Precision begins with defining terms. Recently I asked a group of students to write down their working definitions of five terms whose imprecise usage in recent public discourse poses a serious threat to peace and safety: liberal, conservative, security, terrorist, and Christian. The results were sobering in their range and banality. We have all witnessed the abuses of these terms – the ways in which they are co-opted to serve particular partisan agendas and to prevent serious discussion of particulars. If patriots could be required to specify which particular US policies they support and why, we might have some talking points. If the “Christian right” would acknowledge the existence of Christian left, the community of believers might be able to deliver a lively witness to the capaciousness of their faith in spirited (and I used the term advisedly) debate.
From “Caring for Words In A Culture of Lies” by Marilyn McEntyre