Friday, June 24, 2011

Liberal Word Play

Anu Garg - Founder
 I subscribed to a service called "Word-A-Day". As a writer, words are my tools and so I figured it might be helpful to receive a word, it's pronumciation and meaning in my e-mail every day. It seemed like a nice little addition to my morning e-mail.

Monday I got the word "Golgotha", a term, apparently used used to mean "a place or occasion of great suffering".  The commentary on the word also stated that most people don't know their Bible well and gave a link to test your Bible knowledge. As one who spends time with his Bible daily, I thought I'd give it a whirl.

The so-called Bible quiz that's Anu Garg linked to could be better called an anti-Bible quiz. The "correct" answers mine the worst possible incidents recorded in scripture and assume that the Bible and by extension, God, condones a lot of heinous behavior. It ignores context and ignores the fact that the Bible was not written by the finger of God, but by fallable humans and often ones with incomplete understanding of God's will. It completely ignores the role of judges who are not required to execute maximum sentences for minor infractions as we see time after time in the Biblical record.  It ignores the fact that God repeatedly adjures us to do justice and to love mercy and walk humbly. It ignores the fact that where God states flatly that he is angry at someone, it's usually directed at pretty heinous behavior like the mass murder of children and the systematic prostitution of little girls to pagan temples.

The Bible is remarkable among ancient writings in that it does not gloss over the failings of those it writes about as does virtually every other ancient text from the same era. The stories show mankind (and its leaders) warts and all. It shows man ascending by fits and starts from the brutality and barbarism into which he descended after the fall. It doesn't happen all at once as scripture makes clear. God gets a lot of blame for things that He doesn't approve of. Even Saint Paul admits he might have been wrong about some of the advice he gives.

The upshot is that some ideas like the golden rule and the ten commandment code of coduct were absorbed into Judeo-Christian culture and many old culturally driven behaviors (like stoning) are left behind.  Much of the progress toward a more decent society that we've seen over the centuries was driven by core values and beliefs instilled steadily into Christian culture. Christianity is often charged with crimes that were actually committed by individuals who put on the garb of Christianity in order to acquire political power, but who are in no way truly Christian.

Jesus said, those who do this will stand before God in the judgement and claim to have done what they did in His name, but that God will say, "I never knew you." They will be cast away as they well deserve to be.

The so-called "Bible Quiz" is a very thinly disguised rant about how stupid anyone is who believes in the Bible. The link takes you to the "The Freedom from Religion" website, not an unbiased source of Biblical information.  It gleefully comments that the word "liberal" is found in the Bible and "conservative" is not.

Word-A-Day should find another quiz that isn't an anti-Christian hit piece - at least if they want to keep subscribers like me who also happen to be Christian.

Counting coup on your customers, especially customers who have, on average, a much higher interest in writing, language and grammar than their political opposites isn't wise.

I asked Anu to withdraw the link and the anti-conservative, anti-Christian sentiment that infuses their commentary on the derivation of words.  Of course, that is entirely up to him. The United States is a free country and all that (a concept that also came out of Christian philosophy, often in opposition to the very people who wanted to use scripture to justify a permanent "nobility" and rule by the elite).

The truth is, I'll likely cancel my subscription to their service. I can find word definitions elsewhere. I don't expect Word-A-Day to let go of its leftist attitude and its opportunity to influence language with a little leftist snarkiness. After all, altering the language to suit it's own purposes is very leftist. George Orwell described it in 1984. You gradually redefine language until there are certain thoughts you can no longer think because the words no longer exist for it. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll go with the conservative approach to linguistics and take my words as they are and let them develop naturally.

I, personally, think it's pretty arrogant to decide you're smart enough to tell everyone, not only how they should think, but also how they should speak.  I don't trust people like that to describe the language honestly to me. I checked Anu Garg's home website and found a list of his favorite links. They include:

American Civil Liberties Union

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Natural Resources Defense Council
Amnesty International
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Americans United for Separation of Church and State
Vegan Outreach
Nature Institute
The Humane Society of the United States
Freedom from Religion Foundation

Not really a surprise given his rhetoric. I've subscribed for less than a week and already picked up on his political leanings.  And, I don't have a problem with someone being a leftist and being open about his politics. I do have a problem with his disdain for my opinions, my faith and my intelligence. I actually have sympathy for some of his causes. I believe in the separation of church and state, but NOT the elemination of church by the state. I think Vegan and vegetarian diets are quite healthy and my own church practices it (we live, on average, ten years longer than other Americans as a result).  I'm all with the humane society's work to rescue mistreated animals. There are places where someone like Anu Garg and I can join forces and do some good.

Unfortunately, when someone like Anu treats my own beliefs with contempt, I lose all interest in hearing his opinion on other subjects.

UPDATE: I canceled my subscription to Word-A-Day. Fortunately, in capitalist America there is always competiton.  I just signed up for Merriam Webster's Word of the Day.  Today's word from Webster:  DECRY.  Decry means to desparage, belittle or express a low opinion of, which is, ironically, why Word-A-Day lost me as a subscriber. They belittled my faith and while Anu Garg has every right to do so, I also have every right not to support his doing so by viewing his advertising.

I just love free market capitalism.

Tom King

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