Posts Tagged language

Combatting Hostile Rhetoric with Civil Speech – www.ethicsdaily.com

 

Combatting Hostile Rhetoric with Civil Speech | Mitch Carnell, Speech, Civility, Community, Say Something Nice Day, Say Something Nice Sunday

Say Something Nice Day on June 1 and Say Something Nice Sunday on June 4 offer great opportunities for us to join in the task of creating a more civil dialogue in the public square, Carnell writes.

Peter Gomes, the former minister of Memorial Church, said in a 2004 convocation address to the Harvard Divinity School, “Silence is death, and we with our skills and talents have never been more needed than now.”

His words were never more appropriate than now for those of us who strive for a more civil national and personal dialogue.

Some may question why pursue such lofty goals. Others proclaim that we must strengthen our resolve and our efforts to reclaim the high ground.

During Lenten Services at St. John’s Lutheran Church, Mayor John Tecklenburg of Charleston, South Carolina, said, “We should have a day of repentance for all of our racial sins of the past and then we should move on to right those wrongs.”

In a conversation with him later, I suggested that one of the ways to move on to righting those wrongs was to guard the language we use in speaking to and about each other. Our words have consequences because they represent what is in our heart.

The annual celebrations of Say Something Nice Day on June 1 and Say Something Nice Sunday on June 4 offer great opportunities for us to join in the task of creating a more civil dialogue in the public square.

The mayor, a devout Catholic, is a major supporter of these efforts.

As Gomes said, we have the skills necessary to change the tone.

For those of us who claim to be Christians, our obligation is much stronger. We are to represent Christ with our language. This is not an easy task.

Recently, I found myself apologizing for un-Christlike verbal behavior. I was not apologizing for my opinion; I was apologizing for how I expressed that opinion. There was a more Christlike way available to me.

“In the New Testament book of James, the rhetorical question is asked, “Who can control the tongue?’ The implication of the question is that mastering one’s own speech is nearly impossible,” Marshall Blalock said in his sermon titled “Watch Your Words: The Power of Speech.”

“Today we recover the idea that we need to choose our words carefully and turn them into a powerful force for good. Today we will discover how to routinely choose wise words that build others up rather than tear them down.”

Gomes makes it clear that silence is not an option when we are confronted with verbal outpourings that are outside the bounds of respect for the other. It is possible to refuse to repay an insult with an insult.

Scripture tells us, “Let no one repay evil with evil.”

Michael Curry, bishop of the National Episcopal Church, says, “The truth is we are not the Republican Party at prayer and we are not the Democratic Party at prayer. We are the Jesus Movement and that makes a difference.”

Each Monday, I meet for lunch with a group that is out of step with the political persuasion of our area; however, we have made friends with a delightful couple who sit at the table next to ours.

Although their political opinions are worlds apart from ours, we have become friends. We look forward to their arrival. They could sit at a table away from us, but they choose to sit next to us and sometimes even join us.

This is how it should be. We have even learned to laugh at our differences. What a blessing.

A statue was recently erected in Charleston of 95-year-old former governor and senator Ernest Fritz Hollings and features him with an outstretched hand.

According to the sculptor, Richard Weaver, “This is to capture his defining asset – his ability to make friends.”

What an ability to have and what a tribute.

There is no one who does not need a word of encouragement. The late Arthur Caliandro, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City, said, “Be kinder than you think it necessary to be. The other person needs it more than you know.”

In these troubled times when hostile rhetoric fills the airwaves, let us strive to make friends out of potential enemies.

We can turn down the rhetoric and discover or rediscover more productive ways to communicate with each other. We can change the national dialogue.

 

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SCSLHA Adopts Say Something Nice Day

The South Carolina Speech Language and Hearing Association has adopted the celebration of Say Something Nice Day on June first as one of its special projects. Thanks to the enthusiastic support of the immediate past president, Dr. Jackie Jones-Brown, CCC-SLP. The association has more than 1,000 members and touches every corner of South Carolina. Their support will go a long way toward our goal of more respectful speech and of creating a healthier workplace.

I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting with old friends and making new ones at the Past President’s Luncheon last Thursday in North Charleston. These folks have dedicated their careers to helping everyone young and old develop more effective communication skills. It is an organization in which I am proud to claim membership. The growth and accomplishments of the association are simply phenomenal.

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Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt – James Gordon – Ethics Daily

Consider How Your Words Can Heal or Hurt | James Gordon, Speech, Civility, Lent

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness, Gordon says. (Image courtesy of stockimages/FreeDigitalPhotos.net)

The first clause of the theological masterpiece, which is the Gospel of John, proclaims “In the beginning was the Word.”

The first words of God at the beginning of all things, according to that equally remarkable meteor of theology, the creation story in Genesis, are “And God said, ‘Let there be light.'”

For Christians, those two moments of divine articulation should be enough to teach us respect, indeed reverence, for words.

Whether written or spoken, words have performative power. They make things happen, they have an impact, they influence for good or ill, persuade of truth or lie, affirm or diminish, enlighten or deceive, liberate or oppress, heal or hurt.

As a Christian, I have a responsibility to give an account of my words. Indeed, Jesus warned that the day would come when we will give an account of every word we have spoken (Matthew 12:36).

Now there’s a warning for the biblical literalist self-righteously ramming their words of truth down other people’s throats.

Elsewhere in the gospels, there’s a quite different scenario – a Roman centurion, a man of few words and most of them were orders to other people (Matthew 8:5-13).

His personal servant is about to die, but he has heard Jesus is a healer, someone who speaks with authority. So he uses his networks and his influence, he sends Jewish elders to bring Jesus.

To cut a short story shorter, the centurion gets a message to Jesus, “Say the word and my servant will be healed.”

Now there’s a man who knows what words are for, who understands the power of the spoken word, someone used to seeing the performative power of words.

We live in a culture buried under words and blinded by an endless supply of new or familiar flickering images.

We hear so much, we are losing our hearing; we see so much our sight is blurring from image overload.

But staying with words for the present, Marilyn Chandler McIntyre, in her book, “Caring for Words in a World of Lies,” states with prophetic frankness, “Like any other life-sustaining resource, language can be depleted, polluted, contaminated, eroded and filled with artificial stimulants.”

I am persuaded that an ethic of language, a care for the words we speak and for the words we hear, is a crucial aspect of Christian witness.

From the praise songs we sing to the texts we send; from our conversations at work to the confidences we hold in trust for others; from the jokes we tell and laugh at to the lies we refuse to tell; from the clever put downs of those we dislike to the caring affirmations of other people’s worth; language carries with it obligations to which the follower of Jesus has to attend.

That’s why this Lent we should consider the nature of language – what it is that we do when we speak words to each other, how to endow words with sacramental significance so that speech becomes a means of grace, a strengthening of the soul in ourselves and others, and an influence for good, compassion, truthfulness and conciliation in our society.

I’m tired of cliché and spin, of the conspiracy, not of silence, but of unworthy words spoken in half-truth – evasive rather than clarifying, cruel rather than compassionate, empty of human communion rather than full of attentive human presence.

At a time when the Western world near absolutizes freedom of speech and expression, it’s time to examine much more closely the proper constraints on speech and expression.

It is time, too, to recognize the power of language to dehumanize and diminish other human beings in the interests of our own agendas, prejudices and unacknowledged as well as confessed enmities.

James Gordon is part-time minister of Montrose Baptist Church in Angus, Scotland, and the former principal of the Scottish Baptist College. He is on the advisory board of the Centre for Ministry Studies, University of Aberdeen, and continues as an occasional lecturer on practical theology and areas of ministry. A version of this article first appeared on his blog, Living Wittily, and is used with permission.

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Power of Words – Charleston Post and Courier Letters

July 13, 2014

I was working toward my master’s degree when I first heard a professor use profanity directed at a student.

In undergraduate school, I was a member of the debate team; therefore, I traveled to numerous colleges, universities, tournaments and conventions. I interacted with hundreds of professors.

While working toward my doctorate at LSU, I never heard a professor use inappropriate language toward a student.

During a lifetime of teaching, I have never heard a professor savagely attack a student, the student’s parents or the university that pays his or her salary.

Student athletes have far more exposure to coaches than the regular students have to their professors.

Students attend college to prepare for a career and to help them develop into productive adults. It is a crucial time in their lives.

Why would an educational institution employ someone who destroys the self-esteem of those students or undercuts their self-confidence? How much is the mental health of a student worth?

Words are powerful. They have the power to hurt or heal. That words are more powerful than the sword is more than a cliché. Most of us carry scars from some long ago unkind remark from someone important to our lives.

If a professor or coach hit a student there would be no debate. Bullying is counterproductive where ever and whenever it occurs.

Mitch Carnell

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