We had a preacher from another church in the pulpit two Sundays ago. His topic was wise speech. He used these passages from the Bible: Proverbs 18:21, 25:11, 26:18-19, 16:23-24, Luke 6:43-45. I’m in a quoting mood, so, “18:21—Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits . . 26:18-19—a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver . . . 16:23-24—The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips. Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body,” and finally, “Luke 6:43-45—For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
All well and good and IMHO, my churlishness is safe. I listened to him relate his story of joking that his daughter wasn’t very good at soccer and how those words became embedded in his daughter’s heart. His words said in jest are unfortunate. Some words once spoken are impossible to forget. Too, that sarcasm is a dangerous weapon. Maybe. Jonathon Swift made no friends with those who were the target of his words. The world without Swift would be a poorer world.
What kept banging around my heart as this pastor preached kindness in our words is this: my blog is a sword aimed at folk who would silence those who have innate attributes unlike their peers in the tribe. Jesus was a malcontent whose outrageous claims so angered his peers they sought out Roman agents who would cooperate in crucifying him.
I have things I will not say. I make a distinction between words that attack something about a person that they are born with and a behavior by a person. Behavior can be spoken to and changed. To repeat, we can’t always choose the circumstances we find ourselves in. We can choose our behavior in those circumstances. So, behavior I find out of bounds is in bounds for this space. Physical traits are part of the hand we are dealt with and IMHO, off limits. I try to write in a way that is color-blind and does not identify the gender of the character I write about. Yeah, the recent “rape” post is an exception. Even there, the target of my churlishness isn’t the girl as a girl, it is her choice to characterize a smile as sexual harassment equivalent to rape. I speak against this current climate of recrimination for whose signaled brand does not align with the fashionable zeitgeist. The way things are now, if you don’t come correct on a short list of orthodox answers to declaimed issues you are shunned.
The pastor railed against sarcasm and words that are not nice. This blog is not nice. It is sarcastic at times. Jonathon Swift is a hero to this blog. What it isn’t is ugly and mean just to be ugly and mean. I’d tell that young man that before he picks up a tear gas grenade to throw it back at the cops maybe he ought to listen to the ways his own shit puts him in that crowd expecting things outside himself to improve so he can feel better.
The fashionable zeitgeist says to the young man that his bloodline sets his fate. He should just accept that he and everyone like him will always be at a disadvantage and that I enjoy an easier time of it because of a happenstance of birth. Both premises quietly assume a kind of Imperial Hindu caste system where everyone has a place and everyone should just know and keep their place. There is no mercy or grace. Forgiveness is weakness. There is no hope of change. It has always been so and will always be so.
Thus, the need for more system, more process and bureaucracy to punish outliers and the enemy of the day, more civil servants who task themselves with giving to each according to his need from each according to his capacity. This hive of tyrants protects the orthodoxy that all brown people are disadvantaged and all white people are privileged and the civil servants are the guardians of justice.
What I bristle at is the “just be nice” tone of the pastor’s sermon. Jesus was not nice to the rabbis who sought to convict him of blasphemy and crucify him. I will never accept that a brown person must accept their fate and be servile to me. Nor will I ever agree that I happen to have a heritage that sets me higher on Jacobs ladder and thus entitled to some advantage unavailable to those who don’t share my bloodline. We are all made in God’s loving image and have a shot at fulfilling His purpose for us.
One last trope, that the measure of success is a familiar trope: college educated, married with children, in debt for the cost of the education, a house, a couple cars, and a running fever of credit card debt that never seems to go down. Everyone must comply. We must all achieve this vision of success or be shunned as sinful. I guess I’m a sinner with no hope of redemption. Funny how I seem to have a lot of folk like me who are leading fulfilled lives as nonredeemable sinners.
Let’s go back to Luke 6:43-45—For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. I’ll add, Matthew 7:16—You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? What is your fruit? How does your heart echo into the lives of those around you? Have you served your neighbor lately? Washed any feet? No? It’s a place to start that means more to me than sweet whispers about love and being nice.