“In those days there was no king in Israel; all the people did what was right in their own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)
After much “enlightenment” and “progress”, endless “liberations” and “revolutions”, the world is plunging right back to where it was a few thousand years ago. The reasons for this decline are complex and multi-faceted, but one area where it can be seen fairly clearly, is in language and communication.
Without definitions and grammar, words become nothing more than mere scribbles or grunts, and if words have no meaning, then constitutions have no meaning, laws become lawless and codes impossible to codify. Paradoxically, a disordered vocabulary leads not to more freedom of speech, but to less and less speech. In places where words are meaningless, the more we speak, the less we say.
In a recent article, Dale Ahlquist, founder of the Chesterton Schools Network, writes that “reason means using words correctly… words that correspond to reality”, which that being true, means that attacks on language are not merely about semantics, they represent attacks on our perception of the world, our very own views of ourselves! It is not a coincidence that so many issues today revolve around identity. The following are some examples that illustrate attempts to distort reality:
- Justice-involved person (a criminal)
- Selective reduction (which baby you prefer to kill)
- Anti-racism (judge people based on the white contents of their skin)
- Birth control (as G.K. Chesterton described it, “with birth control, there is no birth, and there is no control”)
- Medical-assistance in dying or MAID (suicide with governmental help)
This sort of double-speak is found not only in government institutions, but also in popular culture and other areas of society. The Muslim Student Association in the US for example, changed their ever-popular “Anti-Zionism Week” to “Islamic Awareness Week”. The activities promoted that week didn’t change, however, with the name change, the objective of obliterating Israel is now considered a key part of the effort to be more diverse and inclusive. Abortion morgues (yes i purposely do not call them clinics) make use of two procedures to improve the health care of women. One is called D&E (dilation and evacuation) and the other is D&X (dilation and extraction). A D&E is a late-term abortion whereby the alleged doctor crushes the baby’s skull in the uterus with a forceps, then dismembers the baby and extracts it. A D&X is also a late-term abortion, but in this one, the “doctor” pulls the baby through the birth canal by its feet, then cuts a hole in its skull and sucks out his brains, removing the corpse afterwards. Planned Parenthood, a leader in planning child-free parenting, assures us these procedures are safe and 100% effective.
Even Harry Potter couldn’t resist the spell. Michael O’Brien in his book “Harry Potter and the paganization of culture”, explains that in Potter’s herbology class, “students grow plants that are used in the potions – the roots of the mandrake plant, for example, are small human-like babies who scream when they are uprooted for transplanting, and are grown for the purpose of being cut to pieces and boiled in a magical potion.” Of course, every child knows that if it looks like a baby, sounds like a baby, it must be a….plant. As Hamlet said, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking it makes it so”.
Michael Knowles, author of a wordless best-seller, writes in his latest book “Speechless” that “the central strategy of political correctness (is) control the words, control the culture.” Force people to use only pre-approved terms and soon they can only articulate preconceived ideas. The secular world’s use of political correctness is the godless equivalent of sharia-based blasphemy laws. This inevitably leads to what Josef Pieper described as “abuse of language”, whereby “from one moment to the next, the human relationship between the speaker and the listener changes.” The relationship changes because it is no longer grounded in truth and reality, but in power.
In one of my all-time favourites books, Animal Farm, there is an episode where the peasant animals question the newly in-charge revolutionary pigs about their use of the beds, formerly belonging to the evil human land lords. It had been decreed in the immediate aftermath of the revolution by those very same pigs, that no animal should sleep in a bed. The pigs’ response was as follows: “You did not suppose, surely, that there was ever a ruling against beds? A bed merely means a place to sleep in. A pile of straw in a stall is a bed, properly regarded. The rule was against sheets, which is a human invention. We have removed the sheets from the farmhouse beds, and sleep between blankets.” The beds did not change, but the meaning of the word bed was arbitrarily expanded by the ones in power. The pigs held on to that power by manipulating words and a little help from a few “well-trained” guard dogs.
Back in the “Speechless’, the author warns us that “sometimes political correctness speaks the language of radical individualism, and other times it demands collectivism, but it always seeks to disrupt the family…”. This may be because as saint John-Paul 2 said, “the family is like an ecclesiola, a little church.”. Authoritarian regimes have no room for little or big churches, unless they are given authority (power) over them. This means selecting bishops for the big church and providing a “village” for the little church. Except for your kids’ souls, the latter will be provided at little to no cost, however, the moment the big or little church begins to talk of a Supreme Authority, the authorized authorities are sent out. These leading experts will ensure you have all the necessary expertise to understand there are real consequences to your words. In case of speaking emergencies, it may even cause frozen bank accounts.
In previous Russian-occupied Poland, the puppet Jaruzelski government labelled Father Jerzy Popieluszko a “political fanatic, an agitator whose Masses resembled hate meetings” and finally listed him under a group of “extremist priests”. This was 1983. Today, he would be told not to politicize the Eucharist and to stop offending the diverse group of communist people, because they are made in the image and likeness of God, and are loved by God. In the spirit of diversity and inclusiveness, he would be encouraged to fly the hammer and sickle flag, not only in Church towers, but in all diocesan schools. Blessed Jerzy Popieluszko, despite threats to his life, proclaimed in one his last homilies that “Fear is the greatest failing of an apostle; it restricts the heart and contracts the throat.” In other words, when we stop loving and we stop speaking, we fail in our mission to “go and make disciples” (Mt 28:19-20).
St Paul tells us in his letter to the Corinthians (2 Cor 6:1-11), that we fight with “truthful speech” and “the weapons of righteousness”. Our choices are not left or right, it’s either right or wrong. Political correctness is fought with truth, which is a concrete Person not an abstraction. As Dr Peter Kreeft remarked in one of his trademark observations, “it’s easier to love humanity rather than your neighbour”. He also added, “Judas was the first bishop to accept a government grant.”, a statement which made me reflect on the zealous desire and determination to close our parishes, demonstrated by a few Canadian bishops.
In a war of words, our best weapon is the “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God”, as St Paul tells the Ephesians. (Ephe 6:10-18). A sword of course, is designed for combat not farming or fishing, but even if misused, the sword never stops being a sword, a concept of particular importance in today’s culture. The sword also needs to be kept sharp in order to remain most effective. The sharpening stone is to the metal blade, what interpretation is to the Word of God. Imagine reading the Bread of Life discourse without a reference – we’d be blood-drinking cannibals!! (this is one of the actual accusations the ruling Roman elite slandered Catholics with during the period of the early Church, an accusation that occasionally gets resurfaced even today).
Words and interpretation play a crucial role in helping us understand Divine Law, as well as, secular law. In a recent example, the controversial Roe vs Wade decision was overturned largely on the basis of the interpretation of the original meaning of the American constitution. Just like secular law relies on precedents to avoid contradictory understandings, the Word of God relies on Tradition to safeguard the intent and meaning of Revelation. It is no coincidence that beside fishermen, Jesus also picked a scribe and a scholar to follow Him, as it’s difficult to evangelize people without talking to them or to remember what was said. Not everyone can memorize 73 books of the Bible. Words without action on the other hand, become hollow and get swept with every wind of doctrine, so as typical of Catholic tradition, we need both action and words, faith and reason, which St JP2 described as “two wings upon which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth“.
It is worth remembering that, “In the beginning was the Word: the Word was with God and the Word was God.” Jn 1:1
St Joseph – pray for us.
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