How Do We Feel About Vulnerable People?

Words have power. And today, the powerful word that’s on our mind is vulnerable. Many people today are celebrating the birth a vulnerable baby thousands of years ago.

A Banned Word?

Last week, political reporters were chattering about a list of words to avoid in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The direction was to keep these words out of budget requests. Seven words made the list: entitlement, diversity, transgender, fetus, evidence-based, science-based, and vulnerable.

Vulnerable is the word that stuck out.

Words for the Culture War

Culture wars are nothing new. They’re hardly unique to the U.S. That concept entered U.S. politics with the publication of Culture Wars:The Struggle to Define America by James Davison Hunter. It dates to 1991.

But the idea is much older. It has roots in the 19th-century German concept of Kulturkampf. The struggle was to define the role of religion in modern politics.

When people struggle with ideas and culture, words are the tools for the struggle. So the issues with six of those seven words are unsurprising. We might not like the arguments, but they’re familiar.

Vulnerability, though, is the disturbing surprise on that list. Are we now turning away from vulnerable people? Is vulnerability controversial now?

Without a doubt, compassion for the vulnerable is a core moral value. It binds us together. No religion has an exclusive claim to this value. It lives at the center of just about every major religious tradition. A civilization that tramples over anyone who is vulnerable ceases to be civilized.

So our hope and prayer on this Christmas day is that this was simply a mistake. Vulnerability is not a subject we can afford to avoid.

Our humanity depends on it.

Click here for more about the banned words. For more on the importance of vulnerability, click here and here.

Nativity, fresco by Giotto / WikiArt

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December 25, 2017

2 Responses to “How Do We Feel About Vulnerable People?”

  1. December 25, 2017 at 7:37 am, Rhoda Klapp said:

    It’s not about actual vulnerable people, it’s about shroud-wavers. Any time I hear that word vulnerable my BS alarm goes off, because those people are being used as a weapon in some rent-seeker’s agenda. Like there is a group of people whose sole raison d’etre is to be looked after by the state and used to make some weasel’s case. That’s why the word is deprecated.

    • December 25, 2017 at 7:52 am, Ted said:

      Thanks for taking time to comment, Rhoda.

      I’m not a fan of hypocrisy, either. And in my view, hypocrites don’t get to redefine or devalue important principles.