- Paperback: 256 pages
- Publisher: Eerdmans (June 2, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0802848648
- ISBN-13: 978-0802848642
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 34 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,916 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies Paperback – June 2, 2009
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"Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre's book on the stewardship of language, is a wonderfully composed treatise. . . If you wonder whether caring for words is worth the effort, consider McEntye's reasoning to a young student: 'Language is the basic tool for preserving civilization. It seems useful to understand as much as we can about how it works since it's arguably one of the most potent forms of power that society has produced — that and the atom-splitter.'"
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A few years ago, on the recommendation of a friend who stewards words as well as anyone I know, I read Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, who with remarkable prescience seemed to anticipate the coming storm before most of us did. The book was timely then. It’s even more so now.
McEntyre calls upon us to think a little more deeply than our typical reflexive selves normally do. She invites us to slow down, take a deep breath, and honestly assess the ways we make sense of the world around us – and particularly the ways in which we decide what we believe to be “true” in any given area of life.
In one especially poignant passage, McEntyre posits a series of questions – not about the other, but about ourselves – that I think would serve us well at this pivotal cultural moment:
What are my responsibilities as a citizen?
As a person of faith?
As a consumer?
As a leader?
As a parent?
As an educator?
What am I avoiding knowing?
What point of view am I protecting?
How have I arrived at my assumptions about what sources of information to rely on?
What limits my angle of vision?
Have I tried to imagine how one might arrive at a different conclusion?
How much evidence do I need to be convinced?
What kind of persuasion works most effectively for me?
How do I accredit or challenge authority?
She goes on to conclude: “The answers to these questions are not simply personal. Some of them involve serious theological reflection on the relationship between the Kingdom of God and the state, what it means to give Caesar what is Caesar’s and God what is God’s, and whether and how to participate in the conduct of worldly affairs. If you’re Mennonite or Amish, that boundary is drawn pretty clearly. But most of us, I think, are navigating the murky middle ground marked out between not-so-separate church and state, trying to resist manipulation, seek truth, and act on it justly in the ways that remain open to us.”
Resisting manipulation. Seeking truth. Acting justly. These pursuits, it seems to me, are unassailable for those of us who are troubled by “post-truth” developments in any sector of society – not least for those of us who claim to follow the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life.”
I especially liked her section on conversations. Good conversationalists show a keen interest in what others are saying and ask probing questions. One thing I learned in sales training many years ago was that the best salespeople are always good listeners. Unfortunately, she is correct that this is a dying art form.
She really lost me in the section on falling in love with the long sentence. That may work with some people in fiction but is a non started in communications forms I use and am familiar with. I believe I would have had a much shorter career if I had fallen in love with long sentences.
A friend who recommended this book claimed that it "changed her life." While it has not had that great an impact on me, I will enjoy poring over it at least several more times.
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