On Monday evening the two contenders for the United States presidential election in November took part in a televised debate, an event apparently watched by a record 84 million viewers in America and around the world, an event talked about and reported for days.


The two American presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, clashed over issues such as employment, terrorism and racism in a debate lasting an hour and a half. Although I saw only the reported response to the debate, not the debate itself, I suspect I was not alone in feeling I had not learned much more about what each candidate stood for. I gained the impression that the focus of both candidates was perhaps more on criticising their opponent than on making clear the values and priorities that they themselves held, and how they would seek to embody these values in the way they would govern should they be elected. Republican candidate. They each accused the other of hiding things that should be made public. Donald Trump should reveal his tax returns and Hillary Clinton should reveal several thousand emails, we were told. Trump continued to cast doubts on Clinton's temperament and constitution, while Clinton cast doubts on his character. Meanwhile, the following day a reporter suggested that the track record of both candidates shows that they have both mislead the public and have both acted and spoken dishonestly.


All events such as political elections have unspoken rules. We expect our politicians to try to persuade us to elect them. And we expect them to present facts and opinions in the best possible light for them. Sometimes it can be a fine dividing line between persuasion and truth, between hiding things or simply not revealing them. And opinion polls, or even election results, can reflect a politician's skill at 'playing the game' as well as their ability to be the leader their electors want or need.


The New Testament writer St James' recognises this power of either persuasion or manipulation, depending on viewpoint, and describes the tongue as an untameable fire, a restless evil, condemning the fact that we can use the same tongue to bless and to curse, saying that our whole body can be stained by the works of our tongue. St Paul urges early Christians always to speak with great care, only ever using their speech to build others up, never to harm or destroy.


  • What kind of speech, or what kind of debating, do you admire? Do you know why?

  • What kind of speech do you find convincing or persuasive? What is it about that kind that convinces or persuades you?

  • Look back over some of your recent conversations. Are there any tendencies in your speech that you would like to change?


Prayer for the week - 29th September 2016


Autumn is a time when many of us may perhaps be more aware of nature than usual. We may have seen swallows gathering on wires before they migrate south for the winter. Or we may noticed berries on hedgerows. Even if we live in towns, we might be aware of nights and early mornings getting noticeably colder. But nature is in serious trouble.


Have you ever found yourself thinking, 'That's just not funny' about a joke that others find hilarious? Or worse still, have you found yourself laughing when others around you clearly find your laughter inappropriate or even offensive? Apparently science has the answers.


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