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The Pollution We Make

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It’s always amazing to me how we want to fix problems with somebody else’s resources.  We turn to the state to confiscate money from people we assume have more than us to help people we assume have less than us.  The same problem could be solved by everybody simply deciding to be generous with their own money, not to mention it would be a whole lot nicer without that whole state-sponsored-confiscation thing.  But we always want to see ourselves on the poor side of the spectrum, and limit our generosity to making someone else do the giving.

It has become an almost trite game to point out the extravagant, private-plane-hopping lifestyle of that those preach to us about the dangers of carbon emissions.  Just like everybody sees themselves on the poorer end of the money spectrum, everybody sees themselves on the green end of the environmental spectrum.  The same thing seems to be true with other forms of “pollution.”

I got thinking about this when (HT: Instapundit) I ran into this blog post/rant, “Social Justice Is Language Pollution:”

But SocJus hijacks the process to create confusion. In one article, a woman lamented that she was “fart raped.” This is jumbled nonsense. These are words which make no sense when strung together. But the author wrote that men who fart in her presence are raping her, and justified it through some kind of intersectional feminist queer theory (more absurd nonsense)….Some paragraphs later, he tried to weasel word his definition of genocide to fit slavery, in the same manner miss fart rape tried to make passing gas a sexual crime.

After I got done chuckling at that, it clicked in my mind with a brief discussion Hewitt/Salem colleague Dennis Prager had on his show this past week about the common Christian view that all sin is the same.  Much of this “language pollution,” this termalogical escalation, can be placed at the feet of well meaning Christians that do not want to draw a distinction between the sin of gossip and the sin of murder.

The irony that largely conservative Christians have allowed a theological idea of limited application to creep into their thinking so completely that they routinely accept the “word salad” (borrowing from our ranting blogger) that the left perpetrates on us daily is stunning when you step back for moment to consider it.  We have sown the seeds of our own demise.  As our blogger friend says, “Thus arguing with them truly is a waste of time.”  You cannot win when language is this fungible.

This is simple, really.  “All sin is the same” is a statement of theology, not ethics.  Let me repeat that, it is a statement of theology, NOT ethics.  “Sin” is both a theological state and an action.  When one uses the word, context typically signals which meaning the speaker is choosing.  But heck, most Christians I know think the word “theology” means “smart sounding God stuff,” and therefore lump all high minded religious discussion into a bin with that label on it.  That being the case it is not surprising that the distinction between the two different meanings of sin would be lost.

Let’s do this by analogy and some mixed metaphors.  Pretty much everybody knows the equation E=mc2.  That is a statement of theoretical physics.  A good number of people know that Einstein figured it out and some probably know that it means “Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared.”  But the number of people that can put that equation to practical use are few and far between.  In point of fact the equation is probably mentioned to sound smart about 1000 times more often in any given period than physicists actually put it to use.  Far more often, day in and day out, people do use variations of Newton’s laws of motion. When you drive a car, whether you know it or not, you are instinctively doing Newton’s Laws calculations in your head.  Einstein is theory that explains a lot of stuff, but is not terribly useful on a day-to-day basis.  Newton, on the other hand is extraordinarily practical.  Newton got us to the moon, Einstein just double checked our calculations.

Theology is a lot like Einstein and ethics are a lot like Newton.  Theology explains so, so much.  The state of sin, theology, explains where everybody stands in relationship to God.  It helps us understand so much – grace, love, forgiveness – stuff every Christian absolutely needs to understand.  But let’s be honest – life often presents us with challenges that such understanding cannot directly address.  For example, having to choose between the life of a pregnant woman and her unborn child is a real situation that happens far more often than anybody would like to admit.  The understanding that both mother and child are born in that theological state of sin does almost nothing to help us make the decision we have to make in this circumstance.  But a well-formed ethics will help us tremendously.  Theology tells us both lives are the same in the eyes of God, but ethics will tell us which one is worth more in this particular situation.  Sure our ethics will be formed in part by our theological understanding, but they are different and distinct things.

Does your brain hurt reading that?  I know mine does writing it.  It would be a lot easier to just say “all sin is the same” and flip a coin.  Sometimes we need to hurt our brains a little.  We need to learn to think more clearly and draw these difficult distinctions.  If we engage in word salad we cannot ask the other side not to.  And being Christians, it is always a good idea to take an honest evaluation of such things – we call it “confession.”  That is how we learn to be generous with our own money.


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