Sunday, January 09, 2011

The Word and words

As Americans we denigrate the power of words. We believe actions more than statements and often with good reason. When was the last time you trusted a politician to keep their promises? And if you have, will you do that again? Psychologists tell us that we believe body language more than words. We have sayings like, "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," as if there is no power in the words. In our culture it is not a surprise that someone can use violent images in rhetoric and be surprised when someone takes those words seriously. That assessment of words is inadequate. Words have power. And there is Biblical basis for that understanding.
The Christian scriptures tells us that "in the beginning was the Word... and the Word was God..." The Hebrew scriptures tell us that all that is comes into being when God speaks a word... And in the other creation narrative, the creatures take on their nature once the man speaks a word and names them. Before that, they are incomplete. The power of the word is more than metaphoric, it gives shape and substance to all that is. It is our language, our words that form the paradigm through and in which we experience and shape the world. If those words are full of hatred and violence and images that separate us from one another, that will be the world we create. If the words are words of respect and community, building up the other, then that will be the kind of world we create. What kind of world do we want? Choose your words carefully...

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