Words! The things we use to transmit thoughts and ideas. We speak them. We write them. Usually we use them to make sentences while endeavoring to communicate. Sometimes we are successful and sometimes we may not be sure. Other times we fail completely, never getting across our meaning.
Words can be used in different ways. Sometimes a word that is usually a noun can be a verb; sometimes a word can mean two completely different things. I always thought it was interesting that in the Japanese language nana was one way of indicating the number seven. But it also means nose. So if I say “nana” do I mean a number or a feature on your face?
Wind! Now there is a word. But what does it mean; if I don’t use it in a sentence you have no idea. Fact is you don’t even know how to pronounce it. Wind? Am I speaking of the movement of air or am I referring to wrapping some twine around a stick?
Religion. Now there is a word. But just what does it mean? The word religion is a very good example of how the meaning of words change over the years. Bible scholars tell me that “let” no longer means what it did in the days of the King James translators. Today it means allow but then, they say, it meant prevent, or just the opposite of what we mean today. Personally I believe it never really meant prevent but something more like control. But let us not chase that rabbit.
Religion is mentioned in the United States Constitution. Some years back the prize fighter Cassius Clay changed his name to Muhammad Ali and converted to Islam. He then refused to be inducted into the armed forces on the grounds of “religious freedom.” He was successful upon appeal to the United States Supreme Court.
I can remember as a child singing “give me the old time religion, give me the old time religion, it was good enough for grandma and its good enough for me.” I can also remember when some Christians started to claim that they would go to the ends of the earth to defend Christianity but wouldn’t lift a finger to defend religion. But when we sang of the old time religion we meant Christianity; we used the words as synonyms and up until then had gotten by with it and had been properly understood.
What did our founding fathers mean by religion? Read the writings of Abraham Lincoln and notice that when he mentions religion he is referring to Christianity. You can go several decades later than Lincoln and still find the words used synonymously. But no more. And that leads to trouble, for the U. S. Constitution when it speaks of religion is interpreted by our courts today by the modern definition of religion. Do you imagine for a moment that when the framers of the constitution spoke of religion that they had in mind Islam or Hinduism or Voodoo? I think not. Thus we see, if we are not very careful, words can even be dangerous things.
Gay! Now just what does that word mean? Forty some years ago, before I came to Christ, I dated a girl whose last name was Gay. But we didn’t usually think of gay as a name or a noun but an adjective. I remember when there were some diners here, there, and yonder named “Gay Dan’s.” But what kind of fellow did we think of when we thought of gay Dan? We thought of one who was happy, merry, excited, lively. Nice word, gay! Not so anymore, for you see, “He’s gay.” Just how we came to calling homosexuals, gays, I can only imagine. Fact is, I do imagine, and I imagine it was done in an effort to win them respectability. Didn’t work with me, or Almighty God either, according to the Holy Bible.
To be honest the tag “gay” just doesn’t fit homosexuals for there is nothing to indicate that they are any more jolly than any of the rest of humankind. In fact some get so carried away in their lusts that they drink the urine and eat the feces of their sexual partners. If that makes them jolly then they are indeed perverted.
You may recall what we used to call them: queers. The name indicated that they were just what they were; odd, peculiar, in a rather perverted sort of way. Thus we often spoke of them as sexual perverts. The Bible calls them sodomites. If my memory serves me correctly, a few decades back getting caught in a homosexual act in Indiana could earn you two years in prison. In some ancient cultures it would have gotten you stoned. But, of course, in our enlightened culture we don’t do those things anymore. Fact is the opposite sexes are very naturally attracted to one another, but, of course, if you are not natural there is just no telling what you may do. The male and female of the species have different sexual organs and when they get together they can reproduce more human beings and that is natural. Unnatural acts can never accomplish that. But enough of this talk about “gays.” It is robbing me of my gaiety.
Now here is another word, or rather two of them; a term: Native American. I thought I was an American native. I was born here, my parents were born here, my grandparents were born here and most of my great-grandparents were born here. This is my native land. If I am not a Native American then just what am I? Oh, I know. I am a European American and you are black so you are an African American. Got any Asian Americans out there? I guess if some of my ancestors came from Europe, some from Africa and some from Asia, then I am an African, Asian, European American. Will this foolishness never cease? When I was a young boy we used to play cowboys and Indians. I guess now they have to play cowboys and Native Americans.
Of course Indians is a misnomer. When some explorer met them he called them Indians because he thought he was in a different part of the world; the Indies. What they really were were Creeks, Arapahos, Apaches, Mohawks, etc. etc. It is actually quite incorrect to call them Native Americans as the name America came from the explorer Amerigo Vespucci and they were here before him and before this land was called America.
It has been said that history is written by the victors. But who rewrites history? Which, when we speak of Native Americans is what we are doing. I recall visiting the battlefield at The Little Big Horn, the site of Custer’s last stand. There is a National Cemetery there, a book store, a museum of sorts, crosses marking where the U. S. Troops died and various monuments etc. All of this to commemorate the sacrifice of American soldiers. At one point on the extremity of these grounds, just beyond where that last commemorative plaque was, there was constructed a memorial to those who had paid the supreme sacrifice while fighting against Custer’s troops. No doubt it was put there by a Sioux, or a member or members of one of the other tribes which used to be known as the Plains Indians.
So we see then that words can be used in various ways and for different purposes. They are used to communicate. They are used to promote truth. They are used to deceive, to mislead, to educate and to reeducate. Words, as we have said, can be dangerous, they are often quite powerful, they can stir emotions, passions; of course they can also bore us. Personally I prefer the words of the Word of God written on my heart, for I have found that they are trustworthy, comforting, dependable and “the same yesterday, today, and forever.”