We’re Going to Need a New Word

Gen Michael Hayden at NSLJ Symposium

Michael Hayden, former head of CIA and NSA. Source: Wikipedia

We’re going to have to find another word.

That’s what happens when organized groups with an agenda do their lying thing and massage, twist and shave the meaning of a word that evokes powerful emotions into a meaningless, politicized hulk of its former self.

Words have power to evoke emotion and, with some words, outrage. Somewhere back in the first half of the twentieth century the big-time government monsters among us figured this out. Instead of accepting the plain meaning of plain words and changing their behavior, they set out, first to find substitute words that would blur the emotional response to their reactions, and then to batter the meaning of existing words into dust.

Thus, mass murder became a “final solution” which morphed into “ethnic cleansing,” while slavery and brainwashing were called “re-education.” Killing a baby was labeled a “choice” and then a “termination.” In this century, we have been treated to the spectacle of torture being called “enhanced interrogation.”

It’s all the same lie, the same manipulation, the same evil.

This manipulation of words is a separate and additional evil from the acts that it attempts to gloss over. It is an act of aggression, aimed, not at the victims of whatever it is trying to cover up, but at the sanity of society as a whole. If our words become politicized gibberish, our thinking becomes muddled and gibbering along with them.

The precise and honest use of language is the essential tool for precise and honest thinking. What the spinmeisters are doing by butchering our language is destroying the ability to think clearly of the citizens of our nation and our world.

Torture is the “final solution/re-education/choice” of the first decade of the 21st century. The deliberate destruction of our public sensitivity to torture through the use of lies and ridiculous parsing has led to the destruction of the meaning of the word itself. We have arrived at the it-depends-on-what-the-meaning-of-the-word-is- is point with torture.

We are faced with having to find a new word, even as the old one continues to be twisted, narrowed and broadened into utter meaninglessness.

What began as the American experiment in justifying torture to a population that had long prided itself on how well it treated its prisoners has morphed into the use of the word to label criminal malfeasance and taking positions on social issues that one finds disagreeable as torture.

On the one hand, we have our CIA and neo-con enthusiasts going around seriously trying to claim that water boarding a helpless prisoner is not torture because it doesn’t break bones and rupture internal organs. On the other hand, we have the totalitarian nitwits of the abortion-at-any-cost crowd at the United Nations trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is the killing of an innocent child.

Top that off with a conjoined United Nations attempt to claim that the Church’s admitted malfeasance in the area of child sexual abuse by priests is somehow or other torture, and you’ve got a word that no longer means much of anything.

Did the Catholic Church torture children by transferring sexual predator priests from one parish to another? No. The Church made a hash of its own moral authority and violated everything it stands for. The Church violated civil laws and its own teachings.

Is the Catholic Church the only institution with a history of allowing sexual predators to flourish in its midst? No. Virtually every institution that I know of has done this, which would make the UN’s new definition of torture ubiquitous rather than specific. What is different about the Church as opposed to other institutions is not a matter of law. It is a matter of outrage.

The Church betrayed Christ by transferring those priests. Every bishop who did this put clericalism and the good old boy buddy system ahead of his call to be a shepherd. Every bishop who did this betrayed his calling and his Lord; his Church and its people. These bishops behaved like corporate CEOs instead of priests, and that is the outrage and betrayal of their actions.

This was not torture. As evil as torture is, this was something far worse. It was a betrayal of Christ crucified among us by the men who have vowed to represent Him in this world.

This mis-use of the word torture to try to advance political and social agendas is a specific evil all of its own. Torture as a word is becoming another meaningless victim of our desire to to do evil and not be called evil for having done it.

Destroying a word as important as torture has ramifications that go far beyond linguistics. It means destroying an idea, maiming our moral understandings and weakening our ability to think rationally.

Torture is never acceptable. Torture is an intrinsic evil. I’m going to write about this in more detail, but the American experiment in thought control via the many lies and verbal shape shiftings surrounding our use of torture against prisoners since 9/11 is an evil that is separate and distinct from the evil of torture itself.

If we are outraged by the United Nations propaganda attack of trying to claim that the Catholic Church is torturing women by saying that abortion is a sin — and we should be outraged — we have only ourselves to blame. We, the United States of America, are the ones who have destroyed the meaning of the word in order to obfuscate our own actions.

This brainwashing of the public mind by insisting that torture means something other than what it means has side effects. Evil doesn’t just stake its claim in our societies and content itself with that one spot. It is a kudzu vine that takes root and grows outward, overtaking and smothering our moral sensibilities.

The evil of lying to and brainwashing the public to accept torture by narrowing the meaning of the word into preposterous meaningless has a flip side. We are seeing that flip side at the United Nations. If a word can be narrowed into meaninglessness, the same word can also be expanded into meaninglessness.

People with agendas can use the residual emotion the word still evokes. They use this residual emotion to justify political attacks by linking the word to actions where it does not apply and than claiming a faux moral outrage against organizations, actions and even ideas they dislike.

The Church did not commit torture when it betrayed Our Lord by transferring abusing priests. That is not what the word means. The claims that the Church is today committing torture against women by teaching that abortion is a grave sin, are too stupid to try to answer. It is obvious propaganda. It demands that the public acquiesce in its own brainwashing.

But the basis for making such claims lies in the torture to which the word torture has been subjected in recent years by the social and cultural brainwashers of our own government.

The great sin — and I use that moral word deliberately — is the lie and violation of human thought that is propaganda and brainwashing by the callous mis-labeling and mis-use of powerful words. This is done first to lie to whole populations of people about matters of terrible import, and then, in its ultimate application, to get them to lie to themselves about the same things.

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Politics, Religion and Lilies That Fester

To Dolan or not to Dolan? That was the question.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan and his offer to pray the Benediction at the two political conventions were all the news a few weeks ago.

It seems that he offered to pray at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. The Republicans, who are sharper tacks all around when it comes to currying religious political favor, answered with an immediate yes and then used their publicity machine to spread the word.

They made the most of the fact that Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the head of all the bishops in these United States, was going to dip his vote-getting toe into their little pond. In their glee over what they obviously wanted to play into a de facto endorsement by the Catholic Church, they did everything but put out press releases saying, “We bagged the big guy!”

The Democrats, on the other hand, dissed the good Cardinal and his attempt at bi-partisan even-handedness by not even bothering to reply when he offered to pray the benediction at their convention. Their message, which was equally loud and clear, was “We don’t need no traditional Christians.”

It would have stayed like that if the Republican publicity machine hadn’t set off a mini-firestorm with its announcements. It looked, as the Rs intended, like Cardinal Dolan was playing favorties between the two political parties. Gloating Republicans slapped him on the metaphorical back while outraged Dems denounced him for being a partisan political hack.

Forced to defend himself, he explained that he had offered to pray at both conventions, and the Republicans had accepted his offer. The Democrats, on the other hand, had not even acknowledged it.

The officials who run the Democratic Party evidently had their heads stuck so far up their own militant secularism that it took them a couple of days to figure out that this wasn’t the big vote-getter they had originally believed. This gave time for the whole thing to become the church-state fight du jour.

Cardinal Dolan, and through him the Catholic Church, became one of the many bones of contention that allow the two political parties to chew on one another in their never-ending quest to get to 51% of the electoral vote.

After a few days of dealing with public indignation over this bit of hubris, the Ds evidently decided that maybe one itty bitty prayer wouldn’t compromise them all that much. Cardinal Dolan and his benediction were a pill they would swallow.

The two political parties want slightly different things from the Church. The Republicans want control of the Church’s moral voice so that they can use that voice to win elections. The Democrats, who have given up on using the Church’s moral voice, want to silence the Church, and, as much as possible, strip it of all its ministries.

Both parties want to bend the Church to their purpose and their will. The Republicans want to do this by patronizing the Church. The Democrats by attacking it. The result in both instances would be to slice and dice the Church down to an equally voiceless political carcass to be fed on and ignored.

That is precisely what the Rs and the Ds have done to every other denomination who has worked with either one of them. The so-called liberal Christian denominations and the so-called “evangelical” or “conservative” denominations have both carved up the Gospels to suit their politics. We expect certain denominations to give us a hatched up phony Gospel supporting corporatism, and the economic rape of the American people. We know that certain other denominations are going to come blaring in with their truncated Gospel supporting abortion on demand and same-sex marriage.

We expect it. We know it’s coming. And truth be told, this weary wariness of what are obviously bogus claims to holiness on the part of these denominational-leaders-political-operatives is a big part of what is driving the ugly secularism that is developing in this country. We just don’t believe these guys are speaking for anybody but themselves.

These religious leaders have so destroyed the Gospels on which they stand in order to fit in with their political crowd that they are useless and shorn. They don’t have a moral and prophetic voice left.

The only denomination I’ve seen that has stood against this, the only voice that has refused to edit the gospels down to a political convenience in the name of getting their boy elected is the Catholic Church.

My great fear is that the pressures of fighting these fights against the out-of-control secularism and social nihilism that are tearing at our society will erode the Catholic Church’s determination to stay clear of politics and follow the Gospels. I am afraid that the Church will allow itself to become another bite of power in the maw of these two political parties. I dread the day on which the Catholic Church’s moral and prophetic voice is cast before political swine. I dread it to my core; not only for my Church, but for my country.

I hope and pray that I will never hear the American Bishops endorse a political candidate or a political party. As a Democrat, the way my party treated Cardinal Dolan disgusted me. If I had any remaining ability to be ashamed of my party, I would be ashamed of them. If I was a Republican, I would be equally ashamed of them, for different reasons.

I have seen the way that Republican office-holders treat the religious leaders who pushed to get them elected once they are in office. I have also seen those same religious leaders cow-tow to the elected officials and back down on the very moral issues that they say prompted them to be politically involved in the first place. It is an ugly and disillusioning thing to have to watch.

I don’t know how to be cynical enough about both these two political parties. I try, but my cynicism just can’t keep up with them.

I am not cynical about my Church. I go to mass and touch Jesus in the Eucharist and I am healed. There’s no way to be cynical about that.

I understand that the bishops are trying their best to defend the Church in what is an unprecedented attack in the HHS Mandate. I understand how grave this is. I also know, sadly, that both parties want the Mandate, each for their own reasons.

The Mandate helped the Republicans bag the big guy. It is probably why more and more Catholics are switching from Democrat to Republican. I think it is why the Democrats rudely ignored Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s generous offer to pray at their convention. Both parties are playing to their base, and right now their lead violin is the Catholic Church.

The only church that the politicians I know still respect at all is the Catholic Church. I think there are two reasons for this. First, the Catholic Church is big. It represents millions of votes. Second, neither party has succeeded in getting the Church to edit the Gospels to suit their politics. The Catholic Church still calls both parties to task when they violate the teachings of Christ. The same Pope who refuses to bend the Church’s 2,000-year-old teaching on the sanctity of human life also refuses to support neo-con goals of corporate dominance and the endless wars of empire. I don’t know of any other church that does this.

There’s an old saying in politics; keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. The Church is the enemy of both the Democrats and the Republicans for the simple reason that it has, at least until now, refused to be co-opted by either of them. Politicians want to control, to co-opt groups and organizations and turn their purposes to the politician’s use. That is what the Republicans have succeeded in doing with a large number of denominations and what they are currently trying to do with the Catholic Church.

If they can’t control and co-opt, then politicians try to strip the person or group of power and influence so that they can’t give them any trouble in the future. It’s the classic “you’re either with me or against me” scenario played out in terms of budget items, regulations and laws. That is what the Democrats are trying to do to the Catholic Church right now. They have, as their Republican counter-parts have, managed to co-opt a large number of denominations; to get them to interpret the Gospels in ways that favor Democratic party goals. But they’ve given up on ever being able to turn the Catholic Church to their purposes.

Enter the HHS Mandate, the refusals to give grants to Church organizations who won’t refer for abortion and all the other ugliness we’ve seen and will continue to see.

The bottom line here is that neither political party is anybody’s friend. Nobody’s. Not yours. Not mine. And certainly not any church that preaches and teaches the Gospels of Christ.

Do we need the Church to step up and be the prophetic voice of God in our society? Oh my, yes we do. We need them more now than ever before.

But the very fact that we need them so badly is a reflection of what choppy water they are going to encounter as they do this. Our culture is trapped in a downward spiral. It is disassembling itself morally, spiritually and economically. Only the truth of the Gospels can equip the American people to save themselves from themselves. We need revival, but we will never get it from anyone less than a true follower of Jesus Christ.

Politics and politicians have to be engaged. We live in a democracy, which makes involvement in politics our duty as well as our right. But our god must be God, not our political parties.

Too many good people have been led astray  by bad shepherds who have taken the R or the D for their god, and have taught us to do the same. These religious leaders have become false prophets and failed shepherds who lead the flock astray. They are like Shakespeare’s lilies, who, when they fester, stink far worse than weeds. One failed religious leader does more damage than many militant secularists.

My humble suggestions to the bishops, and any other religious leader who is thinking about involving themselves in politics, are these:

1. Never, never, never compromise the Gospels of Christ for any political party. Call the Republicans out on their economic policies and blast away at the Democrats for their attacks on the sanctity of human life and marriage. Don’t compromise the gospels for these birds. Please.

2. Be prepared to be disliked, pandered to and, if the pandering fails, accused and abused. The world does not like real Christians. It never has.

3. Let the laity be the ones to slug it out in the political trenches, but arm us with good teaching and absolute fidelity to Christ so that we may do it well. Teach us. Lead us. Inspire us.

The Catholic Church is the only effective moral and prophetic voice left in this country. My plea to Cardinal Dolan and all the bishops is please, don’t allow my Church to become another religious political pawn.

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