Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I wish I weren't so sensitive to what people say. Actions speak so much louder than words. "Pay attention to what a person does, not what he says," is advice I've given to others, so why is it so hard for me to follow my own advice? I don't know, but it is. And, of course, some days I'm more sensitive than others. Aren't we all? I just wish I hadn't let this get under my skin like it did.

We were talking about the shooting on Sunday in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Knoxville. "What exactly is the spiritual significance of the musical Annie?" they demanded. "Why would any church have that on a Sunday morning instead of a worship service?"

My mind went immediately to our Gospel lesson of the past Sunday, which came from Matthew 13 and all its "the kingdom of heaven is like..." How many were there, a mustard seed, yeast in bread, treasure hidden in a field, a merchant in search of fine pearls, a net thrown into the sea...

So I said, "The kingdom of heaven is like an orphan named Annie, who was adopted by Daddy Warbucks, when all the sinister forces around her tried to prevent her good fortune." I might as well have been speaking Swahili.

"That's not in the Bible," my friend said, "and it shouldn't take the place of reading the Bible."

And then it hit me - they were trying to blame the victims for what happened. The victims were, after all, liberals. And according to the hateful rhetoric of Limbaugh and Coulter and O'Reilly and their ilk, anyone who shoots, decapitates or defames a liberal should be rewarded, right?

So a mental patient sees that show or hears that junk or reads their books and he takes it literally. Rather than sharing some moral culpability with the shooter, they remind us, "Hey, this man had problems long before he saw/heard/read me. There's no connection." Ri-i-i-ght! And putting the snowball in the microwave had nothing to do with its melting either. It was gonna melt anyway.

The impact of hearing just the few words my friend spoke was chilling, and those words came nowhere near the hate speech of some. Words can wound, or words can heal. To paraphrase something Scott Peck wrote in one of his books, we can unleash demons or encourage angels by the things we do and say. Shouldn't we be encouraging angels every chance we get, especially we Christians?

No comments: