“Conformity can lead to deformity.”

The fellowship of faith is a fellowship in freedom. Uniformity of belief is not required for the achievement of fellowship. In other words, the churches of the liberal heritage in principle demand the protection of minority convictions within the fellowship. In the seventeenth century this conception presupposed that only when minorities are encouraged and protected can the church avail itself of the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Conformity can lead to deformity.
James Luther Adams, “Some Notes on the Ministry of the Clergy and Laity,” Voluntary Associations
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Consent

Thus the voluntary principle amounts to the principle of consent.
James Luther Adams, “The Voluntary Principle in the Forming of American Religion,”Voluntary Associations

The Collection Plate

In accord with this new conception of religious freedom and responsibility one must view the collection plate in the church service on Sunday as a symbol of the meaning of disestablishment and of voluntarism. The collection plate symbolizes-indeed it in part also actualizes and institutionalizes-the view that the church as a corporate body is a self-determinative group and that in giving financial support to the church the members affirm responsibility to participate in the shaping of the policies of the church.
James Luther Adams, “The Voluntary Principle in the Forming of American Religion,” Voluntary Associations

Creative dissent

is not only necessary for growth in the organization but also for the maintenance of the integrity of the individual.
James Luther Adams, “Mediating Structures and the Separation of Powers,” Voluntary Associations

Political Parties

One of the characteristic, principal means for the structuring and implementation of public opinion is the political party. In a democracy a plurality of political parties is indispensable. Without a plurality of parties, political freedom is impossible: there is no effective role for discussion in face of the state and allied configurations of power, and there is no place for “loyal opposition.”
James Luther Adams, “The Political Responsibility of the Man of Culture,” Voluntary Associations

“the achievement of genuine consent of the governed”

Public opinion comes only from a “public”, not from an “audience.”  A public engages in multilateral discussion. Here there are elements of structure and continuity, the interplay and qualification of information and interpretation, some critical awareness of social forces and of the explanation of these forces. In order for the structure and dynamics of discussion to come into existence or to be maintained, organized groups with more or less clear purposes, with democratically selected and responsible leadership, and with recognized procedures for free dialogue and decision, are required. These are the requisites for public opinion, and for the achievement of genuine consent of the governed. Insofar as these features are absent, the dehumanization, the manipulations and dominations of the mass society ensue.
James Luther Adams, “The Political Responsibility of the Man of Culture,” Voluntary Associations

Manipulation of mass media

The source of stimulus is the “propagandist” who manipulates the mass media of communication in order “to make a sale.” He uses only slogans and epithets, torsoes and fragments of ideas torn from every living context of meaning. The propagandist wants only a passive audience, a mass of people who do not engage in critical dialogue. A mass audience is not capable of “public opinion.” In the mass audience, we may say, the people fall to bits, and they achieve “consensus” only as a crowd tossed about by the winds of doctrine and brute instinct. They live in an underworld of deception.
James Luther Adams, “The Political Responsibility of the Man of Culture,” Voluntary Associations

On “public opinion”

Professor Arnold M. Rose, an American sociologist, has suggested that the people of a mass society are not a “public” but are merely an “audience ” – they think and act in similar or convergent ways simply because of a common source of stimulus. As in a cinema theatre, they have little significant contact with one another. Thus the massed stimulus moves only in one direction; the members of the “audience” do not engage in dialogue either with the source of the stimulus or with each other.
James Luther Adams, “The Political Responsibility of the Man of Culture,” Voluntary Associations

Public opinion is a crucial factor in the democratic society.

 It is an important medium for the achievement of the consent of the governed. Under contemporary conditions, however, it is an elusive and even a deceptive thing. Indeed, a semblance of public opinion can appear even in a totalitarian society. But it is only a semblance, for at decisive junctures it is manipulated by the dictators. The dictators reluctantly take resistant opinion into account, but they do so primarily in order to “liquidate” it and to maintain their power.
James Luther Adams, “The Political Responsibility of the Man of Culture,” Voluntary Associations