From the Narthex
In this special section of the NOR, which will run as an occasional feature, we present samples of the offerings in the Narthex, the NOR’s online blog. If you like what you read, visit newoxfordreview.org/narthex for more — much more! Our bloggers, in addition to Magdalena Moreno and Richard M. Dell’Orfano, include James G. Hanink, David Daintree, James Thunder, Barbara E. Rose, and, occasionally, Jason M. Morgan and Pieter Vree. The Narthex is updated on a regular basis, so there’s never a shortage of NOR material to read and reflect on.
The New Buzzwxrds
By Magdalena Moreno
Magdalena Moreno is a wife, mother of four, and Assistant Managing Editor of the NOR.
Living as I do in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is impossible to keep up with all the neologisms that have been concocted to promote inclusion. Recently, I was at a local liquor store browsing the selection of Double IPAs for a friend’s birthday. After grabbing a few, largely based on the visual appeal of the label or a catchy name, I headed to the register. The checker pointed out one can in particular and told me this one was from a “progressive” brewery in Oakland and that I should read the blurb on the back about the name of the beer: Mx. Nottingsworth (or something of that sort). The beer can informed me that gender is a “spectrum” and “Mx.” is the new gender-inclusive title that can apply to men, women, and everyone in between.
After picking my jaw off the floor, it didn’t take long for me to recall the trend. More and more words are being altered by swapping out letters with “x,” in the name of gender inclusion. Two other trendy words quickly came to mind.
The first is Latinx, a term used to describe persons of Hispanic origin without using gender-specific vowels (the masculine Latino or the feminine Latina). The impetus could only have been Spanish grammar rules: a group of women would be described as Latinas, a group of men as Latinos, a group of 999 women and one man as Latinos. The female form applies only when describing women; in all other instances, the male form is used. Is this sexism? Discrimination? Chauvinism? Stereotyping? Prejudice? All of the above!
Similarly, womxn is a word I often see in print to include anyone who identifies as female, biology aside — a stand-in for woman/women. I only see it in print because it is unpronounceable. I wouldn’t be able to decipher the word if I heard it spoken. “Wom-zen”? “Wom-ex-en”? At least my beer can had the foresight to inform me how to pronounce its neologism: “Mix.”
There is growing pushback from communities targeted by these new inclusive “wxrds,” protesting their usage. With Latinx, English-speaking Americans are incrementally coopting and rewriting another language, starting with words that describe the native populations. At least womxn is a butchering of English to make a word that no English speaker can pronounce. But to take a word from another language and do the same so that Spanish speakers can’t pronounce it adds insult to injury: If we can’t build a wall to keep you out, then we’ll appropriate your language and devolve it into something “progressive” that no longer represents you or your communities.
The first time I saw womxn in print was in an email promotion for a Womxn-Only Night at a local gym. I was utterly confused, not about what womxn meant but whether I could attend. As a cisgender (are you keeping up?) biological woman, I had no idea if this safe space for those who identify as women was safe for me. Would I be perceived as a hostile presence? Would I be ostracized? Who is excluded from this fancy new group with its fancy new name? And who belongs?
This is yet another problem with this newspeak: it is extremely ostracizing. The intent may be inclusion, but, really, it’s yet another distinction, another group for people to be sorted into. There is no overlapping of women and womxn, of Latino and Latinx populations, of Mr., Ms., and Mx.; each is a group unto itself, allowing those who have difficulty with their gender to be identified — and isolated.
We are only further dividing ourselves with these nonsense terms that compartmentalize subsets of the population. There is no unity, just an overwhelming sense of “other”-ness as we sort individuals into their particular categories — strange, lonely categories that keep us divided.
A Secret Stash
By Richard M. Dell’Orfano
Richard M. Dell’Orfano spent ten years on a cross-country pilgrimage following Christ’s instruction to minister without possessions. He is completing his autobiography, Path Perilous: My Search for God and the Miraculous.
Valuable stashes from antiquity, like the Frome Hoard composed of 52,503 ancient Roman coins found in Somerset, England, in 2010, have one common feature. All were buried with obvious intent to retrieve them at some future date. Maybe the threat of a wartime invasion, a revolution, or an economic collapse induced some wealthy aristocrat to bury precious coins for his retirement. Then, because he forgot or didn’t leave a will before his unexpected demise, he failed to leave his heirs a treasure map to his stash’s exact location.
The Egyptian pharaohs made extraordinary attempts to take their wealth with them beyond the grave, as evidenced by massive pyramidal tombs rigged with elaborate traps and pitfalls to foil thieves. But over the centuries, grave robbers stole much of their gold and silver. Providing for retirement is one thing, but storing precious possessions for use in the afterlife is quite another.
We still do it, but in more sophisticated ways. Super-wealthy folk can build shiny, towering buildings named after themselves, like Rockefeller Center. Bill Gates’s foundation will be around long after the man himself has died. We commoners name our newborns after ourselves and hope to be remembered by willing accumulated assets to our offspring. Authors crave name recognition on library shelves, as if their creative writings, when read, would preserve them from death (or obscurity). William Shakespeare has thereby been “living” among us for 500 years — in print, on stage, and on screen. We Americans built an eternal flame for John F. Kennedy that burns 24/7 at Arlington Cemetery, which we hope keeps his memory alive forever.
All such memorials, after the passage of time, prove to be exercises in futility. Eventually, not even a trace of such things shall remain.
Christ came to teach us how to effectively store up real treasure for the afterlife.
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. But lay up rich treasure in heaven. — Matthew 6:19-20
The poignant novel Doctor Hudson’s Secret Journal (1939) by Lutheran pastor Lloyd C. Douglas portrays a brain surgeon who accrues much spiritual wealth by practicing secret bedside charity for his patients. He inspires them to get well by investing money for them in any reasonable business they have in mind. But they must promise never to try to pay him back and not to tell anyone until after his death. If they do, the investment becomes a loan. His charities are to be kept secret all his life, even from his loving wife, so as to accrue heavenly reward. His funeral wake is packed with grateful beneficiaries who astonish his widow with their accounts.
When you give to the needy, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. Truly I tell you, they already have their full reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. — Matthew 6:3
What are simple ways we can do what that fictional surgeon did in our own daily rounds? A smile to a stranger walking through a local park, a personable chat with a grocery clerk, a calm negotiation with your spouse, a gracious tone of voice with a bill collector, a handwritten thank-you note, a phone call to a lonely senior citizen: many are the ways to do surprising, random acts of kindness, all while expecting nothing of this world in return.
Secret giving can be difficult. One reason is that we crave recognition for our good deeds. When we receive some ribbon or award, we cling to that fleeting honor as if it were crediting us with eternal life. Then we display it for all the world to see, counting on a nod or smile to make our day. But public recognition robs us.
We know from a basic principle of physics, Newton’s Third Law of Motion, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. But when that law is frustrated, I believe it expresses itself metaphysically. Our refusing to accept any sensate payback for charity induces Mother Nature to balance our account with a secret stash. Unreciprocated giving thus credits us with treasure in Heaven where thieves cannot enter and steal.
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