Two-fer Tuesday: Piety by Deacon Blue

It is really a damn shame when a perfectly good word gets ruined. Something that is actually positive and uplifting and something to which we should aspire, and then people get it all twisted and turn the meaning into something ugly and negative.

We’ve seen it in this year’s presidential campaign, with Barack Obama being labelled as “elite.” No matter than George W. Bush, our current president, comes from an elite family and went to an elite university and has held some pretty elite corporate positions. Or that John McCain’s father and grandfather were both admirals, which is pretty freaking elite; hardly grunt soldiers in the armed forces, were they? Somehow, by Obama having a good education at a fine university and speaking well and thinking, he’s got something wrong with him. We should just have a plain old average Joe who’s just like the rest of us running things in Washington or backing up the person who’s running things in Washington. Utter nonsense.

And we see the same thing with the world “piety.” First off, piety is a virtue. A good thing.  A sign of good character. Something which we should seek out. As Wikipedia says in defining the word:

While different people may understand its meaning differently, it is generally used to refer either to religious devotion or to spirituality, or often, a combination of both. A common element in most conceptions of piety is humility. 

This isn’t a bad thing. Yet if you say that someone is pious, what do you think will happen most of the time?

They’ll assume the person is preachy and judgemental, and probably figure that the person is hypocritical too.

This is the exact same thing that happened to “born again” and “fundamentalism” and “evangelist.”

They came to be used as negative labels because the general population looked at a few high-profile or very vocal people who were idiots or self-serving louts and call themselves those things, and then decided that the words must now and forever be used as labels for bad behavior.

But tell me, if you see some stories of greedy or incompetent doctors, do you automatically assume that all physicians are bad, and begin to use the words “doctor” and “physician” with scorn in your voice and a dismissive attitude?

There is saying, “Don’t kill the messenger” but in this case I think it should be reversed. “Don’t kill the message.”

When the messenger is an idiot or a fool, that doesn’t mean the underlying message is bad. It just means it was misused or misrepresented.

Piety is a good thing. Overzealousness is what you need to be on guard against.


Deacon Blue is the blogging persona of editor and writer Jeffrey Bouley. The opinions of Jeff himself on this blog, and those expressed as Deacon Blue, in NO WAY should be construed as the opinions of anyone with whom he has worked, currently works, or will work with in the future. They are personal opinions and views, and are sometimes, frankly, expressed in more outrageous terms than I truly feel most days.

Jeff Bouley


Jeff Bouley

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