Why Don’t Christians Speak Out?

John Locke, a seventeenth century philosopher, said there are three forms of law —- divine, civil, and opinion. He, considered the father of modern liberalism, claimed the law of opinion is the only one by which people really abide. It is the law governing what a person feels they can express without being in danger of isolation. This produces what Dr. Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann, professor of communication research at the University of Mainz in Germany, calls a spiral of silence.
When put in an environment where person feel they might be laughed at or turned away in derision if they say what they really think the spiral begins. People want to avoid the social stigma that comes from having a different opinion on social issues. To avoid it they switch to a go-along-to-get-along mode even if they are considered to be a conformist. That is considered to be better than rejection. Most people want peace and contentment so badly they don’t speak out.
The electronic and print media give us most of our knowledge of the world around us. Most of the national media does not give a balanced insight into what people are thinking proportionate to the various opinions. The selective perception given primarily by TV makes it appear everyone thinks as they represent issues. The media’s sanctioned view tends to bias the nation’s judgement. This can make the minority appear to be the majority.
This is where the spiral starts. Those who hold the opinion fostered by the media are emboldened thereby and speak out all the more. Those who hold a view contrary to the media are silent in order to avoid ostracism.
Pick any one of several controversial social issues. A position on it in the media appears to be the accepted norm. Many people are unwilling to take an opposing view in a group for fear of rejection. Take as examples freedom of religious speech,  don’t-ask-don’t-tell or abortion. Does the media project what appears to be an accepted view on these subjects? Is it popular to speak out in opposition to the reported popular attitude? If one does speak out in a group that concurs with the image fostered by the media what is likely to be the reaction of the group? Does the person holding an opposing view risk getting a cold-shoulder? Who wants a cold-shoulder? Often the only way to avoid it is silence. The spiral is then complete.
Alexis de Tocqueville, in the nineteenth century gave this analysis of the decline of religion just before the French Revolution.
“People still clinging to the old faith were afraid of being the only ones who did so, and as they were more frightened of isolation than of committing an error, they joined the masses even though they did not agree with them. In this way, the opinion of only part of the population seemed to be the opinion of everybody.”
Could that be happening in the religious community in America today?
Nonconformist Henry David Thoreau wrote of his civil disobedience: “It is always easy to break the law, but even the Bedouins in the desert find it impossible to resist public opinion.” He seems to agree with Locke that people obey only the law of public opinion.
Fortunately there are those who have deep seated convictions who are willing to risk all to defend the divine law. They seek to obey and propagate it. Society can only be changed by those who are willing to risk isolation to defend their faith.