Archives for posts with tag: moderate

A word is a unit of language, a sound or a combination of sounds, that functions as a principal carrier of meaning. At least that is the definition. However, there are many words that I hear which do not fulfill that purpose. Meaningless words.

I know that the meaning of words can change over time. And words can have multiple meanings depending on context and a variety of other factors. But a word ought to mean something.

Homer, the legendary author of The Iliad and the Odyssey said, “Words empty as the wind are best left unsaid.” I agree. Yet in everyday conversation and in the media I often wonder exactly what is the point of the word or phrase that is used.

In Little Women, Louisa May Alcott said, “I like good strong words that mean something…” Me too, but daily I am bombarded with meaningless words.

For example, there is a commercial for an adult beverage that claims to be “colder, crisper, and cleaner.” A drink? A financial institution claims it is “the bank of here.” Not the bank of “there.” OK. A fast food chain urges you to “Eat like you mean it.” Huh? A popular hotel chain’s tag line is “Travel should take you places.” Duh! Meaningless words.

Also there are the words and expressions that we toss around without any intended purpose. “Bless your heart” certainly is not what it sounds like most of the time. Caroline Rogers, in Southern Living, says “It’s a versatile phrase that has a thousand meanings—and just as many possible responses. Southerners know that the meaning of the phrase depends on the tone in which it’s spoken, and a slight change in inflection or volume can make all the difference.” Meaningless words.

Another expression used by us Southerners is “Y’all come to see us.” That is just a friendly way to say goodbye. We don’t have any expectation of the person following up and actually paying us a visit. Meaningless words.

When I make a purchase at Home Depot or pay for my meal at Wendy’s drive-through window I am likely to hear “Have a good day” or more often than not it is “Have a good ‘un” as I leave. Meaningless words.

The Huffington Post suggests that “Our everyday language has become littered with terms, so nondescript and ubiquitous that we barely even register their presence.” The writer goes on to list the 12 words that have been so overused they really don’t mean anything anymore: literally, unique, awesome, amazing, totally, basically, incredible, really, very, and honestly.

Conversations and writings often utilize words like liberal, conservative, moderate, and progressive. The meaning of each of those words is so loaded according to the individual’s political, social, or religious position. Seventy years ago, George Orwell wrote the prophetic essay, “Politics and the English Language,” in which he noted that politicians, journalists and academics were increasingly using meaningless words and euphemisms to make “lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and… give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” I wonder what Orwell would say today.

I wonder if “Christian” is in danger of suffering the same fate.

Jamie Jenkins

What are other meaningless words?

Do you think “Christian” is becoming a meaningless word?

 

In light of the horror of this past week in Paris, there are many calls to fight fire with fire. An eye for an eye. It is easy to understand this attitude in its context. Certainly someone needs to be held accountable and there must be consequences for this senseless slaughter. A reasoned but firm response is necessary but knee jerk reactions often result in undesirable unintended consequences rather than  a solution to the problem.

The growing threat of ISIS must be confronted. We cannot ignore it but we must be “wise as serpents and harmless as doves” in our response.

In a recent Republican Presidential Candidate debate Sen. Marco Rubio was accused of being a “closet moderate.” This designation was not delivered as a compliment but a criticism. Perhaps the criticism was not about Rubio’s position but the fact that he has disguised or hidden his real feelings. If he has not been open and transparent, I suppose that is valid criticism.

We live in a time where militant, fanatical individuals and groups seem to get all the spotlight. Radicalism and extremism are on the rise and are dangerous. The voice of reason often gives in to those who would “bomb the ____ out of them.”

“The strength of democratic societies

relies on their capacity to know how

to stand firm against extremism while

respecting justice in the means used to fight terrorism.”

(Tariq Ramadan)

Religious and political radicals represent only a fringe element but they cause much harm. I am not speaking only of Islamic radicals although there is reason to be alarmed about them. Extremists pose real danger whether they are white supremacists or fundamentalist Muslims. Devotees to any religion or political faction who advocate for destruction of those who are different from them are cause for alarm.

When I refer to “radicals” and extremists” I am not suggesting that strong commitment to a cause or belief system is a bad thing. However, when that commitment marginalizes, endangers, or destroys anyone, it is wrong.

Dwight Eisenhower

“Extremes to the right and to the left of any political dispute are always wrong.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower

People who represent extreme perspectives can be helpful. The presence of strongly divergent opinions can cause us to begin to see and understand things that would otherwise be beyond our comprehension. Mutual respect and civil discourse among people who disagree can lead to heighted awareness and constructive change. But hateful and derogatory language and actions cause pain and foster further division.

 “If we destroy human rights and rule of law

in the response to terrorism, they have won.”

-Joichi Ito

A “moderate” is one who stands between two extremes. Is that a bad thing? Dictionaries define “moderate” with the following terms: reasonable, sensible, restrained, fair, temperate, judicious. These seem to be attributes that would be viewed favorably by most decent people.

Clint Eastwood

“Extremism is so easy. You’ve got your position and that’s it.

It doesn’t take much thought.

And when you go far enough to the right

you meet the idiots coming around from the left.”

-Clint Eastwood

Things often appear to be “right or wrong” but many times the truth is somewhere between the two extremes. The person who is a centrist (moderate) sees the value of seemingly opposite opinions and attempts to effect a synthesis of perspectives that is more balanced. Perhaps everything is not “either/or.” Maybe a better position often is “both/and.”

Let us pray and work for peace as we strive to protect the freedoms that we enjoy and believe is the right of every human being.

Jamie Jenkins