Obviously no single church can deal with the vast social problems that exist in the world… Even with the help of governments, this an impossible task. Adventists must move away from the idea that they should do good only if it helps to convert. They must also move away from helping only where it serves their self-interest. Yet they must not try to do everything and everywhere. As much as possible they should concentrate on areas that logically flow out of their theology, without renouncing their participation in other areas as it becomes appropriate. —Sakae Kubo, in Zdravko Plantak’s The Silent Church: Human Rights and Adventist Social Ethics
Kubo and Plantak both argue that Adventists can root routine social action and advocacy for human rights in the ideas and principles that lie beneath church doctrines. This is a challenge to align our values and our action. It’s a challenge we still need.
In debates about complex social issues, values are the under-acknowledged legislators, the filters sifting this likely solution from that dead-on-arrival proposal. Buzz-phrases like “family values” are ubiquitous, but their meanings aren’t. People with very different family configurations may hold values like integrity, community, and kinship in common. And while they may never agree on what to do with those common values, acknowledging that one group doesn’t exclusively possess values like these is a good way to begin a nonviolent conversation.
In the world of public science, savvy climate communicators have begun using values to frame climate science and to refine language that helps people to first take responsibility for our climate and then take action to ensure it stays habitable (or hospitable). The fifth of ten communication principles from the Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, New York’s Columbia University, and think tank ecoAmerica reads simply, “Connect climate change to issues that matter to your audience.”
This principle goes deeper than mere audience awareness: it encourages us to engage people’s core beliefs about the world so that the actions we invite them to take with us don’t falter because of resistance or weak supportive structures, because they directly contradict people’s values, or because they’re four steps along a path that hasn’t yet been built.
Again, we find a reminder of just how essential it is to pay attention. There’s no way to engage people’s core principles if we won’t attend long enough to learn what they are.