Fugitives from Fundamentalism

The Musings of Adult Missionary Kids (MKs) & Former Born-Again Believers

Reality Test 11–How has my thinking gone wrong?

Posted by Ann on September 5, 2010

11) Use of emotional language and false analogies affects our perception of reality

You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?—Matthew 23:33


Words that evoke emotion have the ability to sway opinions and thoughts about our world, including our perception of events, people, concepts, or things. This is particularly true when emotional language is combined with false analogies. Emotive language has been a tool of rhetoric used throughout history by orators, rulers, and religious leaders (along with hyperbole, or overstatements). Words that evoke emotion in humans can be associated with positive or negative emotions. And in the same way telling a personal anecdote does not provide proof for the truth of something, neither does using a metaphor or analogy. Politicians use these rhetorical tools to sway people and gain their support. Bush, for example, calling his war the “War on Terror” against the “Axis of Evil”, understood the value of emotional rhetoric. And don’t get me started on atheism, compared to a “cancer of society”, “corroding our values”.

Biblical rhetoric is chock-full of emotive language and metaphors that faithful believers spend their lives studying and using, believing they indicate moral and literal truths. Some examples of emotion laden metaphors used to describe Jesus Christ include Jesus the Son, Jesus is love, Jesus the shepherd, Jesus the lamb, Jesus the way, Jesus the truth, Jesus the life—all generating warm feelings for Jesus. Then we have the language used by believers including words like Good, Evil, Love, Sin, Faith, Grace, Worship, Forgiveness, Wickedness, Iniquity, Servanthood, Salvation, Heaven, Hell –to rape and pillage some Christian terminology. Bottom line, emotive words, when used in rhetoric (and especially when combined with music), can cloud reality, making people’s thinking unclear and irrational about their world.  Can I hear an Amen brothers and sisters?

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