Preaching to the choir
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Logic and rhetoric
"Preaching to the choir" or "preaching to the converted" is a figure of speech that refers to a situation when someone is making an argument to an individual or group of people who already agree with that argument. The opposite is evangelism, missionary work, or proselytization, which refer to winning new converts.
Such a rhetorical strategy is meant to minimize dissent or further solidify a view. The range of responses to this, from fervent nodding ("So true, so true!") to disgruntled remarks ("Thank you for wasting my time, Captain Obvious!"), may all be expressed by commenting that that's preaching to the choir. The term implies that individuals who would be willing to sing in a church choir would be favorably inclined to whatever point of view the preacher was espousing.
As well as in churches, the practice is common in political meetings, for example at a party conference or political rally, where everybody who attends is likely to already be a supporter of the party or politician. In a political context, the phrase "energizing the base" is often used, which has a slightly more positive connotation: rather than denoting futility, it suggests attempts to encourage the faithful to go out and do stuff.
The phrase "preaching to the choir" apparently dates from the 1970s; "preaching to the converted" is much older, from the late 19th century. The concept is older still, however. Christians argue endlessly whether and to what extent they should preach to the converted or to the unconverted; the Parable of the Sower suggests that God's word won't have any effect on unbelievers but if it falls on the believer's ground (or ears) it will flourish (Matthew 13:1-23, Mark 4:1-20, and Luke 8:4-15).
- Abortion campaigners seek to learn from gay marriage debate, Irish Times, Feb 4, 2017
- Preaching to the choir, Phrase Finder
- Should you preach to others?, The Restored Church of God
- Should Christians preach to others, Awake!, Jehovah's Witnesses, June 8, 2002