I just finished reading Language in America: A report on our deteriorating semantic environment. It is a collection of essays on, well, language in America. It was published in 1969 and it’s so far out of print that I couldn’t even find a picture of the cover on the internet. One of the editors is Neil Postman who is most famous for Amusing Ourselves to Death and will change your life in magical ways. I’d like to share a few thoughts from the book if you’ll bear with me.

 

 
In general, I’d like to encourage you as my reader in the ways that I was challenged through reading the book. That challenge is, to pay attention to the words you use. Take care to mean the words that you say in the way that you say them. Be aware of the implications of the slang you use and what it might indicate. 
 
In the introduction, Postman points out that the President and other famous public figures had recently (remember, published in 1969) said that they didn’t believe in violence. However, each of the people had recently done other things to prove that they did, in fact, believe in violence. Postman’s point is simply that our language environment is polluted. I certainly don’t think this has improved any since 1969. When people, including ourselves, say one thing but do the complete opposite and it is accepted, this is an indication that something has gone wrong with our use of language. 
 
The essay on censorship was written by James Lincoln Collier. His comments apply to all forms of censorship, but he writes mostly about censorship of sexual materials. He introduces this by pointing out a discrepancy in what we as a society censor, “…has been convicted of distributing sexual materials, whereas nobody has been even locked up for advocating the overthrow of the government.” He states that despite public speeches and publications advocating violence against the government, it is sexual material that is suppressed, “Clearly, the concern of American censorship is sex.”
His point, though, is that censorship in general is class based. He states that the average American of a low income does not have access to sexual publications, but that he can go to the university library where he works and find books depicting erotic photography and art. He presents further evidence for his claim and some reasons for why he thinks censorship is class based, but let’s just stop with one example. 
First, I assume that his essay would be different if he wrote it today in light of the internet and other changes in society since 1969. However, his premise is still intriguing. What is censored and why? I think this is especially important for us to think about in our Christian sub-cultures. What do we allow in our churches and universities and para-church organizations? Is our censorship class-based? Is the average member restricted from some things because the leadership do not think he is as able/worthy/mature/entitled as they are? 
What language to do we use when we are limiting the freedom of another? Is it really for his own good? Or is merely to maintain the status quo?

 

I want to comment on more chapters, but I was told that a good blog post keeps things short…
I suppose I’ll just have to make this in to a “two-parter”
"Same Bat-Time; same Bat-Channel"
….
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