FIST-POUNDING

Please correct an error that slipped into my recent letter about “The Big Debate.” I never engage in “fist-fighting debate” in my neighbor’s recreation room! My original manuscript reads “fist-pounding debate.” I shudder to think of the possible consequences of this apparent advocacy of political fisticuffs in the heat of a tense election. There could be other consequences, too. You can imagine my apprehension at the publication of this bellicose image of a fist-swinging Eutychus just as my anonymity has worn thin.

Indeed, after watching Mr. K. on television, I am ready to rethink fistpounding. Obviously a desk-top may be a substitute for an opponent’s head. Even preachers might reflect on this favorite gesture. When the glass of water dances in reverberation to pulpit-pummeling, what is really being given the beating? One’s own sins? Perhaps the Apostle Paul used a pounding gesture in describing how he kept his body in subordination to the service of Christ. His self-control was no shadowboxing. The figure he uses is that he gave himself a black eye when necessary (1 Cor. 9:27).

Pulpit vigor in the Pauline tradition is commendable. Some pulpit pounding, however, may have more in common with Moses’ angry blow when he struck the rock on the second occasion. Pastoral petulance with perverse parishioners may become more evident in gestures than in words.

It is not only the deaf-mute who talks with his hands. Watch the language of hands: writhing, fidgeting hands; limp, listless hands; hands grasping money, or expertly manipulating machines. Our gestures help to communicate the Gospel or betray it. The hands of a missionary doctor or a Christian mother may witness in every movement.

In the living room of one suburban ...

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