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Over time, linguistic expressions come and go. Some of them are generational – every generation coins terms that become popular like “cool,” “rad,” “stoked,” and many others. When a new generation comes along, these terms usually disappear as new ones emerge.
Some other words are derogatory and disappear when they are deemed by society as repugnant. Some of these were originally intended to be insulting – like the “N word” that was used for blacks, “Whitey” that was an insult toward whites, or “Krouts” and “Japs” that were used to insult the Germans and Japanese during and after WWII. These kinds of words tend to go away over time as they are deemed by society to be insulting and distasteful.
There is another category of words that might get expunged from the lexicon because of political correctness. These are words that originally had no negative connotation at all, but at some point some group of people began taking offense and started working to apply social pressure to stop them from being used. Words in this category might include “girls,” “retarded,” “stewardess,” and one in the news these days, “alien.”
Now, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is working on a new category. There are a lot of terms that have come to be used over the years that compare certain human characteristics to animals. For instance, when we see people gorging themselves with food while using bad manners, we might call them “pigs.” When people act cowardly and run away, they will often be called a “chicken.” In PETA’s opinion, though, humans who do this are immoral because they are deemed to be using “supremacist language.”
Understanding the very idea of “supremacist language” requires that a person know the underlying philosophy that allows one to talk about this kind of speech. Most people would never even conceive of this language category. Those who do, however, begin with the assumption that all animals are equal in value – that is, a human being is no more valuable than a pig or chicken. Thus, when a human being refers to someone as a pig or a chicken, they are valuing themselves higher than those other animals, thus assuming that they are somehow superior.
There is no objective reason for believers in this philosophy to accept this point of view. They simply believe it is true. Of course, if it is true, they might have a point, but their basis for making that assumption is nothing more than their personal opinion. To them, it is true just because they believe it.
The philosophy that begets this kind of belief is Naturalism – the belief that the natural universe operating by natural laws is all that exists. If Naturalism is true, then the only possibility for the existence of life and its many forms is that it all somehow came about by natural processes. That is, inert chemicals somehow randomly combined to form life, then gradually evolved into increasingly complex life forms.
If Naturalism is true, then that process must be true. There would be no other possibility. However, there is NO evidence whatsoever that Naturalism is true. It is assumed to be true by those who believe it, but there is no science or any other objective evidence to show that it is, or even could be. Thus, those who get upset at the kind of language that they deem “supremacist” are essentially making up their own moral rules out of whole cloth. They simply decide for themselves what will cause them offense.
So how should Christians think about this? In delving into this topic, there is a question that believers should ask when it comes to using language like that. But that question has nothing to do with the words themselves as Naturalists believe. Christians have an entirely different way of looking at this.
Based on the teachings of the Bible, human beings are special in a way that non-human animal creatures are not. We are made in the image of God. Additionally, as we look at the supposedly offensive words themselves, there is nothing that is immoral (for instance, the words chicken and pig are perfectly acceptable). So, based on biblical beliefs, the very idea of “supremacist language” is meaningless.
"Every single person is precious in his sight, and Jesus died on the cross to provide salvation for all."
That said, it is possible that calling someone a “pig” or a “chicken” might be considered bad or immoral for a Christian. If a person addresses another individual, or some group, personally in that way that demonstrates that they are thinking of them in ways that are contrary to the way God sees them, that would be considered immoral. In that case, though, it is not at all a matter of using “supremacist language.” Rather, is shows that there is evil in one’s heart. God does not view people the way Naturalists do. Every single person is precious in his sight, and Jesus died on the cross to provide salvation for all.
Thus, it is absolutely possible that there are legitimate reasons to refer to someone or some group using an animal descriptor. What is at issue is not the word used, but the condition of the heart of the one using it. This is not a language question, but a spiritual one. PETA simply has no idea what it is talking about.
Freddy Davis is the president of MarketFaith Ministries. He is the author of numerous books and has a background as an international missionary, pastor, radio host, worldview trainer, and entrepreneur. Freddy is a graduate of Florida State University with a BS in Communication, and holds MDiv and DMin degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is a popular speaker, particularly on the topic of worldview and its practical implications for the Christian life. He lives in Tallahassee, FL, with his wife Deborah.
You may also contact Freddy at Leadership Speakers Bureau to schedule him for speaking or leadership engagements.
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