Friday, May 18, 2007

It Matters How You Say It

My local paper occasionally has an opinion piece by Cal Thomas, who once was a vice-president of the Moral Majority. When I read him, I do so to get my adrenalin going for the day, since I usually find that his ideas range from the noxious to the nauseous. A recent contribution illustrates how something is said itself may distort the meaning and reality of what is being described. He notes the outrage of religious conservative at "liberal intrusions into their sacred traditions" since the 1960's, offering the outlawing of state-sponsored prayer in public school and the legalization of abortion as examples. One might rephrase this thought by speaking of conservative anxiety and hostility arising out of cultural nostalgia for the values, laws, customs, and mores of the the 1950's that were changing in law and practice.
He also opines that long ago most liberal theologians had baptized the earthly agenda of the Democratic Party instead of preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. That too could be said another way. I would urge, for example, that liberals were in favor of racial justice, the equal rights of women, gays, and lesbians in law and practice, the freedom of women to choose an abortion, more economic opportunities and equality for the poor, and the like and found that the Democratic Party offered the best available-- though not perfect -- practical instrument for advancing these goals.
The language we use to express our values provides an opportunity to insert our biases in ways that introduce distortions of the factual reality into our social philosophy under the guise of merely stating our moral and political convictions. The applies to all parties in the conversation -- conservatives, liberals, and others alike. This is just another example of how original sin distorts the truth and deceives the innocent.
So let the reader be aware of what they are reading and writers of what they are writing.

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