Did We Really Need a Bishop to Tell us that Verbally Sliming Other People is a Grave Sin?

Bishop philip s

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, evidently felt that the people in the pews (not to mention a few priests) needed to remember that malicious gossip, calumny and slander are mortal sins. 

They are mortal sins, even when you commit them anonymously on the internet.

Do we really need a bishop to tell us that?

Stop for a moment and think about the dark pleasure that comes into your heart when you verbally destroy another person out of spite or malice. Consider the hard, sadistic satisfaction you take in thinking about the pain you are inflicting.

Do you really think that comes from heaven above?

No matter how self-righteously you proclaim that you are speaking Truth, you know, if you will just be honest with yourself, that what you are doing is practicing cruelty for the evil pleasure of practicing cruelty.

Just like a little kid, pulling the legs off a bug.

That’s you and your grandiose claims of a higher morality that allows you to inflict damage on other people for no other reason but that you get a dark satisfaction out of doing it.

These are, as the bishop tells us, grave sins. They are go-to-hell-for-eternity sins.

They come from the pit.

Don’t commit them.

From Catholic News Service:

MANCHESTER, England (CNS) — An English bishop asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media.

Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth described the uncharitable use of blogs, Facebook and Twitter as a “grave matter.”

Using social media for abuse or to attack the reputations of other people was a direct sin against the Eighth Commandment, forbidding people from “bearing false witness” against their neighbors, he said in a pastoral letter released March 19.


Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, England, asked Catholics to use Lent as a time to repent of sins committed on social media. (CNS/Reuters) 

“We must exercise discretion, respect others and their privacy and not engage in slander, gossip and rash judgment,” the bishop wrote in the document that was to be distributed in parishes the weekend of March 22-23.

“We must avoid calumny, that is, slurring and damaging people, and not spread abroad their sins and failings,” he said.

The bishop encouraged the faithful to ask themselves “How do I use Facebook or Twitter? Am I charitable when blogging? Do I revel in other people’s failings?

“All this is grave matter,” he said.

Forgiveness

Forgive.

It sounds easy. People often claim that they have forgiven, when, in fact, they are a long way out from anything that approaches actual forgiveness.

To forgive when there is no love is a practical impossibility. To forgive when the person or people who have harmed you refuse to admit that they’ve done anything wrong can seem as if you are agreeing with them. To forgive when they are actively continuing to harm either you or other people feels as if you are cooperating with your own abuse.

The greatest challenge of forgiveness in the face of truly horrific harms against you as a person such as rape, battering, murder and prolonged, vicious slander is that it raises the specter in your mind that you are in fact acquiescing to the thing that was done.

Too often, people say they have forgiven when what they are doing is becoming passive in the face of crimes against their own person. Forgiveness of horrific crimes against your humanity has to count the cost and know the full measure of the crime which is being forgiven.

People oftentimes push forgiveness on a victim of great violence and trauma far too soon. Everyone deserves the dignity of their anger. Anger can cleanse and heal. It can be an assertion of your humanity in the face of actions and people who have denied by what they have done to you that you are human. Anger is a necessary claim to your own worth and to the fact that those who hurt you were and are deeply wrong to do this to you.

It harms people to try to deny them their anger and push them into a faux forgiveness. When this happens, the forgiveness is not real, and the anger festers and turns inward.

Forgiveness comes after anger, not before it. Anger comes after numbness and shame and denial. Anger is the first step out of the darkness, and it is, at this point, a righteous assertion of your right as a child of God not to be treated this way.

But anger, if it takes on a life of its own, can become pernicious. Anger, if you stay there in it and just wind and rewind yourself around the shame and bitterness of what happened, becomes a cancer, eating at your soul. It can separate you from God. It, and the denial it feeds, the shame it covers, can isolate you in a small room with what happened to you. Either that, or it can push you into little enclaves of fellow sufferers who seem to be the only people who “get” you, who understand what you’re about.

The antidote for this illness — and at this point, your anger and shame have become a spiritual and emotional illness — is to face what happened to you in its full, hideously painful ugliness, and forgive.

But how to forgive without implying that what was done to you was nothing? Many times, victims of violence, in particular such things as rape, are faced with a world that belittles both them and what happened to them. They are sometimes called liars, or told that it was their fault. People back away from them and treat them as if they are not the same as they were before.

Rage is the only defense they feel they have. The humiliated rage of the victim is a shield against the claims that what happened was nothing and that they are nothing.

How do they lay down this shield of rage, which has been for many of them their only defense? When anger and resentment are the slender shards of broken self-respect that you hold onto in the face of what feels like public disregard, it can be more than you can face to lay them down and forgive.

That is the point where the grace of God is your only friend. The human portrait of that grace is Jesus, your fellow sufferer of injustice, shame and pain, hanging on the cross. The grace you need to forgive is found in the memory of God, almost bled out from a savage beating, staggering under the weight of the cross on which He was going to be murdered while the crowds jeered and the soldiers beat Him more.

You don’t need a circle of fellow sufferers to understand you and what you are going through.

He understands.

And because He forgave those who murdered Him, because He forgives you now of everything, including your anger and the hurtful things it’s made you do, you can forgive too.

Forgiveness, at this level, isn’t an act of will. It is an act of trust.

That trust is in Jesus Who tells you that even the hairs on your head are numbered, that there are many mansions in His Father’s kingdom, and He has prepared one for you.

You are a child of God, and this brutality you have suffered is an offense to God.

The world needs forgiveness. Without it, we will eventually destroy everything we love, including our civilization.

On an individual scale, you need forgiveness. We need to forgive one another and lay these heavy burdens of shame and bitterness down. We need to forgive. And we need to be forgiven.

This is Advent. Emmanuel is coming.

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Slander is Murder with Words

Slander

Slander is murder with words.

It can lead to the social death of the person who is slandered, which is exactly what its perpetrators are trying to accomplish.

I am not talking about venting to your best friend or your spouse about your dreadnought of a boss. I don’t mean idle chit-chat gossip that intends no harm. I also am not referring to slander as an actionable legal term. I am referring to the deliberate, malicious use of lies — or even truths — to degrade and destroy the reputation of another person with the intent to isolate, punish and hurt them.

That is slander, and it is a mortal sin. You can go to hell for it.

Running a blog opens up the temptation to slander for profit for those who are so inclined. The power to publish any thought that crosses your nasty little mind with the knowledge that it will be read by literally tens of thousands of people is inebriating to a certain kind of person.

Add to that the fact that blogs become a kind of virtual family with regular commenters who form online relationships with the blogger and with one another, and you have a ready-made set-up for hashing and bashing other people around the internet campfire.

I think that slander, at its base, is a form of sick narcissism. Certain kinds of people think that everything that happens is about them. If someone refuses to play one of their games, they see that as an attack on their overweening sense of entitlement. That’s why some people become enraged when they can’t comment on a blog. Their narcissistic sense of entitlement sees whatever they want to do as a “right,” and anyone who tells them “no” is “the enemy” who must be punished and destroyed.

When one of these types has their own blog, they have a ready-made platform for using slander to punish and defame those who dare cross them. The only payback is that they are endangering their immortal souls by committing a grave sin against another person. That, and they become a public jerk.

Slander is murder with words. It can — and it has — wounded and isolated people so deeply that the pain forced them to withdraw from interacting with others. That is probably one of the reasons malicious slanderers engage in their craft. Not only do they get the dark pleasure of acting out their viciousness, but they can silence the person they are attacking and scare others who might come to their defense into silence along with them.

Anti bullying

When this happens, it’s called bullying. But I think that word is too mild for it. It is deliberate cruelty, and it is intended as such.

The fact that this sort of bullying is so often directed at women by men surely has a sadistic sexual component in it. I’m not well enough versed in psychology to define it. What I do know is that I have seen this over and again in my life as a female public figure.

The internet is a place where people can act out their worst verbal impulses with absolute evil abandon. Rapists post photos of their rape victims. Everyone everywhere seems to get into the game of shaming young girls by labeling them sluts and whores and such. Politicians and advocates for such things as pro choice, atheism and gay marriage have a heyday slander-shaming people who disagree with them.

It all goes back to one simple thing: Slander is murder with words. You can use slander to kill someone you don’t like, at least socially, and come out of it feeling all-powerful and victorious.

The interesting thing is that slander is a knife with no handle. It is murder with words, and it does wound the person who is slandered. But it cuts the the slanderer himself even more deeply. There is no explanation which justifies deliberate slander of another person. It is mean and cruel to the core. It also begs the question of whatever reasoning drives the anger behind it.

Once you enter into slander as a means of punishing those who disagree with you, or who you simply do not like, you have tossed in the towel on your own position.

Slander is an admission that you don’t have anything else worthwhile to say. It is a clear indication of both your personal emotional bankruptcy and the paucity of whatever arguments you are advancing.

You might as well say to the person you are slandering “You are right. I am wrong. So here’s a fistful of mud in your face to change the subject.”

These are the reasons why I delete name-calling and vicious attacks on anyone, including public figures, from this blog. This is a Christian blog. I want it to teach and empower Christians to follow Christ in the world.

If I allowed those things, I would be destroying my own purpose.

I would also be committing the sin of slander by default myself.

Because, you see, slander takes two. It takes a slanderer, and a willing listener. In fact to be really damaging, it takes a chain of slanderers who eagerly repeat and embellish the first slanders. If no one listens to slander and no one repeats it, slander dies and the damage it does is nullified.

Unfortunately, what happens in real life is that groups of people get into slander parties. You see it acted out on the internet in a graphic fashion. They join in with the original slanderer trading additional slanders, trying to top one another in the insults they heap on the object of their derision.

There is a word for this: Sin.

In fact there is a phrase for it: Mortal sin.

As I said earlier, you can go to hell for deliberate slander.

You also cancel out your Christian witness. If you are deliberately degrading and destroying the reputation of another person for vengeance, gain, or simply because you enjoy doing it, you are not following Christ.

You either follow Christ, or you engage in slander. You cannot do both.

Slander is murder with words. It can lead to the social death of its victim.

It can also lead to the eternal death of its perpetrators.

Slander Is Murder With Words

Slander is murder with words. It can lead to social death for its victims.

It’s also a mortal sin.

You can go to hell for it.

Do you understand what I’m saying? I’m talking hell. Eternity in torment. Unending separation from light, love, hope and mercy.

If what I’m saying is true, and 2,000 years of Christian teaching says that it is, then there are a lot of people who are placing their own immortal souls in danger for the bitter pleasure of destroying other people with words.

I’m not talking about venting to your best friend or your spouse over your dreadnought of a boss. I’m also not talking about idle gossip. What I mean here is the deliberate, malicious verbal destruction of another person for gain, pleasure, entertainment or self-righteous self-satisfaction. I mean slander.

We, as a society, have become so inured to slander that we actually indulge in self-righteous anger at those who won’t join us in our verbal slasher parties. I’ve had long, circular debates with people who email me all day demanding that I call the president a communist or the anti-Christ. I’ve been challenged because I refer to those who think abortion should be legal as “pro choice” unless I am given evidence that they are, in fact, pro-abortion. I’ve lost count of the times someone or other has jumped on me because I refuse to say more than I know about another person’s beliefs or motives.

I could go on and on with this, but the specifics of my experiences don’t matter. I just use them to illustrate the obsessively aggressive nature of  the slander-with-us-or-else crowd.

When did being pro-life devolve down to the level of calling other people ugly names? When did it stop being about the sanctity of human life and become about us vs them? When?

When did opposing or supporting a political figure because of his or her policies cease to be how we engage in public debate? When did calling public figures names become more important than discussing the issues?

When did lies — and these things are lies — become so easy for us?

I’m not talking to the atheist/secularist crowd. I’m talking to Christians; to the people who sing Holy, Holy on Sundays and claim they serve a Risen Lord.

We do not have the privilege of indulging our fallen natures in public discourse. The dark satisfaction we get from slandering another person to the point that it becomes a form of social murder is straight from the pit. It does not make us righteous before God and it certainly does not bring the Light to the darkness of our world.

Do not allow yourself to become so angered by the vast injustices of our world that you fight those injustices in ways and with tactics that align you with the darkness. Do not fight satan with satan’s weapons.

Walking Between the Labels

My husband and I watched Rise of the Planet of the Apes Saturday night. The hero ape, after a lifetime of gentle living at the hands of benevolent humans, was cast into a cage of swinging, screeching, fist-banging members of his own species. As we watched his shock and dismay, I remarked to my husband, “That kind of reminds me of going to work.”

The reason my husband thought that was funny is because I had mis-matched the labels. If it has hair all over its body and walks with its knuckles dragging on the ground, it is not human. The knuckle-draggers among us are labeled “apes” and we know that no matter what the ape might be, it ain’t us.

This primal ability to distinguish “us” from “them” keeps us alive. It helps to know the difference between a rattlesnake and a cabbage, between giant spiders and your grandma. Labels not only keep us safe, they allow us to live together and cooperate with one another in how we order our society.

Unfortunately, people are smarter than they are wise. Whatever ability we have, we always seem to find a way to apply it for evil. Labels can be used to ostracize, punish, degrade and manipulate other people. Used this way, labels become shorthand slander. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the political world.

Political discourse has devolved down to scandal-mining one another’s histories, gaffe attacks and label slinging. Never mind the problems besetting our nation and the world; if you can catch someone using an off-color word when they thought the mike was off, or if you can get enough people to label them a “communist” or a “fascist” or whatever, why then you beat them at the polls. You can win the election. Take home the prize. Get your hands on the state treasury and the power of government.

The standard way for politicians to survive this is to pick a side and stick with that side. “Your” side will then stick with you. They will label, gaffe report and scandal-mine your opponents for you. They will be your tit for the other guy’s tat.

The one thing no politician in their right mind would ever do is venture out from under the cover of “their” side. With no one to protect them from the hail stones of public excoriation, they will be beaten to a pulp and carted off the field in nothing flat. The only way to survive in politics is to, as Okies say, “dance with them that brung ya.”

There comes a point in every political career where sticking with your side means doing things you know are wrong. It doesn’t matter if you are a Democrat or a Republican, a conservative or a liberal, the day will come when your “side” expects and demands that you chose them over everything else you believe.

If you are a Public Catholic, this day will come soon and be repeated often. If you think you can hold elective office and never be forced to choose between God and your party, God and your friends, God and your “side,” you need to think again. You will have to choose, and you will have to do it over and over and over again.

If you chose Jesus, if you decide that the “side” you’re on is the Jesus, Joseph and Mary side, there will be payback. Your payback is that both sides will come at you. “Your” side will do everything they can to punish and purge the “traitor” in their midst. The “other” side will join in where they can and wish them success. You will be alone.

Public Catholics have to walk between the labels. They’ll call you a “communist” one day, and a “fascist” the next. What they really mean is that you are not “one of us.” It won’t be long before everybody on both sides is slander-mining your history, gaffe-reporting your speeches and labeling you everything but a nice person.

You will be maliciously misunderstood, misinterpreted, misquoted, and just plain lied about.

The only comfort you can take is that this is exactly what Jesus said would happen. It’s how they treated Him, and if you truly try to follow Him, it’s how they’ll treat you. Their labels don’t fit you. You’re not a “conservative” or a “liberal.” You are a follower of Christ in a world that hated Him then and hates Him now.

You follow a risen savior Who was beaten, mocked, tortured, despised and murdered. You follow Jesus. And His label is the cross.


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