Sticks and stones may break my bones…

… but words– oh the awesome power of words– words can cause me to hate and fear and kill.

Reflecting today about the shooting at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville, TN. A virtual friend of mine, Terry, points out that we often tolerate hateful and violent words by people in the media in our country, claiming that because it’s ‘satire’ or ‘commentary’ that it is harmless.

Words are not harmless.

And we all know this, especially those of us who, one way or another, devote our lives to the awesome power of words. I bet my job, my vocation, my ministry, my spiritual journey, in many ways my very life on the transformative power of the word (and The Word), for good or for evil. If words are toothless, then what is preaching? what is reading? what was the Sermon on the Mount?

No, words are not weak. Words create meaning, and community, and vision, and worldview, and context. Words inform behavior, and can shape that behavior to be life-giving and compassionate, or fear-filled and violent. Words can inspire, like King’s I have a dream and, sadly, like Hitler’s rallying speeches. Words, spoken, preached, downloaded, written, published, read, can create the reality in which one operates, and can shape that reality as a peaceable kin-dom, or a civilization threatened by liberals, upon whom one must take revenge, with a baseball bat (as recommended by Ann Coulter) or a shotgun.

In the midst of the power of words– words of welcome and love spoken by a congregation, and words of condemnation and distrust, written by media personalities and interpreted by a twisted and broken mind– an act of violence erupted in a community, killing two and wounding seven.

Those wishing to express words of blessing and hope and healing for the Tennessee Valley UUA can do so at a webpage set up for that purpose.

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2 Responses

  1. Agreed. Sticks and stones may break my bones – but we all know words, can hurt me more.

  2. yeah, whoever came up with that whole tongue/sword metaphor needs to get a little more recognition. 😉

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