Friday, October 14, 2016

Letting Someone Else Control Your Language

The political season has kicked into high gear. If you thought political commercials have been annoying so far, just wait four weeks and you may consider tossing out your televisions and radios. One of the first rules of politics is to try to control the language of the debate. That is why there are multiple words or phrases that are intended to apply to the same group of people or ideas depending on which side of the discussion you agree with. That is why people on one side say, "Pro-life" and on the other side say, "anti-abortion." It is why labels get tossed around with increasing frequency. If you can control the language, if you can control the definitions behind the words, then you can control who wins the discussion (in theory).  An example of controlling definitions can be seen with the word "homophobia," for example. "Homophobia" used to mean "an extreme fear of homosexuals." The word has now been changed so that anyone who does not favor granting homosexuals a favored minority status and granting homosexual activists everything they want is a "homophobe." No one wants to be labeled a homophobe, or a racist, or a sexist, or a bigot. So, if you can back someone into a corner where they give you what you want or are branded with one of those labels, you can win the argument.

Controlling the language of discussions is nothing new. In fact, God warned the prophet Isaiah against simply accepting the language and concepts of the day. In Isaiah 8:11-13 we find, "For this is what the Lord said to me with great power, to keep me from going the way of this people. Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance. Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified. You are to regard only the LORD of Hosts as holy. Only He should be feared; only He should be held in awe" (HCSB). God warned Isaiah not to blindly accept the language of the people: "Do not call everything an alliance these people say is an alliance." In other words, the fact that someone uses a particular word a certain way doesn't change the definition of the word, so don't fall for it. Words have definitions. And while, yes, definitions can change over time, we do not have to let people with particular agendas change them for the rest of humanity. If we allow the world to change the definitions for us, the world will change the way we think.

God also warned Isaiah about that danger: "Do not fear what they fear; do not be terrified." Do not let them tell you how to think. Do not let them tell you how to feel. Do not allow everyone else's mindsets and thought patterns to automatically shift yours. Think for yourself. Examine the definitions being tossed around by the people you interact with.  Don't allow labels or intimidation to influence you.  As believers, we are to be the salt of the earth, to help preserve the world against the natural decay that sets in without a preserving influence. If we abdicate that position by simply granting the world control of the language we use, our preserving power diminishes greatly.

When you notice people using words in ways that don't quite fit, when you find yourself on the receiving end of the power of a label, don't simply accept the language. If it's not worth getting into an argument, at least make sure that you don't accept the new language yourself. Don't be influenced by twisted language.

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