Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Morning Preacher: Words matter

I spent much of the weekend following both the news and the debate about the shootings in Arizona. Especially the debate about "Did inflammatory rhetoric play a role in this event?"

As a friend of mine said, does it matter? Shooting people in the head is wrong. Inflammatory rhetoric is also wrong. Even if no one ever gets shot, it would still be wrong. It may be that in God's eyes, one is not worse than the other. I believe Jesus said something about this:

"You have heard it said to those of ancient times, 'You shall not murder'; and 'whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, 'You fool,' you will be liable to the hell of fire."
Matthew 5:21-22

I'm writing about this in my usual slot about preaching because I know first-hand that things you say can be turned into actions in ways you do not expect. I have had people come up to me weeks after a sermon and say that they've quit a job because of something I've said. They decided to put a student through school because of something I said. They have changed their lives because of what I said. And that's just the ones who told me.

For the most part, I have no idea how they came to the conclusion to do what they did based on what I said. It's likely that the step was percolating for the long time and something I said put the last piece in place. But one thing I do know: I never intended for my words to be taken as a call to the particular step that is made. But the step was taken nonetheless, and people credit my words as a motivating force.

This does not mean my words are responsible for the resulting action. It does mean I'm responsible for the words. Words are an action. They go out and do things. Once they leave us, they are no longer under our control. Especially in this day and age when we can make our words available for all to see with incredible ease, when they can travel around the world in an instant, when what is spoken or written cannot be erased, we must be mindful.


Ted said...

Uh-huh. I just posted on this topic too, after inspiration by an article written by a friend. Tough sledding. I was seeing red too much to write it on my own.

Would you mind if I linked to yours in a following post in a couple of days? You have a similar conclusion, with a different slant, than my friend. And the cartoon is great.

Here is mine, by the way, and I link to hers.

Have a great week. Ted

Songs of a Soul Journey said...

Excellent. And, YES. My own post deals with a this from a related angle. The fetishization of firearms springs from the anger that spews the ranting. Shooting people doesn't happen in an isolated fashion, angry thoughts are followed by angry words, and the angry words escalate into more violent action. This is true even if the angry words are not directed toward a target victim, but internalized or aired to others.

LKT said...

Thank you both. And I've read both of your blog posts. My sense is that so many people, all over the political spectrum, are saying, "We don't CARE whose fault it is. Just stop using this violent language, whoever you are."

Kurt said...

I agree... (and posted as well)