Johnny Phillips

Pastor Johnny Phillips

We all make dumb mistakes! That is hardly information worthy of a headline.

Quite frequently our goofs, faux pas and inappropriate responses are the result of other frustrations, being caught off guard or just failing to be aware of exculpatory conditions. Again, such is so common for every human being, we need not stop the presses in order to communicate that information.

If you believe that some how you have managed to avoid this fault shared by all the rest off humankind, just ask your mate. Odds are she has been keeping a list of your inappropriate remarks and stupid answers to silly questions just for such an opportunity to enlighten you.

On today’s date, Dec. 17, in 1862, General Ulysses Grant, then the commander responsible for the military district which included Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, lashed out at speculators whom he had reason to believe were driving up the price of cotton on the black market. He fired off a command known as Order No. 11 forcing all of them, their family members and any one else in their ethnic group to leave his district immediately.

His faux pas was that they were all Jewish!

Of course there were other extenuating circumstances: he was in the midst of the Vicksburg campaign, one of the most important engagements of the Civil War; cotton’s black market was financially fueling the South’s rearmament; and not all of the speculators were Jewish.

He cooled off and almost immediately rescinded Order No. 11. But the behest had already been conveyed throughout his region of responsibility. Years later when he was campaigning for the presidency, this ill-thought order was employed as an accusation of antisemitism propaganda against his election. He confided in his daughter his regret for such a rash emotional decision.

Yes, we all find ourselves from time to time the victims of ourselves that, with a little thought, we would have handled predicaments somewhat more appropriately. Then we try to put the effect behind us.

But not our disparagers!

He, she, they not only remember it, they embellish it even knead it like a ball of yeast dough at every opportunity to harass and demean every facet of our existence as well as each opportunity for advancement. If somehow this truth has escaped your awareness, simply watch the campaigning advertisements of the next election.

So what response is the spiritually minded person to make? No action condemns one to the “...fiery darts of the wicked,” as Paul refers to such in his letter to the Ephesian Christians? Reciprocating their gossip is to stoop to their evil level.

Actually there is much one can do and Paul addresses the subject at length in the aforementioned epistle. Specifically he mentions putting away falsehoods, speaking the truth, walking in Christ, having no evil conversation, avoiding idleness and many other desirable conducts. But he summed up all of it by writing that the best defense against those seeking to abuse your character is to “lead a life worthy of your calling.”

Perhaps this is the same that Jesus was teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, “Let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay.”

You see, ultimately in church, politics, business or home, quality of character always speaks louder than insidious gossip.

Johnny A. Phillips is a retired minister residing in Morganton and may be contacted at

Thadd White is Editor of the Bertie Ledger-Advance and can be reached via email at