For our word feature today, we are going to post something that could be taken as rather negative. But truth is truth, and the truth is always positive, also when it exposes the lie in negative terms.
I found this online article by Kim Holmes in the July 5, 2015 “Daily Signal” (Heritage Foundation’s daily commentary) about Supreme Court Justice John Robert’s distorted use of language in the recent Obamacare decision to be quite revealing. And I think my readers will agree. It touches on something vitally important in our postmodern – and, I might add, post-Christian – world.
Can we agree, therefore, to maintain (and practice!) that words must mean what they are intended to convey? There is, after all, objective reality in words too. And we cannot function properly without such objectivity. Just consider the collection of words in the image I chose. Can “Michigan” – to take one example – mean whatever I want it to mean? Can the meaning of that word change from decade to decade? You get the point.
And shall we not then be a people who “speak the truth in love” no matter what the issue is and to whom we are speaking it? Our Lord had something to say to this too when He said in his great sermon, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt.5:37).
Here’s the beginning of Holmes’ article. Find all of it at the link above.
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s lament last week that “words no longer have meaning” got me to thinking. I don’t claim to know Chief Justice John Roberts’ motivations in deciding in favor of Obamacare, but I do know that his deconstruction of the meaning of language is increasingly commonplace in our culture. Could his willingness to bend the meaning of the word “states” indicate something larger than what’s happening to the law? Could it actually be a sign of a major cultural shift in the country?
Welcome to postmodern America. For decades now, we have been living in a culture where the meaning of words is stretched almost beyond recognition. “Metanarratives” ring truer than actual facts. Self-prescribed identities trump everything, including nature. A white woman can blithely claim she is black, but when challenged, the only thing she can muster in her defense is irritable confusion and a declaration of how she “identifies.” A man announces he’s a woman and is celebrated as a hero.
Chief Justice Roberts may have had legal and political reasons for ignoring the common usage of words, but it is hard to escape the conclusion that, like so many others in our culture, he felt that being a stickler for a word’s actual meaning was just pedantic, a trivial matter when compared to the importance of some larger cause—in his case, delivering what he thought Congress really intended.
And why should we blame him? After all, if the prevailing wisdom says that a person’s gender or race is what he or she says it is, then why fuss over the meaning of the word “states”? Words mean what we say they mean, right?