The Epistle of James warns that it's crucial for gossips to mind their tongues.
"If we put bits into the mouths of horses ... we guide their whole bodies. Look at the ships also; ...they are guided by a very small rudder," notes the third chapter. "So the tongue is a little member and boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by a small fire!"
Now let us turn to the third chapter of Van Halen.
"Rudder of ship, which sets the course," sings Gary Cherone, the rock superband's new vocalist and lyricist. "Does not the bit, bridle the horse? Great is the forest, set by a small flame. Like a tongue on fire, no one can tame."
Here's why I bring this up. Every year, I mark this column's anniversary - this is No. 11 - by sifting through 12 months of odds and ends (mostly odds). All the biblical allusions in "Van Halen 3" got me to thinking about the Gospel Music Association's struggles this year to determine what songs would be eligible for Dove Awards. At least 13 entries - notably Sixpence None the Richer's "Kiss Me" and Michael W. Smith's "Love Me Good" - were ruled to be lacking in clearly Christian lyrical content.
So why didn't Van Halen get a Dove? What could be better than rockers singing words out of the New Testament? The "special thanks" notes inside the disc even included a nod to super-Calvinist theologian R.C. Sproul.
Here's some more samples from my "On Religion" files.
* The Ship of Fools web site offered a letter from a Toronto church where the pastor had to print two funeral leaflets in one day. He used his software's search-and-replace function to turn a service for a parishioner named Mary into one for a parishioner named Edna. All was well, until worshippers hit the creed, which now said that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Ghost and "born of the Virgin Edna."
* A Christianity Online editor shared how his 3-year-old recited the Lord's Prayer solo at bedtime. She ended with: "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us some e-mail. Amen."
* After my "Titanic" columns, a California friend sent me a prospectus for "Titanic II." It's set in heaven and Rose is in counseling, because lover Jack is mad that he only knew her for three days and her husband wants to know why a 60-year marriage meant so little to her. Meanwhile, people who didn't get in lifeboats are upset with those who did. Folks who spent their lives looking for the jewel are furious. Everybody has to spend eternity listening to "My Heart Will Go On."
* The Episcopal Diocese of Dallas created an appropriate Lenten gift for traffic-stricken drivers - a black, purple and white bumper sticker of the Jesus Prayer: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner."
* Last summer I was eating breakfast in the cafeteria underneath the U.S. Supreme Court. I popped open my cranberry juice and found this under the lid: "Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere -- Gilbert Keith Chesterton." Yes, and what about law?
* Who says the religious left doesn't believe in absolutes? "A vote against impeachment is not a vote for Bill Clinton," said legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. "It's a vote against bigotry. It's a vote against fundamentalism. ... It's a vote against the right-to-life movement. It's a vote against the radical right. This is truly the first battle in a great culture war. And if this president is impeached, it will be a great victory for the forces of evil -- evil -- genuine evil."
* During an outdoor memorial concert for the Princess of Wales, David Hasselhoff of "Baywatch" prayed for her to stop the rain. It stopped. Meanwhile, National Review notes that the stone inside the shrine for Diana reads: "Whoever is in distress can call on me."
* Many have heard the one about the Zen master who asked a hot-dog vendor to "make me one with everything." One reader noted that, after handing over a $20 bill, the Zen master waited and waited and then asked: "Where's my change?" The vendor replied: "Change must come from within."