The Power of the Written Word

Behold the power of the written word – the most powerful invention of mankind. Entire civilizations have been forgotten because they did not master the written word. Entire religions have risen and fallen depending on well they recorded and preserved their beliefs in writing.

It was a short written document by which certain Barons of England voiced their belief that the country should be governed by the Rule of Law and not by the whims of a fallible king. That document – the Magna Carta.

Several hundred years later, it was another short written document that declared the fundamental belief that “all men are created equal” and were endowed by their creator with certain “inalienable rights.” By these written words, a small group of thirteen colonies declared their independence from Great Britain and became the greatest nation on the planet.

It was the written word, Escort in Lahore in the form of books, newspapers and pamphlets that declared the fundamental belief that slavery was immoral, and should be illegal. It was the written words scribbled on a piece paper by which Abraham Lincoln honored the brave soldiers on both sides of the Battle of Gettysburg:

That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

It was the written words of the Thirteenth Amendment that actually ended slavery.

It was the written word that spread Christianity across the entire globe.

In fact, every religion that exists today stands as a testament to its power.

Reputations of the greatest leaders in the world have been both created and destroyed by it.

Universities, colleges, technical schools, workshops, and seminars would not exist without it.

Without it, the rapid spread of technology we know today would not be possible.

The art of texting, instant messaging, “chatting,” Twitter, Facebook, and the entire world-wide-web would not be possible without the written word.

Every movie you have ever watched exists because someone wrote either a book or a screenplay first.

Every book that has ever influenced your thoughts, beliefs, habits and choices is based on it.

The United States’ objective to defeat terrorism would be well served if our nation’s leaders would embrace the power of the written word. The Romans tried to crush Christianity with force – just as the U.S. is now trying to defeat an ideology in Iraq and Afghanistan with force.

But, history tells us it was Christianity that won the battle against the Roman Empire. How? By the power of the written word. By the year 312, the basic tenets of Christianity had been well documented in writing and distributed throughout the Roman Empire, where in underground churches, the elders would read from the writings of the Disciples and the Apostle Paul on a weekly basis.

Eventually, these teachings penetrated the ears of the emperor Constantine through his mother Helena. Constantine had a dream one night where he was told that if he would paint a Christian cross on the shields of all his troops, he would win a critical battle the next day. Constantine did so, and won the battle. Thereafter, Constantine converted to Christianity and legalized the religion throughout the Roman Empire. A few years later, in the year 380, Catholic Christianity was declared the official religion of the Roman state through the written word, the Edict of Thessalonica.

The Romans would spread Christianity much further than the Apostle Paul or any of the disciples ever dreamed. Many people forget that the Roman Catholic Church was called the “Roman” Catholic Church for a reason. It would not exist without the conversion of the Roman Emperor Constantine. In fact, Rome is still the epicenter of all things Catholic today. Without the Romans, Christianity would have continued as a loosely connected coalition of various churches with slightly different beliefs and internal bickering for several hundred more years. Rome was the unifying force, with Constantine assembling the bishops of various churches at Nicaea to take a vote to declare what the essential beliefs of Christianity were. Those beliefs were recorded in a written document called the Nicene Crede, and with the single stroke of a pen, everything else was declared “heresy.” The Romans provided the Catholic Church with a template for organization, political structure, and an iron-clad dictatorial leadership model.

Because the Romans’ influence dominated the planet, it was only natural that Christianity would also dominate all of Eastern and Western Europe and spread to the entire Western Hemisphere, including what is now Canada, the United States, Central America and all of South America.

It was the written words of a lowly German Monk named Martin Luther that brought the Catholic Church to its knees and single-handedly started The Reformation. Out of this movement, flowed the fundamental belief that the rights of the individual should prevail over the rights of the governing authorities, whether church or state. When Martin Luther was threatened with excommunication for nailing his Ninety-Five Theses to the huge wooden door of the Wittenberg Church, he refused to recant the words he had written, and boldly declared, “Hier steh ich. Ich kann nicht anders,” which is to say, “Here I stand. I can do no more.” He was willing to suffer excommunication and even death rather than recant the power of the words he had written.

There is a lesson to be learned here. The war in Afghanistan and Iraq will not be won by military might, nor by power, but by the written word; by winning the hearts and minds of the people – one book at a time.

Greg Mortenson, author of THREE CUPS OF TEA, has single-handedly done more to win the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan than the entire U.S. Army. His humanitarian efforts to build schools and educate children, especially girls, in remote villages throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, has given him more respect and admiration from the elders and tribal leaders than the U.S. military could ever hope for.

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