Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World


Written by: on January 25, 2021

Allow this reflection on the onset of journeying with Frederick Douglass to be the opening line of a sonata. I’ll introduce a theme in its simplest form here only to be revisited, experimented with, hidden, transposed, modified, and returned to at the conclusion. The thread of melody that plays throughout the life of Frederick Douglass is the wit, wisdom, and woo of his words. His biographer prepares the reader, “Douglass was a man of words; words spoken and written language was the only major weapon of protest, persuasion, or power that he ever possessed. Throughout I try to demonstrate the origins and growth of this man’s amazing facility to find the words to explain America’s racial condition as well as the human condition. In one way, this book is the biography of a voice” (Blight, Frederick Douglass, xvii.)

In the beginning was the Word. Jesus’ most beloved disciple winsomely chose the opening of his story of Good News to reflect a new day by looking at the first day. The Word, not the Power, nor the Judge, was in the beginning. The Word broke the silence through the mouth of the Father booming, “Let there be light.” The verbal pronouncement followed, “It was good.” As the Trinity spoke order from chaos, so the verbal theme continues. Our faith comes through hearing, hearing the word of God. Heralding a Message, a Gospel. She who has ears, let her hear. While our message is an embodied message, a physical message, a holistic massage, our message is irreducibly just that – a message, a tapestry told through words.

The same words that formed order from chaos, are those same words Douglass attempted to yield to convert his bodily scars into words that might change the world (60). Words that would change the world. For Douglass words “had become a reason to live” (55).  While a lifetime holds much more than the 280 character limit, our words are finite, because our time is finite. This restricted constraint gives reason to consider in this co-creative endeavor the potency of our words. Words matter, for out of the heart, a person speaks. Life-giving, restorative, reparative words are the inevitable mark of one who has been impacted by the Word. Might they not be in such short supply as today’s stage gives evidence.

Words create possibilities where chaos reigns

Words create possibilities

Words create



David W. Blight, Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2018).

About the Author

Shawn Cramer

9 responses to “Words.”

  1. Greg Reich says:

    I find it interesting that our posts are contrasts of one another but both fit well within the context of our individual blogs. When looking at the power of words I tend to look at both ends of the spectrum. The idea of life and death in our tongues as well as, being accountable for every idle word reinforces the power each one of us has in what we say. Looking at your life what were some of the most influential words somebody has spoken to you.

  2. Dylan Branson says:

    In thinking of how we use words, I also think back to Bonhoeffer’s household. In his setting, words were important and it wasn’t proper to just throw words around. It was expected that the language they would use would be precise and well-formed. Today, we often throw words around without having any real meaning behind them. We need that posture of listening in order to understand the words, not just respond using our own.

    • Shawn Cramer says:

      Language is very limiting and challenging to be precise. Consider the progression of language around BIPOC. That language will never be precise enough or capture enough of the positive without the baggage to remain static.

  3. Darcy Hansen says:

    I’m wondering about Douglas and his capacity to listen and notice? I wonder about his ability to be present and keenly attentive to his surroundings? As I think about the creation narrative you share, God must have had it in God’s mind of what was needed in this new world, meaning there was an attentiveness to God and God’s place in eternity. God assessed the situation, then spoke very deliberately. It is in that assessment, combined with wisdom, that words of life flow. Are you noticing that in Douglas’ life?

    • Shawn Cramer says:

      While extremely thoughtful, Douglass strikes me as someone who lives by the Ready. Shoot. Aim mentality. His unspeakable crucible in slavery allowed him to notice and reflect, but I wouldn’t call him a man of deep reflection.

  4. John McLarty says:

    Great post. I think it’s very clear that words matter. I’ll be interested to follow the story to follow Douglas’ words, but also to know more about where those words came from and how he was able to persuade others to listen. Is there anything more discouraging than to have words that no one hears/reads?

    • Shawn Cramer says:

      Douglass was groomed (to use a Jerism) on the Colombian Orator and the Bible. Having a diet of such persuasive texts, along with God-given gifts, allowed him to begin a trajectory of persuasive oration.

      Agreed… on your last sentence!

  5. Chris Pollock says:

    The Word.

    Did his life reflect the Word, his words?
    Curious about the messages our lives speak.

    I like the idea of St. Francis, ‘…if necessary use words.’

    Words are sometimes very necessary, aren’t they? How necessary, in the message of F. Douglass, were they in translating the pain?

    Is Love or Truth the primary inspiration.

    And, the message of the Gospel, of Hope…is Love or Truth the primary inspiration of our God-in-pain, the Man-of-sorrows, over broken relationship/connection with us?

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