Words as hands
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me. Bull. Words hurt just as easily as sticks and stones, and the wounds can persist and spread for generations.
They got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said,
‘We will serve you if you will get us free from the prince.’
True story. And so the devil said, ‘OK, it’s a deal.’
…But ever since they have been cursed by one thing after another.
Pastor Robertson made few friends in the Caribbean with his comment that 100,000 Haitian men, women and children died by earthquake and disease, and millions more were ruined…explicitly because the country sold its soul to the devil in the 18th Century. Of course, it’s likely his response to this would be that he doesn’t care whether he makes friends while doing the Lord’s work, because God tells him directly what to do, and “feel-good” is not a motivating factor. I hear that destructive dismissal from some of the holiest rollers in every religion.
It does strike me as very odd that God would create billions of people, then give all truth and wisdom to a few hundred, few thousand, or few hundred thousand. Does God want us to fight and mutilate one another? As Star Trek’s token Vulcan, Mr. Spock (who probably never believed in any deity anyway) would say, this is “illogical.”
I just wish Pastor Robertson would reference his sources. It’s a pretty specific accusation, with apparently non-specific sourcing. Did he witness this discussion with Satan first-hand? Or did some old guy who’d never been to Haiti tell him what he himself had once been told by some other old guy who’d never been there? My guess is it’s the latter. As for being “liked,” I agree that following one’s mission shouldn’t be driven by its popularity. Some of my own friends have asked to be removed from announcements about this blog, so I know as well as anyone that you can’t please all the people all the time. But if the good preacher wants to serve in this world as directed by the Master described in the scripture we both follow, he should probably try out a little more open-heartedness to offset an apparent predisposition for casual condemnation. Nobody can do much good who sounds like a Pharisee/Church Lady.
You may remember the fury around the opening quote while public revulsion was still pulsating. I’m not digging it up for cheap drama, but to establish a premise. The “words can never hurt me” adage seems as bogus to me today as it did when I was a child, and for one inescapable reason: words can most definitely hurt. Granted, they may not break my bones like those pesky sticks and stones…but on the other hand, sticks don’t cut like a knife.
Pastor Robertson’s comment could be described as a “slap in the face” to merciful, compassionate humans everywhere. I suspect that to Haitians, his words feel more like a kick in the nuts.
It’s interesting to note how many of our expressions relate words to physical effects. I can “lift you up” with the right words, or I can “smack you down.” All without actually lifting a finger! My wife reminds me that words can “comfort” a child, just as if we held him. With a few well-chosen words I can close your eyes for slumber, or I can shake you awake.
Words play a big part in applying smart power. What we say to or about one another creates a perception as real as the physical monuments we raise with our hands. Words fashion an impression, and impressions flow into action.
When I hear such thoughtless obscenities as, “We should just bomb the Middle East into a glass parking lot,” I sometimes ask if the speaker would be willing to travel back there with me so he can pick out the first little girl to die under the first bomb. This rhetorical question often turns out to be a conversation killer.
In my various professional and extracurricular roles I’ve been physically struck many times. None of those blows, however, had the same effect as the (mercifully few) times when words have “floored” me like “a punch in the gut.” I’ve never been knocked out by getting slugged, but I have occasionally been “staggered” at hearing horrible news.
The right words can make the strongest man cry like a baby. My wife also points out that words can have a “crushing” effect or “break” a heart. Many professionals will recall having been “stabbed in the back” by an ill-intentioned colleague.
I have to admit I was somewhat skeptical about Pastor Robertson’s declaration that our all-merciful God mutilated thousands of babies because of a deal made by their government two centuries ago. I’d like to ask: would he be so eager to rationalize the infernos, tornados, earthquakes and other “acts of God” that periodically wrack our own country in the United States?
Since I understand he likes to teach from one book above all others—and since I happen to keep that same book right on my nightstand—I decided to crack it open and see what it says about caring for suffering people. I came upon the 12th verse of Colossians 3: “…clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Those words ring a little truer, I think, than a glib pronouncement that an entire nation is under murderous judgment. Pastor Robertson’s comment sounded more like Pastor Phelps than Jesus Christ. I can imagine the 12th verse of Colossians inspiring the tireless work of many hands, carrying hope instead of damnation to the hurting Haitian people. But I can only imagine our introductory quote (that all Haitians had it coming because of a discussion from generations before their births) leading to a paralyzing apathy about inconceivable human agony. I speculate that the Westboro Baptist Church people would cheerfully line up behind this message…but is that really the cheering section he wants to have?
I’d like to share one final group of words, extracted verbatim from an online forum discussing this unloving comment that a nation of men, women and children deserved to be destroyed for an ancient, probably mythological conversation by their government:
“I’m 13 and I use 2 go 2 church until my parents saw this. They panicked and didnt want me to end up like that….”
Is the loss of this lamb a success in the eyes of the shepherd who caused it?
Thanks for reading! Remember, #10Weeks is going to post every weekday evening between now and mid-December. The best way to stay up on these chapters is to just click to subscribe at the top of the page!
And one more thing: I have finally begun laying down the tracks for our AUDIOBOOK version of Powerful Peace! My company has an exciting promotion for pre-orders, and you can see that if you click here to pre-order the audiobook.
Want to get your own signed hard copy, or load up on gift bundles in time for Christmas? Click here for hard copies!