The Power of Words

I do question and answer sessions with almost every group of people I work with, from sixth graders to hospice care. Everyone has questions, and while I don’t always have the answers, so many questions are repeated that I’m at the point where I’m actually pretty good with most questions.

This summer, I was asked a question that really had me thinking by a teen on a mission trip I was working on. Here’s their question, verbatim:

“How does the Church defend life when the term “fetus”, and not “human” is used?”

I had the answer for this, but I must admit to being quite saddened by the question. Not that this young person asked it, but that we live in a world that it COULD be asked. You might think I’m about to talk about abortion, I assure you, that is not the problem with this question. Abortion is a serious issue, but if you look closely, that is not what this young person is asking.

They were asking about words. They are asking about words in a way where words can change reality. In some ways, words CAN change reality, because our perception is very much a part of our world. My mother taught me to stop saying I was “scared”, and instead use the word, “excited”. The change of that simple word has opened up worlds of possibility for me.

To change the reality or truth of a thing with words though, that is a different matter. If I decided to no longer call those great suns in the distance “stars”, and instead decided to call them, “natural Christmas lights”, do they cease to become great suns in the distance? Of course not, they remain unchanged, regardless of what I call them.

In regards to the human person though, our society acts more and more as if our words to describe one another change the reality of our being.

Let me be clear on this:

This is the single greatest threat to the Church in the modern age.

It’s called Relativism. To put it in the simplest words possible, it is the idea that truth is “relative”, that whatever a person believes to be true, is true.

I find it maddening in this age of great science and technology that we can make so obvious and serious a blunder. No person would say, “I think my lights turn on by magic”, or “That might be a cat for you, but for me it’s a dog,” and have anyone take them seriously.

But this is precisely what we are doing with people, and we do it with religion too.

Let me be clear on this. A man is a man and a woman is a woman because their DNA says so, not because they feel like one or the other. A fetus is unique human individual for the same reason, and me feeling like it’s a human baby or not makes no difference. The universe came from somewhere, we may disagree on what we think that may be, but there is a real and true answer as to how we are here. Jesus either is God, or He isn’t, but He can’t be God for me, but not for you. Truth is a real thing, and no matter my feelings on the matter, I cannot change it. I’m not saying we should not take a persons feeling into account, I am merely saying they do not change what is true.

I can be wrong. I can think something is what it is not. I can think that 1+1=3. But to say it is three because I believe it is three is more than just nonsense, it goes against all reason and truth.

This is without a doubt the absolute pinnacle of human narcissism, to think that we am so central to the universe that we change its reality by changing our words. That with mere power of will, I could decide I am not a person, but am a flower, and have others decide that since it is true for me, then it must be really true.

If you think that religion is wrong and I’m a fool for believing it, I’m okay with that. Time will tell on that one, and I’m happy to present my arguments and listen to yours.

If you think it is true for me, but not for you, you have lost all logic and are becoming more like an animal than a human.

Beware this new world order. It bodes great evil. Never give in to it.

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