Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A Word is a Word is a Word

Psalm 19:14 (New International Version)

“14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.”


Yesterday afternoon I received the following comment on Blogspot:

“PLEASE change the title of this blog, unless you intentionally mean for it to be so gay.Another Man's Meat! Come on! That is just too much!”

The person, who was commenting anonymously, clearly doesn’t like my byline.

I sent a short comment in response, but felt that I needed to comment further in a post.

The primary objection, I assume, was not the words “another” or “man.” It was the word meat that the commenter felt was “just too much.”

Since the person who commented was anonymous I don’t know which side of the cultural divide he or she lives on. It could have been a fellow Christian upset that the word might draw some from a “different” audience to my site. Or it could have been someone who is gay and did not find what he was expecting to find. I just don’t know.

In response I’d like to begin by outlining the definition(s) of the word:

Meat

n.
1. The edible flesh of animals, especially that of mammals as opposed to that of fish or poultry.
2. The edible part, as of a piece of fruit or a nut.
3. The essence, substance, or gist: the meat of the editorial.
4. Slang. Something that one enjoys or excels in; a forte: Tennis is his meat.
5. Nourishment; food: “Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink” (Edna St. Vincent Millay).
6. Vulgar Slang.
The human body regarded as an object of sexual desire.
The genitals.

Once one even casually reads anything I post I believe it should be clear that the byline falls under definitions three and five– “The essence, substance, or gist” or “Nourishment, food.”

I started this blog in July of last year with one intention – to look at the world through the prism of my Christian faith and the serenity of the Kansas Flint Hills. The byline and its subtitle couldn’t make my worldview and my intent in writing any clearer:

John 4:34 (King James Version)

“34Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”


Now I recognize that I cannot control the connotations that some might derive from a word or words I’ve written. People are free moral agents.

However, no one community has the power to appropriate words in the English language that have had clear understandings for centuries. Words are powerful tools, too powerful for communities within the fabric of society to appropriate for use other than what they were intended. This is especially true if the context in which the word or words was originally penned is clear from their entire framework from which they stand as a byline. “Another Man’s Meat” is a statement of my faith in Jesus Christ.

The person who commented was clearly injecting his or her own meaning to the word meat when the context and the totality of what I’ve written since July should obviously suggest otherwise.

I understand the power of words. It’s good that they do carry power. But it’s dangerous for one to assume that one community has the power to redefine or twist those words to suit their interests. The Nazis did just that with devastating effect just a few generations ago. Jews and other non-desirables became “vermin” instead of human beings. The definition of compassion was turned on its head to mean forced sterilization and forced euthanasia. I’d like to think that we’ve come farther than that since the 1940’s.

Words can wound or they can heal. The intent of “Another Man’s Meat” is that they bring healing, in keeping with Solomon’s words:

Proverbs 18:4 (King James Version)

“4The words of a man's mouth are as deep waters, and the wellspring of wisdom as a flowing brook”.

That’s been my vision since I started seven months ago. That vision has not changed, nor will it be changed now based on the whim of someone who misappropriates the meaning and intent of what I’ve said.

I want to be clear. I have no personal axes to grind with anyone in the gay community or a fellow Christian. I have no political axes to grind with people who are politically conservative or those who are politically liberal. I’ve said what I’ve said since July to advance the tenets of my Christian faith. I have not written to offend anyone. I haven’t written to shock anyone.

I am certain that almost anyone reading my blog can see this. To them I say “thank you” for reading “Another Man’s Meat” and your support. For the ones who cannot I have a request. Please keep the dialogue elevated. In so doing, this blog can continue to be what it’s meant to be, a vehicle for understanding, the expression of faith, and healing.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

"What is food to one is others bitter poison." Lucretius

I grew up in a home where making intelligent and responsible choices was considered the highest virtue. My brothers and I considered hearing our parents say, "Good boy!," to be the greatest compliment. Because we recognized that there would always a difference of opinion for decisions, we knew early-on that "one man's meat was another man's poison," and vice-versa.

Your ignorant critic clearly proves the point. Your teaching-response affirms the need in all of us to recognize the universe-sized stumbling block our ignorance truly is. Making intelligent and responsible choice requires learning effort and patient indulgence in each others' missing shoe-boxed size knowledge.

"Good boy Dillon!"

a Choicemaker
Psalm 25:12

Anonymous said...

Phil,
You are on target here. Word usage IS based on convention. While your critic's interpretation could be valid in another context, this person clearly did not include context. Methinks that other issues dictated the choice of an interpretive framework here.
Communication is a complex act that requires work on both sides. The conventional metaphoric meaning of "meat" has to do with "that which sustains life" in a physical spiritual or intellectual sense. The phallic symbol has its own broad set of metaphors in which "meat" is at the periphery. But we must never abandon metaphors. As one cartoonist, with an image of a lover gazing into his beloved's eyes, pointed out, "Your lips are like, well, lips... Your eyes are like, um eyes."
Jerome Mahaffey
Ast. Prof of Communication
Indiana University East

Feeble Knees said...

Phil, My reply would have been something along the lines of "For crying out loud, get your mind out of the gutter!" I'm sure you handled it with much more aplomb!

cheers,
Feeble

Messy Christian said...

Well, you replied, while I'd just ignore the man. Because if I had replied, I'd tell him that what I *actually* meant by my heading is that I'm a cannibal and that he's next on the list. See? You're much better than I am in this dept. :)

Don't worry Phil, many of us don't think you're a cannibal. ;P