PASTOR COLUMN - Watch what you say (or write) — words matter

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Returning home from a month-long hiatus to the onslaught of 24-hour news and political advertising, I discovered that our local political races had become infected with the same vitriolic, hate-filled viciousness of the national political scene. For instance, a race between two highly qualified candidates for sheriff, both of the same party, was fouled by letters to the editor competing with each other to see who could write the most disgusting, ill-informed and unverified accusations about one candidate or the other.

In a community filled with churches and with the dominant conservative political ethos strongly identifying itself as Christian, I wonder if it would be well to reflect on a reading from Ecclesiasticus.

Ecclesiasticus, which is also known as The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach, is a book included in the Apocrypha, which are a collection of Jewish religious writings from the period between the end of the Hebrew Scriptures and the start of the Christian era. Some denominations accept all or part of them as orthodox scripture. Others reject them, as do most Jewish rabbis.

Most Christians accept them as books of secondary authority, or deuterocanonical, to be read for the godly wisdom and knowledge they contain, yet not with the same authority as the more established books.

Ecclesiasticus was probably written about 180 years before the birth of Christ. The following is taken from the 28th chapter.

"Curse the gossips and the double-tongued, for they destroy the peace of many. Slander has shaken many, and scattered them from nation to nation; it has destroyed strong cities, and overturned the houses of the great. Slander has driven virtuous women from their homes, and deprived them of the fruit of their toil. Those who pay heed to slander will not find rest, nor will they settle down in peace.

"The blow of a whip raises a welt, but a blow of the tongue crushes the bones. Many have fallen by the edge of the sword, but not as many as have fallen because of the tongue. Happy is the one who is protected from it, who has not been exposed to its anger, who has not borne its yoke, and has not been bound with its fetters. For its yoke is a yoke of iron, and its fetters are fetters of bronze; its death is an evil death, and Hades is preferable to it ...

"As you fence in your property with thorns, so make a door and a bolt for your mouth. As you lock up your silver and gold, so make balances and scales for your words. Take care not to err with your tongue, and fall victim to one lying in wait."

'Nuff said.

The Rev. Steve Woolley is retired. He served as rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Pastors in the U-B circulation area who want to write a column should contact Catherine Hicks at 509-526-8312, or by e-mail at catherinehicks@wwub.com.

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