Lately it seems like “another day, another protest.” People certainly have a lot to say. And in many respects that is important, necessary and good. We serve the common good when we bear witness to the true, the good and the beautiful.
At the same time, it bears reflection that our own chosen words when we do so ought to be true, good and beautiful. Our public conversation is growing increasingly coarse. Politicians and their critics alike have brought into our living rooms, smart phones and social media feeds rhetoric — both in style and in content — that only a short time ago would have been unthinkable and disqualifying. Even at times in the church we see this tendency, this impulse to say things in the most divisive and inflammatory way, rather than in a way that allows room for conversion and mercy.
Scripture has some important things to say about these tendencies. Jesus himself says that we will answer for every idle word. St. James warns of the difficulty of taming the tongue, comparing its power to a small flame that can set a whole forest ablaze. “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing,” he says. “This need not be so, my brothers.”
It is also St. James who warns us that “the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God” — important words in a world full of angry people trying to make everyone around them angry.
Perhaps summing it all up is this memorable passage from St. Paul, writing to the Ephesians: “No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear.”
Let’s be sure that our words will impart grace and build people up during this turbulent moment.