Tuesday, August 14, 2007

One Saxon Morn' (Part III)

The “Atomic Age”, brought us a mixed harvest of both promise and plague. We were provided with the possibility for clean, inexhaustible sources of energy that could power our nation for the far foreseeable future. For all its promise, the age also opened a Pandora’s Box of sorts. By far, the most frightening specter of the “Atomic Age” was an intercontinental ballistic missile bristling with multiple warheads. These hellish devices became the boogeyman for an entire generation. Peaceniks, science fiction authors and even Bill Moyer managed to keep the threats posed by these awesome devices in the forefront of our collective consciences. Hollywood too, did its best to scare us stupid with movies like “Failsafe” and “The Day After”. Though many before me have stopped to ponder the Atomic Age, I wonder just how much similar thought has been directed towards our present “Information Age”.

Where the atomic age provided nations the wherewithal to level cities, denude continents and evaporate entire populations, the information age has provided individuals with the ability to shred individuals, destroy relationships and erase reputations… all from the relative comfort of one’s den or local WiFi Hotspot. This information age has demonstrated time and again that the keyboard and mouse are every as devastating as the sword (or the Sig Sauer for that matter).

I pointed towards the words of St. James’ Epistle in part II, in speaking about the awesome power of the tongue and the words it produces. It would be convenient to take the purely wooden stand that Jesus’ kid stepbrother Jim was limiting his line of logic to speech. I’m confident that we can reasonably apply this line of logic to other forms of human communication, both verbal and nonverbal. I mean think about it; if it’s unlawful to rob another using a gun or knife, you won’t receive a pass if you rob someone using a ball peen hammer. Destructive and demeaning communication is just that, irrespective of its mode of delivery, be it verbal or not. I would even propose that destructive written or electronic communication is even more insidious than caustic verbal communications.

Slamming or flaming another via e-mail is akin to shooting someone in the back. The sender need only to build up a toxic level of bitterness, vomit up their spleen onto the desktop, and click the send icon. Like the lieutenant in the missile silo, the devastating dispatch is sent without breaking a bead of sweat or shedding a drop of blood. For their recipient however, it’s another matter altogether. The victim of this electronic salvo is often left with a gaping gash across their spirit.

Again, we hear the worlds of St. James ring clearly: "Brothers, this should not be".

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

One Saxon Morn' (Part II)

The following was originally told by radio commentator Paul Harvey in an installment of “The Rest of the Story”. (It has been liberally paraphrased for this post...)

Four journalists from Denver happened to meet while on assignment in China in the closing months of the Nineteenth Century. Over a few rounds of beer, the men concocted a story that would be sure to sell papers. In their story, the Chinese People had agreed to undertake a major project as an act of goodwill towards the west. China, the story went, would demolish their Great Wall as a gesture demonstrating their willingness to welcome the west into their ancestral lands. The story went to print and was treated as bunk back in the states. In China however, the story caught the attention of a secretive band of ultranationalists who were already plenty pissed off about the barbarians in their ancient lands. The group, known for their prowess in the martial arts, wouldn’t let this outrage go unanswered.

This seemingly preposterous story was the match that ignited the Boxer Rebellion, a bloodbath that took the lives of countless Chinese followers of Christ, along with numerous Christian Missionaries.

I’m not yet sure why, but I’ve been thinking about “words” for the last week or so. In the past year, I’ve become very sensitive to my own speech, and the words of others, and the various effects these words may have on their hearers. Add to this the fact that in our present age, we rely heavily on written digital communications. In this our e-mails, text messages, et al add to the sum of our communicated language. Our language and our words have the potential to either comfort or cull. And with that, our tongues have the potential to be either salve or a scythe to those who hear or read our words.

How many times have our words, whether written or spoken, hit another like a wrecking ball? Have verbal asides or terse e-mails left others wounded in their wake? Or how often have we, when wounded by words, returned withering words in the direction of our offender?

James, the stepbrother of our Savior spilled a good deal of ink concerning the tongue in his relatively short epistle. If words are arrows, then the tongue is the crossbow that launches them. He rhetorically observes that the same tongue that that lifts gentle blessings is capable of firing lethal salvos of curses. And in his plainspoken way, he reminds his readers that this shouldn’t happen.

Possessing a machete tongue may be typical, but it certainly shouldn’t be normal for followers of the way.