It’s one of the ugliest and most deadly developments in our society: the normalizing of demeaning, dehumanizing, disrespectful, hateful, bullying speech!
I know, such speech has been around since humans developed language. What’s new is its growing normalization and acceptance by society, its being a favored discourse of the president and other public figures, and its pervasive dissemination on social media.
Dehumanizing and demeaning speech directed toward other human beings is more than a language problem. Words are formed in the heart before they make it to the lips! Jesus made that clear: “. . .what goes out of the mouth comes from the heart. And that’s what contaminates a person in God’s sight” (Matthew 15:18 CEV).
Such speech is more than bad etiquette. It is deadly poison that can lead to catastrophic consequences. Dehumanizing speech robs people of their inherent dignity, reduces them to enemy or worthless, and motivates rejection and potential violence.
I learned in an introduction to logic course in college that the use of personal insults in confronting issues is an old and popular fallacy in logic. It’s called the Ad Hominem Argument (also, “Personal attack,” “Poisoning the well”).
Attack and discredit the person and you don’t have to deal logically with his/her arguments. It’s a form of intellectual laziness as well as ill-formed character.
Multiple important issues confront our society and churches. Rising above specific political, theological, and ecclesial issues is the preservation and nurture of the inherent dignity and worth of every human being.
May our language reflect our respect for the God-given dignity of every person and may we demand the same from our political and religious leaders!
This paraphrase of Jesus’s warning states it forcefully: “Let me tell you something: Every one of these careless words is going to come back to haunt you. There will be a time of Reckoning. Words are powerful; take them seriously. Words can be your salvation. Words can also be your damnation”(Matthew 12:36-37 The Message).