Marvin Olasky: The psychology of rants


MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Thursday, February 7th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

JILL NELSON, HOST: And I’m Jill Nelson. You know, in today’s politically charged atmosphere, it’s so easy to go off on a rant about something.

REICHARD: I know! I hate that! It drives me crazy! Whether it’s me doing it or someone else. Regret follows.

NELSON: Exactly. WORLD Editor in Chief Marvin Olasky wrote about this in a 2005 issue of WORLD Magazine. It’s more applicable today than ever.

MARVIN OLASKY, EDITOR IN CHIEF: You may have heard a story about a time half a century ago when President Lyndon Johnson invited reporters to his ranch for dinner. He asked his press secretary, Bill Moyers, to say grace. Moyers got the job because he had seminary training.

But LBJ wasn’t happy that Moyers spoke so softly. LBJ asked him to speak up. Moyers replied, “I wasn’t talking to you, Mr. President.”

For some, that story points to LBJ’s arrogance. But the president had a point. Public prayer, whether in church or at the dinner table, has two audiences: one on earth, one in heaven. Prayer tells God what he already knows but wants to hear from us. It also may teach human listeners what they do not know but should.

Public prayer should be loud enough for all to hear. It should also be discerning about what people will hear. The goal should be to communicate with God. But it should also emphasize communication about God’s attributes. Holiness. Mercy. Compassion.

Sometimes we fall short in that. When we are riled up about something, we tend show our displeasure. I can do this by writing. Sometimes I’m tempted to rant. A rant may make me feel better for a few minutes. But, it doesn’t help to make Godly disciples. In fact, a rant may push people away.

Let’s look at the psychology of a rant. It may make me feel righteous. Maybe I gather those who already agree with me. Maybe I even create solidarity with those who feel besieged. But I do little to communicate about God. The same goes for political protests. Shouting through bullhorns might make us feel powerful—but what are we communicating besides anger?

Our models here should be Daniel in Babylon and Paul in Greece. Both those places were filled with pagan belief and practice, probably including infanticide. Daniel was in the lion’s den not because he ranted but because he prayed. Paul walked in Athens and saw the city was full of idols, but he did not try to smash them. Instead, as we read in Chapter 17 of Acts, he reasoned in the synagogue and in the marketplace every day. Let us go and do likewise.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Marvin Olasky.


(Photo/Snopes)

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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