KELSEY REED: Hello, welcome to Concurrently: The News Coach Podcast from WORLD Radio in God’s WORLD News. Our mission is to come alongside you, learning and laboring with you as you disciple kids and teens through culture and current events. My name is Kelsey Reed. I’m here with Jonathan Boes.
JONATHAN BOES: Hello!
KELSEY: We hope to model conversation and apply tools that you can use at home or in the classroom. And as always, we love to hear from you. Please send in a recording with a question, your comments, concerns, other questions that you might have to firstname.lastname@example.org.
JONATHAN: Today’s episode is big for two reasons. The first one is, it’s our last episode of 2023. So next week, we’re going to be taking a little break for Christmas. So if you don’t see a new episode pop up in your feed, don’t worry, we will be back with the new year. In the meantime, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone listening to this! I hope you’ll have a wonderful, restful, and God-glorifying holiday season. The other big thing is that this is our 50th episode. Halfway to 100! So that’s exciting, to have gotten this far.
At the end of the year, where we are now, you know, people start publishing their “top 10 this or that” list of the year. And Merriam-Webster every year puts out a Word of the Year. This is usually determined by a mixture of cultural significance—what people are searching for on their dictionary website. This year’s word of the year from Merriam-Webster is “authentic.” And there were some other terms like “rizz,” “deepfake,” “coronation.” But we’re not going to talk about those words today. But we want to do is create our own list of what we think are the top 10 words of 2023, specifically words that center around some of the topics we’ve covered this year, words that are really integral to the cultural discussion right now, things your kids or teens might be encountering, and specifically the ways that some of these words might be misused, and how we can recapture their true meaning.
KELSEY: As adults, we can just forget that we’ve heard a word for so long, we start taking for granted that we both understand what it means or that maybe our older kids and teens have a solid understanding of what it means. But that’s not necessarily the case. And just like we might revisit some of the things that have gone on during the year in our own lives—we might journal over, we might reflect in order to draw out a deeper understanding of the events in our lives—we need to sometimes do that with language with cultural events, and just take some care to shape our children’s understanding in particular. The world, social media, their peers, professors—if we don’t shape it, these folks will. And so our intention today is just to be—well, intentional, and look at how words are being used, and pointing towards good usage and definition.
So our structure today is going to be where we each take a turn looking at some of the words that we’ve chosen. And there may be a ton more on your list at home that you could track through diligently. We definitely aren’t doing all the work. Some of that work needs to be yours at home. But for our intents and purposes today, we’re going to do a little bit of tracking through where we’re seeing the term. We’re going to talk about who’s using it, or how it’s being used, and what it actually means, how we should use it—if we use it at all—and a smattering of questions that we might recommend you using with your kids and students to draw out the discussion. But there will be even more of those in our Concurrently Companion. So if we start getting anemic on the question asking, lean into that resource for more.
JONATHAN: So the first word we have on our list, the first word of our top 10 words of 2023—it’s the word “bias.”
KELSEY: And we want to talk about this as we lead out because, as we’re a part of a journalistic enterprise, it’s so important for us to take care that we aren’t writing with bias. We see it used everywhere, this almost derogatory usage application, that “Oh, you’re just biased.” We’re seeing that in the news, when people want to kind of mudsling against the other media enterprises. It seems to be almost like a way to shut down conversation and to undermine someone’s thinking, or their writing, or even their belief system. And this is another reason why this is such an important term for us to define well, because there’s a difference between bias and belief. When we talk about that as an enterprise that is a news enterprise at WORLD, we like to help people understand from the get-go with one of our mottos that we are “biblically objective journalism.” Because journalism must strive as much as possible to be without bias. But what about the fact that we at WORLD write through a specific framework? Well, I would say, and based on the definition, we’re about to read that framework, worldview, is very different from bias.
So let me give a working definition. From the Cambridge Dictionary: “Bias is the action of supporting or opposing a particular person or thing in an unfair way, because of allowing personal opinions to influence your judgment.” So I already kind of stressed the idea of opinion. And I want to also stress, again, this idea of unfair—it’s this prejudice, seeing a certain point of view and placing it over all other points of view to the place where it can often work itself out in action that is prejudiced, and preferential action.
JONATHAN: So you’ve covered where we’re seeing it, how it’s being used, what it actually means. As for how we use this term, especially when we’re opposing it to the idea of a worldview, maybe it helps to give a concrete metaphor. So I think that worldview can lead to bias, but worldview is not in itself bias. And it has to do with, I think, how we choose what facts to believe versus how we interpret the facts we believe, right? So the idea of being biblically objective—imagine you’re coming from a Christian worldview—hopefully, you actually are—and you’re reporting on a crime. And in this crime, let’s say there are two—let’s say it was a murderer, okay, somebody got stabbed. There are two potential culprits. One of them is an atheist, one of them is a pastor. Now, bias would be taking your Christian worldview and saying, “The atheist did it.” Biblically objective journalism would be taking the facts and determining who committed the crime based on the facts with as little bias as you can possibly have. And then—if the pastor did do it—then apply a Christian worldview and say, “It’s because there’s sin in the human heart. It’s because even pastors are fallen people and prone to stumble, or even commit crimes.”
KELSEY: And on the other side, we would also look at the atheist and say, “This is an image-bearer. This is someone who may not know Christ, but is still made to image the Father.” And we would treat them with high regard and dignity. And so that’s a very different thing than prejudice or bias.
JONATHAN: So worldview can become bias, if it skews the way we accept facts. But I think the proper place for that distinction between bias and worldview is, we try to look at the facts with as little bias as possible, then interpret them through our lens.
KELSEY: This gives us the opportunity to make a short plug for our resources at WORLD. We have something for every developmental stage. It’s really hard to start cold in these conversations about vocabulary and definition. But if you have good content, that usually draws out the conversation, Well, we obviously are striving to produce that trustworthy, good content written from a biblical perspective, that striving against bias. So if you need a way to launch into these conversations, one of the major things I’d also like to put on your screen, that touches on a number of our vocabulary words that we’re doing today, is the December 7 edition of The World and Everything In It. It came out the week that we are recording. It is excellent fodder for conversation, particularly with your teens and older students.
So I think we’re moving on to a word that’s on your list.
JONATHAN: One of my top words this year, it’s—well, I guess a term and not a word: artificial intelligence. I mean, of course, we’re seeing this everywhere. It was kind of like a gradual start, and then suddenly, boom, it’s every headline, every new technology, everything’s artificial intelligence. And as for how we’re seeing it used, I really want to narrow in on the intelligence part of this term. Because you often see this term used with a sense that these machines could really be intelligent, that they might replace humans or that, you know, when the technology becomes sufficiently advanced, maybe these artificial intelligence machines could even become conscious, or have their own thoughts or feelings. We already saw there was that Google engineer who claimed such things not long ago. But you know, when we’re looking at the real meaning of “artificial intelligence,” what we see is that intelligence is a convenient metaphor. You also see the term “machine learning,” and that term “learning” is also kind of a convenient metaphor, because there is not actually a person or a soul or a consciousness that is making intelligent decisions or learning information. What it is is a computer model that processes information and defines patterns. And we talked about this in several episodes, and we’ll be talking about it again in the new year. It doesn’t seem like this topic is going to be going anywhere. But I think that’s really important, definitionally, when we’re talking about artificial intelligence, to remember that intelligence is kind of a misnomer. It’s a convenient shortcut, because it looks like intelligence, right? It has the trappings of intelligence. It can create text, it can paint a picture. But it is not actually intelligent.
KELSEY: It’s been so helpful to have you help shape my thinking in this area, because of course, I leapt to the metaphor. The language is familiar enough to me to make some sense. But we start getting into large language models and things like that, and it’s immediately above my paygrade. And so it may be the case for you as well, listener, and we’re going to continue to bring folks in with greater aptitudes in this area to help instruct our thinking. Because, as Jonathan said, it’s not going away anytime soon. We want to continue to help coach not only ourselves, but also so that you can coach your kids and teens about this world.
JONATHAN: Lord willing, in the new year, we’re going to be having a conversation with somebody who knows much more on this topic than we do. And so keep an eye out for that as 2024 rolls along.
KELSEY: His name is Michael Finch. So also look for those names.
So let’s see. We are going to be next looking at the word “fascism.” So we’re jumping straight into the deep water here. Unfortunately, this term has been all over social media, all of our news commentary, and even in some more scholarly sources. One of my favorite sources for actually diving deeply into this has been from the Atlantic. Of course, most of their resources are behind a paywall. But their discussion on the use of this term, and even the overuse of this term, was really helpful to me as I thought through what’s going on in our culture and why this is being slung around so much right now. So how it’s being used—it’s often hyperbolic in nature. It’s, again, a chance for doing some mudslinging and trying to really cut the knees out from under a political opponent. Or even in some cultural settings, it’s not thoughtfully applied. It’s kind of a part of, you know, this culture of cynicism and a weird kind of youth humor, where sometimes you’re hearing, “Oh, you’re just fascist.”
JONATHAN: What was that—the Barbie movie. When Barbie gets accused of being a fascist, and she’s crying on the bench, and she’s like, “She thinks I’m a fascist? I don’t control the railways or the flow of commerce!” All time quote of 2023, if we were doing our top 2023 quotes.
KELSEY: Here’s the deal. Movies, obviously, are doing such a great job of poking fun at where we are, culturally speaking, sometimes, and revealing maybe also some of the ugly underbelly. And that’s what I’m feeling from that specific scene, is this hand-in-hand lovely marriage between pointing to the ridiculousness of using that term, how we’re not even really understanding the term, and also just that—when we throw it around like that, we’re doing more damage than good to our understanding of history and current politics, even.
JONATHAN: I think maybe something that contributes to the misuse or just turning it into a, you know, hyperbolic slur is, that it does have a kind of complex definition. And it is one of those things that’s kind of hard to pin down, which makes it ripe for misunderstanding. Because in our imagination, it’s just—fascism, okay, that’s “authority” and “bad.” And often that’s as deep as it goes. But there is a real definition, even if it’s hard to pin down.
KELSEY: So what does this term actually mean? Fascism is a political philosophy, movement, or regime, such as that of the Fascisti state in Italy. That term was coined by Mussolini. Fascism, it exalts a nation and often even a race above the individual. So listen to this again. That means that entire peoples are exalted, even above individuals, which includes individual rights or convictions.
JONATHAN: One of the most influential definitions of fascism comes from Umberto Eco’s essay, “Ur Fascism.” And he actually gives a list of common characteristics of fascism. And so just to read a few of those, there’s “the cult of tradition,” there is the idea that all disagreement is treason, the obsession with the idea of there being a plot or a, you know, exaggerated enemy threat that means we have to “batten down the hatches,” the appeal to a frustrated middle class, fear of differences and other people. Another big thing is the idea of the contempt for the weak. Just taking some of those characteristics, we can spot—you know, we are not in a fascist society. So what we’re often looking for is not fascism proper, as like a system of government, but when we see this term in the conversation, it’s “Who is demonstrating fascist tendencies?” And so some of these characteristics, when we are not in a fascist government, but are looking for people who might tend that way—you know, being on guard against fascism coming in the future—I think some of these characteristics help us spot, “Hold up, we’re going in a direction maybe we shouldn’t be going in.” And they also help us narrow down onto, what actually is fascism?
Because I think, when it comes to how we should use it—I think the idea of using it sparingly is really important. It wouldn’t be our 50th episode if I didn’t quote C.S. Lewis.
KELSEY: Of course.
JONATHAN: But he said, and I’ll quote him directly here: “Men do not long continue to think what they have forgotten how to say.” I think that if we misuse “fascism” as a term, and just turn it into anything that is scary and authoritative, the real risk is that we won’t see actual markers of fascism when they arise.
KELSEY: So some more of the actual markers: a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, forcible suppression of opposition, a tendency towards or actual exercise of strong, autocratic, or dictatorial control. I mean, even just listening to those categories, a number of personas come to mind in our world. You know, these are people that we might be like, huh, your exercise of power is getting increasingly centralized. And your expression of it is increasingly authoritative, and even suppressive of any other voices that might, you know, be going “hold up” or have a different way that they are suggesting. And I’m not going out on a limb to call out Putin in this area. We’re seeing a number of articles that are discussing the ways that he’s going for another term. He has recently suppressed an opposition leader. Even though he’s coming out of socialist history in Russia, which obviously spawns from communism, his expression—and we’ve talked about the political spectrum, that sometimes both sides can end up kind of folding back around onto one another—his expression of power is very close to this definition that we’re giving.
So having this on our screen, and really seeking to evaluate what we’re seeing in culture well, a little bit more history. One of the things that attracted people in Germany and in Italy, where the term was originally coined— again, Mussolini—to the leaders of these fascist parties, it was their strength. After World War I, these countries, they did not want to be under—particularly Germany didn’t want to be under—these very restrictive punitive measures. They had been blamed for World War I. And so the people in Germany, in particular, were crying for strength and glory and honor in their country. And so they were ready for a strong leader. It was a ripe situation for a fascist dictator to move in. So some questions that we might ask: What attracts us about a strong leader? And what is dangerous about a strong leader? What did Jesus’ leadership look like? And how does that influence our interpretation of our role in the world as followers of Christ? And how does that also influence our expectations of our leaders in government and elsewhere? So we kind of dove into fascism for a while because it’s concerning and it’s everywhere. And we want to really just take great care with terms like this one that are waiting. What do we have next?
JONATHAN: The next term we have on our list is “nationalism.” And we’re not going to spend a ton of time here, I don’t think, because we actually have a whole episode on Christian Nationalism. Because you often see those two terms paired together, “Christian” and “nationalism.” But for our purposes here, I really wanted to focus in on the nationalism part, because I think that’s where a lot of the confusion comes from, and where a lot of that definition gets sticky. So we’re seeing this, of course, all over the American political discussion. The week that we’re recording this, you know, there was just a trailer for a documentary coming out about Christian Nationalism. And we’re often seeing it used either to describe a political stance or even just kind of an attitude toward the nation. We’re also seeing it often be kind of misappropriated or claimed as a term for just “patriotic.” Like, “I love my country, I guess I’m a nationalist.” Right? But as we talked about in our episode on Christian Nationalism, there is a real definition. And it has to do with conflating the culture of a people with the system of a nation, and even believing that it’s the nation’s duty to somehow enforce that culture, whether that is based around a religion or an ethnicity or something like that. And so there is a really a troubling definition. It’s not just being patriotic. And so it’s one of those times where I think we need to be careful. Patriotism can be a really good thing. But if we’re claiming the term “nationalism,: we should step back and say, “Wait, what does that term really mean?”
KELSEY: I’m really glad we actually had it following our discussion on fascism, because fascism is kind of the furthest extreme of nationalism. It is the most exaggerated, most condensed, distilled version of what we’re talking about, or hyper-nationalism. So once you’re kind of tracking down that path, you kind of go, wait a minute, at the end of this, down the tunnel, is something very destructive to other people, to a society where we are so committed to one way of thinking that we destroy a chance for multiple different types of people to flourish. And we’ve talked about human flourishing a lot this year. That’s kind of another one of those terms that’s going to be floating through so much of our thinking. So you guys might want to also return to human flourishing. But a system like nationalism does not necessarily promote human flourishing for a diversity of individuals. So little plug there for another one of our episodes.
Now, our next term actually was put on our screens by our [Editorial Director] Rebecca Cochrane, who joined us for one of our episodes this year, and she said she’s seeing “virtue signaling.” From Oxford Language Dictionary, first of all, it’s a public expression of opinions or sentiments that are intended to demonstrate one’s good character, or their social conscience, or the moral correctness of their position on a particular issue. And you might be able to tell by my tone that I’m not a big fan of virtue signaling. I lived in a neighborhood recently where those signs that have a list of all the things that we do or don’t do—and I know that Matt Walsh, and all the people at Daily Wire are going to be making fun of it in a documentary that’s coming out—all these lists, that “we believe this, and we believe that,” it is kind of the physical version of this virtue signaling phenomenon.
JONATHAN: Yeah, not really doing anything, just putting the words out there to say, “I’m a good person,” whatever that looks like in your worldview.
KELSEY: And of course, that’s the physical display. But very often, this is coming out in people’s posts on social media, in their actions, what they’re involved in, and also in their expectations, that they communicate either in tone or in facial expression, the disdain that they have for somebody that they don’t believe is living up to what this new virtue is in our day and age. So it’s interesting, because I feel like it’s a new set of what I would call “secular laws for living.” It’s this secular ethic that we have come together and that, when we are keeping those laws, we want to make sure to broadcast that so that everybody knows we are living rightly.
JONATHAN: I think in the Bible, we would call this the “whitewashed tomb,” the idea of we want to look really good on the outside, doesn’t matter as much what’s on the inside. And I think it’s also why you sometimes see the sentiment go out on social media especially, that, “Well, if Christians really care about defending the poor and honoring life, why aren’t they doing anything?” Christians are doing a lot. But Christian virtue doesn’t signal itself. There’s the idea of not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing. Often, the good work Christians are doing is being done quietly, sometimes even anonymously, without glory, without social media posts or virtue signaling. And there can be this conflation where, you know, it looks like a certain group of people is doing all the right things, because they’re saying all the right things. But the good things are usually happening without a broadcast.
KELSEY: The prophet Samuel is part of where we find our shaping of that in scripture. And he talks about that the Lord doesn’t look on the outward appearance, He looks on the heart. That’s what’s of utmost importance to Him, is a transformed heart that flows into transformed action. But that action is so often characterized by winsomeness, and not calling attention to oneself, and humility. And so virtue, like you’ve described so beautifully, it’s such a disarming, rather than, I don’t know, causing you to arm yourself defensively to try to prove who you are in all your righteousness.
JONATHAN: And I think this is also another area where we see the kind of the politicization and divide in our culture, where—we think of virtue signaling, and I think the term comes out of more of a liberal bent. While you were talking about this new virtue, there’s this idea of, you know, like, “I use all the right pronouns, I verbally stand against racism even if I’m not really doing anything tangible, I’m accepting of immigrants at least on this board outside of my house, even if I’m not inviting them into my home.” Saying the right things. But there’s also, I think, what you could call virtue signaling on the right, increasingly, with a sort of, like, “I stand for the national anthem” and “I didn’t get the vaccination” and all these other things that are equally external. And neither of these new virtues that are dividing our culture are real Christian virtue. They are these things that we can do to look good on the outside. But God cares about our heart.
KELSEY: Yeah, even in your discussion, I’m just noticing so many trappings of political ideologies, that has nothing to do with a story in which we’re a part, in which our identity has been told for us, and in which as we conform more and more into the likeness of Christ. It just flows out beautifully.
So what are some questions that you can ask of your kids? Where are you seeing this around you? Do you see this in your peer group? And how does it make you feel? And here’s another one: What do you know to be true about who you are in Christ and what He is doing to produce His fruit, His real virtues in you?
JONATHAN: The next term, one of the biggest terms we’re encountering all over, is “gender.” Where are we seeing this? I don’t even know how to answer that question. Because it’s literally everywhere. And how it’s used is what really captures my attention because, as we’ve talked about in our previous episodes—great conversations we had with Dr. Gary Yegel—gender has been separated from sex in the popular mind and in popular speech. So there’s the idea of your gender, you identify as male or female or something else, different from your physical sex, and the way your body is formed. And there’s this idea that gender is something that can be different from your physical expression, or even something you can self-determine, more of a psychological or even spiritual reality.
KELSEY: What breaks my heart is that these things tend to come out of asking these questions of your kids, “How do you feel?” And sourcing what comes next out of their feeling instead of coaching their feeling towards truth and reorienting hearts towards the goodness of the Lord’s authority, towards His loving kindness. So instead of being able to move through to giving them the kind of foundation and the boundaries that make them feel safe—I think of what it means to swaddle a child. And when a child is fussy, when they’re really, really young, sometimes they just need to feel tightly embraced, and it soothes them. Kids need that even as they’re going up through the years, but it might be a little bit more that we’re doing that with our words and with our ideas and with the Lord’s word.
So some of the questions that we asked even in the last term may apply here. You’re asking, what do you remember about who you were made to be in Christ? And we would ask those questions of, how are you feeling? Are you feeling confused? In order not to press into the confusion, but in order to remind them of who they are, and of whose they are.
All right, so this one, it takes so much space in our notes. It is the term “genocide.” We feel it’s particularly important to address this term right now, as we’re in the middle of crisis in the Middle East. Genocide is something that we’ve seen through the course of history, some things that are on our screens, even in and around China and Africa. But most clearly on our screens right now is that conflict between Israel and Hamas, that war that Israel has declared on Hamas, but that so many peoples are getting turned up in the process, both physically and emotionally. So stateside, emotions are running high. Across Europe, emotions are running high. And again, terms like “genocide” are being thrown around both irresponsibly, but also truthfully. Both things are happening at the same time. One of the things that I’m noticing, just as a very clear image of this: Greta Thunberg, who is an environmental activist from Sweden, she says that there is no climate justice or climate restoration without social justice. And so she is using her platform to say things that are very anti-Semitic. And this will be another term we need to bring out in the discussion of genocide. She has been inflamed to the point of saying “crush all Zionism” and “genocide on the Jews.” So that’s one of the places that we’re seeing a huge overreaction and a misuse and a violent, just vitriolic use of the term “genocide.”
JONATHAN: I’m definitely seeing the term “genocide” come up a lot in terms of what Israel is doing to Gaza and to the Palestinian people. And it’s one of those things where it’s so hard to parse out all the facts. We definitely see that there has been a great loss of civilian life in Palestine, and some military experts saying that Israel has gone out of its way to target civilians. We do not claim to be experts on that. And we are not the journalists on that. So we can’t comment on the veracity of those claims. But there are definitely—and this is another thing that even Thunberg brought up—allegations that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinian people and seeking to wipe them out. And so the genocide discussion is going both ways. There is Hamas, explicitly wanting to wipe out the Jewish people, a genocidal impulse, and people expressing anti-Semitism and this idea of wanting to, you know—that works itself out in a desire to have genocide toward Jewish people. And then, on the other side, there are people saying that it’s actually the Jewish nation of Israel committing genocide against Palestinians. And so the genocide talk is flying in both directions.
KELSEY: One resource that I found, that I think is really helpful, it’s actually a professor of genocide.
JONATHAN: That’s a wild title.
KELSEY: Yeah, no kidding.
JONATHAN: I can’t imagine having that as your profession. I don’t know if I could live in that headspace.
KELSEY REED: I know. That’s so tough. But Omar Bartok, he’s not only a professor of genocide studies, but also of the Holocaust. And he’s at Brown University. Very well spoken, very just clear writing. And I grabbed something from him because he was so good in his evaluation of what is going on, and he used two categories, that there is, in genocide, this understanding of an intent to wipe out a group of people—whether they be ethnic, racial, religious, some group of people, just the intention is to wipe them off the face of the Earth. But it doesn’t only stay in that intentional space. It also moves into action before it’s actually defined as genocide. So I want to be really careful to actually tie this into some of our biblical worldview terms, that we see the fruit of our hearts, the intentions of our hearts, operating in action. So there is this pairing of what we think and what we believe, actually working itself out in action before it can actually be said to be genocide.
This is where it becomes helpful for us to think about what’s been going on recently in the House Committee on Education. They’ve had a hearing on what is going on on MIT, University of Pennsylvania, and Harvard campuses right now, regarding anti-Semitic and even Islamophobic action on these campuses. And there have been these calls for genocide, just really intense, angry, inflammatory rhetoric. And in these committees, you know, these people are being grilled, these presidents are being grilled for what’s going on on their campuses, and rightly so, because we do need to recognize that a thought does give birth to action, and that inflamed, passionate protest or inflamed, passionate—I almost want to call it “riot,” I’m not sure if that’s the right way to say it—but mobs that are inflamed, that very quickly, those inflamed emotions can turn into very damaging, violent action. So I just want to, you know, constantly keep that definition in mind, that it has to do with the intent and the action, but it’s very quickly turned from intent into action. And what does that mean for us?
JONATHAN: And it’s interesting, I think, tying it back to one of our other terms. It gives the lie to virtue signaling. If you’re virtue signaling all the right things, but then this hatred is boiling out of you when crisis hits, that shows whether or not it was just a whitewashed tomb.
And so another word we have on our list is “trauma.” And this is something else we’re seeing in more clinical settings, being discussed medically, but also something that we’re seeing in places like social media, I think especially among younger generations, the idea of trauma. And when I see the way it’s being used, I think what’s interesting is that there are almost two opposite trends I see. And I’m interested to see how you interpret this. But on the one hand, there’s a lot of trauma that goes unrecognized, or people just starting to understand the reality of trauma, not even realizing they’ve been traumatized, and experiences that have actually affected people psychologically in ways they didn’t even know. And so there can be a failure to recognize the real existence of trauma. But there can also be this trend to then overcorrect and see trauma everywhere, almost anytime you are inconvenienced, or anytime somebody slights you or you even perceive a slight it’s, “I’ve been traumatized.”
KELSEY: I would tend to agree that there are these tendencies of, again, the overuse of the term, the incorrect use of the term. But how do we try to, I don’t know, have a tender attitude towards the suffering of the other? It’s interesting, we’ve been coaching our middle daughter through a discussion that they’re having in their youth class about prayer. And there’s this idea about prayer that unless you’re really suffering, you’re not allowed to pray for something that you want or need. It’s a very strange discussion going on right now. But I see how it applies here, related to trauma, where we’re thinking about the suffering of another person, and how it’s scaled, and whether we can call something suffering or trauma or not, based on comparison. And we have to be really, really careful here, because there are some people who are seriously experiencing mental, emotional, physical trauma at a young age that may not scale as great as what the women and children experienced in Israel on October 7, which was highly traumatic psychologically. PTSD is everywhere there. How, again, do we use the term carefully? And how do we approach, when somebody else is using the term, in a way that cares for hearts that reorients them to truth?
I would say that asking questions is always such a vital piece of this process, because we can spiral down and coach our own trauma and kind of navel gaze and dwell on that area without somebody moving in tenderly to help us unpack it. So I don’t want to diminish. I don’t want—I really don’t want to say, “Ah, you’re just using that too loosely.” But I do want to say, parent, as a coach, it’s important that we coach our kids to use their words well.
JONATHAN: So to use the word “trauma” with care, to not just discount it, to recognize the reality of trauma. I think you could even do some more research on what trauma means, psychologically, in the brain. There’s some research you could do, especially with older kids.
The next term on our list is another hard term. It’s one of those that might seem like an easy definition, but definitely requires some unpacking, which is the term “euthanasia.” And this is coming into our conversation because of things we see going on both in Canada and in the United Kingdom.
KELSEY: I really appreciate the way that the logic of our terms is actually unfolding, because I see the tie-in between trauma and suffering with what’s going on with this trend in euthanasia. Euthanasia seems to be this new way of managing suffering in our society, that we almost can’t bear the idea of suffering to the point where we are making legal strides, or where we are seeing countries like Canada make legal strides, towards giving people a way out. And so we see this with MAID, which is medical aid in dying, in Canada. We see some interesting trends that are similar in the UK, though not exactly the same. And this is where we need to use our terms really carefully. Euthanasia, according to—the University of Missouri School of Medicine Center for Health Ethics, returns us to the root of the term and gives us a number of different categories. So first, the root. Euthanasia comes from the Greek words, “eu” and “thanatos.” Eu means “good.” Thanatos means “death.” It’s the idea that, instead of condemning someone to a slow, painful, or undignified death, that euthanasia would allow the patient to experience a relatively “good death” in quotes. But multiple categories here. There is active euthanasia, which is killing a patient by active means, and is sometimes called aggressive euthanasia. And for example, that might be injecting a patient with a lethal dose of a drug. But there’s also this passive euthanasia, as we were seeing reported by Lillian Hammond in this December 7 episode I recommended at the top of our recording. Passive euthanasia is intentionally letting a patient die by withholding artificial life support, such as a ventilator or a feeding tube. And but there’s a number of other ones. There’s voluntary euthanasia. There’s involuntary euthanasia, which is without the consent of the patient. There’s self-administered euthanasia and other-administered euthanasia. And then there’s assisted. I would encourage you to look at these terms. We’ll connect this in the show notes today, because this is an area that is very sticky. And it is so related to a biblical worldview perspective, a high value of life.
JONATHAN: As you are researching these definitions—and we would encourage you to do that research—I would encourage you also to focus in on that word voluntary, because I think that word can be very deceptive. Because, okay, maybe euthanasia is voluntary. But what are your options? Can you actually receive life-saving healthcare or afford it? Are your options death or suffering because of an economic situation, or because of what doctors are willing to offer you? I think there’s a lot of layers to that, where on the surface it’s a choice, but when you look at the reality of people’s lives, if it is a legal option, there is going to be coercion towards it, whether that’s from circumstances or even coercion by medical professionals. And so even what is called “voluntary” euthanasia, once that door is open, that voluntary part gets really squishy.
KELSEY: So for discipleship purposes, this is pushing into our understanding, our Biblical understanding of suffering, our Biblical understanding of the value of human life, of the Lord’s ways in our lives. Job—I just cannot commend the book of Job enough in terms of shaping our process, shaping our emotions. And Job 1:21, where he says, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” It’s such a shaping understanding of how we are to approach suffering, death, trauma, having a weighty view of life, and really entering into this idea of any kind of medical care with the utmost desire to cause and sustain human life.
JONATHAN: We have one more term on our list. Our last word for 2023 is “terrorism.”
KELSEY: This term has been everywhere. It’s all over the news. And it’s another one that is often misused. So how are we going to look at it carefully? The difference between Pearl Harbor, October 7 in Israel, and maybe—let’s also throw in 9/11, discussing these three different events to be able to understand this term terrorism. Pearl Harbor, was, if you don’t recall, when the Japanese air fleet came and took out the naval fleet stationed in Hawaii. America, the United States of America, was neutral during this stage of World War II, but they were brought into the war by this act. The thing that’s really distinctive about it is that it was a military target. No civilians were targeted in this. So it made it an act of war distinctly. And while we are calling October 7 the “Pearl Harbor of Israel,” there are some really distinct differences where terrorism actually comes into play. And this is why I want to bring up 9/11. This was quite obviously a civilian location. It was targeted by these terrorist factions and brought down. Violence was done to those who had nothing to do with war or the acts of war. That is distinctly terrorist. In fact, let me go ahead and give a clear definition. It’s violence or the threat of violence that’s used as a weapon of intimidation or coercion—there’s that word again. And it also relates to a regime that rules by terror, especially violent or destructive acts being carried out by that regime, such as bombing committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or a government and trying to get them to grant their demands.
JONATHAN: And so that idea of “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” that’s really the reason. Because the intent of terrorism is to coerce you through fear into doing what the terrorists want.
KELSEY: And this is making light, but when you were talking about “we don’t negotiate with terrorists,” I immediately thought of how that is used in parenting.
JONATHAN: It’s kind of become a meme.
KELSEY: It has, hasn’t it? Oh, gosh. But it’s helpful as this display of how we’re using these terms lightly. And I think maybe, as we turn towards the end, it’s helpful to think about some of these things, again, through recognition that it’s not just the serious things of the world. These things are disheartening, they are hard, they deserve our care. But we also can do what I’ve heard a character describe as “whistling in the dark.” That’s actually plucked from books by Madeline L’Engle where, when the darkness is heavy and is intimidating, sometimes we whistle and we make light, and we turn our hearts towards joy and remember that there is so much in this world that is hopeful, because the Lord is in control.
JONATHAN: And this is the season where we remember that a Light came into the darkness and the darkness could not overcome it. As we are looking forward to Christmas, we remember that even though there are hard things we’re sorting through in this world, there is a Light that darkness is absolutely no match for. And that Light is and was Christ. And now it’s embodied in us, as the body of Christ here on Earth. And so I think, by stewarding language well, by using these terms well and approaching these things with kindness and truth—you know, speaking the truth in love, as scripture would exhort us to do—by speaking the truth in love, by using our words well, we can help be that light in the world.
KELSEY: Amen to that. So here are a few scriptures that I think just help hold my heart and remind us of just the importance of words. “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether,” from Psalm 139:4.
JONATHAN: From Psalm 19:14. I love this Psalm, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”
KELSEY: And from Daniel 2:20-21: “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding.” And He has equipped you for the work
We’re counting down our Top Ten Words of 2023. These tough terms have cropped up all over the news of 2023. But are we using them correctly?
This is our last episode before the New Year. Have a wonderful Christmas!
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See more from the News Coach, including episode transcripts.
- Learn about Merriam-Webster’s words of the year.
- Why are words so important? Listen to our episode “A process for evaluating shifting words and meanings.”
- To learn more about the term “genocide,” see this article from the Conversation and this piece from WORLD Opinions.
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