Ah, communication. It is one of those things that we sometimes, erroneously, think we can opt out of. We sometimes think that what we communicate is of minimal importance . . . or of ultimate importance.
We also sometimes think that the Bible has nothing to say about communication or talking or any of that stuff. Not so fast. The book of James has quite a lot to say about communication, using the metaphor of “tongue,” and today we looked at the power of the tongue, the power of our communication.
Knox Presbyterian Small but mighty . . . unfortunately
St. Mark’s Presbyterian Small but mighty . . . unfortunately
If you are one of the folks out there who know me even reasonably well you know how much I think about, talk about, worry about communication. I have been interested in the act of communication and how it works and doesn’t work for just about as long as I can remember. As a debater in junior high school (or late elementary school or middle school depending on your experience of grade eight) I began to understand that, for better or worth, communication did not depend on truth or your personal commitment to what you were saying. Needless to say this created a bit of a crisis for me and sent me down a long and twisted path that ended with a relativistic take on communication of all sorts but especially the spoken word. It is fascinating to me that the catalyst to reevaluate this faulty communication theory wasn’t my theological studies but rather a book, a great book.
The book that began my re-thinking of communication was a book that I probably cannot recommend too highly: Crazy Talk, Stupid Talk by the late Neil Postman. It was through this book that I began to recapture the truth that communication, speech was NOT value neutral per se but statements could be true and helpful; incomprehensible or foolish (“stupid talk”); or, comprehensible, even persuasive but irrational, malevolent or even evil (“crazy talk”). It is impossible to make these sorts of judgments about speech if it is essentially value neutral and so began my long march back to a more accurate theory of communication.
What we say matters. It matters a lot. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, everything we say moves people either toward life and goodness or toward death and badness. There is no such thing as neutral communication.
As always, I would be delighted to interact with anyone on this, or any other matter, just put something in the comments and we’ll chat.
- Date: September 16, 2012
- Liturgical Sunday: Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost
- RCL Scripture: Psalm 19; Proverbs 1:20-33; James 3:1-12; Mark 8:27-38
- Sermon Title: Small but mighty . . . unfortunately
PS As always, if you want downloadable versions of these sermons click here
Photo credit: Wesley Fryer