In her book Prophecy with Contempt, Cathleen Kaveny bemoans the deep polarization in American politics and attributes some of the problem on the loss of “the rhetoric of prophetic indictment.” “Attention to prophetic rhetoric,” Kaveny states, “will help us not only to understand passionate religious voices but also to grapple with a wide array of fractious discourse in the public square.”
Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne concurs and adds that what is needed in our vitriol political dialogue are “humble prophets” who can inject a “moral prod and an intellectual spark” to it.
Alan Jacobs argues in Harper’s Magazine that religious intellectuals provide an ignored yet critical link in today’s political polarization. Furthermore, he aptly describes both the need for and the problem of Christian thinkers to be "free range."
“The question for West, and I think for many Christian intellectuals today, is one of social and institutional location. From what place is one best suited to bear witness to what one believes to be core Christian truths, in a manner that is both free and audible?”
Archbishop Christophe Pierre speaks of the prophetic voice of Pope Francis as "fighting against ideology,”
Walter Brueggemann describes the critical function of his work as a biblical scholar is to “bear witness to an alternative meta-narrative based in God’s holiness and neighborliness” rather than that “of military consumerism propelled by greed, anxiety and violence.”
As Stanly Haurwas states, “The task of theology is quite rightly to force the questions to be asked” (The State of the University; Academic Knowledge and the Knowledge of God).
My own definition of the prophetic/theological task is as follows:
The prophets of the Hebrew Bible are the recognized precursors to the Church’s understanding of a theologian. Most Christians, I have found, have a misguided understanding of a biblical prophet. They think of them as future-tellers, but their primary role was to apply “god-thinking” to all aspects of human existence. Prophets of the ancient world were “fortune-tellers,” predicting the level of success one will have with one’s endeavors (This is how many people today prefer god-talkers to be). The prophets of the Hebrew bible, however, radically altered that function. Their “god-thinking” gave them a particular paradigm in which to evaluate or critique the social behaviors and structures of their time. They did not tell people what to do; rather, they articulated the kinds of choices that had to be made from an “Other” perspective.
What is Prophet Voice?