I have quite a few bad habits, but here is one that can be told on this blog and not just in the confessional: I sometimes use too many adjectives.

This week I was reminded of this problem when I became irritated with a description on this blog of a political commentator as a Mormon. “What in the world does his Mormonism have to do with anything? Isn’t the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints exceptionally generous to the poor? ” I thought. It reminded me of people who put “extreme right” in front of everything a Republican says or use “teabagging” as a description of a senator.

What of “social” justice? Isn’t plain old justice enough? We certainly should give the poor justice and institutions should be just as well as people, but isn’t adding an adjective to a word often an excuse to import something questionable (government growth) on the back of something uncontroversially good (justice)?

Having almost worked myself up into righteous indignation, I realized that too often I throw in an adjective (“secular”) is a favorite as a shot. Throwing a few shots is fine, unless it is playing to the stereotypes of my particular audience. It is wrong to comfort the comfortable by confirming their stereotypes. It is one thing to beard the secularist in his den, but another to give him a close shave in the friendly, comment free confines of my home blog Scriptorium. The first might be part of the rough-and-tumble of debate, the last seems certainly cheap and possibly cowardly.

So I think I shall watch my adjectives more carefully . . . to make sure I am not piling them on needlessly.

And I still don’t think Beck’s Mormonism is relevant to his position!

Articles by John Mark Reynolds

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