President Bush's open microphone got him in a bit of trouble recently at the G8 Summit meeting. His private comments to British Prime Minister Tony Blair made the evening news, all of the morning news programs and, of course, the late night comedy shows.
I feel for him.
Can you imagine being under that kind of constant scrutiny?
The incident reminded me of a now infamous speech delivered by Tony Campolo several years ago at a big national youth ministry conference.
Campolo, the master of shock and prophetic comedy among Evangelicals, opened his address by screaming the same expletive that the networks had to bleep out of the President's audio.
Got the picture? Talk about sucking all the oxygen out of a room!
Tony then calmly stated, "Now, admit it. Most of you are more concerned that I used that word than you are that over 30,000 children died of disease and starvation last night."
Talk about capturing audience attention.
Of course, I do suppose one can care about how language is used, chosen or not employed while also caring about the issues of justice, compassion and hunger alleviation.
But, I think Tony is onto something. And, just maybe, we shouldn't spend much more time worrying over the President's language.
The media had a field day with the President's choice of words. That could be because of how important he says his religion is to him. I suppose the press would equate nicer language with a more genuine religious commitment. Lots of us would as well, wouldn't we?
I've come to believe that such an understanding is shallow and naive.
Don't get me wrong here. Language does matter in a civil society (and in the canons of Sunday School).
But lots of things are much more important.
I'm not so concerned about what a person says.
What I want to know is what do they do? What does a person stand for and care about? That seems much more important.
If I were the media, the fact that children went to bed hungry last night here in Dallas would be much more disturbing to me than how the President spoke when he didn't know we were listening.
The church ought to adopt the same priorities.
Growing up in church, I got the very clear impression that foul language, dancing, drinking, and mixed bathing (i. e. that would be "swimming," as I had to explain to my children as they were growing up in the same church tradition!) were the big issues.
Strange how in that system no one ever talked or fretted over poverty, racism, war, injustice or fair wages.
Looking back on my early experiences, I think I see the utilitarian value in this emphasis on private, individual piety. Makes a great shield against facing what really matters for life in this hurting world.
Trouble is, such an approach also hides us from what really matters to God, at least as I understand God today.
So, that's okay Mr. President. We can cut you some slack on this one.
Now, let's talk about hunger, housing, health care, wages, tax policy and peacemaking.