|Words have power to bless or curse, analysts say|
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Sept. 17, 2009 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)
Public displays of rude behavior seem to roll out daily, leading many
of us to wonder if civility and good manners are dead or at least on
singer Taylor Swift was upset by singer Kanye West’s behavior during
the MTV Video Awards Sept. 13. A UMNS photo courtesy of Mind’s-eye.
The Internet, television and newspapers are ablaze with opinions on
the intemperate remarks of musician Kanye West, tennis star
Serena Williams and U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson.
How should their actions be judged?
The church and the world must hold each other accountable “for the
stewardship of words,” says United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder,
professor of Christian ministry at United Methodist-related Duke
"What is needed is a transformation of character--hearts and minds
that evidence respect for the dignity and worth of every person as a
beloved child of God, humility that acknowledges the limitations of our
own perspectives and commitment to a vision that transcends political
polarities,” he said.
A few incidents of bad behavior do not portend the fall of civil
society in America, says nationally syndicated columnist Amy Dickinson.
Civility may be in decline this week, “but next week probably not,” she says.
The church and the world must hold each other accountable “for the stewardship
of words,” says United Methodist Bishop Ken Carder. A UMNS file photo by
Kathy L. Gilbert.
“Honestly, I think we're going through something now and people are
acting a little haywire. But I think it's a mistake to make grand and
sweeping statements based on what Kanye West does. And that's because
Kanye West always does what he did the other night. He's sort of a
jerk, unfortunately. But a great musician.
“Wilson's statement doesn't concern me too much -- anyone who enjoys
watching the workings of British Parliament couldn't possibly be fazed
by this outburst. And Serena -- well, I hate the cursing, but I don't
think it's anything John McEnroe didn't do 30 years ago. And we all
survived,” Dickinson says.
Dickinson, a United Methodist and author of the Ask Amy column,
adds, “The United Methodist Church should do what it does best—worship,
share and be in community in a Godly way.”
All these public figures behaving badly present a great opportunity
for pastors and congregations to talk about respect, she says.
“And of course we parents can and should continue to mentor our kids
at home, starting when they are very young and continuing as long as
they will listen to us.”
The Rev. Mark Terwilliger of Beach Lake (Pa.) United Methodist
Church used the example of Williams’ tirade to illustrate a sermon on
“taming the tongue,” based on James 3:1-12.
“In the case of Serena, Kanye and Wilson, all spoke without giving
themselves enough time to process their emotions,” he says. “Our words
do not just come from out of our mouths, but increasingly our e-mails
and our Facebook feeds are products of impulse. Would people be
able to tell from what we text to others that we are disciples of Jesus
Christ? Everybody's mothers probably have said, ‘If you can't say
anything nice, don't say anything at all.’”
Columnist Amy Dickinson. A UMNS photo courtesy of Tribune Media services.
Words can hurt, Carder says.
“Contrary to the proverb, ‘Sticks and stones may break bones but
words will never harm me,’ words can be weapons of mass destruction,”
he says. “The church is the one institution that has as its basic
purpose to embody the reconciliation wrought in Jesus Christ. How we
deal with our differences and disagreements is as important as the
specific decisions we reach.”
*Gilbert is a news writer for United Methodist News Service in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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