Marilyn M. Barnewall
January 1, 2012
Last week’s article – Christmas Day – dealt with celebrating the birth of truth. Many people think truth is totally visible. All they have to do is hear or read one statement, then another and perhaps even a third… and from the information provided they will be able to discern truth.
Words have meaning. How we interpret the words we hear and the words we use have consequences. Yet, few people spend time analyzing the real meaning of words they both say and hear.
This is important because we are in an election year and our ears will be bombarded with all kinds of words from people who want something from us. Rush was actively discussing the meaning of words on his show this week. Mark Levin was on the radio as I drove home this evening. He had put together a montage of Barack Obama’s speeches recently. They were laced with the words “fair” and “fairness.”
What does the word fair mean? In Obama’s case – in the case of most politicians – I do not single him out (he’s just the one who is over-using the word) “fair” is used to put one group of people against another group. Everything this man does has the objective of divide and conquer class warfare. As I said in last week’s article, truth seekers do not use divide and conquer to find truth. Enough said?
Fair can mean pleasing to the eye or clean and pure like a fresh mountain stream. Or it can mean marked by impartiality and honesty, as in free from self-interest or prejudice or favoritism. It can mean something conforms to established rules – like a fair catch on the football field. Or it can mean a sufficient amount of something – but not too much of it. This final sentence is the context in which Obama uses the word “fair.”
What does it mean when politicians say things like “Cutting the budget must be done fairly. It must be fair to the ‘have nots’ as well as the ‘haves’.” Since more ‘have nots’ than ‘haves’ vote, and since political speeches are designed to gain votes, it’s pretty clear that Obama is seeking the votes of the ‘have nots’ and is willing to instigate class warfare to gain them -- truth be damned. It is particularly interesting that these words come from the man whose health care plan stole $500 million from the Medicare budget… and seniors are the largest group of ‘have nots’ in the country. There’s a word for that, too: Hypocrisy. Some would call it out-and-out lying.
What other important words do human beings utter? How about prayers?
I said the Lord’s Prayer for years without stopping to analyze the words I was saying. That’s pretty dumb because our prayers contain the most important words believers utter daily.
When I resigned from the bank, started my own bank consulting company and began traveling all over the world, I was terrified of flying. I would hastily say the Lord’s Prayer as we gained speed moving down the runway. One day it dawned on me that since I placed so much faith for personal safety in the words I was using, I ought to spend some time analyzing precisely what the words meant.
“Our…” – Everyone? Or, just Christians? Does it include all Christians or must they believe as I do? Catholics? Baptists? Or does it refer to the several personalities inside of myself… my mental, physical, emotional and spiritual selves? I thought long and hard about each of these possibilities.
“Father…” – What is a “father?” A creator, a protector, a teacher, a provider, a disciplinarian, and an example of male partnership and friendship? Well, these words define a father in the physical world… is a spiritual Father defined differently?
How about the word “hallowed?” Do you know what it means? Or do you just say the word because Christ said it when He taught us to pray? I spent a long time on this word. It’s easy to find the definition. When we seek truth, however, we seek meanings, not definitions.
The upshot of my Lord’s Prayer interpretation is that I became very conscious of the words I speak, read, and hear as well as the words I think or write. The upshot of the experience also made me realize that had I written the Bible, it would have taken a wheelbarrow to carry it. I wrote my interpretation in 1985. It was very long.
Consider another word:
Prelest. It’s a wonderful word. Very few people are aware of it. It wasn’t until one day a reader of an article I wrote for Christian Business Daily sent it to me and suggested I look it up. The answer so impressed me, I devoted part of a chapter to a discussion of the word prelest in my latest book, Flight of the Black Swan:
“I agree,” Meredith responded, “but the meaning of the word goes much deeper… takes us back to original sin. It describes how human beings live in a constant state of spiritual deception and explains how, to otherwise reasonable people, self-deception makes sin seem like logical, progressive behavior. Spiritual self-deception is the way humans rationalize sin and turn it into evil.”
Sue thought for a moment and Alex began speaking before she could respond.
“The word comes from the Russian Orthodox church. Unless I’m mistaken, Bishop Ignatius defined spiritual deception as the wounding of human nature by falsehood.”
He took a bite of roast beef and, as he raised his eyes from his food, his dinner guests were looking at him, waiting for him to continue.
“Well, Bishop Ignatius said a lot of things… it’s a difficult word to explain. There aren’t equivalent English words close to the Russian meaning. The closest you could come would be spiritual delusion, spiritual deception, or – ‘illusion’.”
“Did he mean that we deceive others? Or did he mean we deceive ourselves?” Monique asked.
Alex thought for a moment before answering. He hadn’t found a personal relationship with God until he escaped the Soviet Union. It was difficult to remember things he had been taught as a small child, before his paternal grandparents died.
“Probably both – but mostly self deception. Ignatius said the greatest spiritual deception is when people think themselves free of prelest – free of spiritual self deception. I have come to believe that’s what Christ meant in the Sermon on the Mount when he said ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’ In other words, blessed are those who are less sure of their salvation because they have not been self-deceived into thinking they are worthy of it.”
He took another bite of roast beef.
“So, a person who deludes himself by thinking himself righteous is guilty of prelest?” Bill asked.
Bill Leonard’s entry into a conversation dealing with a spiritual topic surprised Meredith. She knew him as well as anyone. He always listened, but seldom said anything. She had never discussed faith with him but had always sensed he had a strong belief in something unknown to her. He would have never survived his life experiences without spiritual strength and faith… at least he would not have maintained his moral compass without it. And he had.
“You’re asking if a person who doesn’t recognize his or her own spiritual deception is deluded?” Monique asked. “Or, are you saying that no matter how righteously a person lives, it’s impossible for humans to be truly righteous because they’re always surrounded by evil and deceive themselves into thinking they have conquered it through righteous living?”
“Both sound logical. People who don’t realize they are constantly exposed to spiritual deception in the physical world and are, thus, spiritually deceived, are pretty arrogant, don’t you think? And, arrogance is merely another form of self-righteousness.” Bill paused. “I sometimes think our struggle against tyranny is a struggle against original sin. It’s timeless – has gone on since the beginning of time. It may be one of the most debilitating forms of prelest because the gentle lies that resist accepting responsibility for original sin are at the core of man’s need to dominate.”
Following Alex’s example, Bill took a bite of roast beef. Silence followed as he chewed the meat.
Meredith’s eyebrows came together as she realized why this topic interested Bill. He was an expert at deception. Jake was too… it was what he hated most about his days at the CIA: the lies. She saw Bill observing her reaction to his words and quickly smiled at him.
“Prelest tells me that we’re all sinners, but not all of us are evil. Hmmm… When do we cross the line from sin to evil?” Sue asked. There was a long silence. Her mind busily worked on what should be obvious but wasn’t.
“Prelest says it’s when we – as individuals, corporations, political systems, societies or churches – rationalize our bad behavior. People think if they have good intentions, it makes everything okay. That’s prelest – spiritual self-deception.
“In other words, we maintain our status as ‘just sinners’ as long as we don’t deceive ourselves – or, others. The moment we begin to rationalize our sinful behavior to ourselves or to others, we cross the line from sin to evil,” Meredith theorized.
Meredith and Monique were quiet for a moment but finally concluded that the only way a person could truly repent of sin was to do so understanding that they were spiritually deceived beings unworthy of forgiveness and, as such, were often totally unaware of many of their offenses against God.
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Monique ended the discussion when she suggested that prelest made it possible for human beings to create God in their own image.
What are some of the words with confused meaning that are used to manipulate we the people into doing what the evil doers want? What words motivate spiritual self-deception in the modern world?
“Love” is a good example. What is love? To be more specific, what does it mean to love another?
Next Sunday "Words Have Meaning: Love, Charity, Freedom."
© 2012 Marilyn M. Barnewall - All Rights Reserved
Marilyn MacGruder Barnewall began her career in 1956 as a journalist with the Wyoming Eagle in Cheyenne. During her 20 years (plus) as a banker and bank consultant, she wrote extensively for The American Banker, Bank Marketing Magazine, Trust Marketing Magazine, was U.S. Consulting Editor for Private Banker International (London/Dublin), and other major banking industry publications. She has written seven non-fiction books about banking and taught private banking at Colorado University for the American Bankers Association. She has authored seven banking books, one dog book, and two works of fiction (about banking, of course). She has served on numerous Boards in her community.
Barnewall is the former editor of The National Peace Officer Magazine and as a journalist has written guest editorials for the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Newsweek, among others. On the Internet, she has written for News With Views, World Net Daily, Canada Free Press, Christian Business Daily, Business Reform, and others. She has been quoted in Time, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and other national and international publications. She can be found in Who's Who in America, Who's Who of American Women, Who's Who in Finance and Business, and Who's Who in the World.
Web site: http://marilynwrites.blogspot.com