Marriage, the Media and Family Law: A new verbicide

In our Family Law course over the past three to four weeks we’ve been studying the foundations of marriage, biblically, historically, and legislatively. It’s quite clear that marriage is the center of the spiritual battlefield of family breakdown. It’s even obvious in pop media.

Verbicide, or the murder of a word, a literary crime first identified by British literary scholar C.S. Lewis, is a semantic act nearly criminal in nature that annihilates the cultural and linguistic meaning of a word. That has happened to the word “marriage” in American media. A sizeable army of journalists, political activists, academicians, and jurists are the most notable perpetrators of this ongoing crime of verbicide. For example, when media reports constantly refer to “a ban on gay marriage” those reports have effectively killed the traditional meaning that the word marriage confers. By using such language, the report uses a meaning of the word that is not contemplated in that word’s meaning. To quote Thomas Sowell from a recent Washington Post op-ed, “there is no such thing as gay marriage to ban.” The way the word is packaged, however, reflects an alteration or an unintentional neglect of the meaning of that language. Generally this phenomenon reveals something very important about the teller’s worldview.

A Christian worldview, based on your daily walk with Jesus Christ, should cause you to become more sensitive to the context of messages like this regarding marriage. The law largely defines language even where cultural trends may appear to alter those meanings. Knowledge of how legal academics and media elites push the envelope toward verbicide is a critical aspect of responsible journalism. Applying the proper principles or not make the difference in effective handling of critical cultural and legal topics, and no where is this more apparent than in the national debate on marriage.

In Family Law, we unpack these cultural phenomena in the context of the law surrounding marriage and other family regulations, and we relate these concepts back to our practice as Christian attorneys. More often than not, we also realize how critical these basic concepts of God’s design affect our lives – and how living our lives for Christ can change for the better our own families, and then the world, no matter what the culture promotes.

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