"Whenever I go into a restaurant, I order both a chicken and an egg to see which comes first"

Friday, April 24, 2015

The Gift Of Gab–A Silver Tongue Is The Key To Success

Most successful people know that one of their most important attributes is a silver tongue – the ability to charm people into believing in their causes, buying their products, or voting for them.  New research suggests that they have a particular genetic advantage.  Their circuits are hardwired around Broca’s Region, a section of the brain which for unexplained evolutionary reasons slows down uptake, wit, and verbal agility.

Broca's Region

Scientists have been at a loss to explain why such a region of the brain in fact exists.  One would have expected that a quick wit, easy sarcasm, dry humor, and above all the ability to present one’s ideas confidently and well would be a Darwinian advantage; but never mind. The One Percent – hucksters, politicians, evangelical preachers, and Lotharios – could care less how they inherited their ability. They are simply happy that they have been blessed.

For those who have the gift, it is a challenge to use it morally and ethically.  God knows, most of their colleagues have not.  Take Pastor Luke Sommers of the Los Angeles Church of the Divine Redeemer.  He was reared Baptist in Lewes, Arkansas, a small town in the Ozarks known more for its trout fishing than its piety or moral rectitude; but those families who had lived there for many generations prided themselves on their Christian heritage and faith in Jesus Christ.  In fact more nationally-renowned Baptist preachers came out of Lewes, Arkansas than any other town its size, and the community felt that it had done more than its share to promote revelation and pursue evangelism.

Sommers first made an impression on the people of Lewes when he was only eight, invited to preach at the Annual Summer Revival by his mentor and longtime family friend, Brother Armand of the Main Street Baptist church. Armand had discovered Sommers at a summer Bible study camp.  All the children had been asked to stand up for Jesus and to share their thoughts on the Gospels.  Little Luke without hesitation quoted the opening verses of the Gospel of John and with a passion and insight far beyond his years, talked about The Word, the ineffable Being before Being, the spiritual pre-existing Christ.

John Word

Pastor Armand was stunned by the boy’s eloquence and understanding of perhaps the most important verses of the Bible; and from that moment adopted him as his spiritual charge, mentored him, and launched him into a lifelong mission of preaching the Word of Our Lord.

Luke Sommers had the gift, but it wasn’t the gift that Brother Armand had thought. Luke simply loved the spotlight and relished the fawning adulation of adults. He had grown up, after all, in a family for whom the Bible was the be-all and end-all.  The verses of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were more than simply the recorded history of The Savior, but divine elocution.  His father, mother, and sisters sat by the fireside and recited the gospels, the epistles, and even books of the Old Testament (especially the ones that foretold the coming of Christ) just as other secular families might have read Great Expectations or Moll Flanders. Even as a young child, Luke knew chapter and verse.  The fact that none of his family’s Biblical recitations or exegesis made any sense was irrelevant.  He was taken in by the poetry and the passion.

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Fortuitously some innate, peculiar, and unexplained eloquence and a grounding in the Holy Bible conjoined to enable the evangelical career of Luke Sommers. After college, theological seminary in Memphis, appointments to important churches in Atlanta and Charleston, Luke found his way to televangelism; and in the space of a few, short years, he became one of the most popular preachers on television.

Although Luke in many ways resembled the fictional Elmer Gantry – both were unparalleled in their oratory, theatricality, and spiritual charisma – he was never so callously indifferent to his mission. Who could possibly say whether God existed, let alone Jesus Christ?  Who was he to judge the verdict of 2000 years of Christian history?

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His humility was part of his charm, and his congregants whether in the pews of small Southern churches or viewers of his nationally syndicated program, believed him and every word that came out of his mouth.

“The ends justify the means”, he said; and by that he meant that if some people were converted to Christianity or were born again thanks to his spirited intervention, so much the better. He was simply having the time of his life, understanding as he did that the expression of will was the only validation of the individual. The power of conversion, of  bringing the faithful but lost to Jesus Christ to be born again in Him was euphoric. CEOs of major corporations inspired their employees to achieve even more productivity; and increased the value of their publically-traded stocks to unprecedented levels thanks to a display of vision and absolute conviction. Luke had the spiritual destiny of his followers in his hands. Through his words, millions of Americans had accepted Jesus Christ as their personal savior. He was more than primus inter pares. He was the best.

Some people, like Luke Sommers, feel that they are custodians of the gift of gab; and feel a certain moral responsibility to use it ethically; but they are only human.  They have to admit that they have not always been as honest and transparent as one with such endowments should be.  They can convince large audiences of the merits of superficially attractive but essentially intellectually bereft projects.  They have ginned up support for the most venal and bottom-line programs. They have shilled for disreputable advocates of misaligned social justice, faux missionaries of immigration reform, and  disassemblers of public education.

They can’t help it. Nietzsche had it right 150 years ago. The only relevant actions are those which are beyond good and evil, those which  attest to the vitality and exuberance of the individual human spirit. “A sucker is born every minute” and “You can fool most of the people most of the time” are diluted versions of the truth – that the world is divided between those who fool and those who are fooled.

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We all try to fool. We Photoshop our Facebook profiles. We enhance our resumes. We closet unpleasantness; but few of us have the ability to manipulate the present and the future. The most successful evangelical preachers and corporate CEOs understand that the past is irrelevant; and that  the present is only a way-station.  Hollywood moguls, Wall Street financiers, Madison Avenue Mad Men, and Baptist evangelists all share one, common, irrefutable quality – a silver tongue and the ability to lead the flock.

The moral of the story? The divisions of American society so often noted – right-Left, gay-straight, white-black, rich-poor, ignore the fundamental reality – a silver tongue. The intelligent, savvy, and smart will always trump the rest. 

1 comment:

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