Thursday, March 29, 2012

The War on Words

            We live in an era of an advanced war on words.  The meaning of words is constantly being redefined.  We live in a world where the exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty over the meaning of words occurs daily.  
           "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. "It means just what I choose it   
           to mean - neither more or less."
          "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
          "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is master - that's all."
Common usage of words is no longer the master.  In such a world it is important to reclaim the meaning of words before they have no meaning at all.  But too often they pass by us without comment.

Ann Furedi, head of the pro-abortion British Pregnancy Advisory Service, said in a debate last year "There is nothing magical about passing through the birth canal that transforms it from a fetus into a person."  If one accepts her definition of "fetus", who knows that the definition of "baby" becomes, for it is in the actual process of birth that the fetus becomes a baby.  Such redefinitions place us on a slippery slope as to the impact of meanings.  "Pro-choice" has come to mean "anti-choice" as most of its advocates adamantly oppose allowing mothers-to-be to have all available options before them.

The biggest battle going on today is over the definition of the freedom of religion which is protected in the Bill or Rights.  Some have attempted to make the statement plural, allowing for freedom of religions.  This changes the meaning of freedom of religion to "I have the freedom to be a Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim, or a Buddhist, etc."  It takes the concept of pro-choice in its true meaning, the ability to choose among competing options.

There are also many today who are attempting to redefine freedom of religion as freedom of worship, claiming that they are the same.  But there is a vast gulf between them.  Freedom of worship gives us the right to freely attend the place of worship of our choice for one hour a week.  I can express my religious vies in church, but someone else can tell me what should influence my life and beliefs the rest of the week.  It offers no protection during the remaining 167 hours of the week.  My religious values and conscientious stance can be negated once I am outside the confines of the church building.  Using the analogy of clothing for religious values, it would be like having to strip at the church doors and walk out into the parking lot naked, remaining that way until reentering the church the following Sunday.  Effectively this is what the redefinition of religious freedom to be freedom of worship does.

Freedom of religion, on the other hand, is concerned with the living of all of life based on religious convictions and moral values.  It affects all areas of our lives, day in and day out.  It allows us to make choices based upon our religious convictions without fearing consequences.

It is unfortunate that in the latter half of the twentieth century many Christians acted more as if they had freedom of worship, with their religious life having a negligible impact of their daily lives.  If we continue to live this way, the attempted redefinition will become the new definition.  Those who base their lives on religious convictions will then suffer the most.  It is time to actively pursue what we want.  Is it freedom of worship or freedom of religion?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Cost of the Loss of Dignity

 The Jewish rabbi and moral philosopher, Abraham Heschel, speaking of mankind notes that
 “The cardinal problem is not the survival of religion, but the survival of man.  What is required is a continuous effort to overcome hardness of heart, callousness, and above all to inspire the world with the biblical image of man, not to forget that man without God is a torso, to prevent the dehumanization of man.  For the opposite of human is not the animal.  The opposite of human is the demonic.” 
Having escaped Warsaw, Poland just six weeks before the Nazis began their extermination of the European Jews, he mused that “I am a brand plucked from the fire of an altar of Satan on which millions of human lives were exterminated to evil’s greater glory…”  Nazism continued the process begun with the Enlightenment to exterminate Judaism, Christianity and the Bible from society.  Although it ultimately failed, the process continues today in academia’s, the media’s and Hollywood’s portrayal of Christianity as laughable, something to be scorned and done away with.  The derision and scorn heaped upon Tim Tebow during the Denver Bronco’s somewhat miraculous 2011 season point to how much Christianity is despised in media circles.  Bill Maher was quoted in Newsweek stating “Plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people.”  He likens the decisions made by religious people to the reading of entrails.

The loss of religion in decision making inevitably leads to depersonalization.  Mankind is seen as merely a cog in a great social machine.  His value is tied to his worth.  People without worth, such as the elderly, those with special needs, etc. have no value and can be cast aside.

Those who discount Christianity, have also done away with the Christian worldview of the nature of man.  Though fallen, there still remains in mankind the vestigial image of God.  Though a poor reflection of what was originally intended, it still remains.  This gives all people, whatever their race, creed, status, age or condition, dignity which must be affirmed and preserved.  One of the churches’ Mission should be to see that everyone’s dignity is affirmed.  As our modern world turns away from human dignity, this may prove to be the place where Christianity will see its greatest opportunity for advance in the twenty-first century.

 Heschel’s assertion that the loss of human dignity ushers in the demonic is worthy of consideration.  Satan’s goal is to destroy the image which God has placed in us.  His continual attempts to persuade us that we are mere animals through the view that we are merely an evolutionary by-product, through the callousness of abortion, through the utilitarian viewpoint that the aged and disabled are expendable, causes modern man’s view of dignity to fade over time.  Dignity is further lessened as relationships are destroyed, for dignity requires being in relationship with both God and our fellow man.  This loss of relationship is seen in the tragedies of divorce, particularly when women and their children are left destitute, and in spousal abandonment.  In each case relationships are destroyed and the persons cast off are left questioning their own worth.
God desires that we be in relationship with Him and each other.  He created us for that purpose, giving us dignity.  But for many, living in this disruptive, squalid world, dignity has been lost.  Part of the restoration with God involves the restoration of the  human person.  Are you willing to fight for human dignity?