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Give it a rest

October 3, 2013

This is probably going to be something of a rant so please bear with me.  I’ve come to see that there are several phrases that have become so commonplace in our political and religious culture that I wince every time I hear them.  I am therefore making a plea that we dial down the usage of these phrases, knowing full well that the plea is probably useless.  But here goes; here are some phrases I’d like to see go away, or almost go away.

The American People.  Why is it that there isn’t a politician out there who seems capable to tell me what he or she thinks?  Why do they always need to say “The American people want/don’t  want…?  I suppose my own Congressman, who I didn’t vote for, has the right to say “Based on how they elected me, by a seven point majority, the people in my district want…”  But beyond that why do they all need to cite “The American People” as the author of every thought that passes through their head?

Held Hostage.  This one is really popular now.  The Republicans are holding the American people (ugh!) hostage over the government shutdown.  The Democrats are holding children with cancer hostage with their unwillingness to lift this piece of the shutdown out of the whole and approve it.  If the news reports are accurate somebody is holding everyone hostage.  When did a failure to do things my way lead to a proliferation of hostages?

Slippery Slope.  It appears that we are perpetually one step away from disaster and it doesn’t even seem to matter which direction that step goes.  We are on a slippery slope toward religious persecution (see below), imposition of a state religion, government takeover of all your medical decisions, big business dominating healthcare for greedy profit, gutting the ability of the government to solve problems, government control of, well, everything, etc.  How did it come to be that some folks think that if we make the tiniest shift in a direction that they don’t like the rest of us will blindly slide down to a horrific future?  Do they feel that we give up all future decision making?

Religious Persecution.  Let me be clear on this one.  There actually is, and has always been, religious persecution in the world.  I’ve lived overseas and seen firsthand the persecution, real persecution, of Christians.  Having said that, I grow weary of hearing about religious persecution in the U.S. over the smallest things.  A pastor in Florida who was cited, not arrested but cited, for violating a local fire code when he tried to burn Korans was not being persecuted.  Somebody saying that you can’t have a Christian prayer before a high school football game without also allowing Jewish or Muslim prayers, or even atheist reflections, is not persecution.  We evangelicals seem to see religious persecution at the bottom of every slippery slope.  I’ve heard of so many things that are going to lead to religious persecution that I have lost count.

Biblical.  OK, everyone who knows me knows that this is my biggest pet peeve.  I am a huge believer in reading, studying and meditating on the Bible.  As an evangelical it is in my DNA.  But I despise the way this has become a power word used to club everyone who differs into submission.  As is true with the phrase religious persecution, there are good ways to use the word Biblical.  But please don’t try to use it to frame an argument so you can say God is against me when I differ with your understanding of the Bible on some of the debatable issues in the faith; and don’t call your views on issues like health care, immigration, the government shutdown, and other things Biblical.  Say rather that you have drawn your position from your view of Scripture.  Sometimes I think we evangelicals use the word Biblical to trump others using the American people.  “I’ll see your American people and raise you God.”

I guess I am saying that our language would be more gracious if we dialed down our usage of these words and phrases.  Do you have any others you’d like to add to the list?

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From → Christianity

One Comment
  1. pdolwick permalink

    Tom, your blog is one of unparalled and consistent thought-producing excellence, so I feel a little guilty for quibbling, but from my perspective (and i suspect one that is shared by most of the 800,000 people who are also furloughed) the hostage analogy is spot on. By definition, a hostage is a “person who is captured by someone who demands that certain things be done before the captured person is freed”. While not explicitly in the definition, the term hostage generally conveys the image of someone who’s innocently minding their own business, but by being in the wrong place at the wrong time gets caught up in the middle of someone’s else’s fight. As my family now has to consider how to pay mortgage and tuition payments and support an older family member w/o getting a paycheck, all because one faction of representatives sees my family (and many others) as simple leverage and negotiating space, I can’t see any other description for the process.

    I didn’t vote for our representative either (shocking, i realize). Part of me would like to have a conversation w/ him on how he reconciles his belief in a risen Savior … who spent most of his physical time on earth sacrifically meeting the physical and spiritual needs of his flock and told his disciples that if they loved him they would do likewise… w/ his philosophy on government (which seems to boil down to “Hey, I’ve got mine.”), But a larger part of me realizes that sadly, I’ve heard that convoluted “Biblical” interpretation too many times already.

    Anyway … I could most definitely be wrong. And I certainly admit to doing nothing (not even praying) in situations that were far more damaging to God’s people than this silly shutdown. It’s hard to criticize others knowing my selfish heart is really no different. Sigh …

    Anyway … hope all is well w/ the Corcorans. Please keep writing. Your words are a constant inspiration to Kristy and me.

    Pat D.

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