April 26th, 2012
12:12 PM ET
Our Take: Name-calling is ‘rhetorical pornography’
Editor’s note: Jim Daly is president of Focus on the Family, Dr. Russell Moore is dean of the School of Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and the Rev. Samuel Rodriguez is president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
By Jim Daly, Russell D. Moore and Samuel Rodriguez, Special to CNN
(CNN) – We've all heard it, since we were schoolkids knocking about on the playground: "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me." A saying with good intent, to be sure, designed to steel young minds, and hearts, against the inevitable bruises that come with sharing childhood and adolescence with other children and adolescents.
But did any of us ever believe it was true? Even today – now that we're older, hopefully wiser, having experienced the heartaches of everyday life more fully than we may have as kids – is it a statement we can stand behind?
We don't think so.
Just about every day, a quick scan of the news headlines or a couple of keystrokes for a Google search serve up stories proving this old adage false. The evidence can come from picket signs, talk-show sound bites or something as short and simple as a 140-character tweet.
CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories
Clashes in Arizona over immigration policy. Public arguments over homosexuality in California. Christians and atheists lobbing verbal firebombs at each other in Washington, D.C. Sometimes, those at the center of the name-calling are famous. Most of the time, they aren’t. Well-known or not, their actions prove a singular truth: Names do hurt – and not just those on the receiving end of them.
To borrow the point of another, more accurate old aphorism: What we say about others reveals more about ourselves than the people we're talking about. This is especially true for Christians, who encounter any number of verses in the Bible that point to how "sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness," as the English Standard Version translation of Proverbs 16:21 puts it.
Jesus, as tended to be his way, was a bit more direct: "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken," he said in Matthew 12:36, adding: "For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
So, no, it is not news to any of us that we live in an electrocharged public square.
But it should be convicting to all Christians when we find ourselves contributing to this maelstrom. Derogatory terms for other human beings – regardless of how widely their views differ from ours or, more importantly, from the truths of Scripture – should never pass our lips. To call it rhetorical pornography, for the debasement it engenders, is not an overstatement.
To get into the terms specifically here would be to attach to them a dignity they don't deserve. But we know them when we hear them: Epithets and cutting adjectives directed at gays and lesbians that go far beyond reasoned articulation of our biblical views about God's design for human sexuality.
Cruel, dismissive descriptions of those who do not share our faith – whether they be of a different religion or none at all – serving to drive people further from the heart of Christ, the exact opposite of our calling as his modern-day disciples.
And, perhaps most distressingly, ethnic slurs against noncitizens in our country, people who, in many cases, are families just like our own, seeking the best quality of life they can achieve. How do those hurtful words address the deeper and quite nuanced issues of legality and border integrity?
What each of these instances has in common is that the words are being used to deny the innate humanity and dignity owed every individual. The Jesus we follow did not just die for those who believe in him; his father created each one of us in his own image.
That means that as Christ breathed his last on the cross, there was as much love in his heart for the homosexual activist, the Mexican national who is not a citizen and the atheist as there was for us.
It is out of the "overflow of the heart," Jesus says in Matthew 12, that "the mouth speaks." That means it is far more than a failure of "tone" when we marginalize or malign those with whom we disagree. The solution is not just "nicer" words, but a transformed perspective, one that sees all human beings, including “opponents,” through the eyes of our proponent, Jesus.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
The author of this article seem to be focusing on hatefulness of Christians, admonishing them to speak in love, but says nothing about derogatory names they are being called by the mob of God-haters on these blogs, who even when not insulted by derogatory names feel they can use them and throw them at Christians. I have very seldom seen a Christian poster using belit'tling, even ob'scene names in the same spirit as those who hurl them at them, although it happens sometimes, but it's not a norm .. But it's not so the other way around.
Any newcomer to these blogs, if he or she would be unbiased, would see and acknowledge that .
I understand that although some posts of Christians may be offencive to those who don't like their message, it is so because people do not like their deeds to be called sinful or bad, so they lash out in anger, but what they really want to achieve with that is to silence Christians. So in order to do so, they call them haters. But there is a lot more to it then meets the eye, and the reasons go very deep into a secret places of human heart....
One very good example of it is the article about Kirk Cameron. There was no vile word ever spoken by this guy, nor was a hateful att'itude in his speech, but he was called the most derogatory, vile, obscene names I've seen here on these blogs. Now, let the unbiased person judge what the truth is!
One thing needs to be understood, is that Jesus Christ had comforting message only for those who were humble of heart and did not oppose themselves to His teachings. But for those who were proud and who did, for them His messages were stiff warnings.
People need to understand that, that here is no message of comfort for those who love their ways and mock God and those who speak on His behalf. Because as truth spoken without love is lame, so is love without truth. Sugarcoated truth is not what those people need , in condition in which they are. They need the truth to face themselves, so that perhaps by the mercy of God they will humble themselves and turn to Him while they still have time. Those of us who are God's people know in what kind of world we're living in, and He gives us discernment to know how to speak. All things are measured by His standard, and not by man's, and that's all that matters.
Talk about blather. Thy name is Prissy.
You're in need of an ophthalmologist if haven't seen hateful posts from your "Christian" brethren, you hypocrite.
Well put. Its like previous articles here that blasted the Tea Party and could barely find a few examples of misbehavior, but as for Occupy Wallstreet, well, lets give them credit, right?
Sorry, but all logic disappeared with the word "God-haters". The only people that can be "God-haters" are those who believe in God. Subsequent statements showed no indication that you were, in effect, taking Christians to task.
Millions dead in Africa from AIDS because God says "no" to condom use? Rampant pedophilia and child abuse in the Church? How do you politely tell Catholics that is a bad thing? When the Pope apologizes to humanity for Christian atrocity, I'll stop calling Christians who follow him names. Till then – you're a bunch of WHACK JOBS! How's that for cordiality you FREAKS!
I'm no god-hater. One has to believe something exists in order to hate it. As a child I once feared and hated the Hebrew's god until I realized that ridiculous parody of a male human with all foibles intact never existed in the first place. Can one hate a myth? As to what god really is? I don't have a clue and neither do you. It's so irritating for all you christians, jews and muslims to tell the rest of us who and what god is when you don't know anything about it. Your empire lasted 1545 years and now it's gone forever, and it shall never return so get over it. Just be about your business and leave the rest of us alone.
Rhetorical prngrphy? Hey thats an attention getter 🙂 Lets see here, you like the words of Jesus but you just can't stand those Christians who do some name calling (which names?) and if I was to guess, Christians who take their beliefs seriously. You might like a Unitarian church, there won't be any name calling there, except to accuse serious Christians of prngrphy, terrorsm, that sort of thing.
No chip on your shoulder, is there?
If you were God, would you have created hell?
No, but I'm not nearly smart enough to do any "creating," whatever that means.
If you are baffled by any word, you can use a dictionary. Most people understand simple words like "create".
Ouch! I bet that'll leave a mark!
Don't worry, momoya, I forgive you. Observer is going to hell, however....
There's several dictionary meanings.. When we use the word "create," we most mean "reimagine from previously learned patterns," and "create" in the biblical sense isn't ponderable for someone as limited in knowledge as we humans are.. "Create" is a nonsense term if it's a stand in for "by any magic required" because we live in a world of cause and effect, not magic spells.
I apologize for not including this further explanation in my previous post, but I have a tendency to ramble, so I struggle in knowing when to include more or less.
Christians don't even agree with christians what being a christian is. Did any of you see Paul Ryan, in his speech at Georgetown, responding to the bishops criticism of his budget?
Does this mean the Christians will soon let us buy beer on Sundays? I'm sure Jesus wouldn't mind, since his sabbath was on Saturday.
Yeah, I don't mind at all. Go ahead. You can drink every day if you want. I did not come to oppress the people but to let everyone know that they need to quit acting like jerks about the rules. Here, have a beer! Enjoy yourself like I do!
Why should I believe in, worship, and obey a "god" who made me imperfect but expects me to fall on my knees for forgiveness for BEING imperfect? Why should I believe in, worship and obey a "god" who does nothing, in spite of his supposed "omnipotence", to alleviate the suffering of innocents? If he's all-knowing and all-powerful, yet allows sinless children to die in pain, he's merciless. If he's merciful, but can't do anything to prevent the innocent from suffering, then he's not omnipotent. Either way, he's not deserving of adulation. Or even notice.
blah blah blah blah
And thanks to you, blah. You make me look good.
The Deists of the 18th century came about as close as it's possible to be with respect to belief in a supreme being. Yet even that is of questionable rationality.
At least they were literate and intelligent. That's more than can be said of the fundies who post their vomit here.
Oh, that falling on the knees thing is just my little joke. I am shorter than most people and only want to feel tall. Don't take it personal. It's not required unless you are taller than me. Nice tlts, btw.
@Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son "Why should I believe in, worship, and obey a "god" who made me imperfect but expects me to fall on my knees for forgiveness for BEING imperfect? Why should I believe in, worship and obey a "god" who does nothing, in spite of his supposed "omnipotence", to alleviate the suffering of innocents? If he's all-knowing and all-powerful, yet allows sinless children to die in pain, he's merciless. If he's merciful, but can't do anything to prevent the innocent from suffering, then he's not omnipotent. Either way, he's not deserving of adulation. Or even notice."
=>the pain and suffering that pervades this world and the seemingly irreconcilable contrast of that with a creator God that is pure love can really only be understood by reading Genesis and understanding the horrific effect that the transgression of one man had on all his descendants.
None of us asked to be born into this, but that's the situation and there's only ONE way out.
More BS, piled higher and deeper, by the dolt named Chard. If the Bibble is your only source, get lost, dude.
Why the fuck should I be held responsible for the supposed sins of some mythical man some book claims lived eons ago?
@Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son "Why should I be held responsible for the supposed sins of some mythical man some book claims lived eons ago?"
you're held responsible only for yours.
You just claimed otherwise.
Chad is not one of my more intelligent followers. Don't worry. I'm going to kill him for his stupidity that I gave him. That's how I roll.
Nicely stated Dear sirs. In as much as hateful words can do harm, well considered and thoughtful words can produce healing uplifting results. Thank You!
You know, I am a bit surprised to hear these sentiments expressed by these persons. This sounds more like the version of Christianity that resonated best with me as a child and teen - before I was completely sickened and gave up on all of it for a different religion. If this catches on, it might just stop a complete return to the days when "Jesus Freak" was the worst thing you could call someone.
If people actually believed in Hell, there would be no need for articles like this. Hell only exists for our enemies, never for ourselves.
Some Christians are in such a state of denial they are starting to claim Christianity is not a religion!
Most so-called "Christians" aren't intelligent enough to understand their own religion, let alone understand that others may have different viewpoints. To use the Bible as a sword to fight against others is to indicate that one has absolutely no idea what one's own religion is about. So-called "Christian" politicians stand up and speak out against gay marriage, abortion, women's rights - yet they don't have the slightest inkling that they are doing exactly the opposite of what Christ would do.
...interesting slander...do you know most Christians?
What slander? This person speaks the truth. And by "most Christians," I believe they're talking about the "Christians" that are making themselves heard on these subjects. They are absolutely doing the exact opposite of what Christ taught his followers to do. Wish it wasn't true - the world would be a much better place.
What really makes me wonder is the admonition that Jesus gave: forgive your enemies. Turn the other cheek.
Yet the god you zealots worship does nothing of the sort. It punishes all those who doubt with an eternity of fire.
Not only that, but god is an atheist... You don't think HE believes in a creator god, do you? lol
Wrong. Our sins punish us with an eternity of fire. He gives us the option to be saved from that eternity.
Nick, your god built hell, sustains it, and enjoys the smoke of its tormented in his throne room (it's in the bible–evidently it's a piping system).. If he didn't want suffering, he could do something about it.. Your god's a terrorist azzhole.. Deal with it.
Oh, please, Nick. Give it a rest. I haven't committed a single "sin" that would warrant eternal punishment by some imaginary dude.
Get over yourself, you delusional idjit.
Momoya! Haha, very funny!
I meant to say saying 'God is an atheist' is funny way of interpreting divinity!
Hell was not created for men, it was created for the devil and his angels.
Oh? So nobody's soul is consigned to Hell, now? Since when?
Who cares who hell was created for?? It's how god uses it that's the point, yes?
Nobody is consigned to hell, you have a choice.
God doesn't want anyone to go to hell.
Who's gonna make somebody go to hell if god won't do it?! LOL!!
"God doesn't want anyone to go to hell"? Then why's he send them there? Because they don't debase themselves and beg forgiveness for being the very humans He made them?
@A person of the name – so something's going to happen, that god doesn't want? If he's all powerful, can't he prevent something he doesn't "want" to happen?
@Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son "What really makes me wonder is the admonition that Jesus gave: forgive your enemies. Turn the other cheek."
@chad "you need to think of it in these terms: suppose you have two children (fred and sally) and the sally punches fred so hard it knocks a tooth out.
Now, as a parent you understand that you need to address the situation with sally, as a parent you have that responsibility.
As well, you dont tell fred that he's free to take retribution out on sally.
so, you tell fred to forgive sally, and you punish sally for what she did. You can't not do anything, that's your role as parent.
When we harm each other, the person we are really on the hook with respect to the crime, is God.
Jesus commands us to forgive one another, the reason?
"Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[d] says the Lord. 20 On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[e] 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
@Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son "Yet the god you zealots worship does nothing of the sort. It punishes all those who doubt with an eternity of fire."
@Chad "see above"
The day you grow a brain, Chard, is the day I'll pay heed to your posts. You can't honestly answer a single question that's ever been put to you, you moron.
Chad is so mixed up in the head that his own pastor won't have anything to do with him. Someone needs to sit this boy down and explain to him how messed up his understanding is....
...preferably by using a cattle prod
I'd hit him with lightning but it's almost impossible to hit your target with lightning. Believe me, I've tried quadrillions of times.
Earthquakes are just as useless as are tornados and hurricanes. Meteors take too long to get to target and I keep hoping you people will get a clue before I wipe you out completely. Cancer and heart disease work better, but don't give good results.
Didn't mean to ramble on. Go and sin no more. lol
Well said. If we can all live up to it it would be a much better world.
Just goes to show that good people are good *regardless* of religion.
It is better to "be" good.
being "good" is impossible. human nature.
Then your god is a sham. HE created a fallible being and then continues to consign his creation to hell.
Sorry, I ain't buyin' what you're sellin', dear.
I couldn't agree more, Tom.
nick, if it's impossible, then your "god" made it so. His fault, his responsibility. Not mine.
So it's bad to call people names, but it's OK to believe they'll burn in hell for doing the things that you won't use a bad word to describe? Sounds like you're trying to put lipstick on a pig. Ooops, I meant "one of god's porcine creatures".
One can appreciate an atheist when they see through agenda laden articles promoted in the name of Christianity.
Since when do we choose our beliefs based on whether or not we like the idea? Believing in hell is the same as believing that laying in the railroad tracks will result in a gruesome death. We can't choose what we believe based on whether we find the idea pleasant. Life doesn't work that way.
@Dan, so what you're saying is that you're a prisoner to your beliefs? I can believe that.
I'm not sure the metaphor is appropriate, but you don't choose your beliefs; you are compelled to believe as you do.. Desirability is not a factor.. If we only believed what we liked, we'd not believe in death or taxes or any other "bad" thing.
Just because you can't say the bad name you ALSO shouldn't think it. The reason why is because you have NO clue what their relationship with God is. Only God knows the true condition of a man or womans soul. So who are we to judge when it is up to God whome He lets into this Kingdom. Who know you could be wrong or they could be wrong but it is up to God only. We are to love one another and that is what Jesus taught.
Then why doesn't "he" love all of us–even those who doubt his existence?
Our beliefs are COMPELLED by our principles, but our principles are CHOSEN. Principles based on a REASONED interpretation of the evidence regarding the nature of the world and of humans is a CORRECT principle. Principles based on faith, tradition, upbringing, peer pressure, old books, fear, and arrogance are INCORRECT principles. Choose your premises wisely and your beliefs will be valid. Chose them unwisely (or allow others to choose them for you) and your beliefs will bring you nothing but conflict, both with others and with yourself. Reason is always a better approach than faith, even though faith is often better at making you FEEL better.
And it doesn't matter what you CALL the people you hate and fear. Your beliefs about them are still hateful and fearful.
Oh yeah?!? Who cares what you think, Sid?...... No, just kidding.. That was pretty awesome!. Makes a ton of sense.. Appreciate.
Glad to help.
Why are so many people scared of an invisible man that has never made his presence known to more than one person at a time? How powerful can he be if he can only talk tell one person at a time the laws that all man should obey? And, "I have faith" is not going to cut it on this one. I honestly want to know what makes people "God fearing" Becasue if everyone is forgiven, what is their to be scared of?
Does "The Great and Powerful Oz" ring a bell? 😉
Wow, it is great to read that sort of reasoning.. Where I live people would think I was crazy if I said that–out loud.. Right on.
Why are you too scared to ask HIM yourself – mr big guy on earth
But we don't believe everybody will be forgiven. You have to ask for forgiveness
Who cares what idiots "believe"?
Isn't it true that a person most in need of forgiveness is a person who does not think he needs forgiveness?? Why won't your loving, forgiving god forgive these who need it more than any others??
"Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
Words to make a lot of Christian wannabes shiver.
Why?. And why is it 'good' presuming you believe that it is good for such people to "shiver" in that way and for that purpose?
I'm glad to see this article. I'm a Christian and I have been horrified by some of the debasing comments I've heard other Christians speak. For such individuals to say they are using humor (sport) and that they really didn't mean anything by it (deception) the Bible has the following to say: (Proverbs 26:18 & 19) As a mad man who casteth firebrands, arrows, and death, So is the man that deceiveth his neighbour, and saith, Am not I in sport?
Unless I misunderstood the article, it condemns the people that are throwing verbal bombs and labels and yet much of what I see in the postings is just that. We can agree to disagree and these men are calling out the Christians more than others. Christians have a certain standard or at the very least SHOULD have a standard of conduct. Everybody makes mistakes, nobody is perfect, and Christians need to follow Christ's example and he never lobbed any verbal bombs (or for those Monty Python fans – Holy Hand Grenades. He never says, "One, two, five."
The surest way to drive non-believers away from christianity is to expose them to christians.
My response was NOT to Seeking Truth.
I love m enemies – but they are still my enemy and they need to be crushed. We'll do it politely.
You can't destroy politely. Silvery words and a smooth tongue are not noble, but a deception covering up the filth.
Dont condone the violence, but at least somebody out there "gets it".
"But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken," he said in Matthew 12:36, adding: "For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned."
If I am an average Christian Joe and have to look up every other word in an article – then by my terms – that is certainly "careless" of the author to not consider my lack of substandard intelligence. Jesus himself used confusing parables, but at least HE stuck around to explain them. However, on the other hand, if the average Christian Joe understands defamatory, derogatory remarks and repents overnite because he resembled all the remarks, then I would not say that the contrary approach was "carless" at all. There are many ways to skin a cat and to fish for Christians.
God Bless you all. Love the show.
Being judged by a being who drowns little babies in great floods, destroys the first born for not having blood on the door, and creating humans he knew would burn forever... is like being judged by a Catholic priest, for being a child molester.
Yeah, I gotta say that if Christianity preached a gospel that god saves everyone out of his goodness, I could at least see the concept–but the whole lake of fire inanity is just too absolutely bat-sh!t crazy to reconcile with any sort of "goodness" at all.
@momoya "Yeah, I gotta say that if Christianity preached a gospel that god saves everyone out of his goodness, I could at least see the concept..."
@Chad "there are actually 2 ways to heaven:
1. perfect obedience to the law
2. appropriation by faith of the atoning work of Jesus.
so, in fact, there is a "goodness" way.
The problem is, the only person that was ever able to actually do it, was Jesus.
I would tell you that you could try it,, but it's actually already to late for that right? Like me, you've already broken at least one rule, and when that happens, it's over. There are only two grades on #1, perfect, and fail.
Then stop attempting to pretend your idol is omnipotent and merciful, Chard. It's neither.
none of my business.. but I'm sorry for whatever horrific thing happened that you feel God abandoned you in..
What makes you think anything "horrific" happened? I just woke up. Too bad you're in a coma.
Sorry, Chad, but Heaven is closed. We decided we didn't want your sanctimonious overbearing arrogant asses here and just closed it up completely.
Hell is where we put you in charge of people exactly like you, so if you suck you'll be put in the suck section. You'll probably recognize a lot of people there.
But if you were to change how you view and treat people, your section of Hell can be quite nice and comfortable.
Heaven is for atheists. They aren't going to stink up the place like believers would. You should see the mini-bars! It's like the biggest man-cave next door to the biggest woman-nest. Room for everyone, fresh towels, lay-z-boy chairs, beanbag chairs, and we've got ALL the videogames that will EVER be created!
This place rocks! Too bad you can't get in as you are. You'll have to leave your delusions behind. And, in your case, your ego as well.