Using Our Tongues Appropriately

We’ve all heard the firestorm over Rush Limbaugh calling law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” and claiming that she pays for sex because she testified in favor of birth control pills. I’ve seen various commentaries on this including this one from Sandi Villareal, the associate web editor for Sojourners.

I also saw this piece of news on Twitter last night. Summing it up, Bill Maher called Sarah Palin a “cunt” in his comedic routine and apparently “the left” let it slide even though it’s equally as offensive as Rush Limbaugh’s remarks.

Can I speak as one of the “left” in calling Bill Maher out for saying it? I mean, I’m not one of the “left” per se (I want to say that I’m “the center”) but I still think it was wrong of him.

My question is why we’re coming down like a ton of bricks on Limbaugh for what he said while we’re effectively giving Maher a free pass? Is it because it was said in the context of a “comedy routine” which Limbaugh’s rantings could argued be classified as being? We’ve gotten all hot and bothered about other comedians making racist remarks in their sets before so why is this any different? I am no fan of Sarah Palin and would love it if she disappeared from the public sphere but I still cannot think that Maher’s comments were acceptable. Is it because Maher has a beef with religion and Limbaugh professes to believe in something that we’re holding Limbaugh to a higher standard?

James 3 yields some interesting wisdom:

My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment. For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body. Indeed, we put bits in horses?? mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body. Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires. Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things.

See how great a forest a little fire kindles! And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening? Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
–James 3:1-12 (NJKV) emphasis mine.

Our tongues enable us to speak out against injustice but they can also land us in hot water as we make snide and unnecessary comments about people. Verses 8-10 are the ones I emphasized in the passage because our tongues are full of deadly poison (v.8), we use it for two diametrically-opposed purposes of blessing God and cursing others (v.9), and that it should not be so (v.10). I understand that this is politics and that trash talk is the norm but it should not be acceptable to demean each other in this way.

Tim King ended his article (my fodder for discussion yesterday) by telling the politicos to “stop talking … Spend some time in prayer and think about what you say before you say it. Ask yourself, is the political gain, the next spot on cable news or the notoriety I can achieve really worth the damage to the church?” Sandi Villareal ends hers very simply with this quotation from Psalm 19:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.
–Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

I think both serve as a reminder to consider that what we say has a power that transcends mere words, especially if we happen to be a public figure.