2.10.04

About the Tongue... Lesson to Learn

"And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell." (James 3.6 NASB)

The Lord quickened this verse to my heart today. I sometimes forget how easily words can injure. (Proverbs 18.21: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.") They can injure a person, a reputation or a testimony. Case in point:

Orgies are the way to ease social tensions, claims US judge

Oliver Burkeman in New York
Friday October 1, 2004
The Guardian

He is the conservative bastion of the US supreme court, a favourite of President Bush, and a hunting partner of the vice-president. He has argued vociferously against abortion rights, and in favour of anti-sodomy laws.
But it turns out that there is another side to Justice Antonin Scalia: he thinks Americans ought to be having more orgies.

Challenged about his views on sexual morality, Justice Scalia surprised his audience at Harvard University, telling them: "I even take the position that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged."

It seems unlikely that this is what President Bush meant when he promised to appoint more judges like Scalia to the court, should the opportunity arise. Crucially, Justice Scalia is one of the judges in favour of overturning Roe v Wade, the landmark judgment protecting abortion as a constitutional right.

One audience member also asked the judge "whether you have any gay friends, and, if not, whether you'd like to be my friend," the Harvard Crimson newspaper reported.

"I probably do have some gay friends, but I have never pressed the point," Justice Scalia responded. He offered no clue to the logic behind his claim that orgies eliminate social tensions.

Nobody asked him whether he was familiar with Rick Moody's novel The Ice Storm, turned into a movie by Ang Lee, which appeared to suggest the exact opposite.


Now I really want to dissect this article and give my opinion of the reporter's bias, but that is not the focus of this post. Justice Scalia was most likely joking, maybe not. He has, however, opened himself up for much criticism. He is known as one of the minority of Convervative judges on the Supreme Court of the United States. This statement clashes with Conservative values, and has tarnished his image. Whether it was a joke or not is immaterial to the underlying point in this post. Words are powerful. They can be destructive.

Justice Scalia has been compared to Joycelyn Elders who was fired by ex-president Clinton presumably due to her sometimes outlandish comments. He made one statement that, for many, has tainted his reputation as a Conservative judge, and has possibly undermined the value of his moral and Conservative judgments and opinions.

Just a few words. Serious or not. Ephesians 4.29 says: "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (NASB) Unwholesome words, careless words, hasty words- they can all destroy a person. Remember Howard Cosell? His comments about a football player caused much outrage (probably undeserved). And Jimmy the Greek? He was fired for a comment and his career was over.

It's about the words. Some words mark a person's legacy: Ronald Reagan's "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!" Bill Clinton's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman... Miss Lewenski." General MacArthur's "I shall return." John Paul Jones' "I have not yet begun to fight."

We need to take seriously the damage words can do. And with the power of the Holy Spirit changing us from within (if we are among those who John mentions in John 1.12, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name..." NASB) and helping us to desire the things of God (Psalm 37.4: "Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart." NASB) we can have victory over the tongue and the words that proceed out of our mouths.

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