The War on Definitions

‘Tis the season for Bill O’Reilly to get his nativity-themed knickers in a knot over his invented War on Christmas. I thought maybe he’d cover a war on some other holiday this year, like possibly New Year’s. Christmas is less fun for adults than for kids, but it still has some value, while New Year’s loses all meaning once staying up until midnight becomes commonplace. Or what about the War on Halloween? No, it’s still Christmas that he’s claiming to defend, even though the Grinch’s heart already grew three sizes. Here’s one of his latest diatribes, arguing that people oppose Christmas because they want gay marriage, abortion, and the right to use drugs.

Now THERE’S more of a stretch than Santa Claus has to do before going down the chimney. Speaking of which, he’s also joined the Jack Chicks of the world in insisting Christianity isn’t a religion. Unless I’ve been misinformed as to the definition of Christianity, it isn’t just admiring Jesus’ philosophy, but believing Jesus is the savior of mankind and Son of God. So yes, that’s a religion. It’s also a philosophy, but aren’t all religions philosophies? It’s just that not all philosophies are religions. The definition of “religion” is “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” I would tend to think the superhuman agency would be a necessary part of religion, but that’s debatable. So yes, Buddhism is also a religion, because while it may not have a god (and some branches of Buddhism do have gods, at that), it does have a supernatural meaning to the universe. I’m not religious myself, but if you are, why not just admit it? Since when is “religion” a bad word?

Speaking of words that have received inexplicable negative connotations, there was recently a Salon article about women not wanting to call themselves feminists, and a Facebook friend alerted me to this response. As usual, it seems that the problem is a distaste for the word in particular, and for people who claim to be feminists but actually oppose free choice for women. (At least, I’ve HEARD of people who fall into this group; I can’t say that I’ve ever MET any of them, but I’ll admit I don’t know a lot of people.) There are still many people out there who won’t bother to look feminism up in a dictionary, and instead insist it has something to do with hating men and/or not shaving your armpits. Granted, definitions can change, but to me saying you support equal rights across gender lines but aren’t a feminist is like saying you believe Jesus is your savior but aren’t a Christian. You’re redefining the terms and then saying you don’t care for the definitions you gave them. I can’t say I really get it.

This entry was posted in Christianity, Christmas, Fox News, Gender, Holidays, Politics, Religion, Television and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to The War on Definitions

  1. rocketdave says:

    If Christianity isn’t a religion, every church in the U.S. owes over a hundred years worth of back taxes. I do think O’Reilly later recanted his statement. I recently saw a clip from the Daily Show which addressed the irony of how Fox News has been quick to claim that there’s a war on practically anything, from Christmas to potatoes, yet its pundits repeatedly pooh-poohed the phrase “war on women.” I

    t drives me crazy when I hear someone say, “I believe in equal rights for women, but I’m not feminist.” The right likes to put a negative spin on anything progressive until nobody knows what the words really mean anymore.

    • Nathan says:

      I recently saw a clip from the Daily Show which addressed the irony of how Fox News has been quick to claim that there’s a war on practically anything, from Christmas to potatoes, yet its pundits repeatedly pooh-poohed the phrase “war on women.”

      Because, in the Fox News worldview, it’s always the powerless making war against the powerful.

  2. It’s the charged words that scare people off. Too many words bring with them automatic connotations of certain things, and as soon as you say them someone else is liable to misunderstand. So you feel like you have to say “I’m a [fill-in-the-blank], BUT I don’t [fill in the negative connotation].” It’s stupid, but people are so quick to judge each other that it DOES make using certain words risky. The word “Christian” itself is a good example, especially in this country: the term immediately conjures up images of evangelical fundamentalists– which as a liberal Catholic I definitely am NOT. And yet I truly am a Christian as I understand the word (and as the dictionary definition says), but the way I AM is not what either the average non-Christian OR the average evangelical type thinks of when they hear the word.

    Personally I think the only way to solve this problem is to take the words back, not deny that they apply (or make up new words). To outspokenly show that there is more than one way to BE a Christian or a Feminist or a Religious Person or a WHATEVER. Even if that means we HAVE to say “I’m a [fill-in-the-blank], BUT I don’t [fill in the negative connotation], because being a [fill-in-the-blank] means THIS to me” for awhile, even if that might be annoying to do. Actually, that last part that I added just now is probably the most important part– rather than bringing up the stereotypes you’re trying to squash by saying you’re NOT, actually giving example of the reality that you ARE.

    • Nathan says:

      Some members of the actual groups also affect the reputations of certain words. For instance, there are Christians who insist that other people who, say, accept evolution or don’t vote a certain way aren’t REAL Christians.

  3. Or the “fake geek” proclaimers!

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