“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
— John 1:1-3
Words have enormous power. In a biblical sense, they define our relationship to God. They are “the way, the truth, and the light” by which we live, walk, and seek His grace.
As Christians, that is our faith. Yet, as it happens so often with human beings, still calling ourselves Christians, we take this simple faith and make of it a farce.
A common way of doing so is through the selective interpretation of Scripture. And, in the affairs of this world, twisting words and combinations of words to frame ideas that, as Rudyard Kipling says, “make a trap for fools.”
We define ourselves as a Christian nation. Yet, many of our individual and group behaviors are decidedly un-Christian. Nowhere is this more evident than in our national political leaders and the public policies they espouse.
Here are a few examples of how words have been twisted, or framed, to persuade huge segments of the general population to think one way or another, for or against:
- Debt — try living without it, especially without income.
- Affirmative Action — the public has been led to believe that affirmative action programs are designed to get underachieving blacks into better colleges and universities or better job positions.
This is true in spite of the well documented fact that white women are by far the biggest beneficiaries of affirmative action programs. Yet, the perception persists, and for what reason I am completely unclear.
There is similar misinformation about such things as food stamps, welfare, Medicaid and other programs designed to help all Americans who are in need. Why put a black face on it? What’s up with that?
- Obamacare — the real name of this program is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. It was called “Obamacare” as a way of directly linking it to all the hot button rhetoric used in the conservative effort to overturn the Act, not on its merits or lack thereof, but out of the openly publicized effort by right-wing politicians to get Obama out of office at any cost.
- Right-to-lifers — I think this group is also referred to as pro-life. What is problematic is that the group comprises many Bible-thumping evangelicals. They weep at the thought of aborting a fetus from the moment of conception, and cheer when it comes to adult criminal executions. What happened to “judge not, lest ye be judged,” and “Thou shalt not kill?”
- Gun control — speaking of not killing, now here’s an interesting case. From what I hear, millions of Americans (Christians, too!) are buying guns and ammunition so fast the gun stores can’t keep up with the demand. And I don’t mean BB guns and BBs. Some are buying military-style assault weapons.
What is interesting to me is that the entire debate has been improperly framed. Part of my interest stems from the fact that I know politicians on all sides spend millions on focus groups, surveys, and other means, e.g., opinion polls, to determine the best way to frame their argument. But, somehow, they got it framed wrong.
The political debate, again, on all sides, is not about gun control, per se, but gun safety. As a result this mis-framing, however, the rush to buy firearms is a lot more serious than your next-door neighbor buying a gun to defend his or her family. Instead, it is the proliferation, explosion really, of militia groups across America who truly believe the government is positioning itself to take away their guns! Ain’t that a Rush?
I must admit, though, it is possible to come to another conclusion on this one. Could it be that the mis-framing was deliberate? It sure makes for better television news reporting, and it gives the NRA exactly what they want — a Second Amendment knee-jerk from gun owners throughout the country. I don’t know, but it is possible.
In closing, I guess the reality is that, in the press of the great changes sweeping society, we have lost our moral compass. As old Benjamin Franklin once suggested, we are giving up liberty for security, placing both at risk.
Has anyone ever heard of prayer? Words have power, you know. Or have we, cloaked in deepest fear, lost our ability to pray and, in our wanderings, lost our way to God?
Have a nice day.
Anderson resident Primus Mootry is a retired school teacher. His column appears Wednesdays in The Herald Bulletin.