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The Pontius Pilate Listening Syndrome

Contact: Mitch Carnell, 843-556-2310


MEDIA ADVISORY, June 28 /Christian Newswire/ -- I received an E-mail chiding me about my support for Say Something Nice Sunday, a day when all Christians would refrain from saying anything negative about another Christian or another Christian group. The sender fears that we are watering down the gospel. I do not take her concerns lightly. The letter also contained a thought provoking question. After spending time praying about and formulating a response in which I strived to address her point of view, I hit the send button. To my surprise my response bounced back with a message that this site was blocked to any correspondence from me.


This blocking episode is much like the one described in John's Gospel when Pilate asked Jesus, "What is Truth?" and then he did not wait for the answer. He went out to the people. He did not want to know the answer. When I was a teenager my father would confront me about some breech of acceptable conduct with, "How could you do such a dumb thing?" Before I could answer he would throw up his hands and proclaim, "I don't want to hear it." 

I have spent much of my adult life teaching people how to listen effectively. Failure to listen is one of the most pervasive and costly problems in our society. Much of the problem resides in the premise that I already know the answer. People who know all the answers are blocked to any evidence that challenges their point of view. Their lives are characterized by fear of the unknown. They are so intimidated by thoughtful information that conflicts with their assumptions that they block it out. Jesus addressed this situation many times: "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." "Some seed fell among weeds and were choked off." "Love thy neighbor as thyself."

Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, makes this point in his book, Uncommon Decency. According to Mouw there is no requirement that we agree with each other or even that we like each other. We are obligated to respect each other as God’s art work. We are all created by God. If we disrespect the creation, we disrespect the Creator.

The wonderful loving congregation at First Baptist Church of Charleston, South Carolina started this movement from the bedrock foundation – God is love and our salvation relies upon and in Jesus Christ. With this foundation the next logical step is to serve Him by doing what He commanded us to do – "Love thy neighbor as thyself." You can not love God, serve Jesus, and love your neighbor while you disrespect your neighbor with your language. "Let your communication be always full of grace."

Quentin J. Schultze makes this point in his groundbreaking work, Communicating for Life. Christians are to practice stewardship of their language just as they are stewards of their means. When Christians attack each other, their witness to the non-Christian is not only voided but subtracts from what might have been present.

The Salvation Army has long recognized that you do not lead people to Christ by attacking them. They provide soup for bodily nourishment, soap for cleanliness and restoration of self-esteem and then scripture for the soul.

From all reports the first Say Something Nice Sunday was a resounding success. There were many calls to extend the celebration to encompass every day. That is the hope but that goal depends on each individual to carry it out. Planning is already underway for Say Something Nice Sunday on the first Sunday in June of 2008. All Christians and all congregations are invited to join this movement to return civility to the religious dialog.