Banned words

by Dave Burchett
Posted on Monday, August 10, 2009, at 4:08 pm

An eye-opening book titled The Language Police lists about 500 words that are banned from school textbooks. Some are amusing, some stupid (probably a banned word), and some are chilling. Here is a very partial list of banned words:

  • Founding Fathers---Banned as sexist. Replace with Founders or Framers. (Because we would not want to note that the men who wrote the documents were men)
  • Caveman---Banned as sexist, replace with cave dweller. (Wonder if that makes the Geico Cave . . . uhhh . . . dweller feel a little better?)
  • Disadvantaged---Banned, replace with reference to the resources or rights that are absent in an individual's life circumstances. (Example: Dave cannot sing because of resources that are absent in his individual life circumstance. Like talent.)
  • Courageous---Banned as patronizing when referring to persons with disabilities. (Some of the most courageous people I know are those who are disabled. I really don't get this one.)
  • God---Banned for being . . . steady yourself . . . too religious. (I can't even muster the strength to respond.)
  • Lunatic---Banned as offensive, replace with person with a psychiatric illness. (C.S. Lewis would have to change his famous argument about Jesus being Lord, liar, or lunatic. His PC argument would be something like this: Is the revered moral teacher a higher power, untrustworthy source, or person with a psychiatric illness? Kind of loses its pizzazz doesn't it?
  • Soda---Banned for regional bias, replace with Coke, Pepsi. (Seriously? Regional bias? I grew up drinking "pop" and moved to "Coke" territory. That has not been my biggest life issue so far.)
  • Teenager---Banned, replace with adolescent. (I was all for banning teenagers at various times in my household. Especially when they acted like lunatics.)

I fear that we might subtly be doing the same thing with our Christian language. CNN's Larry King asked a famous television preacher if he used the word "sinner." (I don't use the preacher's name because I would get bombarded by his fans who would ignore my point entirely.) Here's the upbeat preacher's reply:

"I never thought about [using the word 'sinners'], but I probably don't. Most people already know what they're doing wrong. When I get them to church, I want to tell them that you can change."

But how can you be cured if you don't know the disease? I understand that many of us (present company included) were damaged by a legalistic and graceless upbringing. But that is a theology problem. The truth remains the same. The late Howard Cosell's signature phrase was "telling it like it is." Our culture seems increasingly less capable of calling simple concepts by their names, and it carries over to the church.

Our politically correct society has made sin an archaic and intolerant word. But there is no other word that communicates any behavior that separates me from a Holy God as powerfully as sin. The law does not convict us of blunders and slip-ups. It convicts me of sin. By reducing the power of the concept of sin we have negated the awesome gift of grace. You don't need grace to rescue you from idiosyncrasies. I haven't been moved by a hymn that says:

Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound,

That empowered a dysfunctional but spiritually seeking and fundamentally good person like me.

Somehow John Newton's original line about saving a "wretch like me" hits a little closer to my story. I am not talking about self-bashing and looking for fault. I am talking about the mind-boggling prospect of facing a holy and sinless God with a résumé that I would have to present. Am I a good person? Yeah, I think so. Am I up to that appointment without the redemptive endorsement of Jesus? No way.

The classic hymn "He Took My Sins Away," by Margaret Harris would lose some luster if many of us in the body of Christ were writing it about ourselves. Here is the refrain as she wrote it in 1901:

He took my sins away, He took my sins away,

And keeps me singing every day!

I'm so glad He took my sins away,

He took my sins away.

One hundred and seven years later it might go something like this:

He recognized my dysfunctional past, He helped me find my inner voice,

And showed me it was not my fault!

I'm so glad He understood my syndrome,

He took away my responsibility.

Same verse . . . everybody sing along now.

Pastor Mark Driscoll says a little talk of hellfire, so out of fashion these days, would do the world good. Driscoll founded Mars Hill Church in Seattle, a non-denominational megachurch with 7,000 in Sunday attendance, chiefly singles in their 20s. He defines sin as "anything contrary to God's will. People assume the way they are is normal, not that something has gone terribly wrong, and this world is abnormal."

Without the concept of sin, the idea of salvation is moot. Anything that breaks the covenant between me and a Holy God is sin. God doesn't have scales to weigh our sins. Really good people still fall short of the mark. I fall short and I need that fixed. Jesus came to fix it. That gift of forgiveness is incomprehensible.

Jesus called sin by its name. But here is the miracle: If we believe in faith that He came to deal with that sin-debt, then He calls us by another name . . . His child. All it takes is accepting the gift of salvation.

Dave Burchett

Dave is a former WORLD contributor.

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