Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Speech and spirituality: Brit Bishop disciplined for Facebook rant about the Royal engagement

Bishop Pete Broadbent has been suspended from active ministry by the Church of England's Bishop of London.

Bishop Broadbent was snarking on Facebook about the announced engagement and April Royal Wedding. Among other things, he made sarcastic comments about the expense and inglorious failure of high profile marriages.

The only point I want to draw from this is how easily any of us - speaking to Christians in particular - can be seduced by "the world, the flesh and the devil" and lapse into their habits.

The Bible's Letter of James tells us to "tame our tongues," which of course means our fingers as well. Verses like "You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry" apply just as much to our fingers twitching over the "enter" or "send" keys.

The Bible also gives us affirmative instruction on the use of language, in particular finding words that "encourage and build up."

Bishop Broadbent might have made his point by typing, "I do pray for this couple and hope their marriage endures in stability and happiness. Our people need examples of this, as family life is so unstable today. We invest perhaps too much on ceremony and not enough in one another." Instead, he fired off some mockery that undid the points he was trying to make.

As a blogger, emailer and social media user, I fall into the same behavior that has Bishop Broadbent in trouble. It is a spiritual failure on my part. Internet and other technology are the venue, but they don't cause the problem. The problem is the basic human conflict that is present in all ages and places: my ego (more accurate to Freud, my Id, or to St. Paul, "the flesh")calls out against the Holy Spirit's guidance, and that I give in to the pleasures promised by that corrupt voice.

Those of us who follow Christ need to take extra effort to choose words that glorify God, encourage and build up others, and communicate something more than our own passing emotions and interests.

In a moment of happy accord, I see that our good village atheist was blogging on the language we use and wrote, "Dang. That probably means I need to be nicer to Kristi Noem. Civil discourse is hard."

May we be blessed with guidance that keeps us on the hard but life giving path.

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