Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Ephesians 4:29 rule: a proposal

As a longtime member of the so-called Catholic blogosphere and one who is not shy about rushing in where angels fear to tread, commenting on subjects that typically cause division and acrimony, but trying (which does not mean always succeeding) to do so in a helpful way, I am not fearful of dealing with reactions to what I write. The only comments I refuse to publish are those that are highly critical, not mention often personally insulting, and posted anonymously. I despise passive aggressive behavior, especially when I catch myself engaging in it. I do not tolerate poltroons. I mean, if you can't be charitable, at least have the courage of your convictions.

Since no blogger is an island, there are other Catholic bloggers with whom I associate and with whom I even collaborate sometimes. I keep abreast of their blogs, which includes posting comments and reading the comments of other readers from time to time. Hence, I am calling for the implementation of the Ephesians 4:29 rule. My proposal is not one that calls for rigid enforcement, but rather relies on the adherence of people who comment, especially when being critical. The rule is the verse: "No foul language should come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for needed edification, that it may impart grace to those who hear." By foul language the author is not only referring to using what we call swear words. In fact, he is not primarily referring to so-called swear words.

Other translations of this passage capture its meaning much better than the New American Bible. For example, in the New King James Version of the New Testament, favored by many English-speaking Orthodox Christians, the Greek words "logos sapros," the literal meaning of which is something akin to "rotten words," are rendered as "corrupt word." The whole verse from the NKJV is: "Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers."

By proposing this rule, I do not seek to eliminate critical comments or discussion. My only desire is to keep discussions in our neck of the virtual woods respectful, charitable, and constructive. I can point to so many examples of comments, including some I read over on The Deacon's Bench this morning made about something as innocuous as the new business card of a friend of mine who is also a deacon, a card I happen to think is very well done, that violate the Ephesians 4:29 rule. Desiring to be constructive, I also want to give a positive example. So, I point to comments made about my post from last Saturday regarding the Catholic Church's teaching about human sexuality, an example of how to make critical comments in a thoughtful way, Adding to the confusion by widening the divide.

Veni Sancte Spiritus, Veni per Mariam


  1. I think more Christians/Catholics should heed the Jewish mitvah of Lashon Ha-Ra. While it focuses mainly on gossip and defamatory commentary, the point behind the law -- that words are powerful and often more wounding than physical assaults -- holds observant Jews to a very high standard of speech and commentary.

    But, one can also just be kind, be polite, be nice. I don't know when "kind" and "nice" turned into dirty words among the Christian/Catholic community, but there's a lot to be said for basic decency.

    Also, blog authors have a responsibility to set the tone. When too many Christian/Catholic blog authors are taking cheap shots at a group or a person, or using inflammatory rhetoric, or creating a forum where other Christians/Catholics can feel welcome to do the same, then they can hardly expect the comments to be any better.

  2. All good points and things to keep in mind. I especially take to heart what you write about the responsibility of anyone who blogs as a Catholic. The recent guidelines published by the USCCB are useful, but at the end of the day, let's just act like Christ followers.


Jesus and the fire of God's love

Readings: Jer 38:4-6.8-10; Ps 40:2-4.18; Heb 12:1-4; Luke 12:49-53 What is Jesus on about in today's Gospel? These are the kinds of p...