This week reminds me of the power of words. The words we choose and how we use them gives power to our ideals and reveals our values. No choice of words is meaningless. Words can incite passion or grief, can win over hearts and minds, can hurt for life. As the US Supreme Court hears arguments over the constitutionality of California’s “Proposition 8” and the federal “Defense of Marriage Act” we see the power of words at work. Words and descriptors such as “for” and “against,” “anti” and “pro,” not to mention forceful words such as “rights” and “equality” all have great power. They also reveal much about the user of the words. Is there any commentator in the secular media who has not painted the argument before the court as one which “denies” same-sex couples the “right” to marry? Is there any commentator who has not referred to the two laws at bar as “anti” gay marriage? In fact, one commentator while portending to be impartial stated that the Defense of Marriage Act “was intended to single out gays and deny them marriage equality.” Words. Pay attention to how they are used to sway public opinion. They are powerful tools in an arsenal that can do as much damage as weapons of mass destruction. This week reminds me of the power of words. I wonder what words were used to sway the crowd to chant “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Words. They are not innocent. They are not harmless. Every revolution starts with words, every riot, every war. Words can lull us to sleep and rouse us to change a culture. This week, listen carefully to the words being placed in your ear, and pay attention to what they reveal about the author or speaker: through the careful choice of words, how does the speaker want to sway you? The chant of a crowd two millennia ago swayed a ruler to condemn to death a man he had declared innocent. “Crucify him!” Words are not meaningless.
March 26, 2013
Msgr. William J. King