A well-known story from baseball sensation Babe Ruth’s heyday relates how umpire Babe Pinelli called “the Bambino” out on strikes.
Astorm of disapproving “boos” erupted from the stands. Irate, Babe Ruth shouted at the umpire.
“There’s 40,000 people up there who know that last call should have been a ball”.
Pinelli answered, “Maybe so, Ruth, but mine is the only opinion that counts”.
Like Babe Ruth, many voices today proclaim the sheer weight of public opinion. They claim it is the final determining factor of what is right and what is wrong. Politicians constantly hold their finger in the wind. They determine which direction the crowd is moving, then get out in front and pretend to be leading it. The media constantly reminds us of the President’s approval rating or of popular support for the war in Iraq.
But does the loudest voice determine right and wrong? Should the ever-shifting wind of public opinion direct our course as a nation?
Before we abandon principle to popular opinion, consider how following public opinion in the past would have been ruinous to our nation.
What was popular opinion during the American Revolution? Historians acknowledge that only one third of American colonists wanted independence from Great Britain. Another third tenaciously maintained their loyalty to King George III of England. In fact, no less than 25,000 Americans fought on the side of the British against their own countrymen. Another third of Americans were wholly indifferent. Most of these felt they benefited from British protection in some way or another. Consequently, if popular opinion was allowed to decide America’s fate, we would have never become a nation.
And what did popular opinion say about the slavery question in the 1860 election. Had the Democratic vote not been divided between the southern and northern Democrats (represented by Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckenridge – neither of whom opposed slavery), Abraham Lincoln would not have been elected President. He received only 40% of the popular vote – 1,866,452 votes against 2,226,738 for Douglas and Breckinridge. Another 588,879 votes went to John Bell of Tennessee. He maintained that America should remain as it was – both slave and free. So, again, if popular opinion was allowed to decide America’s future, slavery would have endured much longer than it did.
Some cite how popular opinion sides against America’s current crusade against terrorism. But historically, it has always been the courage and determination of the minority, sometimes only of a few, which has accomplished the good and great things in our nation’s history.
In the Scripture our Lord said,
“Whoever is ashamed of me and my words in this evil and adulterous generation, of him will he Son of Man be ashamed when he returns in the glory of his Father and with the holy angels” – Mark 8:38
Forget about popular opinion. Side with God and with what is right.
Almighty Father, empower me to stand and be counted for what is right – regardless of the opposition I face. Fill me with divine boldness and power, I pray. Amen.