Words mean things. In this electronic age of digital audio and video scarcely a syllable can escape posterity. For that reason alone it behooves someone as influential as the President of the United States to be careful of what he says.
Recently at the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act President Obama uttered these words,
“This is the culmination of a struggle that has lasted more than a decade. Time and again, we faced opposition,” said the President. “Time and again, the measure was defeated or delayed. Time and again we’ve been reminded of the difficulty of building a nation in which we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.” (bold mine)
On the surface these words may seem harmless, but consider the context. The President spoke these words after signing a bill that would include “sexual orientation” as a protected class from “hate crimes.” As a matter of honor I will assume that the President didn’t truly mean what he said. Surely no person who claims Christianity, even loosely, would desire an America where any manner of sexual practice is on the menu. Still, these words hang out there clouding the discussion and creating a mess for those of us who care about the moral stability of our nation.
The legislation that the President was praising with these comments also creates all kinds of problems going forward. What is a hate crime? Can a Pastor who speaks out against sodomy be considered a perpetrator of a “hate crime”. What about a teacher who tells his or her students that cross dressing is wrong? Hate crime?
I fear that the President has opened a door both legislatively and linguistically that will surely create more harm than good. A highly intelligent man such as President Obama should realize the consequences of such statements. I hope for the state of his own soul that he just didn’t think about what he said before he said it. The alternative is just too troubling to consider because words definitely mean things.
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
- Evelyn Beatrice Hall
There used to be honor in respectfully agreeing to disagree. Those days are long gone. Many in our society claim to champion free speech as long as it is in the first person (i.e. my free speech).
No story illustrates this more poignantly than the comments of Carrie Prejean at the Miss USA pageant. I have written about this in a previous post, but I believe that this issue deserves further discussion. It touches an issue that is fundamental to the future stability of this country. Have a look at the following video interview between Miss Prejean’s Pastor and Fox News host Bill O’Reilly:
Is all speech created equal? If you looked at our founding documents the answer is very clear. What muddies the water, however, is when you look at the mindset and actions of many in our society. It seems that you can talk all day about how Christianity is repressive and tyrannical. You can talk about how people of faith are ignorant and illiterate. You can even use graphic expletives about people of faith, put them to music, and get applauded, become wealthy, or be given a PhD. The minute you share an opinion about the value of traditional marriage or life beginning at conception, however, you become narrow-minded, hateful, and deserve to be shouted down.
Now more than ever, it is time for authentic Christians to boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the only thing that can stave off a wave of “political correctness” that will leave our basic freedoms demolished in its wake. We have to see that as much as we honor our government, it is ultimately God who is the author and protector of our rights and it is to Him that we should apply for protection.
Is all speech created equal? Should I even have to ask this question? The fact that I even have to ask should tell you a lot about how far we have come.
“Political language. . . is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
- George Orwell
It is a shame that politicians are famous for saying one thing and doing another. How many times have we seen elected officials boldly proclaim their fidelity to a certain issue and then “change their mind” once they get elected? What has happened to our society that we as a people can be so easily duped by the politics of rhetoric?
One perfect example of this concerns the issue of abortion. This issue above many others has become a rhetorical playground for many would be elected officials. During the last presidential election cycle, then candidate Obama stated the following:
So examining the rhetoric here, then candidate Obama stated that he wished to reduce abortions. Has he done anything in his first 100 days to reduce abortions? Lets compare his rhetoric with his actions:
This is why we as Americans have lost faith in our government and in our elected officials. This is why we are cynical about politics. It is high time that we as authentic Christians set the example for all to see that we are people of integrity and that when we say yes it is yes and when we say no it is no. When we become people of character then we will be more likely to elect people of character. Allowing this kind of political “shell game” to continue is too costly. If you doubt that, then meditate on the number 40 million and picture those beautiful babies not alive today because we tolerated the politics of rhetoric.
“Please God, make my words today sweet and tender, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.”
- source unknown
It is sad to see how the art of conversation has deteriorated over the years. What used to be considered coarse or even downright lewd is now looked on as being funny and entertaining. It’s bad enough that the English language has to be butchered but do we have to butcher our character also?
I learned a bit of authentically Christian wisdom a long time ago about conversation that I would like to pass on to you all. It goes something like this:
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”
- Proverbs 25:11 (ESV)
It matters what you say, how, and to whom.
I don’t talk about others behind their back or say anything about anyone that I wouldn’t say to their face. I don’t trust others who do. I want to build up other people not tear them down.
I know that this can be tough, but look at it this way, I never have to worry about someone coming back to me and being angry about what I said about them. If you live this way and converse this way a funny thing happens; people begin to trust you. This is where an authentic Christian can build capital that can be spent in building God’s kingdom and helping others.
If your words were served up to you on a plate would you be eager to eat them? How tasty is your conversation?