Dox

I was perusing my e-mails this evening and ran across an article that quickly drew my consideration. The attention getter was a word I had never seen before. The title of the article was, “Democratic Aide Arrested for Doxxing…” I didn’t feel too badly about my ignorance, because my spellchecker didn’t recognize the word either.

I looked it up to make sure some inventive reporter wasn’t merely coining a new term, but, lo and behold, right there it was. Dox—to “search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.” The Urban Dictionary had another definition that was a tad more explicit than that, but I won’t run that one by you.

Apparently, this guy found the personal info of some of our governmental representatives and hoisted it up onto the Internet for all to see, glean, and use. This process (which is, evidently, illegal) is referred to as “dropping the dox.” It appears that the word, dox, in this context means documents. So, my advice to you is to avoid dropping the dox on anyone—even on people you don’t like (maybe especially on people you don’t like).

Dropping the Dox

Originally when I spotted this term, I was guessing it came from the same root word as doxology. Doxa is a Greek word meaning glory. Many Christian congregations sing the “Doxology” during every service. They do it in order to give glory to God. Obviously, I was wrong about my initial speculation. There is no glory intended in dropping the dox (at least none that I can see).

In an interesting sidelight, as I was poking around for the definition to doxxing, I ran across another modern term—swatting. I thought I knew what swatting meant—but no. Swatting is now the “action or practice of making a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to bring about the dispatch of a large number of armed police officers to a particular address.” So if you can fallaciously goad a SWAT team to someone else’s home, you’re successful at swatting. What sport!

Gin Rummy

Whatever happened to Kick-the-Can, Duck-Duck-Goose, Hide-and-Seek, and other such fun (and physical) games? Have they become obsolete? Have they been replaced by such wonders as doxxing and swatting? Maybe we should issue everyone a deck of cards and teach them to play Gin Rummy. It might keep more people out of trouble.

There’s an old saying propagating the idea that “Idle hands are the devil’s playground.” This can be backed up Biblically in verses such as Ecclesiastes 10:18 which states, “Through laziness, the rafters sag; because of idle hands, the house leaks.” Because of evil games like doxxing and swatting, the house we call America has a few leaks in the roof.

I’m not sure what they’ll end up doing to the guy who was caught doxxing. From what I can gather, though, he’s looking at a jail term that could add up to a lot of years.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

The Religion of Politics

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed this, but it seems to me that politics has now become the national religion. As I was growing up, I remember the adults around me saying, “There are two things you don’t mention in polite company—religion and politics.” Now, politics IS religion, and we seem to talk about it nonstop.

I remember Hubert Humphrey being locked in a primary battle with Jimmy Carter. As you may recall, Carter was making no secret of the fact that he was a “born again” Christian. Many of us had never heard that term prior to Carter’s statements, but it became a watchword for his campaign.

You’re a Heretic

Fast forward to our current climate, and it seems we are now living in a time when the religion of politics is all-encompassing. Our faith is, seemingly, in the political process. If we don’t like what’s going on, we do whatever we can to derail that process. In other words, “My politics are correct and everyone else who doesn’t agree is a heretic.”

I’m pretty sure there used to be a time when political news and actions were a distant second or third to family, friends, and faith. Now, your only friends are your political allies. If someone discovers you are on the opposite side of the aisle from them, they jettison you. In their eyes, you go from chum to chump in sixty seconds.

I recently read of an elderly woman who supports the current president. Because she does so, one of her grandsons no longer speaks with her. I’m not totally sure, but I think there’s something wrong with that picture. Poor old granny has alienated her flesh and blood by voting the wrong way. What a heretic.

I write this at the risk of exposing my own political bias. I personally don’t like either of the major political parties in this country, but then, political orthodoxy has never been my forte. The only orthodoxy in my life is the belief that Jesus is Lord and Savior. No politician can compete with that.

I Am the Lord Your God

When Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, the Lord passed down some tablets containing a famous code. It’s often known as the Ten Commandment. The very first one says, “ I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before me.” We’ve never done very well with that one. Today, we’re messing it up more than ever.

We have set up political gods. Government has become our religion, and we have sold out to the highest bidder. Judge me if you will, but my true Judge is God Almighty and none other.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

No, It’s Not Octopi

I’m sure many of you were like me. We’ve been running around all our lives referring to more than one octopus as octopi. While it sounds very official, Latin-esque, and scientifically correct, it’s not. The correct term is octopodes. Who knew? I was a biology major in college, and I don’t ever remember coming across this term. I’m totally embarrassed.

The apparent reason for the discrepancy is that octopus is not a Latin term, as many of our animal names are. It’s Greek and therefore has a different plural ending. However, “octopi” is a term that has been mistakenly used for so long, it’s actually listed in many dictionaries. Interestingly enough, my Word spellchecker didn’t recognize octopodes either. You can’t see it, but there’s still a red line underneath that spelling. Maybe I should write them a note of correction.

Cannibals

Still, one wouldn’t have much of an occasion to use either of the plural terms. The truth of the matter is that octopodes are loners. So it seems that we introverts have company (if, indeed, we wanted company). Octopodes don’t even like to hang out with each other (unless it’s mating season). If placed in a container with others of their species, they eat one another. While it’s one thing to be anti-social, it’s quite another to become cannibalistic about it.

Scientists tell us that these creatures are quite intelligent for the type of animal they are (which would explain why they mistrust each other). They are close relatives of animals such as snails and slugs—fauna not known for their highly developed cognitive abilities. The octopodes have come a long way, but they’re still not ready for socialization.

Their loner status reminds me of the price some people pay for fame and fortune. Many movie stars, for example, have a hard time going anywhere without being noticed and swamped by fans and well-wishers. Occasionally, people find themselves on the other end of that spectrum. If they are less than well-liked, they are harassed and attacked when people spot them in public.

Lonely Places

Even Jesus went through that kind of treatment (both for being popular and infamous). There’s an illustrious story that tells about a time when Jesus healed a man of leprosy. He then told the man not to say anything about how he was rehabilitated. Of course, the man couldn’t contain himself, and the news spread like apple butter. The final verse of that account relates it this way: “As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places” (Mark 1:45). There’s a cost to being sought after.

While miracles drew admiration from the folks, some of his ideas had the opposite effect. Once while teaching in a synagogue (Luke 4:14-40), he infuriated his audience with his teachings. Scripture tells us they took him to the edge of town to throw him off a cliff (sounds a bit like today’s political climate). That would have been a good time to be an octopus.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]

Have You No Sense of Decency?

Many of you may recognize the words of this title from history. The full quote is, “Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” It was made by Attorney Joseph Welch and directed to Senator Joseph McCarthy. McCarthy, as you may recall from your vast knowledge of history, led a charge to rid the Federal Government (and Hollywood) of Communists.

On June 9, 1954, during the Army-McCarthy hearings, Welch confronted the Senator about his relentless tactics in his fervent pursuit of a young man named Roy Cohn. Welch’s question implying McCarthy’s lack of decency was followed by applause from those watching the proceedings. It has long been considered a turning point in the McCarthy hearings.

Censure

Shortly after that incident, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy by an overwhelming majority of 67-22. He died three years later at the age of forty-eight, but his name infamously lives on in the term “McCarthyism.” McCarthyism, as a general expression, came to be used to loosely describe the actions of someone who makes unsubstantiated accusations and attacks an adversary’s character or patriotism.

As an observer of today’s political scene, I’ve come to the place where I’d really like to be able to step into Joseph Welch’s shoes. By that, I mean I’d like to be in a position to ask our current day politicians, “Have you no sense of decency?” And to take it a step further, I’d like my question to become a turning point toward a return to the decency to which I refer.

It appears we have come to the place where McCarthyism has become the norm. In fact, the very term, McCarthyism, has lost its meaning. If everyone is McCarthy, then no one is McCarthy. If everyone is tossing around unsubstantiated accusations and committing character assassinations, then we have truly lost our sense of decency.

Please Listen

Unfortunately, I’m not in a good position to effectively ask that question. I’ll ask it anyway, but I don’t think the necessary people will pay any attention to me. I will be largely ignored or unheard. But maybe if enough of us begin to ask that question of our politicians, they will begin to listen.

Before John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod, he sent some of his disciples to ask Jesus if he was the expected Messiah. Jesus sent John his reply, which was basically a cryptic, “Yes.” After they left, Jesus said, “John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’” (Luke 7:33-34) In other words, “You can’t seem to satisfy anyone these days.”

As long as people are willing to think the worst of others, we will have this situation. That is particularly true if we’re willing to act out our basest inclinations. Shall we bow our heads in prayer?

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]