Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Persuasion over Coercion

To the outrage of local clergyman and do-gooders, he [Lincoln] announced in an 1842 lecture that "if we take habitual drunkards as a class, their heads and their hearts will bear an advantageous comparison with those of any other class." Consequently he refused to coerce them into temperance, but he enthusiastically backed the Washingtonian Society's program of converting alcoholics by "persuasion, kind, unassuming persuasion." (Lincoln, Donald, p.82)

I continue to be amazed at Lincoln. This political and life stance is one I have to wholeheartedly agree in. Too often we assume that if we can just coerce people into believing or doing something, we will have won the battle. Its sad to me to think that we assume too often that a law or a forcing of an activity will somehow solve all our problems. My dad and I have often talked about the idea of gentle persuasion over harsh coercion in making societal changes. You can make laws and force change but in reality all that does is change things on the surface. The Prohibition movement did not stop stop the problems of alcohol abuse in this country. It might have removed the issue on the surface, but in reality it did not change the heart of the problem. The same is true in Christianity. We can scare people with hell and force our "Christian values" down people's throats with hardcore coercion, but has that really changed anyone's heart? Kind, unassuming persuasion seems like a much better position than harsh coercion. And yet it seems on a regular basis Christians want to take over political positions and change this country for the better. Just because you make a law (or overturn one) doesn't mean that you have actually done any good. You don't win an argument by spitting out facts and being harsh with someone else. You "win" by showing your heart and showing the truth through loving action. Unfortunately, it does not seem like many people understand this concept. Lincoln did, and that is what amazes me about him.