Resisting the Politicization of Language & Breaking Down 3 Dog Whistles

Hi, friends. It’s been a couple months since I last stirred the pot, so here goes nothing.

Back in November, I wrote a post about my former obsession with politics. When I started reading scripture hot and heavy 1-2 years ago–along with lots of Christian blog posts–a change crept on me.

Hebrews tells us that the Word is a double-edged sword, and I’ve found that to be accurate. Realizing the extent of my idolatry has been painful, but I can reflect and admit that the Lord’s pruning genuinely made (and is still making) me a better person.

One of my personal epiphanies in this process is that I had politicized language. Words and phrases translated as dog whistles to me because I was so invested in politics that it colored how I viewed everything.

The politicization of language makes clear and productive conversation almost impossible. People already tend to think about what they’ll say next rather than truly listening; add in some reading (hearing) dog whistles between the lines, and people might as well be speaking different languages.

So here are a few phrases that became dog whistles to me. I was going to include examples from both sides of the aisle, but I’m falling back on the phrase “Write what you know” and sticking with my personal, authentic experiences and revelations.

Since I view life from a Christian lens now, I will counter the political-dog-whistle interpretations with a Biblical perspective.

Social Justice

Because of the derogatory term “social justice warrior” that some conservatives use to mock some liberals, the term “social justice” is now a dog whistle for leftist social views. [Ex: White people are privileged, abortion is a woman’s right, etc.]

God in the Old Testament and Jesus in the New Testament emphasize social justice–treating everyone equally in court, caring for the poor and marginalized, etc. It is reasonable to disagree with some leftist talking points about social justice…but resenting the term altogether is like throwing out the baby with the bath water! Christians should support the general concept of social justice.

Does it reflect Christ to taunt someone for being a “social justice warrior?”

Girl Power

The phrase “Girl Power” put a bad taste in my mouth because it became a dog whistle for feminism. For many, “feminism” is now a dog whistle for misandry and women who always claim to be oppressed.

Women play vital roles throughout the Bible, from Deborah as a judge of Israel to Priscilla as one of Paul’s ministry partners; many examples exist in scripture. I believe that the Lord does support “Girl Power” in the sense that women are intelligent and important. I would rather tout the phrase “God Power” because the first will be last, and I’m not the one who belongs on the pedestal. 

I now view the phrase as being fairly innocuous instead of reading an agenda into it.

Environmental Care

This breaks my heart.

Since this has been dubbed a left-wing issue, any language related to environmental care has become a dog whistle for leftist policies. More specifically, the dog whistle implies higher taxes, more regulations, etc.

When God created each aspect of the Earth, He stopped to remark that it was good. How arrogant of humans to decide that His good creation is less important than wealth. Treasures in heaven, anyone?

We need to assess all the facts and balance policy ideas with financial viability, but again, there’s a huge difference between compromise and throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Some have developed such a distaste for this dog whistle that any mention of conservation–even just recycling–sparks a flame of anger. Forgetting environmental policy for a second, there’s no reason Christians shouldn’t support local environmental care methods such as not littering, recycling, conserving resources, even picking up trash as a community mission. Let’s be good stewards and faithful servants, brothers and sisters!

Reflections

I’m wary of how this post will be received, but sometimes, the truth must be spoken in love–many of us have made our political ideologies our idols.

If you are obsessed as I once was, try my method–

  • Stop reading your favorite news site and feeling outraged every time they tell you to feel outraged
  • Stop engaging in social media disagreements
  • Start reading the Bible, particularly Paul’s letters about Christian community
  • Be transformed!

Thanks for reading! What do you think about the politicization of language or about the degradation of civil debate in general? Do you have other examples of dog whistles? Let me know in the comments.

26 comments

  1. I try to not let emotions guide me anymore. Emotions are good but not in the political or Theological arena. In these arenas we need to listen then take our turn to speak. War only destroys. I try to give the opposition a chance and maybe learn something. Screaming in each others faces in useless.:)) But I will defend my beliefs in my God.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Excellent post, Lily. It’s all too easy to fall back on knee-jerk reactions instead of taking the time to reflect. “Good Christians”, like “good Jews” and “good Muslims” should all strive to be good citizens of this precious world in which we all live together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It makes no sense to me why some are against the small efforts of environmental care. Ehh, that’s a lie; I have two primary reasons that seem most likely.

      1) The person has a gnostic-esque viewpoint that our souls are all that matters while the physical world is unimportant–generally people who believe the world will end in Armageddon–these people seem to believe that creation is irreversibly tainted from the fall of man and helping the environment is actually a sign of unfaithfulness.

      2) The person has made conservatism or the Republican party an idol and must vehemently oppose anything remotely liberal in the interest of winning the culture war.

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      1. One thing that I find myself overlooking is your point that Christianity is rooted in the spiritual and physical. Christ is God, but also a man. He rose from the dead and hung out with the disciples, showed Thomas his scars, ate food and other things. I don’t know how he did these things but the physical will not disappear at the second coming, it will be transfigured but it will remain as a property of nature.

        Therefore, just as we have to be good stewards of our bodies, trying to take care of them as best we can, so too we must try and take care of the earth.

        One thought that comes to mind is that as Christ demonstrated rulers should serve. If man is made to rule the earth then should he not also serve it? This could just apply to Christians serving mankind but I think it also extends to nature as well.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. My problem with the Social Gospel is that it becomes the only gospel. The message should begin and end with our Lord, Jesus. Finally, we have come so far now that whenever one group speaks of asserting their rights, they actually mean to take away a right from another group. This is NOT good. And yes, a good discussion going on with this subject. thank you, Miss Lily

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Tom! I agree that the good news should revolve around Jesus. Seems that a lot of people are either
      1. focusing on improving society and sidestepping theology
      2. focusing on “saving souls” and sidestepping social issues

      I believe that theology about sin and death and Jesus’s resurrection + caring about social issues is the key! We can make a tangible difference in people’s lives and also share the good news about death being defeated.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. We who claim to be Christians would be well advised to see how many times themes like love justice, defend the oppressed, care for the orphans and widows etc is found in the bible. One that really stands out to me is Proverbs 31. It actually begins with advice for a ruler to defend the oppressed.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. You are so right about people not listening. There is a general inability to even try to see the other person’s point of view – as if itwould be somehow treacherous. Isn’t the whole point of debate – to broaden one’s outlook, not to narrow and fix it?

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are so right, when I was overly politicized myself (I went through a similar phase and also came around to seeing that it was idolatrous) I was listening to respond and when I would hear a ‘dog whistle’ I stopped listening.

    It’s not necessarily a ‘dog whistle’ but I have noticed that when we get highly politicized we can jump to conclusions and believe ‘conspiracy theories’ far more readily. I took a lot of bunny trails, a lot of political stuff delves into End Times prophecies etc. so some of the theories could ‘seem’ like it was Bible study; and it was addicting!

    Great post!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Salt!! Politicizing everything does tend to make us jump to conclusions. And I have to try not to pass judgement on those who are obsessed with End Times prophecies. Not always, but I’ve noticed that many of the people who idolize conservatism/the Republican party are the same ones obsessed with End Times prophecies.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes. It really gave me pause when the current administration declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and the ultra conservative Republican End Times people I once followed lauded it as brave and ‘great’ and a step forward for Christians around the world, etc. Had the prior administration done that, it would have been seen as a very ominous move of the AC (AntiChrist), drawing us ‘one step closer to the third temple’. Perhaps that goes to show that even while ‘watching closely’, we are susceptible to denial and delusions (perhaps even more so, the more obsessed we become with such things).

        I’ve now become mostly a-political, as in not really into either side– King Jesus all the way 😊

        Like

  7. Language is so powerful! It has the power to include or exclude, and I think you’ve hit on some excellent points here. Striving for authenticity is important, as you recognize. I like the authenticity of your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

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