James's Advice on Curbing the Tongue

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That ever-popular Epistle of St. James--one of several New Testament books our good friend Martin Luther would have felt just as comfortable without it being in the text. Here's what James says of the tongue:

James 3: 8-12

8But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.

9With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.

10Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.

11Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?

12Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.

Heading straight back to my theme--when we use a label to demean a person--to, in a sense, curse the person with the label itself, are we not cursing ourselves with the judgment we have wrought?

Some argue that we can know that a person lies. He can even know that the person lies habitually. What of it? Are we so pure that we can point to someone and with impugnity call him a liar? What do we do when we commit this act? In a sense we violate the spirit of the person so that we can lord it over them. Most labels serve a single function--to exalt ourselves at the expense of another.

James goes on to say this:

James 4:11-12

11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.

12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?

To my mind that suggests false and easy labels. Someone tells you a lie. Does that make a person a liar? Absolutely. It does not make that person an habitual liar, but it certainly merits the label by definition. What do we get from labeling the person a liar other than a judgment stamped against us that labels us a hypocrite or worse yet, a judge of others? Have we some harvest of truth in labelling the person a liar? Has the cause of charity and the redemption of the transgressor been advanced?

Judgment is reserved to God alone. We have no right. When we assume the right, we usurp God's own power and become blasphemers. Many of our labels are a short-cut to judgment.

A person tells you a lie. You have several choices about how to respond to the matter. Let's assume that you decide to call them on it. Among your choices of repsonse are: "You are a liar." (Just the tone suggests both anger and judgment--at best an unhealthy combination.) Or, perhaps, "That is a lie." (Said in some degree of directneess.) Now the person can turn back to us with the second statement as say, "Are you calling me a liar?" And the absolutely truthful answer is, "No, I am saying that the statement you made was a lie." There is a difference, and the difference is enormous. In one case we are judging and discerning an isolated action--not the whole person. In the first case we have judged and condemned the person by applying the label.

Some will argue that there is no condemnation in calling someone a liar. But I would ask, if not, why do so? How is the action any different than saying, "What you said is a lie." The fact of the matter is that we know the difference to the core of our being. Calling someone a liar allows us to express our "righteous indignation" against such a profound transgression of God's peace and love. Not that we would ever consider so violent an act against the kingdom. Saying that a given statement is a lie is an objective verifiable or falsifiable statement regarding an action. It condemns the transgression without condemning the transgressor.

At what point does one who tells lies become a liar? I would suggest that it most often occurs when we get angry enough to apply the label. Is anger ever a good reason to do anything? Is calling a person a liar an act of love? I would submit that it is not. I would suggest that saying, "You tell a great many lies," summarizes the truth without the sting. That said, I will open the door a very small amount to say that it is conceivable that in order to be shocked out of behavior the stronger language may be used, but never as it is commonly used and only in the hope of correcting the fault. Hence, the frequent labeling (though almost never of individuals) in the New Testament Epistles. The point here is to use violent language that shocks the person out of his or her habitual slumber. So it is conceivable that you may call a person a liar and not be sitting in judgment, but only if this is done in charity to the person himself. Too often we apply our labels to persons "behind their backs." Rarely are we brave enough to say face to face, "So and so is a liar." More often we say to another , "He's such a liar." In which case we commit the grave injustice of gossip and rumormongering. This person is not present to defend their statements or their integrity. We are condemned by our own backbiting.

So I would say that the most general case calls us never to label, never to judge a person. It calls us equally to challenge those we see going astray by pointing out the actions that transgress, being always mindful about how we do so. Our goal is always charity and must always be the reformation of the sinner. (This label has a certain biblical and Traditional authority for all of us.) I think we should strive to correct the erroneous behavior--a goal that is rarely accomplished by verbally assaulting the person committing it.

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18 Comments

Now the person can turn back to us with the second statement as say, "Are you calling me a liar?" And the absolutely truthful answer is, "No, I am saying that the statement you made was a lie."

And now you would be lying. This gets us nowhere. It's your blog, and you're free to interpret these words however you like to suit your argument, but given the fact that the apostles do the very thing that you complain about — John calls apostates antichrists, for goodness' sake! — I don't think you're making a very effective argument.

I would add that we are called to love one another, and calling someone a liar doesn't do much to advance that cause. It puts up a barrier, puts us at more of a distance from the other person.

As for approaching someone who has lied, trying to correct them.... that is a delicate matter. I like the way Ignatius described - try to understand them in the best light possible, ask for clarification, trying to make sure we fully understand and trying first to indirectly show the person their error.

And let's not leave out this line: You ask but you do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. Adulterers! Do you not know that to be a lover of the world means enmity with God? Therefore, whoever wants to be a lover of the world makes himself an enemy of God. — James 3.3-4

Talk about applying a judgmental label!

Dear Mr Perry,

Now the person can turn back to us with the second statement as say, "Are you calling me a liar?" And the absolutely truthful answer is, "No, I am saying that the statement you made was a lie."

And now you would be lying.

I'm sorry, I fail to see how this is true. Stating that a statement is a lie is NOT calling a person a liar.

Moreover, in your rapid read,* you have evidently missed the allowance I made as to how this might be done in charity--as the writers of the Epistles did.

There is evidence that you object to the generalization, but not to what I have actually written and articulated. This is often the case with rapid reading of blog-entries.

Hence, I find your argument somewhat wanting. Did John call any particular individual an Apostate? Please read my comments above about how it might be effective to use this language in a limited context with the correct goal in mind.

Nevertheless, I would suggest that it is not my argument to make. Evidently I am introducing enough of an irritant into the stream to get a reaction, so people are beginning to at least consider the matter. That's all I need do. Others must form their own conclusions. I would simply advise that if they conclude that they can with impugnity judge, the weight of scriptural evidence that I have encountered suggests otherwise. Unless one is one the way to perfect sanctity, the use of labels, judgments and condemnations seems hardly advisable.

Dear Steve,

You point is very well taken. I was merely suggesting that if you wished to try to correct a recurrent behavior, it is better to address the behavior rather than label the person. I agree entirely with your point about trying to address the issue.

shalom,

Steven

*Later--I realize that I leaped to a conclusion here. Though the points I delineate were included in the initial draft, they may not have been so clear as I hope I have made them in the final. My apologies for wrongly imputing haste--it may rather have been my own prolixity and obscurity. I do believe I have moderated my opinion on this matter to reflect some of your own objections, but I still remain fairly hard-line in my view of the licity (licitness? ) of judging and using labels.

Once again, my apologies.

...and (getting away from the Scriptures) there's St. Catherine of Siena, who in her writings (including personal letters) repeatedly labels most of the priests of her time all sorts of nasty things, because they deserved it; then there's San Gaetano da Thiene, who in his personal letters says that prostitutes are among the ministers of the holy Church of Christ.

Tut-tut. They should have known better, talking about such people behind their back.

Dear Mr. Perry,

And again, I ask you--what individual has been so identified? Just as "sinner" "brood of vipers" etc. are applied in a blanket fashion, not to an individual, they are used not to condemn--but to shock the person out of slumber. If James had said, "Xantippe is an adulterer" it would comprise is very different situation rhetorically than applying a general epithet calling us as a group to consciousness of sin.

Is it incorrect to say that we are all sinners? I would say that it is the truth. Are we to infer from James's langugage that everyone he addresses is, in fact, an adulterer? I think not. So one must infer from the context that the purpose of the statement is to use language that shakes one from his or her complacency and gets him or her thinking.

It is conceivable that you missed the amplification that I added probably even as you were commenting the first time. I assumed (probably incorrectly) that you had read this final version. But I did add a couple of sentences that I hope clarify my thought on what I consider is happening when this type of language is used. Unless we are willing to say that every person James addressed was indeed an adulterer, we must find reasonable explanation for what he is doing--which is not condemnatory but advisory.

shalom,

Steven

Dear Mr. Perry

So are you likienng most of us to the prophetic Saints.

Are we all called to condemn one another. The strength of your objection and the perceived sarcasm of your response suggests that we are all entitled and required to condemn. I would say that if it is part of your prophetic vocation--feel free. Otherwise we would be wise to carefully consider what we are doing in our condemnation.

You will often see blanket anathemas in the Saints, but only rarely personal condemnation.

One other point--would you suggest that every action of a saint is immediately justified as coming from a Saint? Can we know whether or not it was sinful of St. Catherine of Siena to write a personal comment about someone else in one of her letters. Just because their lives are imbued with heroic sanctity does not mean that they were either perfect nor sinless.

shalom,

Steven

Did John call any particular individual an Apostate?

An unanswerable question. But as I have pointed out before, Paul routinely calls people hypocrites and worse, both to their faces and behind their backs, warning the early Christians not to associate with them, and even to remove these labeled people from the community.

Please read my comments above about how it might be effective to use this language in a limited context with the correct goal in mind.

The word "liar" is thrown around a lot: "Bush is a liar," "Michael Moore is a liar," etc. Obviously it's overused, and it annoys me to no end that people deliberately twist the meaning of "lie" to suit their politics.

In reality, people can be mistaken instead of lying — and claiming that "You have told a lie" may in itself be a mistake — or (dare I say it?) a lie? which is it?

If you insist on objective verifiability, you can never say, "You have told a lie." It is not always verifiable that the person knew that he was saying something untrue: telling a lie requires knowledge that the statement is false. It's not objectively verifiable, despite your claims to the contrary.

I simply don't agree with your take on this at all, even your "opening the door a very small amount", as you put it. I'm sure that's clear from my previous quoting of two saints. And then there's the large number of saints became famous and are approved for publicly criticizing open sinners. I want to be like the saints, not like the politically correct crowd today that eschews any language that might offend.

I have read your interpretation on this; in fact I read it twice and walked away before replying. I have on several occasions simply chosen not to press the argument. We've argued about it ever since your first posted insight on this topic, and we're simply not going to agree. You have actually written before that, by your understanding of the word "judge", we are not allowed to do what Jesus, the apostles, and the saints do. So I'm quite aware of what you believe, and I also understand that your opinion of it is like the pope's ruling on the death penalty: it should be used so rarely that it should probably not be used at all. Well, I think you're wrong; I think the apostles and the saints prove that, and I'm going to stand by that argument.

Dear Mr. Perry,

I may be wrong. But I am not even remotely attempting to be politically correct, as your note suggests. I am trying to be true to my understanding, weak and limited thought it may be, of what scripture and tradition tells us. If I am incorrect in what I say, I am at least advising that we withhold harsh language as an encouragement in charity for improvement of behavior.

I, like you, am seeking the truth. Your vehemence fails to persuade. Your arguments regarding the Saints fails to take into account the prophetic calling of the Saints and the language appropriate to that calling.

What I further fail to see in your defense of harsh language is how you intend to wield this weapon in charity. Most of us are sufficiently imperfect that such language is merely a bludgeon.

But we will continue to disagree. Thank you for continuing to discuss it, because while it appears to be frustrating for you, I do learn from what you are saying, and I think you will note a considerable modification of my previously held interdiction against all such language. Continued communication works to help me reconcile the differing viewpoints, and I do deeply appreciate your contribution. I will continue to speak out boldly for what I believe to be true. I hope that you will free to continue doing likewise for your point of view.

It is in coming to know different viewpoints that we gradually correct our compasses. I have been wrong in the past, I will be wrong in the future. I may be wrong about this, but obviously, I don't think so or I wouldn't continue to say it.

And please, do not withhold what you would have to say out of some sense of courtesy (it would be misplaced) or charity (it is better charity to correct misapprehensions.) I'm truly sorry if the discussion frustrates you (this is merely inference from the tone of the last note). I hope it is some consolation that it helps me tremendously--your continued converstation is a wonderful work of charity. Thank you.

shalom,

Steven

Dear Mr. Perry,

One last point.

As you might recognize from the site motto:

Ignoring the imperfections of others, preserving silence and a continual communion with God will eradicate great imperfections from the soul and make it the possessor of great virtues.

The great saints argue as much against your point as for it. I truly believe that it has to do with their individual vocational calling. A prophet is not (necessarily) a teacher of prayer, is not (necessarily) a missionary. Each vocation emphasizes a different strength of the person receiving the vocation. My own is in the family of St. John of the Cross, so you might see how I would be inclined to think the way I do--correctly or incorrectly as it may be.

shalom,

Steven

What I further fail to see in your defense of harsh language is how you intend to wield this weapon in charity.

Okay: to start with, I don't accept the characterization of my argument as a defense of "harsh language." If you think that answering "yes" to the question "Are you calling me a liar?" is "harsh language", then our difference of opinion is much, much wider.

Your arguments regarding the Saints fails to take into account the prophetic calling of the Saints and the language appropriate to that calling.

This argument also fails to convince me. From paragraph 1268 of the catechism, By Baptism [the baptized] share in the priesthood of Christ, in his prophetic and royal mission. Can you really judge your readers' prophetic calling, or your own?

Catholics have from time immemorial excused themselves from a pursuit of holiness with the words, "not all of us are called to be Saint." I say that's wrong: we're all called to be saints, and the distinction between big-S and little-s should be merely an honorific given after death.

For me, your argument against our sharing in the prophetic calling sounds essentially similar: the Saints are better than me; I can't presume to do the same. Do you see what I mean? Your argument has the same logical ring (perhaps not exactly the same logic). It proceeds from different assumptions, but it fails to impress me for precisely the same reasons that those arguments fail to impress me.

Likewise with political correctness: I'm not saying that you are advocating political correctness, but the logic of the argument seems very much the same, and political correctness has led to all sorts of language codes. Some of these have a bit of merit, actually: they deter irresponsible and inflammatory language. And when I say "inflammatory" or "irresponsible", I mean it: today's college students, nourished on a media diet of MTV, South Park, and cynicism, have foul, foul mouths. I'm not talking about the undergraduates, either.

Beyond that, you seem to be arguing that we can't call someone a liar because we don't have absolute certainty, only God does. For that matter, you can't say that someone lies, as I pointed out above, because you don't have absolute certainty. All you can say is, "You made a mistake." Which, BTW, is what I invariably do, more because I'm terrified of making mistakes, than because of any particular charity on my part. And that's usually a good thing, because I make a lot of mistakes.

But you see, it's one thing to say, "It would be tactful, humble, and more productive to criticize someone's actions with choice words." It's another entirely to say, "We must not call someone a liar because Scripture tells us not to judge." James' injunctions about not speaking evil don't take quite the step you want it to take, nor does Jesus' injunction against judging.

Remember that St. John of the Cross was writing to people living in a religious community. For example: his advice is that you keep silence, and I doubt you're always silent — does a blog count? ;-)

Besides, as I understand it (perhaps wrongly) the brothers of his monastery, like most religious houses of the time, met regularly for public confessions, and if one brother was aware of a fault that another brother had not confessed, he was obliged to accuse that brother in public. This doesn't sound like "ignoring the imperfections of others to my ears — probably because I'm interpreting the word incorrectly. Although, for some reason, many religious houses have dropped this practice since the Second Vatican Council.

As I understand it (having read large portions of St. John's collected works), the statement you cite is meant as an admonition not to consume your mind, or distract you from the eradication of your own faults. Maybe that's not what's meant (and I'm happy to be corrected on this) but even if not, certainly there are many, many injunctions of the holy saint that simply cannot be applied outside the cloister, and I'd be happy to quote a number of them from his collected proverbs if you like. For example: Do not refuse work even if it seems you cannot do it. This was written in the clear context of advice to monastics, not as advice to a laborer who has injured himself but whose employer wants him to continue regardless.

Dear Mr. Perry,

How then do you deal with the various biblical admonitions that not all are called to be prophets, nor all to be healers, nor all to be teachers, nor all to speak in tongues.

We have a propetic mission by virtue of baptism. But a mission is NOT a vocation. Not everyone is called to be a prophet, but by living the gospel truth everyone fulfills a prophetic mission.

Not everyone is called to teach, but some are. Each of these vocations are the result of gifts given, NOT of something we choose. So I would answer straight out--NO! Just as all are not called to be Carmelites, not everyone is called to be a Prophet, though all are called to prophetic mission. (And yes there is a difference between the two.)

Beyond that, you seem to be arguing that we can't call someone a liar because we don't have absolute certainty, only God does.

I neither state that nor imply that above. If I may make the statement that something is a lie, with some degree of certainty (and the possibility of being incorrect) then I am certainly not arguing from the point of view of certainty. In fact, your statements above come closer to making this argument than mine do. Now, I'll grant you, I may have said something like this before--but it was with respect to a very limited instance of whether or not we can say someone other than ourselves is "in Mortal Sin." This has nothing to do with the present discourse.

Your arguments against St. John of the Cross's admonition have little weight. His books were written to monastics but addressed to those who wish to advance in prayer. Further, publicly accusing someone of a sinful action is identifying an action--something I am definitively NOT against. Moreover, you seem to be saying that nothing written for a monastic is applicable to a person in the world.

Finally, St. John of the Cross is not the only saint to have said this and operated on this prinicple.

I have yet to see the advantage of labeling a person rather than condemning an act. And I see a great deal that suggests this course is damaging both to the person and the one doing the labeling. Charity advises against it.

I suppose it is up to the individual, but I've never once had someone say to me that I was a liar, a hypocrite, an Idiot, a syncretist, a politically correct conspirator, an agitator or any of a number of labels I have been given in a tone of gentle admonishment and charity. I have never witnessed it happening to another. What flows from anger and from a sense of superiority is another evidence of our fallen nature.

A fault may be corrected without recourse to abuse. It has nothing to do with political correctness and everything to do with honoring the image of God that each person is. When we call a person a liar, we are commenting on a precious child and an image of God. And we have failed to persuade the person to leave off from falsehood.

Yes. I will continue to say that it is directly and vehemently interdicted. That such language is reserved to those who have the Vocation (not the innate mission) of Prophet, and that unless we are well along the road to sanctity, such behavior is more likely to draw us back than it is to speed our progress.

When St. John advises us to ignore the imperfections of others--he means exactly that. The beam in our own eye is large enough, we needn't deal with other's motes. Those are words for more than monastics--those are words for anyone who seeks a closer walk with God.

As an aside, I agree entirely with your point about PC language (and the present foulness of language that seems to accompany it), which is one reason I object so much to being associated with it. It is merely a new censorship from the left. I have no intention of going about shushing everyone who says that someone is a liar, an adulterer or what-have-you. But I do intend to try to (with the grace of God) not allow such things to come from me--which I admit they all-too-readily do.

But I think we could all do with a lot more thinking about the things we say and the results they have. Hence, I will continue to advise against verbally attacking a person--and calling someone a liar is an assault. You may not think so, but that is simply the evidence that the world has become far too noisy and words no longer mean what they truly mean. A label like that is a violation of the integrity of the whole. A person is never merely a Liar, they are much more than that. But the lavel allows us to at once feel superior and dismiss the person involved.

shalom,

Steven

Dear Mr. Perry,

In addition to all the above, I will note that this is the only thing that seems to result in a vociferous response. I could spend the rest of my life writing about Ezekiel, or St. John of the Cross and never hear a peep. Here at least I am touching upon how I truly and honestly believe the ideal Christian life should be led. I could be seriously wrong, but even so, I do not believe my wrongness leads to sin (although I suppose there is a chance of sloth) because ultimately, I DO insist on the same accountability you seem to want from the individuals committing the transgression. I however call upon them to be aware of their actions rather than denouncing them for what they are.

Language really does make all of the difference and my experience in approaching people suggests that they react better to a discussion of what was done rather than an attack on who they are.

shalom,

Steven

How then do you deal with the various biblical admonitions that not all are called to be prophets, nor all to be healers, nor all to be teachers, nor all to speak in tongues.

The same as you: there is a difference between the mission, and the vocation. We all offer sacrifices in Christ; likewise we are all called to make prophetic statements, which include admonishing someone. That doesn't mean we are all called to be Priests and Prophets.

J:Beyond that, you seem to be arguing that we can't call someone a liar because we don't have absolute certainty, only God does.

S:I neither state that nor imply that above.

It is implied by the following, which I took from your entry today:

Saying that a given statement is a lie is an objective verifiable or falsifiable statement regarding an action.

It is not objectively verifiable, unless you have absolute certainty as to what is in the speaker's mind — and only God has such certainty. So yes, it is implied by your argument.

My point with St. John of the Cross is that if I read him the same way that you insist on reading the scriptural injunctions, you cannot make any accusations against your brother. You can't even remember them for the group confession. Of course I know St. John didn't mean that, but that's the natural interpretation if I read it the way you insist on reading the Scripture. Again: this is a contradiction with your fundamental argument.

Moreover, you seem to be saying that nothing written for a monastic is applicable to a person in the world.

Not at all. But a different context requires a different interpretation. This is my fundamental complaint of your severe interpretation of these passages of Scripture that talk about judging: you are not considering their proper contexts.

For example, the NAB notes explain the passage on speaking evil of your brother, as if the phrase means "to slander": to speak falsely of someone knowingly, with the intent to harm that person's reputation. That's not at all the same as saying that someone is a liar when he is, in fact, a liar.

Language really does make all of the difference and my experience in approaching people suggests that they react better to a discussion of what was done rather than an attack on who they are.

And I agree. But I disagree that we are not ever supposed to use labels that might be interpreted harshly.

Dear Mr. Perry,

J:Beyond that, you seem to be arguing that we can't call someone a liar because we don't have absolute certainty, only God does.

S:I neither state that nor imply that above.

It is implied by the following, which I took from your entry today:

Saying that a given statement is a lie is an objective verifiable or falsifiable statement regarding an action.

It is not objectively verifiable, unless you have absolute certainty as to what is in the speaker's mind and only God has such certainty. So yes, it is implied by your argument.

I do not follow the logic of this--my statement had to do with lies, not liars. My antipathy toward calling a person a liar has nothing to do with whether or not his action is verifiable as a lie. So perhaps that was a red herring. My meaning was that calling a statement a lie is extrinsic to the person. It is objective in that it could be verifiable. My objection to calling a person a liar does not rest on the verifiability or lack thereof of the veracity of a statement--it has to do with the concern for whether labeling a person is likely to bring them to repentence--whether it is charitable, and whether it is licit. You seem to contend that it is in most cases, I contend on the other side--that in most cases it is neither efficacious nor charitable.

The statement about what you seem to be arguing with respect to monastics should have been deleted, my apologies. Interrupted many times during lunch when I wrote it.

But we still skirt about the point. At what point is a person a liar--worthy of the label and thus condemned to the pit of those who lack veracity. Is it a single lie? two? twenty? How many must I experience? The psychological reality of labels is that they exist for our convenience and often our self-aggrandizement.

Let's change the terms of discussion. Let's say that it is verifiable and true that a person lacks manual dexterity--is it then all right to say they are a Spaz or a geek? If not, why not? After all, by your logic you do no harm by calling a person something that they verifiably are. Now if the argument goes that this only applies to the virtues and vices, why is that so? If we are free to judge are we not free to judge every aspect of the person?

This, I admit is reductio ad absurdum--but judgment comes in all shapes and varieties. If we are free to judge, then we are free to judge. Where is the lack of charity in confirming the objectively verifiable? What matter is it that the words themselves inflict harm? Arent' we doing a service by identifying this verifiable lack of facility?

We will continue to disagree on this. I cannot see the utility in the vast majority of cases of calling a person a liar. It might promote repentence, but I would suspect that it would be more likely to harden their hearts. So I fail to see its purpose on the utilitarian level and I cannot divine where the charity in so labeling a person lay. And this last is a point that is insufficiently addressed in any response thus far.

shalom,

Steven

Dear Mr. Perry,

Tha above amounts to a fancy way of asking, where does judgment stop? What are its limits? Why? Is it enough to label a homosexual "fag" and walk away? If not, why not? Surely we can state as certainly as we can that someone is a liar that someone sins in this way?

Where is the element of concern for the individual in doing these things? Where is the desire to bring the person to repentence? This is what I see lacking in most convenient labeling schemes. We call a person a liar and then shun them? After one lie? After ten? On basis of a rumor that this person has lied in the past?

These factors and others make judgment of this type unacceptable to me. There is no real element of care. There is a kind of Mr. Christian (from Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) attitude of the need to save ourselves first and look after others later. If we can label and dismiss them, then we can continue on our route to sanctity. Later, if there's time we'll return and redeem the liars, thieves, adulterers, and others.

This is the element I find most disturbing in the theory of judgment. After the judging then what? Shunning? If it is permissable to pass judgment on a person, is it not acceptable to sentence them as well? Again, why not? The necessary concomittant of judgment is sentence. It is built into the foundations of our sense of justice.

These are the strains of this thinking that most disturb me, and the reason for my strong determination to say what I believe the bible and the Saints to reiterate time and again. We can proof-text each other into our graves and it will lend no real support to the argument. You fail to convince me, I fail to convince you. What I am interested in is where charity goes in the way you suggest? What is the duty of charity? Label and leave? Label and then what? What does charity demand after we've passed judgment?

shalom,

Steven

Let's say that it is verifiable and true that a person lacks manual dexterity--is it then all right to say they are a Spaz or a geek?

Okay, now I agree that this is verifiable, because it has nothing to do with a person's inner mind (unlike whether a statement is a lie, which requires knowledge of its falsehood).

I would say No, it's not alright to say s/he is a Spaz or a Geek, because the more appropriate and more charitable term would be "clumsy". As a man who is clumsy, I have no problem with other people telling me I'm clumsy, even excluding me from certain activities because of it, except that it gets old, and I can't really change it.

Now, can you find a more appropriate and charitable label for a "liar"? If so I'll use that instead.

How do you feel about "alcoholic"?

After the judging then what? Shunning?

I'd say it depends on the context. If someone is a genuine danger to my health or to my soul, then yes. Otherwise, loving forbearance.

Dear Mr. Perry,

I guess then I would say that you are made of different stuff than most. In my own experience, and very honestly in my own life too often, a label is a means of dismissal, not a sign of loving forebearance--and that is the crux of my argument against them. If you can label and then truly practice loving forbearance, then I could hardly find fault with that. I just know that for most people I know the two do not go hand-in-hand. Labeling someone an idiot, a liar, or any other epithet is the preliminary to further action. One may only hope that it is as benign as shunning.

shalom,

Steven

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 20, 2004 7:00 AM.

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