The fall brings about so many changes and new things in our lives. School, jobs, new towns all are new things that happen in our lives often in the fall. The lest of these things is most likely our favorite, and that is the new television season! Our favorite shows return with new episodes complete with new plots, new twist and in some cases resolution to some amazing clif hanging season finally! One of the shows we can count on returning in the fall every year, perhaps to our dismay, is American Idol, but lets face it, it's not the same with out Simon, Paula and Randy, all whom have left the show.
Though gone from the ranks of American Idol, Simon and Paula have created their own pop icon search show called the X-factor. It's kind of like American Idol, but the judges have more control over who advances through the show. As cool as X-Factor "might" be, the Pop icon search show that is most popular now is, "The Voice". It's a fun and entraining show that boast some very well know "judges". R& B star C-Low Green, Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine, Country Star Blake Shelton and Pop goddess Christina Aguilera. Together their job is to simply listen to the "voice" of each contestant and decide simply based on the voice weather or not that person gets to move on. It's a different approach from X-Factor and AI (American Idol). Both of those shows take into account the look and the showmanship of the performer as well as their voice. Perhaps we should listen to voices more often than we do. Perhaps we should pay attention to the wieght of our own voice more often.
The tongue is the most powerful muscle in the body (the heart is a muscle as well, but is classified as an organ). The tongue can lift up to 80 times it's weight. Without our tongue we would not be able to speak. The only muscle, potentially stronger than the tongue is the masseter muscle, but its not technically a muscle either because it has cartilage and bone within it's structure. It's the muscle that holds our jaw in place and it allows us to open and close our mouths...perhaps more importantly close them.
The passage from James this week speaks of the damage one voice can do to a community of faith. It explicitly focuses on the damage the voice of just one bad teacher could do in a faith community. This is why the author states that not all should presume to be teachers. James goes on the state that teachers must be those willing to bridle themselves and be willing to place themselves and their voices under the authority of another, a captain perhaps, and not be a ship lost at sea, but one sailed with a specific purpose in mind. Lets face it, teachers are the voices that speak loudest, they are the influential ones, the ones who's opinions and beliefs resonate in our minds and our hearts. Gang leaders voices give instruction on violence and turf wars. Hitler's voice influenced a generation of disfranchised and economically strapped Germans. Bin Laden's voice provided purpose, organization and direction to a group of religious zealots who's sole agenda was to propagate their world view even at the cost of innocent lives. Harris and Kiebold, the masterminds of the Columbine shooting gave direction to every other school massacre since then. These are all examples of bad, unqualified teachers with lose tongues who's words caused great evil and distress in our world.
Now it wouldn't be fair to give light to bad teachers without mentioning all the great teachers who have come into our world and who have made it a better world, but those men and women were willing to be submissive to an authority greater than themselves and for every Hitler, Bin Laden and Gang leader there's a Gary Kelly, a Chuck Abshagan, a Linda Pitts, John Osborn, Dr. Martin and Dr. Magruder, all men and women who have influenced me as teachers in a very positive way. Good or bad, teachers are not the main focus in this passage, the power and persuasiveness that our tongues can wield is.
One of the hallmarks of our society is freedom of speech, but this freedom, like many other things can be abused and misused, especially when we use it to hurt, smear, spear and skewer others. Speech is not free when we use it like that, in fact it's very costly. It cost the feeling, the self-esteem and in some drastic cases, the lives of other human beings. It can cause fear and hatred and be very divisive There's no better time for use to witness this on a grand scale than during an election year, and even better a presidential election year. The political mudslinging is intended to harm, it's intended to dehumanize and in some cases it's intended to insight fear into the hearts and minds of the listeners.
This type of political rhetoric was used towards President Obama during the first half of his first term. All one needed to do was to show up at a Tea Party rally and you would find signs depicting him as a Nazi, a demon, and even as a monkey. During the healthcare debate opponents of the bill released statements about death squads for our seniors and disabled and inadequate and unavailable care for our families and children. If those things weren't ment to insight hate and fear than I don't know what is, because thats exactly what it did. James refers to this kind of speech as "poison"and that's precisely what it is.
This week James challenges us to think about the toll our words have on those around us. Do our words set fire to a world already ablaze with fear, hate and POSION? Are our tongues set on fire buy the flames of hell, or are they ablaze by the Holy Spirit. Often when we think of lies and slanderous words we call that gossip, but gossip can be a good thing. Just think about how quickly gossip gets around, especially in a small town, especially in a small church. Instead of spreading hateful lies and divisive stories, spread life giving truths, share up lifting and encouraging stories. Trust me, you and others will feel better about.