by Rev. Ian Kinney
Because we are saturated with words of various kinds, we don’t give them much weight. You have words on your phone, you communicate most often by texting with words, you have to work with words in emails, you are reading words right now, and you probably always have the TV, radio, or Spotify on with words flooding your mind.
Words are everywhere, right? They are not that valuable, and they really don’t make a difference, right?
But there is a Word that says otherwise: the Word of God. The Word of God matters, and it teaches that words actually have meaning. The words we use and the words we take in shape how we think and speak. Therefore, when it comes to matters of life, be watchful of the words you take in and the words you use—because they matter. They will influence the way that you talk and think about the sanctity of life and the value of a person.
For example, there is a trend that dehumanizes the human body. There is a genre of shows and movies with plot lines about aliens or transhumanism or technology. In these genres, the human body is often referred to as a “meat bag” or a “meat sack.” Now, in the shows, this language is used by alien characters. But in its own sinister way, it teaches us to hate the body as something that has no value—something that can be used, abused, tossed, and discarded. This is not God’s will for how we talk about the bodies He has created, redeemed, sanctified, and will raise again.
Many of us don’t take the language too seriously in media because “it’s just a show” or “it’s just entertainment,” and we fail to realize that words matter. And when we use words that dehumanize us, that is precisely what we learn to do.
So how do we learn to start using humanizing language in our vocabulary as we fight for the rights of the unborn and the aged?
First, use humanizing language when speaking about the unborn. When a woman is pregnant, there isn’t a baby “on the way”—the baby is already here. Then, when we refer to unborn children, it is dehumanizing of the unborn’s personhood to refer to them as “it.” Would it be respectful to your humanity if I called you an “it”? Probably not. That is dehumanizing, whether you are born or unborn. To use humanizing language is as simple as referring to the unborn child as “baby” before we know baby’s gender or as “he” or “she” after we do. Always referring to an unborn child as “baby” may feel awkward when you start, but such language will aid in humanizing God’s littlest children.
In addition, use humanizing language with mothers, including those who miscarry. When a woman is pregnant, we need to avoid saying, “Congratulations! You’re going to be a mother!” or writing on cards, “Congrats, mother-to-be!” A woman walking down the aisle to become a wife is now a mother-to-be. A woman two months pregnant is already a mother.
The same applies when comforting mothers and fathers who have suffered miscarriages or stillbirths. These are some of the hardest things to go through in life, but it doesn’t help to say things like, “Well, maybe one day you’ll be able to be a mother/father.” Instead, grieve with them and acknowledge that she is a mother and he is a father who lost their child, even though that child never got to be born.
Words matter. So, as those shaped by the Word of God, let’s use words that respect the value God has given to those He has made in His image and redeemed by His Son.
Rev. Ian Kinney serves as pastor to the four parishes of the Northeast Kansas Partnership and was appointed to serve as Kansas District Life Coordinator (LCMS) in 2022. (Source: LFL of Kansas e-newsletter, September 2022)