Psalm 140

 

Let slanderers have no place in the land … (140:12)

I write a weekly column for a Michigan-based website and my local newspaper titled “Ethics and Religion Talk.” Each week I publish three or four responses from different religious traditions to reader questions on ethical or religious issues. I enjoy writing the column and many people enjoy reading it, including a group of people hostile to anything religious who read the column “religiously.” Each week they post sarcastic or just plain hostile comments belittling those who take religion seriously. Worse, they post anonymously. My multi-faith panel of clergy work hard to carefully craft their responses. They stand by what they write, in public, under their own names. It is painful for me and for them to be subject to the criticism of people who make no effort to understand why we say what we say or to find anything positive in our words and hide behind pseudonyms, lobbing verbal grenades.

The difference between gossip and slander is that gossip my be true or false, but slander is a false statement about another person. The literal translation of the Hebrew phrase is “a person of the tongue,” but the translations/commentaries I consulted all agree that the intent is a slanderer. The thing about people who slander anonymously is that they don’t have to worry about thinking deeply and being careful with facts so they can dash off quick comments, while those of us who care about accuracy and stand behind our comments publicly spend more time crafting our words. If I controlled the platform, I would not allow anonymous comments (“have no place in the land”), but alas I don’t. So I choose to rise above their slander and hope that the nature of their communication speaks for itself.

Sometimes, like the Psalmist, the best we can do is hope for a better future. In the meantime, all we can do is model excellent behavior and comport ourselves with dignity.

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