Awesome stuff, Tim. Ran into your blog post through Michael Gorman's blog. He had some very flattering things to say about it.
Hope things are going well. We should get together sometime.
I don't think the Falwellian attitude of rank Fundamentalism works any real good for the world, the church, or the church's relationship to the world.
At the same time, I think you're going way too far with this whole "words that heal" notion. Sounds to me like you're leaving little to no room for the kind of sharp, cynical, pointed, harsh comments uttered by such as the prophets, by John the Baptist, by Paul, by James, Peter, and Jude, and even by Christ.
Sometimes it is the barbed comment that breaks through the veil and really gets at the heart of a matter. This is why Jesus called the Pharisees "whitewashed tombs" – a comment that certainly fails to meet your criterion for "words that heal." But what other option did Jesus have? Was he to respectfully request their courteous consideration?
I agree that we don't carelessly walk around casting stones at anything and anyone we don't like or disagree with. Not at all.
But sometimes, the healing word is the sharp rebuke, or the cynical…even sarcastic…jab that breaks through all the posturing, fakery, and patent pretending that is surely the consequence of your recommended mode discourse.
The idea that the only verbal responses meeting Biblical standards are those which can be received without offense, those which ignore all angles save encouragement and nicety, is dispelled by a simple reading of that same Bible. So obvious is this fact, I'm not quite certain from whence you've developed your conclusions on this matter.
I'm not really so much arguing with you as I am mystified with your perception. Is it possible that I am missing what you're actually communicating?
It’s a fair point, Jason. You are right that sometimes a healing word has an edge, but it isn’t cynical or saturated in doubt about the prospects of our future. Can you show me the words of Jesus which are aimed at unbelievers and are cynical our full of doubt? I don’t believe I go any farther than Jesus goes. The difference between what Lotz said and the way Jesus spoke is context & audience. There is certainly a time for rebuke – barbed comments which cut to the heart – but Jesus seems to have reserved that kind of rebuke for those who were already in the fold, so to speak (Sadducees, the Pharisees – which you cited, and Zealots). Jesus rebuked them for their fakery, their lust for power, and their condemnation of those who had left God behind. The ones who were on the outside, unclean to the Israelites – the leper, the prostitute, the foreigner/alien, the tax collector, the ritually unclean, all of whom would be more analogous to a nation of those who invited God to leave them alone – never received harsh words from him; only words meant to heal. Do you disagree?
Brownback and Lotz have it backwards – they rebuke the down and out, deceived, and broken. If we feel like we have to rebuke somebody, perhaps it should be the church who would rather cast aspersions upon the broken then lay down and die for them like Jesus did.
I do not believe the only verbal response to a tragedy such as Tuscon should be one which can be received without offense. The gospel is offensive to many. But speaking kind words to a nation – especially if you believe it has left God behind – is the way of Christ; it is cruciform. Disapprobation and censure is not. And words that heal spoken by Christians to those who don’t deserve it will be offensive to be sure. It’s just that it will usually only offend the typical Christian who is used to reserving the high road for themselves. It is most offensive to the religious elite and those who already claim to follow Jesus.
Does that clarify what I'm pushing? Thanks for the thoughtful comment!
Thanks for the response…yep, totally clears it up. I see exactly what you are saying and probably didn't consider the context of your article deeply enough.
Context and audience is what I was missing. I took at more as an "absolute" of dialogue and discourse.