I am proud to congratulate Shiloh’s wonderful ushers today for their incredibly consistent and sacrificial service. On any given occasion in our Sanctuary, we can count on our ushers serving at their stations, willing to see that the services go smoothly and that our needs are met when requested, anticipated or noted. We are grateful for our Shiloh doorkeepers and their devoted commitment to our church and ultimately to our God!
One of the things I learned in my college philosophy courses was that freedom of speech is never permissible in potentially dangerous circumstances, such as crying “fire” in a crowded theater. This week, we witnessed the awful consequences of hate speech. From the inception of this Administration’s rise to leadership, there have been ceaseless assaults on political opponents and the media. It was believed that the way to defeat political foes was endless personal attacks upon all the opposition. Philosophers also refer to ad hominem attacks as a logical fallacy. These attacks are resorted to when an argument is weak and cannot be supported by facts. Ad hominem attacks are when a debater attacks the personality of a speaker rather than the substance of that person’s argument. Examples abound: “Lying Ted,” “Little Marco,” “Crooked Hilary,” are but a few. And of course, the one most concerning this week, is “fake news,” referring to the mainstream media, and these outlets as “the enemy of the people.” Our leaders and their supporters have seen the result of “crying fire in a crowded theater,” a hate stampede that could potentially be as devastating as an actual fire.
At the time of this writing, mail bombs have been distributed to nine prominent Democrats, including our former President Barack Obama. No one believes any of these mailings was done by anyone in the party in power, but the dog whistles have emboldened their followers to believe drastic action was necessary. Jeff Zucker, president of CNN, condemned Donald Trump and the White House by saying, “There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media. The President and especially White House Press Secretary should understand their words matter.”
James 1:26 states, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.” James 3:7-10 adds: “People can tame all kinds of animals, birds, reptiles, and fish, but no one can tame the tongue. It is restless and evil, full of deadly poison. Sometimes it praises our Lord and Father, and sometimes it curses those who have been made in the image of God. And so, blessing and cursing come pouring out of the same mouth. Surely, my brothers and sisters, this is not right!”
Words do matter. Lately, psychologists have concluded that verbal abuse is as harmful as physical abuse. The time has come for our nation to repent of its hate speech and recognize that if we claim to be Christians, our responsibility is to speak peacefully and respectfully of all and never under any circumstances think crying fire in a crowded theater is acceptable.