The history of the word “mercy”

The word “mercy” is gaining more and more currency in Christianity these days.  It has long been a favorite word of LMCS president Matthew Harrison, and, more recently, of Pope Francis.  Kory Stamper, a lexicographer with Merriam-Webster dictionary, gives its history after the jump.

Originally, “mercy” meant clemency for an offender.  The word came from the same root a “merchandise,” referring to a “payment.”  So a plea for mercy meant that “the object of mercy was not deserving of compassion, that the party showing mercy was literally bearing the cost of the crime or debt on themselves.”  That is to say, the word “mercy” was all about the gospel.

Later, the term began to be used for compassion to any one in need.  But the gospel, enshrined in the very etymology of the word, applies there too. [Read more…]

The end of the written word?

Facebook is predicting the end of the written word–at least on Facebook, which the head of the company in Europe says may well be all video in 5 years.  Suggesting that reading and writing will be all but obsolete (though not completely), Nicol Mendelsohn said, “The best way to tell stories in this world, where so much information is coming at us, actually is video,” which “conveys so much more information in a much quicker period. So actually the trend helps us to digest much more information.”

This is not true, as media expert Neil Postman has shown.  It certainly isn’t “quicker” to watch a video, as opposed to scanning a few paragraphs.  And the information value of videos is quite low, if you are looking for ideas and facts, as opposed to emotional experiences.  And “stories” can be told with much more depth in writing, as nearly any comparison with a movie and the novel it was based on will prove.

And yet, I can see Facebook and other online media replacing the written words with visual images and oral performances. This would be in line with the predictions of another media scholar, Marshall McLuhan, who said that when this happens, we will revert back to a pre-literate culture, one that is tribal, anti-rational, and functionally primitive. [Read more…]

What does it mean to be “blessed”?

“This is a real blessing.”  “I have been so blessed.”  “Count your blessings.”  “God bless you!”  “The Lord bless you and keep you. . .”  The word blessing expresses an important concept in Christian spirituality.  But what, exactly, does it mean?

My daughter, Mary Moerbe, has written a book on the subject, entitled Blessed:  God’s Gift of Love, drawing on the doctoral research of CPH editor Christopher Mitchell.

Read it.  You will find it a real blessing.  (sorry)

In the meantime, before you read the book and get all the answers, how would you describe what it means to be “blessed”?  The Bible talks about God blessing us, but it also says that we should “bless the Lord.”  How do we do that?  What does it mean when a pastor blesses us?

[Read more…]

Untranslatable words

Adam was given the power to name things; that is, he, as well as human beings after him, could devise a word to signify some reality.  Thus we have language.  Learning a new word can make us aware of truths and feelings that we otherwise might have missed.

Some languages have words for things that others don’t.  These “untranslatable words” often name things that need naming.  For example, the Yiddish word “kvell” means ““to glow with pride and happiness at the success of others (often family members).'”  The Georgian word “shemomedjamo” means eating even though you are full because it tastes so good.  The German “Fernweh” means feeling homesick for a place you’ve never been to.  The German “Verschlimmbessern” means making something worse by trying to improve it.

We should start using some of these and thus bring them into English.  After the jump, links to these and lots more.

 

[Read more…]

Freedom of worship or freedom of religion?

The citizen test given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services speaks of “freedom of worship.”  Senator James Lankford (R, OK) has been trying to get the agency to change the test and the study materials so that they refer to the “freedom of religion.”  The agency has finally agreed to do so.

Do you see the difference? [Read more…]

Leftists go from frightening to frightened

When someone chalked “vote for Trump” messages on the sidewalk, students at Emory University protested, saying seeing these words made them feel “frightened.”  The administration, playing the role of in loco helicopteris parentis, held their hands, offering counseling and promising to investigate who committed this brazen act of democracy.

Similarly, in Scripps College in California, someone wrote “Trump 2016” on a whiteboard, leading to charges of “racism” and the claim that the campaign slogan was an act of “violence.”  This is all of a piece with university students demanding “safe spaces” where they will be protected from any words or ideas that they find disturbing.

Leftists used to project a menacing swagger.  The old Marxists made posters of themselves as brawny workers with hammers and sickles and openly talked about “liquidating the bourgeoisie” (that is, exterminating the middle class).  In my day, the “new left” college radicals stencilled a clenched fist on sidewalks and whiteboards.  They taunted their opponents with “up against the wall, ************!” (referring to the use of a firing squad).

But now these “post-Marxist” leftists–who substitute race, gender, and sexual identity for the old left’s concern for economic justice and class struggle–are so timorous, so fragile, so easily frightened by opposition, that it’s hard to take them seriously. [Read more…]


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