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Finding Faith in Faith

This blog is dedicated to exploring the intersections of faith and politics, the intricacies of religious culture and the struggle to balance devotion to a higher being and to one’s culture.

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Name: jrichard

Sunday, October 03, 2004

The Goss on Gossip ...

This is an article summing up some notes and thought I’ve had about gossip and why I feel it is among the worst of the sins that Christians can commit against each other.

These notes were originally in outline form from a Sunday morning class I taught a few years ago. I tend to fill in context during my classes from memory, so much of my presentation is not recorded in print. Which may be just as well, for the framework will likely allow for a more personalized interpretation for the reader than reading my comments and notes. I will attempt to keep my commentary to a minimum, and only present the barest application to the content provided.

Also, most of the scriptures are not reprinted here. I'm assuming a devoted reader willl be looking up the verses on their own as they go through this.

I think it is very clear that God has strong opinions about gossip, and to get to the heart of his feelings, one needs look no further than his earliest covenant with the Israelites, when he told Moses in Leviticus 19:16 (NRSV), “You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.”

“I am the Lord” is the signature in the sacrificial law that declares supreme authority in a particular point of law, the fact that it is attached to this commandment should dissolve any doubts about how seriously God expected his followers to adhere to it.

But what is gossip? Let’s look at a few verses:

I. Biblical view of gossip.

A. PSALMS 101:5

“One who secretly slanders a neighbor” is guilty of gossip. God is sorely displeased with those who talk behind people's backs.

B. PROVERBS 11:13

A person who cannot keep a secret but runs around telling everything they know about others is a gossip. We should notice that here it does not say that the person is guilty of spreading falsehood (in American law, “slander”), but simply a person that tells secrets. Gossip and slander (“false witness”) are related, but are not the same sin.

C. MATTHEW 18:15-17

Here, Jesus lays out a path to reconciliation between people sinning against one another:
1. If I have something against my brother, I am to go to him privately.
2. If he will not accept what is said, then take 1 or 2 brethren with me.
3. If he will not accept these, then take it before the church.
4. If he will not accept the church’s judgment, then he is to “be to you as a Gentile and a tax-collector,” (which incidentally, when one considers how Jesus approaches tax collectors and Gentiles, this means the church should minister to this person as a nonbeliever, not ostracize him or her).

If I do not follow the Bible pattern, it is GOSSIP.
If my brother repents of his sin and I tell others, it is GOSSIP.

And we should notice that these are the words of Jesus. Which leads me to my second section:

II. How does God feel about gossip?

A. LEVITICUS 19:16

God commands us not to gossip among his people.
God does not want us to be known as talebearers.

B. PROVERBS 6:16-19

God hates a lying tongue and one who sows discord among brethren.
Gossipers are an abomination in the sight of God.

C. PSALMS 101:5

God will cut off those who gossip and slander.
Gossippers will be destroyed.

III. WHY DO PEOPLE GOSSIP?

A. I CORINTHIANS 3:3

People gossip because they are not spiritually minded, but they are carnally minded. The reason we listen to gossip is because we are carnally minded. The carnally minded person insists on their own way, the spiritually minded person builds up the other person.

I think that gossip is very much an expression of pride and human arrogance, which is why we feel so justified when we engage in it.

B. I CORINTHIANS 13:4-5

People gossip because they do not have Christian love in them. People do not gossip (or exert their will upon) about those they love.

C. PROVERBS 10:18
People bear false witness because they HATE the one they speak about, and they are trying to hide that hatred. People spread gossip because they are fools.

D. I TIMOTHY 5:13
People gossip because they are idle and want to feel that they have some influence.
Normally if you look at a person who is gossiping, they are not doing anything in the spiritual work. Also, in my experience, those who routinely gossip, normally speak against those who are doing spiritual work.

IV. What are the effects of gossip?

A. PROVERBS 26:20
B.
In the same way that wood is necessary for a fire, a gossip is necessary for strife in a congregation. Anytime there is strife in a congregation, look for the one running around gossiping. If you stop the gossiper, you will stop the strife.

Christian love simply makes it impossible to hate one another, so strife that builds up between two Christians must be done so in secret isolation, since Christian love would eradicate 100% of personal conflicts before the first volley is fired.

B. A nonBiblical anecdote

The story is told of a woman who had gossiped about a certain man. When she realized what she had done, she went to him and apologized. She said she would do anything to make up for the cruel things that she had said. He told her to take a sackful of feathers and to go to a certain street corner and to cast the feathers to the wind. She did so and when she had finished came back and reported. The gentleman then directed her to go back and retrieve every feather. But she exclaimed that is impossible, the wind has scattered them everywhere. So it is with the things you have said, he replied, there is no way to repair the damage that you have done.

C. What are the real effects of gossip?
Gossip drives people away from the church, it causes our children to grow up and leave the Lord, it breaks up the spiritual family. It destroys the work of the Lord. If on the way home you discuss Brother or Sister So-and-so, is it any reason that many time children grow up not having respect for leaders in the church and why so many children leave the Lord. Gossip has probably done more harm to the church than anything else.

V. How should we deal with gossip?

A. I TIMOTHY 5:19
If someone will not say something in front of witnesses about another person (I believe the Elders are merely the beginning of the equation here), do not listen to them.

B. PROVERBS 6:16-19
God hates a lying tongue and one who sows discord among brethren, SO SHOULD WE.
Gossipers are an abomination in the sight of God, THEY SHOULD BE IN OURS.
Gossiping is one of the worst things that we can do
Many times we act like the person being gossiped about is the sinner, and the gossiper is just fine.
God hates gossiping. SO SHOULD WE.

C. MATTHEW 18:15-17
If a person gossips, they are to be withdrawn from.
Have you ever had someone gossip about you in a vicious manner? It hurts doesn't it?
But if it is being done to someone else, we often close our eyes or even take part in it.
Gossip is probably the sin that Christians are most likely to indulge in, and it is one that is definitely hated by God.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Fundamental Bias

This post is the third installment of series of three to continue the pondering critique I started in my Fundamental Errors post. In this post, I will be discussing the “media bias” section of Dr. Kennedy’s sermon on the Sunday broadcast in question.

During the course of his historical perspective of the “atheist movement,” Dr. Kennedy somehow transitioned to a segment on media bias, claiming that the American mass media had an inherent anti-religious bias. To support this claim, the program presented a prepackaged unit on Bernard Goldberg’s Bias : A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, arguing that the media’s “liberal agenda” meant “a lack of respect for God.”

I wrote an extensive critique of Goldberg’s book a few weeks back, and you can find an online version here. However, I felt a few additional points would be appropriate. First of all, Goldberg’s critique of CBS is hardly a macro-critique of the broadcast news industry, and it certainly is not a polemic against all new media. Goldberg’s source material is drawn almost exclusively from his time at CBS, and I’m not sure a serious researcher would be comfortable extrapolating his charges (even if they were supported by greater evidence) to the entire industry.

Second, I thought I would discuss some of the statistics that Dr. Kennedy referenced from the Goldberg text. I had mentioned in my earlier critique that Goldberg does not do a good job of anchoring most of his statistics or constructing context for their interpretation. But Kennedy’s use of them goes even further.

Chief among the statistics promoted is the fact that 93% of media professionals (and we have no way of knowing what sample this statistic came from) do not regularly attend religious services. This finding (if true) is used as evidence of the “inherent lack of respect for God.”

I have several issues with this conclusion. First of all, most media personnel have extremely dense professional schedules. In short, very few broadcast professionals in particular have Sundays off work. This type of professional schedule, driven by the never-ending news cycle and not the 8 to 5 routine of mainstream corporate America, does not allow much time for religious observance. Second, there is quite a difference between religious attendance and respect for God. I find it problematic to assume that an inability to attend organized services means that a person has no faith, no respect or no love for God.

The second statistic cited is that about three quarters of all media professionals tend to see their own political views as left of center, while the remaining quarter are split between a right of center viewpoint and “other” (again, what this category means is a mystery).

I take issue with the use of this statistic because evidence of an opinion does not prove the manipulation of the public voice towards that opinion. That conclusion is tantamount to assuming that if anyone has a temptation, he or she must be guilty, a conclusion that is not logical nor Biblical.

I also wonder why Dr. Kennedy doesn’t see that if the non-attendance statistic proves bias, this bias seems to flow across both the right and the left end of the political spectrum of media professionals. So, obviously, political leanings have nothing to do with religious attendance (or at least less than he suggests).

The final statistic is that somewhere around 97% of all media professionals (whatever sample this came from, anyway) support some “liberal issue,” like supporting a woman’s right to choose, supporting gay rights, etc. In my opinion, these views have even less to do with the determination of “one’s respect for God” than the other flawed metrics Dr. Kennedy provides. Many people citizens in society support the positions he mentioned BECAUSE of their religious belief, not in spite of it.

Generally, I found the overgeneralization and mistaken conclusions to be rather troubling. It’s a common error to mistake correlation for causation, but one wishes that someone so prominent with such a large following would be careful to state the difference.

The final irony of the media bias segment came in its use at all. Bernard Goldberg is a former media professional, and his testimony does not absolve him of the very charges he’s leveling. Furthermore, I found the fact that Goldberg, a man of Jewish descent with no obvious religious affiliation (his critiques of CBS have to do with political views, not religious beliefs. This makes Goldberg and interesting “champion” of the anti-religious charge against the American news media.

Frankly, I don’t think Goldberg really makes the argument that Dr. Kennedy insinuates he does. I think Kennedy’s bias leads him to misrepresent Goldberg’s Bias, which means that making sense out of the information presented is a logistical nightmare for the viewer. There’s evidence of plenty of bias here, but by the critiquers, not the source material.