Saturday, June 11, 2016

Set Apart for Me

While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off.  Acts 13:2-3

But I say to you, do not swear at all; not by heaven, for it is God’s throne; nor by the earth, for it is his footstool; nor by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. Do not swear by your head, for you cannot make a single hair white or black. Let your ‘Yes’ mean ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ mean ‘No.’ Anything more is from the Evil One.” Matthew 5:34-37

With God as my witness, you shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. (Irony intentional!)  While some of the old laws would pass away, this one does not.  In nearly exact quotes, the prohibition against swearing is supported in the New Testament just as it appears in the Hebrew Bible.

“Let your speech be ‘Yes, yes,’ ‘No, no.’” Some think that this might mean that Jesus permits a milder form of oath.  NOT hardly.  In light of Matthew 5:34, “Do not swear at all.”  Jesus even says if you call people names, you might go to H E double hockey sticks!  That was in Thursday’s reading.   

We started out the week reading the Beatitudes and hearing what personality traits and behaviors result in blessings.  We conclude the week reflecting on a behavior that will result in the opposite.  Just as Barnabas and Saul were set apart, they will know we are Christians by the lack of swearing that people hear uttered from our lips.  It almost seems quaint, like a throwback to Victorian times to consider the ban on swearing.  Honest to God, you should not swear. 

Yet, one of the images embedded in our civil religion is political figures raising their right hand, placing their left hand on the family Bible and repeating the oath of office.  Such behavior is not required by the Constitution.  It is just slavishly following tradition in a society where 7 out of 10 people are Christian.

This means we better clean up our verbal act --- along with our social media posting etiquette.  If Jesus was making up these rules today, he would also make cyber-bullying a crime punishable in Gahanna. 

I find it the ultimate irony that one of the most followed and popular Catholic priests who is active in social media has to on a regular basis remind his followers of the ground rules about reacting to the topics he posts.

The Rev. James Martin, SJ reminds his social media followers every week of these rules.  “NB: Two post limit. Keep on topic, please. No ad hominin attacks.”  If you have not brushed up on your Latin lately, this means no arguments should be directed against a person rather than the position they are maintaining. If you are following a Catholic priest, do you really need this reminder? Anything more is from the Evil One. 

It is one thing to act this way when arguing about sports teams in a bar or seated in a sports arena. However, do we really need to attack the messenger when posting about religious topics on The Face Book or in the Twitter-verse?

However, our leading political candidates make this the cornerstone of their debates using such expressions as crooked, bully, thin-skinned, etc. to talk about each other.

Let’s work to lead by example. 

No comments: