In the recent political climate, it has become common to hear people express the notion that the words spoken by national leaders, including the most prominent ones, are not important as long as what they do is good. They can trash talk like school yard bullies as long as the policies they support are popular with their partisan followers. This idea that political words are largely irrelevant has developed, I believe, out of our incessant exposure to intemperate and mendacious speech in every election cycle. The typical political campaign anymore is an excruciating thing to witness and witness we must because of all the campaign ads. Having endured this political propaganda for decades, we have become inured to political talk as a meaningless exercise to be endured rather than heard and analyzed.
The more recent development, in my mind, is the idea that high level leadership words remain meaningless after the campaign and during the actual act of leading. Now some claim that rhetoric employed in the act of leadership is so insignificant as to be no valid assessment of effectiveness and competence. Hurtful words, self promoting words, blatantly false words are now dismissed by many as no reason at all to reject a leader if what he does is okay by anyone’s definition. Unifying and inspiring political rhetoric as a necessary political attribute has been cast into the ash can of history along with the requirement for civility, reason, and emotional maturity.
In reality, a leader’s words are among their most important tools. Those tools work for both good and ill. Words count and always have. None of us is immune to the effect that the words of others have on our psyche. Some hide that effect better than others, but all are affected. So it is wrong to suggest that high level political words do not have great consequences, and the higher the level, the greater the impact for good or ill. None of us should dismiss words that hurt, disunite, and openly mislead as the price to be paid for “personally helpful” leadership. Leadership based on such practice cannot be ultimately good.
For those of a Christian persuasion, various concepts of the “Word of God” are prominent. God spoke creation into existence. Jesus was the “Word of God” in the flesh. The divine revelation, the Bible, is known as the Word of God. God gave His Word or promise to Abraham that the world through his seed would be universally blessed.
In Christianity words count; they are the means to salvation. No Christian should dignify an assertion that words are not ultimately powerful and must be properly used. If proper, truthful religious speech is mandated; then there can be no basis to condone irreverent political speech. Preachers and religious leaders are duty bound to promote righteous speech above all. Such speech is the very beginning of wisdom, both spiritual and political.