As one looks over the array of “concerns” that Christians are officially discussing, and discussing, and discussing, right now, the scene is most perplexing. For example, just how long has it been since the Episcopalians established their very first official dialogue about . . . well, you know what. Was it fifteen years ago? Who can remember? Anyway, are they, or anyone else, any closer to the truth after all this talk? And just why did the Eastern Orthodox think it important, recently, to renew their own official ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopalians? Not only did earlier decades of such discussion not produce a single discernible fruit, but the actual rift between the two groups now is conspicuously wider than ever. Talk seems to be getting us nowhere, on almost any subject, but especially on subjects that require actual decisions.
The problem is not that Christians are talking with each other but that human speech itself has fallen on hard times. The growing enfeeblement of language, the weakening of its structure and dissolution of its content and fiber, is arguably the most serious moral problem facing our culture at this time. Indeed, inasmuch as the composition and vitality of language is the foundation required for moral discourse itself, one may contend that the current and increasing impairment of our native tongue, its expanding attenuation throughout society nearly to the point of intellectual paralysis, is the root of all those other moral problems that chiefly distinguish the present age, and it is most certainly the reason we can barely speak of them with understanding. The relationship between word and truth at the present time has become so insubstantial and evanescent that one fears we are approaching the point at which moral conversation becomes impossible. Laugh as we will—and should—at him who says it, there is already considerable doubt about what the meaning of “is” is.
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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