits of a communal sense, a hearing announces the nature of the corporate body and the vision that sustains its cohesion and order. In the passing of a judgement, the body’s constitution is announced providing hope that one who has received a hearing and been cast out can, upon accepting a different way of speaking/acting, reenter as a restored member of that body. In other words, a public hearing ensures that the shape of the body is revealed to those who have found themselves in conflict with its members. The revelation of a member’s unworthiness makes visible to a person threatened with expulsion the means for eventually being readopted as a member of the community. Even in a verdict against a person, such hearing contains the seed from which faith and hope spring.

This hearing resists the subterfuge of secretive societies that only elicit membership through the silence of invisible networks.[28] Secretive societies hide their shape from others and even in some part from their own members. By presenting a partially visible shape, they can only offer members appearance in special meetings reserved for those with special membership. Otherwise such societies run the risk of exposing themselves to the common sense of public spaces. What we find in such sociality, formed and sustained by secrecy, are groups within which insensitivity towards one or more people groups is introduced and encouraged. This is clearly the case in the instance of cliques, formed within larger groups. These cliques are sustained by the “inside joke” always explained away to others by the generally dismissive comment, “I suppose you just had to be there.” The announcement that to understand a certain word required one to have presence leverages the practical conditions of hearing in context for developing a common sense. In this case, however, the status of the excluded individual could be characterized as doubtful, since the inside word carries a sense of exclusion. Faith, as a condition of hearing, anticipates that one’s speech will be heard, understood and received by someone. To expect or anticipate a hearing is itself an expression of faith that the members of a group share sensibilities. To speak requires that I imagine or consider other’s sensations and vocalize my private sensations in a way that they can be received by those who hear them. In other words, hearing as a predicate to all speaking encourages the thought that if I can speak, I can be heard [29] A secretive society encourages doubt, since it is reluctant to say, and dubiously presumes, that the hearer might not share a common sense.

All human communities ordered by hearing rather than by seeing use the ordinary practice of judging words spoken as the way to both assess the condition of the group and to determine whether any speech threatens the group’s future. The job interview, a typical activity that many people endure, uses an ordinary speech event that includes hearing to make such an evaluation. Well-conducted hearings result in good hires; disorderly confused hearings do not. Just such an event illustrates the key principle gleaned from the Holy Scriptures regarding the nature of hearing as that single event producing faith. Without hearing, no faith. Without faith, hope cannot be sustained and without hope, bodies die. All hearings conducted in good faith are expected to provide a clear view of a person, who they are and how they intend to act. The move away from hearing as an assumed context for human communication to telecommunication compromises the generation of faith and the fostering of hope. Wise companies have sustained the practice of interviews as a chance to assess by hearing from those who wish to gain employment. In many contemporary organizations, the chance for a hearing has lessened. Instead of being heard by a gathered group, individuals are assessed by an analysis of data gleaned from a history of actions that purportedly require no other narrative explanation.[30]The growing overuse and subsequent reliance on telecommunication to organize and facilitate human communication predicts the disappearance of social action, cohesion and individual confidence.

Common Sense vs. Telecommunication

Our current sense of human communication, shrouded by telecommunication technologies, directs us away from the simplicity in Paul’s statement about a faith that comes from hearing.[31] We continuously hear voices affixed by a medium and transferred by electricity. The separation of sound from the place and time of occurrence, just like the separation of image from presence, has a profound effect on how we view hearing.[32] Even our sense perception has shifted to accommodate this distancing and representational experience of sound and presence.[33] The separation of sound from presence introduces a subtle trick, providing the convincing simulation of presence.[34] This condition, prevalent and common within modern societies, suggests that our senses have been altered and no longer possess the sensitivity and sympathy to develop a necessary common sense for speaking to people who are actually present. Such a common sense could be recovered, should we refuse to primarily use media of communication that are functionally silent. Silence itself presents no challenges when accompanied by presence but silence does challenge the communicability of a thought. Silent communication without presence dissolves meaning rather than deepening it.[35] As telecommunication increases so also do mediums of communication that utilize silent images over sound.[36] As the number of silent mediums of communication increase, our faith in the endurance of proximal human relationship wanes.

Jacques Ellul consistently argues consistently that the spoken word was intentionally humiliated, undermined by contemporary societies and replaced by images as a primary means of human communication.[37] The proliferation of images stimulate the eyes all the while discouraging speech. As image-based communication mediums advance, apprehensions towards speech increases among those who overindulge their eyes.[38] Under this paradigm, speech must be fixed, otherwise it lacks potency. Since sounds can be fixed, they must be recorded, and ordinary speech no longer bears the necessary weight of timelessness to encourage attention and remembrance. This does not mean that sound no longer induces memory. In fact, the sound of speech always carries great emotional weight and better situates an idea in our memories.[39] Perhaps disinterest in the audible increases because sound wakens emotions unsettling the increasingly prevalent spirit of stoicism. Stoicism disparages the sensory experience of the body and distrusts the unpredictable nature of speech in a gathering.[40]

Telecommunication trends show that our distrust of immediate sound rests in some part with our preference for the predictive quality of visible evidence. Self-evident, which previously meant what is easily apparent to any two people experiencing a common phenomenon, now tilts only towards what is visible. Political theorist Hannah Arendt points to the Cartesian preference for doubt[41] as the birth of this shift in our means of judgement from what we sense in common to what we see. Such a preference for sight produces a conceited trust in the fictional purity of inward reflection and overdependence on the predictable images generated by instruments[42]. This preference for the predictability and purity of vision, both inward and outward, expresses itself in the confidence of self-perception and the prevalence of scientism in almost every field of human inquiry.[43] The purity of self-perception announced by  the self-made individual of the 20th century now extends even to a person’s convictions about their biological sex. The purported purity of imaging as a means of measurement appears in the turn towards numeracy as the final verdict in much human judgment. Opinions are now weighed as percentages rather than positions. Choices are reduced to pro/con lists, making decisions into simple addition for calculating a better choice. Numerical preference depends not on what we experience in common but what can be seen and counted. Numerical bias fears the difficulty of consensus because waiting for the attunement of senses requires more effort and patience than predictive polling.

The poll as a symbol of modern judgment demonstrates our loss of common sense since in order to know or understand an individual’s or a group’s shared faith now requires asking a series of generally meaningless questions.[44] Questionnaires force a clear majority by the sheer confine of the queries. Polls symbolize Ellul’s description of the city as the human substitution for living through and with God’s spirit manifest in a people bound by a common word of agreement.[45] Agreements, especially those won after a long test of wills, give birth to a faithful and hopeful body of people since agreement is won from the arrival of common sense[46], a consensus rising out of a shared toil of talking it out. Polls limit variation to generate a majority opinion and thereby leverage the power of that majority.[47] A community requires consensus if it is to last and live. The poll arises from the crowd of the city which only brings together a mass of people. As Arendt has shown in her analysis of totalitarianism, such a society does not privilege hearing but instead shouts over all other voices to control and command.[48]

The poll as unifier illustrates the problem of the crowd or what some have described as the “massification of man”.[49] A person in a crowd must suppresses his sensitivity, must become stoic, since expressing vulnerability in a crowd invites violence. Jacques Ellul connects this sense of the crowd to the use of propaganda in modern society and to the nature of the human city that brings people together but inhibits relationship.[50] Propaganda, another widespread form of opinion shaping, also achieves its ends by numbing its audience. Arendt has labeled such numbing “the social” which in her analysis collapses the public and private domains of life, encouraging banality by stranding the individual in a sea of general opinion.[51] Jose Ortega Y Gassett views the change as one from quantity to quality. Now, instead of simply being a part of a crowd he finds “the mass is[52] the average man: it becomes the common social quality, man as undifferentiated from other men, but as repeating in himself a generic type”[53]

Instead of simply being a context for modern human relations, being one among many is characteristic of our sensibilities. To think, we only think against a majority since we have internalized the voices of the social rather than the words of a body with whom we share a common sense. Here, the majority becomes the backdrop by which all other voices are gauged. Judgements are made in conformity to an average rather than a clear call to act. Hearing such a call requires sensitivity and attentiveness. Communication ethicist Michael Hyde has described this call as a “call to conscience” which begins by acknowledging that “constant companion” who urges hearing the voice of another human and speaks truthfully without leveraging trends.[54]

Modern sociology does not recognize such a call since the movements of man are the movements of the mass. Instead, the generalized opinion of the crowd questions the viability of such a call because the voices justify the individual’s action.[55] Sociologist Philip Rieff accuses this social logic of stealing the potential for genuine charisma.[56] Charisma, that spirit in  the words of a speaker inspiring action and gathering a group of people around a unified vision, producing the much desired faith and hope. Rieff maintains that our current view of charisma suffers from a philosophical distortion, shifting our understanding of how speech receives a hearing. Currently charisma is that disingenuous quality possessed by a speaker spurring a group to troublesome degrees of fanaticism.[57] Instead of encouraging deliberation he or she attempts to elicit a response by appealing only to an audience ‘s discontent or fear. Rieff pinpoints Max Weber’s analysis of the Protestant religious sentiment as the basis for such kinds of speech concluding that Weber eliminates any genuine reason, other than populism or force, for speech that encourages agreement. Such speech appeals to the absence of a genuine consensus, fostering allegiance through further appeals to absence, a vision of a common enemy.[58] This fanaticism displays a relentless devotion to appearances. Rieff critiques this reduction of speech to appearance, rendering the ability to inspire as something merely applied to a speaker ‘s exterior.[59] This distortion and reduction cuts both ways. Advocates for such a view of charisma hope to inspire fanatic devotion by manufacturing appearances. Viewing charisma in this way threatens to pessimistically discredit any and all speechmaking as shallow populism. In this view, any positive response to an ideological enemy’s speech is judged as an expression of ignorance, naivete, or stupidity since there is no “evidence” for their position. Any faith that relies on an invisible reality cannot be rational because it depends on what is heard, not what is seen. However, we see that this view defeats the very notion of faith and hope since it insists on visible evidence. Rieff encourages returning to charisma as a gift of grace, a word given and confirmed by a faith rather than mere fanaticism.[60] To distinguish faithfulness from fanaticism requires that speech occur within a credal community. Credal communities rely on a received testimony, a faith that comes by hearing a word and trusting its truth.

When credal commitments dissolve, members of a group struggle to reach consensus. Leaders search for a commonsense platform from which to speak but finding none, construct one out of force or popularity. Finding inspiration for speech in force or popularity requires leaders to poll opinions for finding leverage points either to placate the audience or promote fear. In either case, leaders no longer speak but instead write policies enforced by the visible weight of majority opinion. Policies are disseminated and broadcast, not spoken, because by nature they are statements of general coordination, not a specific message to inspire action. Policies respond to a loss of faith in credal commitments.

Credal communities are ordered by an assuring hope in coming good and do not require the force of policy. The character of such communities refuses the surveillance emergent from the suspicion and secrecy produced by the powerful silence of written words. A word spoken in absence produces a mute visual representation. Behind policy statements hide authors who never appear, choosing instead the doubt-stirring force of unresponsiveness. The silence of absence breeds such suspicion that all speech is subsequently feared as possessive, since the voice of a speaker never sounds true to those listening.[61] Either the speaking person attempts possession of his audience, or he is possessed and therefore a deceit. Speeches made by representatives are simply speaking “the party line” or puppets. Contemporary scholar François Cooren’s theory of “ventriloquism” posits such representative speech as an ordinary condition.[62] In Cooren’s view, all speaking persons “speak for” one absent since in our speaking we incarnate those sentiments or attitudes that are carried in the words we choose. We are all supposedly possessed by the spirit of our society so individuals cannot speak, they simply represent.

It is true that when we speak for an organization’s mission or vision, we never speak merely for ourselves. However, speaking for another still carries the liability of genuinely taking the position spoken for. To speak otherwise is a deceit. If we accept the premise that we never actually speak for ourselves, what prevents one from sidestepping responsibility by becoming a mere parrot? Cooren’s view positions the speaking human as the mere embodiment of opinions. Instead of keeping faith, we pose as the mask for an absent spirit that speaks only through appearance. Instead of people, we are simply personas.[63]  We are shells, ideas made material by mere appearance in some visible form.[64] In this case, ideologies always hide behind the speaker, and what or who a person is speaking for never fully reveals itself. The general suspicion that underlies this view of human speech is understandable. It even provides explanation for our naive reliance on the poll for discovering what people around us believe. People that meet by gathering are distrusted because presence signifies even in silence. Polled opinions are trustworthy because they are visible and predictable. We turn away from the voice and towards the image of opinion captured graphically.

An Unfaithful Present

Against the numbness and stoicism amplified by telecommunication, I want to argue that rebuilding a common sense will require renewing the conditions of proximate hearing. I favor a phenomenological approach since this tradition continues to support the idea of common sense as that sixth sense moderating the possible deception in an individual’s subjective description of an event or experience.[65] The ideology of networked individuals[66] and the instrumentation of perception[67] have diminished the possibilities for developing a common sense. Common sense has been replaced by the reductive condition of “group think”[68] which in all appearances looks like consensus but is instead a simulation of that hard-fought situation. Group think is rightly criticized as the end of thought and the beginning of banality. Groups that have adopted this condition as their mode of working together quickly suffer the consequences. Group think threatens both the individual and the organization because the loss of individual thought marks the loss of hope in faithful independent action. Group think is numb and no longer encourages or listens to the speech in a group. Group think infers and predicts rather than attempting to influence or persuade.

Consensus lacks efficiency and requires a great deal more patience even as it produces more durable relations and reliable memories. Communities must privilege this condition if they are to sustain a common sense. Common sense and consensus are bound together in the simple practice of proximate hearing. Without such hearing, sustaining faith in those relations and the memory of our common experience lacks the necessary power for conceiving action. Without faith, hope can be offered only as a myth, fantasy or fiction. Such hope is vain, and such vanity can easily be detected in people’s preference for representation rather than presence. The desire for representation includes many forms of contemporary sociality enacted through social media along with the entertainments of streaming video and digital gaming. A common feature of telepresence is the ability to experience a relationship with someone or something without needing responsibility. Such a desire immediately shows a lack of faith in genuine companionship which always includes the vulnerability of proximity. Proximity includes the presence of a fickle body and the failings of an immediate voice

Generating impressions of presence through telecommunication promote a distortion of relationship. In extreme cases we label such telepresence a deceit[69]. Just like the traditional cunning of throwing one’s voice, this impression puts a person into false relation.[70] Sound without presence, just like appearance without presence, draws the hearer or viewer into a situation of disorientation and disassociation that can be used against them. This disassociation inhibits sense and encourages nonsense. The inhibition of sense suppresses a person’s ability to find situations that support common sense. Even so, hearing in absence is quite persuasive and still induces a sense of presence and appearance. For example, with recorded music, people are moved to dance or sing even when all alone. Representational sound, mediated by electronic means of storage and transmission produces a strong fiction, but not a sound faith. The fiction of disassociated sound provokes a suspicion that questions the sound of immediate voice. Such suspicions suggest that sounds always speak for an absent sign.

As mentioned above, François Cooren suggests that a vocalized word never truly indicates the presence or position of the one visibly speaking. Rather, speech always represents something absent.[71] Others extend this suspicion to the supernatural, saying that present voices are always haunted by past voices and never speak immediately to the senses.[72]  Faith and hope certainly risks such deceit since proximate hearing requires vulnerability. Even so faith and hope prove valuable enough to accept the risk.

Faith and hope as essential characteristics for sustaining group cohesion and individual motivation as noted by scholars of psychiatry[73], psychology[74], business[75], and education.[76]  These studies characterize faith and hope as complementary traits of psychological capital. Psychological capital defined as “self-efficacy, hope, optimism and resilience”[77] cast faith and hope within the limited frame of psychological traits. This immanent point of view repeats Weber’s sociological reduction of charismatic speech. Research on psychological capital tries to predict good outcomes in human organization by promoting what scholars define as “positive organizational behaviors”.[78] Positive organizational behavior is defined by Luthans as” positively oriented human resource strengths and psychological capacities that can be measured, developed, and effectively managed for performance improvement in today’s workplace.”[79] Such a definition privileges the visible qualities of supportive action by attending to its numerical measurement[80]. Faith and hope conceived as conditional attributes of psychological capital, and as predictive motivations for positive organizational behavior, undermine the very essence of faithfulness. As noted above, the emphasis on visibility and quantification questions the very existence of faith as responding to an audible call rather than the conquest of visible goals. Faith responds with inspiration, the movement of the spirit hearing a call to act. An audible word moves but does not show what or how it moves. Instead it moves from within and works inside, inspiring willful action without resorting to physical force. Even the most violent turns of phrase can only threaten. Where faith and hope reign, even threats of death can be met with active resistance.

Managing psychological capital cannot genuinely motivate since faith and hope as traits of management simply assist in management’s coordination. Coordination works by drawing on the powerfully combined voice of the crowd rather than a voice which quietly inspires faith in the hearts of hearers. Ordained voices (i.e. prophetic) relinquish power in order to hear what words ought to be said to those who would listen.[81] An ordained voice possesses graceful charisma (not the force of populism or fear) sanctioned by having heard what cannot be seen. Coordination mimics the amplification of electronic transmission by amassing a visible crowd which gives weight to words simply by accruing followers. The difference between a faith that comes by hearing and an ecstatic fanaticism shows itself in mass movement’s privileging of visibility. The volume and mass of the cheering crowd replaces the slow and quiet movements of the heart. The quiet movement of the heart shapes the will and prompts faithfulness. Coordination of psychological capital seeks conformity of behavior since it cannot believe or patiently wait for the gentle turning that no longer requires a policy for guidance. Leaders depending on coordination depend on visible trends that are leveraged for populist leadership and propaganda’s force.[82] Faith does not come by the display of power visible in the movements of the crowd. Instead it comes quietly to the heart by waiting silently for the voice of someone to come near, someone promising plans for good, plans for a future and a hope.[83]

The Softness of Speech

The critique of telecommunication, policy, propaganda, and political force against the fostering of common faith could in some part extend to print culture but the broadcast nature of print in its modern form draws much of its forcefulness from electronic duplication and dissemination technologies, not from writing itself. Handwritten laws or rules differ substantially from messages electronically produced and transferred and their acceptance as good for ordering action still requires a hearing. Even our own written laws are always tested by a public hearing of each case as it compares to the law. In the judicial situation, the immediacy of a hearing is still presumed able to provide a group the conclusive means of agreement in making a judgement. Faith in the verdict comes by the hearing, not by simple application of written law. Written decisions without a proper hearing spawn doubt.

The real problem lies in the electronic transfer of messages amplifying the distance of print and reversing back into a false sense of immediacy.[84] Now, we pass notes as if in the same room just as school children did in classrooms. The difference between the classroom situation and ours is found in these facts. The use of electronically sent messages invades all areas of life. It is not restricted to children or schools. The increase in textual and graphical communication activity has not strengthened our relationships or our faithfulness to social institutions. Instead of the clarity claimed by those who prefer visually displayed data, we have become more confused and uncertain. Instead of concerted action, we observe social tendencies of reaction as the primary mode of speech activity. Reaction arises from the unexpected, and typically arises from anxiety, fear or anger. Speech is merely reaction unless it comes from a heart steadied by faith. Speech coming from a heart of faith enjoys poise and therefore does not require prediction or rapid feedback, only deliberate action that follows held commitments.

The disorientation produced by telecommunication not only prevents common sense from developing among people, but also robs them of the capacity for faith. In conclusion, I hope to demonstrate why speech in the presence of other people lacks the force of electronically transferred messages and why the softness of speech assists in the strengthening of faith and hope. Granted, the force of electronic messaging carries people and organizations higher and further than might be possible with only proximate speech. However, the testimony of faith arising from the heart of a people still proves more durable than even the best messaging campaigns.[85]

The swiftness of telecommunication, along with its lack of gravity, requires a stoic’s numbness both in creating and receiving messages. The swiftness of telecommunication requires less patience, and therefore loses the warmth of speech. This loss of warmth and swiftness in electronic mediums prove to favors fear and anger over a spirit of sympathy, a sympathy that comes through proximity and the development of a common sense.

If building faith and hope requires proximate hearing, then our speaking must accept the weak, cumbersome, and costly nature of human meeting. Only in proximity can a human being appear to another, not just in visible form but audibly. Meeting supports common sense by expressing vulnerability. Meeting places one with others in situations that might be considered uncomfortable or awkward. The proximity of meeting requires relation; it cannot be avoided or deferred. The look of the flesh as it hears a spoken word produces sympathy, since sympathy sees the sound presented in the spiritually charged visage of the listener. The intent of a voice appears in the intonation of the words, the display of the face, and the meaning of an utterance draws from these shared experiences in conversation.[86] Craig Smith and Michael Hyde’s articulation of Aristotle’s pathé (pathos) features proximity as a basic condition for eliciting emotion in an audience.[87] The degree of intensity felt during a speech depends upon the nearness to an object of thought, as well as the closeness of the person, relationally and physically.[88] Disseminated messages in which the speaker is absent can arouse emotion, but cannot immediately sense the hearer’s reaction. Instead, as is the case with most broadcast media, the desire for hearer feedback is keen. The effectiveness of a message is gauged by the degree and frequency of the solicited action. Such message-making returns to the visible quantity of actions in order to measure the need for new and repeated messages.[89]

In current digital telecommunication conditions, feedback rules as a primary principle of messaging. Silence in electronic communication scenarios means nothing, or too much. Even noise is preferable to total silence. The traditional maxim, “no news is good news” does not apply in the telecommunication context. Silence in the electronic communication complex usually means a critical response is required. Feedback frequency increases to alleviate any doubt that the listener is still listening. Instead of common sense, electronic communication mechanisms develop a “cybernetic sense”[90]. Cybernetic sense focuses on “process and probability [producing] an autonomous form of sense no longer linked to limits.”[91]

Cybernetic sense by design resists the limitations of presence and communal dependency. Cybernetic sense aims at autonomous operation aided by instrumental perception.[92] The digital network provides the map where a person can always locate their position and navigate a course without having to stop and ask for directions. Examples of this situation extend from using GPS (global positioning system) navigation or our ability to accomplish any interaction from in front of a screen. We change locations and even time zones with the swipe of a thumb.

Such autonomy comes with the condition of proximate numbness. To be in the network means losing our sense of immediate surroundings, even our own emotions. For this very reason, early cyberneticists Norbert Wiener and Warren McCullough developed interest in pathos, but primarily social pathologies, not the emotions felt while listening to speech.[93] For Aristotle, an appeal to pathé meant appealing to present people’s emotions, and thereby moving “the soul of the listener.”[94] In a display of emotion by the speaker and heard by the listener, not only would the speech be more persuasive but would also generate a context of common sense, the same sensation felt simultaneously. Early cyberneticists grappled with the difficult problem of not being able to sense the interactive nature of communication. Without the immediacy of proximity, Weiner and McCollough settled on social movements, not pathé. Orit Halpert’s history of Weiner and McCollough’s partnership describes how they conceived of digital networks as analogous to neural activity,  as “the mind was comprised of material processes both philosophical and physiological at once, that could act like plants and telegraphs simultaneously”.[95] The reduction of action to movement proposed by cyberneticists focuses not on souls but on visible behaviors. The mechanisms of movement that shape a crowd, not words that inspire community. We are reminded by Halpert that the foundational architecture of network technology currently supporting our telecommunication patterns finds its origin in computational mathematics and defensive weaponry: the quantification and analysis of predictable movements. [96]

The power of predictive computing is certainly forceful. As feedback loops have gotten quicker, so their persuasive force has increased. In many cases, they approach the speed of immediacy with the subsequent effect of triggering uncanny emotional responses.[97] Telecommunication technology anticipates human action well enough to touch the heart. Technology almost knows us, knows me. The delicacy and accuracy of the feedback, the lightness and smoothness by which it notifies us of its presence disguises its lure of cruelty and forcefulness.

In great contrast, the softness of speech requires the weight of meeting, a willingness to wait to hear what will be said. Even meetings with reluctant participants respond to the softness of speech. However, the speed and force of telecommunication overrun speech’s softness. Shouting can dispel the distraction of such conditions but struggles to awaken the heart to hearing. Speech that encourages faith extends not far beyond the lips.

The sound of a person’s voice in situation reverberates much differently than when compressed by electronic channels. Even printed text, which has efficiently enhanced the dissemination of words, reshapes our sensibilities for planning and administration. Planning and administration prefer predictability and therefore favor the speed and efficiency of telecommunication. Even the telephone, although good at the transfer of voice, severs intonation from gesture and facial expression. Immediately the distance and the division lessen the weighty warmth of speech.

To prefer the softness of proximate speech over the power of telecommunication announces already a faith in the ordinary and simple conditions of conversation. The meekness of speech admits that in order to speak a word that breathes life, we must see our companion experience the very breath in our words. Hearing such a word makes belief possible since hearing a word spoken, the sound grows and then fades but the presence of the person, their face and their touch confirm the sound which is itself invisible. In fact, as Don Ihde remarks “it is to the invisible that listening can attend.”[98] Because listening attends to the invisible it can best help us understand the spiritual, a condition of faithful relationship that cannot be visualized or predicted. As a seed silently emerges from the ground, so a community rises fed by the sound of faithful and hopeful words among people present to each other.

The desire to experience such a “sense of community” continually appears in contemporary attempts at communication. The peace sought in the presence of a community versus the alienation generated by the crowd forms the many appeals made through various channels of telecommunication. Broadcast advertising leverages the personalization of human speech to engage an audience, even as the subtle forcefulness of the medium diminishes the desire for such a sensation. Paradoxically, the appeals for bringing people together become sharper even as our capacity for sharing company, even just hearing the presence of another person, prompts retreat. We are doubtful that talking to another person will truly achieve even our lowest aims at relationship.

Faith requires no prediction because it believes in promise, a truthful word spoken and kept. Faith resists power since it believes that the word, the word in flesh, is enough for overcoming all that might crush hope. As faith increases, so does hope because probabilities cannot replace the assurance of presence or the promises of a sure return. Russian philologist Mikhail Bakhtin writes that this promise of return echoes in every word spoken, for “there is neither a first nor a last word and there are no limits to the dialogic context (it extends into the boundless past and the boundless future).”[99] For Bakhtin, every word spoken rings in eternity resonating with Paul’s claim that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”[100] God’s Word calls us to hear him, and each other, from eternity. Even our speech resounds in eternity by calling upon the potential for an eternal reunion that will no longer require parting.

A stoic’s heart is the heart of a skeptic. Such a heart cannot believe in such a reunion, so it relies on communication networks that can always search and find someone. No matter if a person leaves, I can always trace them across the network and watch their movement. I may not hear their voice, but I can see where they are. Not surprisingly, such a desire for surveillance discourages a spirit of sympathy and a feeling for faith. Watching everyone requires that we must move on,[101] no time to tarry or wait to hear what one might say. Even the patience needed for the slow travel of a letter requires more waiting than we are willing to give.

In just such a letter from St. Paul’s to the Galatians, he writes that the fruits of the spirit are “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”[102] Such a list serves as an anti-thesis to what current telecommunication releases. Instead of love, indifference; instead of joy, despair; instead of peace, anxiety; instead of patience, speed; instead of kindness, tolerance; instead of goodness, endless mediocre options; instead of faithfulness, last minute cancellations, instead of gentleness, force; and instead of self-control, only technical limits. The fruits of the spirit do not find fertile soil in speech powered by electronic mechanisms. The fostering of such a spirit requires an attentive ear willing to wait for the fruit that come from a faithful spirit. The powerful desires of control, impatience, force, and infidelity are not simply failings, they stand in direct contrast to the voice of the Holy Spirit who first gives such an ability to hear. Proximate hearing, the means by which we come to faith requires a patient waiting, a willingness to feel the weight of time required for experiencing the slow reveal of another’s heart. We yearn for such a revelation because it strengthens in our own hearts the belief that someone might offer us a similar hearing. In our hurry, we must reconsider that such a hearing is the only way to preserve and sustain a human relation which fosters the common sense needed for faithful and hopeful communities


[1] Robert Putnam (2000,2003, 2015); Charles Murray (1994, 2012); Jordan Peterson (2018); Philip Rieff (2006, 2008); Kenneth Gergen (1992)

[2] Lewis Mumford. (1941) Faith for Living. London, UK:  Secker and Warburg Ltd. pgs. 12-13

[3] See Lucinda Chen. (2017)” Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin Now Plans to Launch Space Tourists a Few Months After Elon Musk” Fortune October 6th and Nicky Woolf (2016)” SpaceX founder Elon Musk plans to get humans to Mars in six years” The Guardian. September 28th Hannah Arendt presciently predicts such an interest in her book The Human Condition when she comments on the launching of Sputnik as a technological illustration of Archimedes claim to be able to move the earth with a large enough lever and fulcrum point. In her view, a clear statement of our lost hope in the earth as a sufficient home. See Hannah Arendt (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pg. 11

[4] Simone Weil (1952) The Need for Roots. Trans. Arthur Wills. New York, NY: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, pgs. 43-44

[5] Maria Pia Pagnelli. (2017) “Boys Do Cry: Adam Smith on Wealth and Expressing Emotions” The Journal of Scottish Philosophy. 15.1 p. 1-8

[6] Adam Smith. (1759/1969) The Theory of Moral Sentiments. New Rochelle, Arlington House Press. p. 413

[7] Hannah Arendt. (XXXX) Life of the Mind.

[8] Stephen Toulmin. (2003) Return to Reason. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[9] John D. Schaeffer. (1990) Vico, Rhetoric, and the Limits of Relativism. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

[10] Rosenfeld, Sophia (2014). Common sense: a political history. Harvard Univ Press.

[11] L. A. Turner (1998) “An anthropological exploration of contemporary bioethics: the varieties of common sense” Journal of Medical Ethics 24 pgs. 127-133.

[12] I am aware that the two schools of common-sense divide with Cartesian methodology. Descartes viewing common sense as vulgar, while other methods of reasoning independent of that common sense could make conjecture upon principle. M.M. Bakhtin well describes the divide that occurs towards the end of the medieval and beginning of Enlightenment periods where bodily perception became less important, even criticized, to acquire knowledge.

[13] Marcel Danesi. (1992) “Common Sense vs. Communal sense” Vico’s concept of sensus communis” 92 ¾ p.361

[14] Romans 10:16-17 “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ.”

[15] Acts 17:22-23

[16] In chapter 10 of Romans, Paul’s description of hearing involves both the special revelation of God’s Word in Jesus Christ, the testimony of believers of that Word after Christ’s ascendance, and the general revelation of God’s Word throughout creation as it say in Psalm 19:1 that ”The heavens declare the glory of God” which corroborate Romans chapter 1 where Paul says ” For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from His workmanship, so that men are without excuse.” Here, we see that although the passage speaks of a general experience of creation, the Word of God is still what is declared, not just the majesty of His Creation but the meaning of His presence in and to the world he has created. We hear God’s Word, not only because he has written it down but because he is present in Spirit. God is actually closer than we imagine any other person to be. So close he touches us just as he touched Adam when he fashioned him out of the dust of the earth. Digital technologies distract from this reality so that prayer, which is always an interpersonal conversation with a present if invisible person, is likened to a telephone call or a text.

[17] I am relying here on the orthodox Christian position of a single God head in three persons as expressed in trinitarian doctrine. More about this view of God can be read in Michael Reeves (2012) Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith IVP Academic.

[18] Romans 11:36

[19] Thomas De Zengotita. (2005) Mediated. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, pgs. 19-21

[20] Revelation 1:8

[21] Psalm 95 vs. 3-4 says about the God of the Holy Scriptures that He “the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In His hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are His also. Whether or not this claim is accepted, to justify the claim that the Holy Scriptures have authority over all other divine claims, human judgment, and are a reliable source of knowledge about human speech require that we approach the text this way. To do otherwise promises the pitfalls that I directly critique in this essay.

[22] I am not alone in this type of reliance. Most recently popular psychologist Jordan Peterson has mined the Christian Bible as a source for psychoanalysis tracing themes from the Bible to explain contemporary social and psychological disorders. See Jordan Peterson (1999) Maps of Meaning New York: Routledge, pg. 405 and Jordan Peterson (2018) 12 Rules for Living: An Antidote to Chaos. Toronto: Random House Canada.

[23] John 14:6-7

[24] Psalm 119:104-106

[25] Genesis 1:27

[26] My claim here draws broadly from the vast literature on the origin and persistence of Christianity since Christ’s death and resurrection. Of course, mere survival, the stoic response, does not make something true. More important is the character of those groups which have earnestly sought-after God’s Word as the organizing principle in their collect. Christ’s Word about how to live and to live together remains unmatched in specificity and usefulness for creating peaceful and just people. I don’t imply that usefulness justifies God’s Word, although it always will. Instead we see that God’s Word possesses unequal authority in its ability to form human relationship and human community. See G.K. Chesterton (1908/2006) Orthodoxy. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publisher Inc. p. 99-120. for an extended argument on this point.

[27] Hannah Arendt. (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p.199

[28] Digital networks, while not necessarily secretive in one sense are still invisible. Many companies collect information without explicitly doing so, many connections are made without announcing presence (viewing a stranger’s profile). The other motive in digital connections can be displayed in the desire for establishing anonymity and then accomplishing some work without having to suffer the consequence. Anonymity is the secret self, secret to others and perhaps even invisible to oneself.

[29] Jeremiah 33:2-4 shows that God considers the very act of calling out to him an act of faith. So much so that he promises he will answer. For the testimony of Scripture confirms that those who call upon the Lord in faith will receive His help. Psalm 145:8 states that “The Lord is near to all who call on Him, to all who call on Him in truth”

[30] Cathy O’Neil. (2017) Weapons of Math Destruction. New York, NY: Penguin Random House, p. PAGE!

[31] See Marshall McLuhan (1962/2010) Gutenberg Galaxy Toronto: Toronto UP p.4 and John Durham Peters (2001) Speaking into the Air: A Short History of Communication

[32] Neil Postman (1987/2005) Amusing Ourselves to Death. New York: Penguin Books pg. 66-71

[33] Thomas De Zengotita. (2005) Mediated. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, pg. 9

[34] Since sound always evokes presence and therefore when separated from presence produces a disorientation. Michel Chion (2016) Durham, NC: Duke UP, pgs. 10,15; Walter Ong. (1967) The Presence of the Word. New Haven, NJ: Yale UP, pgs. 87-92; Don Ihde. (2007) Listening and Voice. Albany, NY: State University of New York pgs. 3-6 Also see Thomas De Zengotita. (2005) Mediated. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, pg. 4

[35] Since God is always present, he can always communicate with us silently. His voice is quiet in His Holy Word, in His Holy Scriptures and through the comforting of His Holy Spirit. This quiet never lessens the meaning in His Words to us. Human communication cannot mimic this scenario although telecommunication produces the ruse of omnipresence since its posture of immediacy produces pseudo presence. Also see Walter Ong’s commentary on visual organization of texts in Interfaces of the Word (1977) Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pg.178

[36] Walter Ong. (1977) Interfaces of the Word. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, pg.162-163

[37] Jacques Ellul. Humiliation of the Word.

[38] Sherry Turkle. (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each other. New York, NY: Basic Books pgs. 190-191 and Sherry Turkle (2015) Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age. New York, NY: Penguin Books pgs. 45

[39] Sean Horowitz. (2012) The Universal Sense. New York, NY: Bloomsbury USA, pgs. 112-121

[40] This sentiment can be traced back to the Socratic dialogues where suspicion about the arousing of emotion buttresses Socrates critique of rhetoric.

[41] Hannah Arendt. (1958) The Human Condition. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pgs. 273-80

[42] Don Ihde. (2002) Bodies in Technology. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, pg. 136

[43] Neil Postman. (1992) Technopoly. New York, NY: Vintage Books, pgs. 146-149

[44] See David Burge. ”Balls and Urns” Retrieved from

[45] Romans 15:1-7

[46] 1st Peter 5:9, See Also Linda M. Zerilli. (2005)” We Feel Our Freedom: Imagination and Judgment in the Thought of Hannah Arendt” Political Theory 33.2, p.172

[47] Edward L Bernays. (1923) Crystallizing Public Opinion. New York, NY: Liveright Publishing Corporation, pgs. 17-28. In Bernays we see the poll as a way to influence opinions and to publicize a particular subject, making its “importance felt and appreciated”. The poll leverages the massified individual to produce an opinion that organizes thought and directs attention. Here, we witness the power of distribution much like the power of electricity. Rather than electricity the Holy Spirit which cannot be controlled favors the uniqueness of a person. As it says in John 3:8 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So, it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” A person led by the spirit, not by majority opinions exhibits an idiosyncrasy that lies outside the normative standard of expectation.

[48] Hannah Arendt. (1966) Origins of Totalitarianism. New York, NY: Schocken Books, pg.456-457

[49] Jose Ortega y Gassett. (1932/1993) The Revolt of the Masses. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, pgs. 13-14; Jacques Ellul (1958) Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, pgs. 90-91; Lewis Mumford. (XXXX) Art and Technics.

[50] Jacques Ellul. (1970) The Meaning of the City. Trans. Dennis Pardee Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. pgs. 126-128; and Jacques Ellul. (1965) Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York, NY: Vintage Books, pgs. 190-192

[51] Hannah Arendt. (1966) Origins of Totalitarianism. New York, NY: Schocken Books, pg.141,331

[52] Emphasis added.

[53] Jose Ortega Y Gassett. (1932) The Revolt of the Masses New York: W.W. Norton & Company p. 14

[54] Michael Hyde. (2001) The Call of Conscience. Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, pgs. 11

[55] Jesus Christ overturns this logic in his refusal to speak over the crowd. In their insistence that he be crucified he rejects Pilates political negotiations and will not plead for mercy. Even Pilate cannot persuade the crowd since his populist power relies on volume and force of the crowd’s majority opinion. The crowd does not know mercy. The crowd only knows violence. In response to the crowds demand for death, only the single gaze can arrest the demonic spirit that infests the massified individual. Without wanting to appear too bold in my interpretation, the story of the demoniac clearly illustrates this point through the incarnation of the crowd’s violence. He had become too strong and violent for it says that “no one had the strength to subdue him “and so had been forced to live among the tombs, the only place where a crowd of people enjoys silence. See the Gospel of Luke 23:20-22 and Mark chapter 5.

[56] Philip Rieff. (2007) Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How it has been Taken Away from Us. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, pgs. 7-9

[57] Ibid. pgs. 90-94.

[58] Kenneth Burke’s version of this argument situates identification with a group against a common enemy, or a scapegoat. Positive identification or believing in a positive cause can only exist against a negative, or an enemy. Each group must identify a scapegoat to provide reason for the rightness of their action. See Kenneth Burke. (1966) Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, pgs. 301-302

[59] Philip Rieff. (2007) Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How it Has Been Taken away From Us. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, pgs. 7-9

[60] Ibid. pgs. 83

[61] John Durham Peters. (1999) Speaking into the Air: A Short History of Communication. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, pgs.172-180

[62] François Cooren. (2010) Action and Agency in Dialogue: Passion, Incarnation and Ventriloquism. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.

[63] The idea of persona used pejoratively hear, demonstrates again the shift in the notion of the auditory and the visible. Now personas are considered as a list of visible actions a person takes, rather than being the sound of their voice. As the original Greek indicates, per-sona, revealed in sound. See Don Ihde. (2007) Listening and Voice. New York, NY: State University of New York Press p. 14

[64] The number of examples that illustrate this idea increase. More and more in film and literature, bodies are view as “shells” or “sleeves” that only hold the essential kernel of the human being. AI technology has encouraged the notion that human personalities are simply data that can be fixed and transferred between containers. Films like Transcendence (2014) Universal Studios; Avatar (2009) Twentieth Century Fox along with many others exhibit this idea in the social imaginary.

[65] Max Van Manen. (2015) Pedagogical Tact: Knowing What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do. New York, NY: Routledge Press, p. 40-41 See also Hannah Arendt. (1982) Lectures on Kant’s Political Philosophy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, p.70-71

[66] Lee Rainie & Barry Wellman. (2012) Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, pgs. 6-11.

[67] Don Ihde. Bodies in Technology

[68] John W. Keltner. (1957) “GroupThink” and Individual Thinking” Today’s Speech 5.2 p.5-6

[69] See the term “catfishing” referring to an online activity of presenting a persona via telecommunication methods (typically social media) simply to lure another person into a relationship. See Retrieved July 26, 2019.

[70] This cunning is displayed even in Scripture, in 2nd Kings 7:6 the Lord tricks the Syrians into believing that they were being attacked by a large army by having them hear horses and chariots. The army flees leaving behind their entire camp.

[71] François Cooren. (2010) Action and Agency in Dialogue: Passion, Incarnation and Ventriloquism. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company

[72] Joshua Gunn (2006) “Review Essay: Mourning Humanism, or, the Idiom of Haunting” Quarterly Journal of Speech, 92:1 pg. 77-102.

[73] Clarke, David. “Faith and Hope” Religion and Spirituality 11.2, June 2003 p. 164

[74] Dawkins, S., Angela Martin, Jenn Scott & Kristy Sanderson. “Building on the positives: A psychometric review and critical analysis of the construct of psychological capital” Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology 86 2013 p. 348

[75] Karoline Strauss, Karen Niven, Charlotte R. McClelland, Bernard K.T. Cheung. (2015) “Hope and Optimism in the face of change: contributions to task adaptivity” Journal of Business Psychology 30 p.733-745 and Froman, L. “Positive Psychology in the Workplace” Journal of Adult Development 17 p.59

[76] Jolyn E. Dahlvig. (2018) ”Flourishing for the Common Good: Positive Leadership in Christian Higher Education During Times of Change” Christian Higher Education 17:1-2, p.105-106

[77] Dawkins, S., Angela Martin, Jenn Scott & Kristy Sanderson. p. 348

[78] Fred Luthans. (2002)”The need for and meaning of positive organizational behavior” Journal of Organizational Behavior. 23 pgs. 695-706

[79] Ibid 695

[80] Ibid. pg. 697

[81] Philip Rieff. (2007) Charisma: The Gift of Grace and How it Has Been Taken Away from Us. New York, NY: Pantheon Books, pgs. 81

[82] Historians have recorded this unusual condition of fascist government. Fascist government is at the same time popular and indiscriminately forceful. They prey upon the citizenry of a country by using populist messaging and achieved support from flattering constituents, they then use the fear of losing those flatteries or the loss of the vain promises made by those attempting to win confidence. In this way, fascist totalitarian rule, paradoxically produces a great hope in its people all while using fear and intimidation to secure them as slaves to the state.

[83] See Jeremiah 29:11” For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” Only having heard this word will a heart be able to respond in faith, for the promise of a future given from one who keeps is word inspires belief that surely this too will come to pass.

[84] The difference between handwritten versus mechanically produced messages has been carefully catalogued by numerous thinkers including Marshall McLuhan, Neil Postman, Harold Innis and more recently Douglas Rushkoff. A more thorough discussion of these authors would require more of this essay than I have space for.

[85] Ed Keller & Brad Fay. (2012) The Face to Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule the Marketplace. New York, NY, pgs. 142-143

[86] Mikhail Bakhtin. “Discourse in Art, Discourse in Life” (1994) In Landmark Essay on Voice and Writing Ed. Peter Elbow. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

[87] Craig Smith & Michael Hyde. (1991) “Rethinking the Public: The Role of Emotion in Being-with-Others” Quarterly Journal of Speech 77.4 p. 450-51

[88] Ibid p. 451

[89] All broadcast media requires feedback. Television ratings, radio call-ins, surveys, polls, and even website click-tracking demonstrate this as a basic condition of broadcast media. The force of this feedback comes from the oscillating frequency between message and reply. The tighter the loop, the stronger the signal. Feedback while using any form of amplification confirms this principle as a basic condition of auditory physics. The acceleration of the loop produces a scream that cannot be ignored.

[90]  Orit Halpern. (2012) “Cybernetic Sense” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 37.3 pgs. 218-36

[91] Ibid. pgs. 219

[92] See discussion of the “control room” condition by Antoine Picon. (2010) Digital Culture in Architecture. Basel: Birkhäuser GmbH. Pg. 20

[93] Ibid pgs. 219

[94] Craig Smith & Michael Hyde. (1991) “Rethinking the Public: The Role of Emotion in Being-with-Others” Quarterly Journal of Speech 77.4 p. 450

[95] Orit Halpern. (2012) “Cybernetic Sense” Interdisciplinary Science Reviews. 37.3 pgs. 221

[96] Norbert Weiner’s original work in cybernetics originally happened when he was figuring out how to automate anti-aircraft guns during WW2. The general problem was figuring out how to predict the flight path of a plane so that the gun could anticipate its moments. The general problem boiled down to the issue of timely and accurate feedback.

[97] Sherry Turkle. (2011) Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less From Each other. New York, NY: Basic Books, pgs. 8-9

[98] Don Ihde. (2007) Listening and Voice. Albany, NY: State University of New York pgs. 14

[99] Mikhail Bakhtin. (1986) Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. Vern C. McGee Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, pg. 170

[100] Romans 10:17

[101] Thomas De Zengotita. (2005) Mediated. New York, NY: Bloomsbury Publishing, pgs. 27

[102] Galatians 5: 22-23





















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