When James says that the “tongue is a fire,” he means to show that what we say can cause catastrophic damage. Blogger Euguene Volokh points out one such catastrophe in recent comments made by Jimmy Swaggart. Swaggart, the televangelist who once fell from prominence after he was found with a prostitute, apparently made the following comments regarding homosexuals:
I’m trying to find the correct name for it . . . this utter absolute, asinine, idiotic stupidity of men marrying men. . . . I’ve never seen a man in my life I wanted to marry. And I’m gonna be blunt and plain; if one ever looks at me like that, I’m gonna kill him and tell God he died.
Volokh makes the argument that Christians should speak out against such statements, and I agree. While I do think homosexual behavior is wrong (as do I extra-marital heterosexual behavior), there is no place for talk like this in Christian life, much less ministry.
Rhetoric such as Swaggart’s hurts his ministry as much (if not more) than his run-in with a prostitute. Its Fred Phelps-like inflammatory nature is in part the reason that many homosexuals think Christians hate them. There’s nothing within Christian doctrine that allows for killing of homosexuals. And whether he really meant it or not, Swaggart should be disciplined by his church for such a quip. This will not happen, of course, because Swaggart’s “church” is actually a “ministry” that bears his own name.
UPDATE: See also Joe Carter’s post on this from last night.