Friday, June 06, 2014

Misamplified Metaphors

People love metaphors - they are the salt of our linguistic cuisine, enhancing the flavor of our verbal diet. Still, they can be abused. I remember learning some time ago of mixed metaphors. I won't get into those now. Instead, let's talk about misamplified metaphors. These are cases where people are attempting to take an existing metaphor and amplify it. This can be done right. So, for example, "He wasn't just burning the candle at both ends, he had found a way to light in the middle too."

Misamplification can be seen when people say things like "he didn't just jump the shark, he jumped the beach, the lifeguard stand, and most of the cars in the parking lot." The reason this is a misamplification is that the metaphor is not about the height of the jump, it was an example of a purportedly low-quality episode of a popular TV program. You could say, "He didn't just jump the shark, he did it during sweeps week."

Misamplification can be applied to other metaphors as well: "He's not just circling the drain, he's circling the whole bathroom!" Instead, try "he's not just circling the drain, he's already half down it!"

Another misamplification example: "He's not a paper tiger, he's a rock, scissors and paper tiger!" A better option might be "He's not a paper tiger, he's more of a paper tiger's cub" or "he's not a paper tiger, he's a paper tabby cat."

Some misamplifications actually defeat the point: "He didn't just spit into the wind, he spat away from the wind as well!" Another: "It wasn't just coming up spades, but hearts, clubs, and diamonds too!"

I suppose there's also a special category of misamplifications. If someone tries to amplify "I am the door," into something more, it's likely going to end up just wrong. Same for "I am the vine." The Roman Catholics get a special award in this category when they amplify "this is my body" into "this is my body, blood, soul, and divinity," although perhaps they should be disqualified from receiving the award, since they mean it non-metaphorically. Thankfully for their teeth they don't make an identical error with "this cup" but instead refer those words to the contents of the cup.

Anyway, just something on my mind.


Oops, the original post included a simile, instead of a metaphor at one point:
So, for example, "that went over like a lead balloon" could be amplified as "that went over like a lead balloon filled with sand."
My apologies to the reader

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

On Silence of Christian Leaders

My brethren are getting frustrated with the fact that certain Christian leaders seem willing to talk boldly about things that all their hearers already agree with, while refusing to speak up about the more controversial in-house problems. Remember the words of Mordecai:
Esther 4:13-14
Then Mordecai commanded to answer Esther, Think not with thyself that thou shalt escape in the king's house, more than all the Jews. For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?
God does use men, like Esther, to advance his kingdom and cause. Nevertheless, God's purposes don't depend on Esther. Christian leaders who remain silent, thinking it is to their advantage, are not undermining our cause, but their own. We can entreat them to do what they seem called to do, but we should also recognize that God will deliver us, if not from that quarter, from some other.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

What's the Big Deal About Priests?

Garry Wills, in Why Priests, provides some interesting thoughts on the significance of the Roman Catholic priesthood (Chapter 2, p. 20):
The most striking thing about priests, in the later history of Christianity, is their supposed ability to change bread and wine into the body and blood of Jesus Christ. "From this unique sacrifice their whole priestly ministry draws its strength" (C 1566). Nothing else about their actions is on that scale--the fact that they can routinely work an astounding miracle. Jesus becomes present in every bit of bread and every bit of wine that is consecrated, and only one thing can make it happen--the words of a priest impersonating Jesus at the Last Supper and saying, "This is MY [i.e., Jesus' though the priest is speaking] body . . . This is the cup of MY blood."
The only person on earth who can do this is a priest, and he can do it all by himself, with no congregation present (in what is called a private Mass). A congregation of believers, no matter how large or how pious, cannot do this if no priest is present. The people of God cannot approach God directly, in this rite central to many Christians, but only through a designated agent. As Thomas Aquinas put it: "A priest, it was earlier said, is established as the mediator between God and the people. A person who stands in need of a mediator with God cannot approach him on his own" (ST 3.22 a4r).
This does, of course, lead to the "Protestant" objection that there is only one mediator, Christ.  This becomes even more clearly in a quotation Garry Wills provides from an RC "saint" (p. 25):
In the twelfth century, Saint Norbert, the founder of the Premonstratensian order of priests, wrote of the priest's re-enactment of the Incarnation, "Priest you are not, because you are God."[Caroline Walker Bynum, Holy Feast and Holy Fast (University of California Press, 1987), p. 57]
Garry Wills also draws a distinction between the traditional splendor of the papacy and the austerity of the original apostles (pp. 28 and 32):
Until recently the pope used to enter Saint Peter's on a sedia gestatoria, a throne borne on the shoulders of twelve footman while two attendants used the flabellum, a large ceremonial fan made of white ostrich feathers. Despite suspension of its use, the sedia has not been formally renounced.
All this fuss and finery far outdoes what Jesus condemned in the Pharisees. "Everything they do is done to impress people. They enlarge their tefillins and lengthen their tassels" (Mt 23.5-6).
Of course I have known humble and hardworking priests, men who shamed me by their devotion to others. But there are enough of the other kind to make one appreciate the words of Jesus when he told his Followers not to strive for pre-eminence (Mk 9.33-37). Or when he sent his disciples out to preach the Gospel, saying, "Provide yourselves no gold or silver or copper in your belts, or traveler's pouch, or a second pair of tunics or sandals" (Mt 10.9-10). Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Palace cannot claim true descent from that pair of sandals and that single tunic.
The current bishop of Rome is less interested in finery than many of his predecessors, but his "succession" is from them.  He has not condemned their moral heresy, nor does he refuse to be called "Holy Father" or "Vicar of Christ."