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Braking Points

Exploring the Adventure of Aging

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semantics

Thanksgiving Day Seventeen 2015

When I was studying at the University of Tulsa, I took an elective course in Semantics.  It was known to be an easy ‘A’, but BORING.  While fellow students openly snoozed around me, I plopped myself in the front row, soaking up the history of the meaning of words, how meaning changes so that some meanings become archaic.  I began to understand why Latin was a dead language, word meanings never change, and English was a living language, adding new words and changing word meanings.  Once a nerd, always a nerd.

I am also a RADICAL in the manner of Billy Graham, who once in the 1950’s had a choir at one of his rallies in the South that was decidedly mixed races.  Concerned citizens counseled Dr. Graham that to not continue with the plan.  One even told him ‘he would set Christianity back a hundred years.’  To which, Dr. Graham replied, ‘that would be a shame.  I intended to set it back 2000 years.’

This morning this scripture,

“Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe.

The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.

I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

I and the Father are one.”
‭‭John‬ ‭10:25-30‬ ‭NIV‬‬,

was in my devotion from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.

The word that popped into my head to describe Jesus was ‘Radical‘.  Not a popular description in today’s world, but I couldn’t shake it.

Jesus was speaking to religious leaders, who were appalled by his inflammatory statements, his challenges of the status quo, by the way he talked to them.  Frankly, the charge that they were not his sheep probably thrilled them since everyone knew how stupid sheep are unlike goats who are clever little fellows, independent rascals.  I am really editorializing here.

Anyway I did what I often do which was to follow the etymology of the word from the root, which by the way is what the latin word meant.

“Late 14c., in a medieval philosophical sense, from Late Latin radicalis “of or having roots,” from Latin radix (genitive radicis) “root” (see radish ). Meaning “going to the origin, essential” is from 1650s. Radical sign in mathematics is from 1680s”

As an aside, interesting to me, but undoubtedly not a lot of folks, one antonym for radical is superficial.

Jesus challenged the deviations and misinterpretations prevalent in religious practices of the Jewish leaders, with its ceremony, exclusiveness, and legalism.  Not what God had intended.  While the years of captivity in Babylon and then under the Persians had wiped out every trace of polytheism establishing the Jews as absolutely monotheistic,  the human response was to slam the doors to foreign influence and rigidly enforce the LAW.  To deviate or allow for flexibility might bring again the wrath of God.  These were not leaders who could allow a teacher (rabbi) from a decidedly mixed region to heal on the Sabbath or equate himself with God.

The sheep might follow and be led off a cliff, but the old goats, who enforced Jewish Law without any mercy on their fellow Jews, would not.  And yet later and even today many of the old goats both Jews and Gentiles have been transformed into yielding sheep.

Good to know, Even Sheep have bad hair days.
Good to know, Even Sheep have bad hair days.

I am a radical sheep following with my eyes wide open, my ears alert, and my heart struggling to beat in rhythm with the  Radical Shepherd, I follow.  I get distracted.  I hear other voices.  I don’t always love or pray for my enemy…or even worse, my friends.  But I have heard his voice and I know that only he has the words of life.

So today I am thankful to be a RADICAL dumb sheep following the One who said, ‘By this they will know you are my dumb sheep because you will love one another as I have loved you.’  [paraphrase, completely Carolyn]

Beats Superficial anytime!

 

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Questions from a Friend: 2. How important is political correctness?

Following up on Jeff M. of Louisville, KY questions posted the on Facebook:

“So, I have a few questions for you: Do you think we can or should legislate tolerance or morality? How important is political correctness? Can intolerance promote tolerance? Can violence promote peace? Do you hesitate expressing your view here and if so, why?”

image

First, a short history lesson, in the 1960’s bolstered by academia, identity politics, feminism, etc., a linguistic turn occurred in an attempt to change social reality by changing language so that it was more culturally inclusive and gender-neutral. New terms were introduced to leave behind discriminatory language and to make older terms “taboo” often labeling them as “hate speech”.

Since that first fledgling movement introduced political correct (PC) replacements others have become popular to the point that I, no longer am short, instead I am “vertically challenged”. And even at that the initial PC terminology has evolved with the first terms becoming outdated and insensitive. For example, individuals who had cognitive brain disorders were referred to as fools or idiots prior to PC terms and admittedly these terms sound derogatory, so now we just use them as low level profanity, as in “those idiot drivers”. The first term introduced was “mentally retarded” to be replaced by “mentally challenged”, rendering the first replacement as less sensitive. Or I no longer am a redskin, a person of American Indian heritage, instead I am of Native American ancestory.

I started to write that no one in my family nor I ever used the “N” word and then I remembered the original words to “Ring around the Rosie”, so I will simply say I never heard nor did I use the “N” word with knowledge of it being “hate speech”, but I do know it now. Back in Frederick, OK where I grew up, we used the terms Negro or “colored” but as a child of the 1950 and 60’s, I quickly became aware that there was a great divide and that divide was wrong. Did the PC term “Black” which later became “African-American” bridge the divide? I think the jury is still out on that, because racism is still a “fungus among us”.

I took a course in Semantics at the University of Tulsa in the 1970’s where I came to understand that English like most languages is a living language with ever changing definitions of words and even with new words, hence words like “selfie” making the dictionary. Words change and yes, words do influence thought and behavior, but do they change the center of a person’s being? Can linguistics alter the tribe like tendencies of the human? In some ways I embrace the PC terminology because I think it centers with my Christian faith. The Bible is full of admonishments related to misuse of God’s name, calling others fools, speaking unkindly of both friend and enemy, and James puts it like this:

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. “(James 3:9-12 NIV)

And yet, the BIBLE would not past muster with PC purists. The Bible calls “errors in judgement and bad choices” and even culturally and PC acceptable life styles: SIN. And still in a time when Men truly dominated Women, the Bible tells us that in His IMAGE, He created them, Male and Female, he created them. Jesus defied the PC police of his day, the Pharisees and Sadducees, He touched women and lepers and ate with rift raft. Clearly, He loved all people enough to die for all, even the PC police of his day.

I am growing older day by day but if I can grow in love that considers how I say something and if I choose to use kind, compassionate, gentle words instead of ugly hateful speech, You can call it what you want to, PC even. But I still know that speaking the Truth is important and that to tolerate everything is to weaken myself, my family, my friends, my country and my world. Worse than that failing to identify sin as sin might cause someone to choose destruction rather than life.

So frankly while I use gender neutral terms most often, I still break down and use “cowboy” or “cowgirl” instead of “cowperson”. Likewise, I am not offended when referred to as a “short old lady” instead of the PC phrase “vertically challenged senior” or “petite woman of a certain age”. If I am missing, whatever phrase gets me home safe is the one I want broadcast, with my most recent picture and not one of that skinny young thing I was 25 years ago.

Photo attached.

Selfie May 27, 2014
Selfie May 27, 2014

Next: Can intolerance promote tolerance?

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