By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
Bro. Earl (no relation) and I were riding back from my pine woods on his day off – a day I decided to take, too – with a pickup–and–trailer load of pine straw for our respective wives’ flower beds.
We’d both read Charlie Mitchell’s column last week about why it’s important to teach boys, not just girls, about what constitutes rape.
“The most serious crimes under Mississippi law are murder, arson, kidnapping and rape,” the professor wrote.
“Of those, only one involves human contact that in another context is welcome, even essential.”
One of the most wonderful experiences in life – a literal life giver, he was saying – can be one of the worst, a literal life taker, if the context is wrong.
As we drove through five counties with our tarped mulch and sore muscles, Bro. Earl chewed on how similar principles govern other behaviors.
“It’s largely about power and its proper bounds,” the preacher said.
I must have looked a little quizzical.
“Sixteen–year–olds know a car is power,” he said.
“That’s why we teach them to be sober, vigilant, logical and law–abiding. Anything less can be costly at best, disastrous at worst.”
Bro. Earl took a swig from his water jug and admired a passing stand of wheat before speaking again.
“Money is also power,” he continued.
“It can accomplish much good for ourselves, our families, our communities and the world. Wrongly used – such as in feeding addictions – it can destroy us.”
We passed through a stretch of swampland.
“Gotta teach folks to use words carefully as well,” Bro. Earl said.
“Proverbs tells us, ‘A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver,’ but it also says, ‘Death and life are in the power of the tongue.’ Ask the victims of bullies. Ask their survivors.”
Being one who assembles words for a living, I felt a bit threatened by the direction of neighbor’s admonitions but was reassured by the fact that ministers also earn their keep by stringing words together.
Then Preacher Man stomped directly on my toes.
“Ask a wise wife who cooks her husband’s favorite meal if food isn’t power,” he said.
“Ask combatants in a civil war. Or just think of Esau. Food is necessary for life, a pleasant reminder of God’s provision and a means of hospitality,” he said. “But if it becomes one’s drug of choice, it’s as destructive and powerful as any other.
“All instruments of power – guns and groceries, sex and secrets, wealth and words and more – can be used for good or for ill,” Bro. Earl said.
“It’s up to us to learn and teach the difference, and why the difference matters.”
Contact Daily Journal reporter ERROL CASTENS at firstname.lastname@example.org.