Tuesday, February 10, 2004

words of oppression

I went to the Tunnel of Oppression tonight. Many of the oppression "skits" were very realistic and very powerful. The one that was interesting to me was the last one. It was called the tunnel of slurs.

This was a dark room lit only by black lights. All around us were vile and violent words posted up on boards for us to read. All the while we just stood there as 4 or 5 people walked past us screaming at us. They screamed the most vile, harsh, violent, abusive and oppressive hate slurs that one could conjure up. The whole room was full of hate. And for that moment, it was directed at us.

We all knew the people didn't actually "mean" what they were yelling. It was just a skit. I even knew two of the girls, Mary and Danielle, and they are two of the sweetest people I know. But for some reason, it didn't matter. I could "feel" the hate. It wasn't just that hearing the words made me cringe. I could feel the damage of the words that were screamed. I don't mean I just "emotionally" felt the words. I could physically "feel" the assault of the hate speech.

I wanted to get out of that room as soon as I could. I wanted to escape somehow. I wanted it to stop. But it didn't. We all just stood there, taking the abuse. Even the expletives that didn't make any sense hurt. Here I am standing there, a white, heterosexual male. But when they called me a "nigger" and a "F-ing fudge packer faggot" and a "whore" it still hurt.

It reminded me of the power of words. Genesis 1 reminds me of the power of words. God spoke Creation into existence. Words can be creative. Encouraging, empathetic words can renew and create hope inside a person.

In the same way, words can destroy. Words are destructive. They can tare people down from the inside out. Words seem to be the vehicle of emotion. Words can carry anger through the air in order to land a blow in the heart and mind of another. They can carry hate, disappointment, judgment and violence. They do this whether the person actually "means" those words or not.

It is a good reminder for me about sarcasm and coarse joking. I may not "mean" the words that I say in these moments, but they still carry a destructive force. Words have power. They are a double edged sword. They are a weapon. They can be used for good or evil. I guess the choice is mine.

Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be pleasing to You, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.


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