Long before my lofty aspirations to software design and pastoral ministry, I harbored thoughts of another noble, yet more humble vocation – that of the garbage man. Every Tuesday was trash day on Inca Court. I would help my dad carry the cans to the curb before he left for work and then I would eagerly await the arrival of the trash truck, sitting by the curb to get a front row seat for the action. I dreamed of donning an orange jump-suit and swinging from the back of the truck as it moved from house to house. I was not discouraged by the distinctive aroma. Nothing seemed more sensible and adventurous than being a garbage-man. Though we cannot call them that now. The simplicity of their craft is now obscured by titles such as “sanitation engineer.” Ironically, by elevating the language of their craft we show contempt for their vocation.
A “euphemism” is the use of language to make the unpalatable, palatable. But we call it “spin” or “political correctness.” It is the art of using pleasant speech to transform what is morally repugnant to something we can more conscientiously ignore. For example, the rhetoric of abortion-rights advocates is rife with euphemism – and indeed depends upon it. Labels such as “pro-choice,” “Planned Parenthood,” “women’s rights,” and “reproductive health” are utterly disingenuous. Nothing is further from the minds of abortion providers than parenthood. And in what way can killing your offspring be considered “reproductive health?” And what about the choice and rights of unborn women?
Christian apologist, Ravi Zacharias, commenting on the Tower of Babel, conjectured that God confused the languages of the people because they used their words to create a rival reality to the one He revealed through His Word. Spin, political correctness, and euphemism are sedatives we take from the hard realities of sin and responsibility. No one expresses euphemism’s deceitfulness, quite like G. K. Chesterton. The quote is long, but worth the read.
Most Eugenists are Euphemists. I mean merely that short words startle them, while long words soothe them. And they are utterly incapable of translating the one into the other, however obviously they mean the same thing. Say to them “The persuasive and even coercive powers of the citizen should enable him to make sure that the burden of longevity in the previous generation does not become disproportionate and intolerable, especially to the females”; say this to them and they will sway slightly to and fro like babies sent to sleep in cradles. Say to them “Murder your mother,” and they sit up quite suddenly. Yet the two sentences, in cold logic, are exactly the same. Say to them “It is not improbable that a period may arrive when the narrow if once useful distinction between the anthropoid homo and the other animals, which has been modified on so many moral points, may be modified also even in regard to the important question of the extension of human diet”; say this to them, and beauty born of murmuring sound will pass into their face. But say to them, in a simple, manly, hearty way “Let’s eat a man!” and their surprise is quite surprising. Yet the sentences say just the same thing. — G. K. Chesterton, Eugenics and Other Evils
But spin and euphemism thrive in the church as much as in culture. Phrases such as “open minds” and “affirming” and “ecumenical” are code-words for elevating the opinions of man and the norms of culture over the authority of God’s Word. Like the men of Jeremiah’s day we love our idols. We don’t call them idols, of course, but we install them in our churches and use double-speak to legitimize them. What we fail to grasp is that our idols – traditionalism, works-righteousness, money, entertainment, affirmation, felt-needs, cultural relevance, church growth, etc. – will consume us. Like invasive weeds, they crowd out vibrant, gracious Christian living and drain us dry.
There is no spin in Jeremiah’s words. He speaks plainly and directly without any attempt to sugar-coat his message. God’s people had abandoned the Lord for every conceivable idol. Now God will abandon them to judgment. They are beyond repentance. In one of the Bible’s most terrifying passages — Jeremiah 7-8 — the prophet pulls back the curtain and shows the deadly effect of turning your back on God. For the men of Judah, it is too late to turn back. They have gone too far. Even the prophet is forbidden to pray for them. But it is not too late for you. God gives this warning so you will turn back to Him. Time and time again, the Scripture declares, “Today is the day of salvation.”
Join us this Sunday, August 25 as we consider from Jeremiah 7:16-8:3 what is ahead for those who are walking away from God and will not turn back. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions. Come with a friend and join us for fellowship and worship. We look forward to seeing you there.