jennifer hanigan

a pinch of this and a dollop of that

Sticks, Stones, Pens, and Swords

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I love language. I always have. The history of words fascinates me. I can, and occasionally do, happily lecture anyone in my vicinity about the etymology of a particular word. If I had unlimited time and money, I would learn ten more languages-at least! Language is how we communicate, and how we relate. Without it, there is no science, no history, no stories, no poetry, no love letters! It’s the timeless version of “pics or it didn’t happen.”

Years ago, I wanted to be a linguist. I spent some time in Guatemala with Wycliffe, learning about the thousands of people groups whose languages had no written form. The cultural impact of this astounded me. People groups without a written language are not just at a socioeconomic disadvantage, but tend to internalize this as being inherently less than those with written languages. And while they can, and often do, learn the language of the dominant society around them, it isn’t the same. Ah, there’s a reason we call it the “mother tongue.”

It isn’t the pen that is mightier than the sword; it is the words one can write with it. They’re sharper than the sword, too.

The Gay Christian Network (why yes, there is such a thing!) recently changed its name. The new name, Q Christian Fellowship, was meant to be more inclusive. “Gay” is not an all-encompassing term. Now, I cheerfully identify as queer, and find it to be a happy umbrella for LGBTQ+ people. But for many, it brings the sting of past insults, insults that hurt so much that the mere letter ‘Q’ causes them pain. Well, this is a dilemma indeed, because we’re a group of folks who have spent much of our lives being pummeled with words by people who could not accept who we are. What word is not linked to pain for at least some?words

I’ve noticed, over the last months, an unhappy effect of the Christians in my life being anti-queer. Words that ought to bring me joy instead bring me pain. People have used–misused, really–passages of Scripture against me, and thus tainted them. Sometimes, an entire chapter or book of the Bible will bring with it enough negative emotion that it distracts me from the truth of what I am reading. There are songs I can no longer sing along to. Sometimes I turn off the radio altogether.

The words of Christians are interfering with my worship, interfering with my reading of scripture. People, that is not okay. It is not okay that Sunday is the hardest day of my week. It is not okay that communion makes me cry. What are you doing with the Word of God? Be careful with that sword!

“So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

And he called the people to him and said to them, “Hear and understand: it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person.”

Matthew 15:6b-11


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