Words Make or Break Culture
Dr. Paul Dean is a pastor, cultural commentator, and author. He serves as a Regional Mentor with the International Association of Biblical Counselors, speaks at several conferences throughout the year, and provides training for ministers and churches on a regular basis. Paul resides in the Upstate of South Carolina with his wife and three children.
- 2019 Aug 23
Here’s a word about words. Words have meaning, though they have no meaning apart from God. They can’t. Apart from God there is no standard. It’s a worldview issue, and when that worldview is rejected, the results are destructive, not only at an individual level, but at a cultural level as well. That’s why the meaning of words shouldn’t be blurred or hijacked.
I was enjoying ESPN radio in the car. The subject was a new football league, and the comment was, “We got a lot of hate yesterday concerning the names of some of the teams.” The fact is that some folks didn’t like some of the names. That’s not hate; that’s preference. But in our culture, we use the word hate loosely. “Why you wanna hate on me, dog?” Or, “You think same-sex sex is wrong? You, hater!” It doesn’t matter that a person can love someone despite thinking their lifestyle is wrong. The word is sometimes slang; the speaker is sometimes lazy; the term is sometimes used as a political baseball bat. So, people who express different preferences from you are haters. People who take verbal jabs at their friends are haters. People who love are haters. People on the opposite side of an issue are haters. Everyone’s a hater. That’s the first problem.
The second problem is that those who are called haters, but who aren’t really, are now labeled. They’re demonized. When you’re labeled or demonized, it follows you. You’re now viewed as a hater, or a rapist. Boy meets girl. Boy and girl get drunk and have consensual sex. Girl wakes up and regrets her decision. She says, “Boy raped me.” He’s now a rapist. But he’s not really. But he is because our mixed-up culture says he is. Because words are being emptied of their meaning. It’s a raping of the English language. Boy’s life is ruined, and culture as a whole is ruined. Words have meaning and those new meanings translate into ideas: cultural ideas. Wars are fought, governments are raised or toppled, and cultures are created or destroyed by ideas. If you’re a white male, you’re a racist, not because you hate or oppress members of another race, but simply because you’re white. And by the way, because you’re white and because you’re a racist, you’re also a hater.
The third problem is that words like hate, rape, and racism are words that truly describe horrific things. But those words are robbed or their meaning and power when they’re used casually or politically rather than accurately. We fail to the see the actual horror of hate, rape, or racism. Beyond that, those who’ve truly experienced the evils of hate, rape, or racism are diminished. The one who’s team name is mocked and the one who’s beaten for being gay have experienced the same thing. Girl who seduced Boy into consensual sex and decides afterward she’s made a mistake and the girl violently attacked in an ally, forced to have sex, and left for dead, have both experienced the same thing. The black guy who didn’t get special treatment from a white guy and the guy who couldn't get hired by the good ole boy town network because he’s black have experienced the same thing. In such a context, rationality is gone with the wind.
Of course, rationality requires a standard, as do all things like communication, law, ethics, morality, societal cohesion, etc. When a culture casts off God, it casts off the standard. That is to say it casts off the true standard in exchange for arbitrary standards, which are nothing more than opinions that change with the prevailing winds and whims of selfish and inconsistent people. Only the biblical worldview makes sense of our world and provides a basis for truth, morality, and ethical standards. On that worldview, hate, rape, and racism have real meaning. On any other worldview, they have no meaning and culture devolves into chaos. There is no standard. Everything becomes a matter of opinion, and the goal becomes gathering enough people to your opinion to exert power over those who don’t share your opinion, in other words, oppression. Such a dynamic, oddly enough, is rooted in hate. Of course, those engaged in it have no idea because they destroyed the meaning of hate a long time ago.