Evangelicals can be sticklers for precise language. Credit all those hours of color-coded inductive Bible study, perhaps. Or the Bible's descriptions of powerful blessings, curses, and prophecies—and repeated injunctions against empty words. But among my recent discussions with readers is whether we mean compassion when we say social justice. Or whether people should say Christmas instead of holidays. Or whether anti-abortion is a term that undermines the pro-life movement.
Editors tend to be language fanatics, too. In my office is a prayer from the fourth-century bishop Hilary of Poitiers: "Almighty God, bestow on us the meaning of words, the light of understanding, the nobility of diction, and faith of the true nature. And grant that what we believe we may also speak." It's a prayer we need daily: As I write this, we at Christianity Today are debating whether church (as in the universal body of believers) should be used to describe what goes on in the parachurch as well as in congregations. That's just one of the dozens (hundreds?) of semantic negotiations that occur as we finish each issue.
Editing an evangelical magazine, then, gives us an opportunity to take joy in the meaning and power of words. In this issue alone, we examine the backlash against The C. S. Lewis Bible because of its use of gender-inclusive language. Our Under Discussion panel examines whether stingy is a word that has a relative or precise meaning. And, in our cover story, editor at large Collin Hansen examines the impassioned debate over how to translate Son of God for Muslim Bible readers. This issue also includes one of our favorite celebrations of words: the annual CT book awards. (We've given increased prominence to our annual movie and music awards, as well.)
As we were finishing our lists, we saw a new category of "best of" list gain traction elsewhere online: the best long articles (see LongForm.org and LongReads.com). 2010 was a year in which deep reporting and essays seemed to make a comeback—or at least a defiant counterattack on 140-character tweets. This development was fueled in part by frustration with snark and brevity and in part by technological developments (like the Instapaper iPhone app and e-readers) that made long-form online reading more pleasurable. We're happy to announce that we finally have a great iPhone app of our own. Yes, apps for other platforms are on their way, but our goal is not simply to produce more words or more ways to access them. Like our readers, we are sticklers when it comes to words done right.
Next month: A special issue on worship music (including some surprising findings on America's most popular hymns) and an exclusive story on Egypt's Christians that includes reporting from areas perhaps never before visited by foreign journalists.
Copyright © 2011 Christianity Today. Click for reprint information.
Read more from Christianity Today's February issue.
Other articles on words include:
The Limits of Language | Communicating the gospel involves more than using the right words. (February 27, 2010)
Letting Words Do Their Work | Why the care of language is more important than ever. (September 22, 2009)
Words Made Flesh | Calvin College's 2006 Festival of Faith & Writing. (April 25, 2006)
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