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A Defining Moment
by Tom Goodman
February 25, 2009

What does the word "disciple" mean?

If you need help defining the word, don't bother turning to the new Oxford Junior Dictionary.  It's not in there any more.  Along with definitions for words like "sin" and "saint," children can no longer turn to the dictionary from the influential Oxford University Press to find out what it means to be a disciple.

Thankfully, there's another book that can help.

London's Daily Mail reported that Lisa Saunders, a mom in Northern Ireland, noticed that the junior dictionary was missing some familiar words as she helped her kids with homework.  She then compared six editions since the 1970s and discovered that a whole range of words relating to Christianity, nature, and British history had been eliminated over the years.

The makers of the dictionary said that they needed to make room for newer definitions and so some words had to go.  Explaining why kids will no longer have access to definitions of words from Christian culture, Vineeta Gupta, head of children's dictionaries for the company, said, "We are much more multicultural.  People don't go to church as often as before."

On the one hand, this story may tell us more about the waning relevance of print dictionaries than the waning influence of Christianity in the West.  Really, if you've got internet access, you need a dead-tree edition of a dictionary about as much as you need that thick phone directory that just landed on your door step last week.

On the other hand, Oxford's abridged dictionaries still serve as authoritative resources on the words the cultural gatekeepers say we should know.  When the editors leave out the definition of "disciple" from their children's dictionary, clearly they feel the word has no relevance to children today.

As I said, though, I know another book that can help kids understand what it means to be a disciple.

The Bible was written for disciples by disciples about disciples.  Its stories and precepts teach us the way of life God intends us to follow.  Read it to your kids, get your kids in Hillcrest programs where they can understand it better, and prepare yourself to answer the questions they'll ask you about the faith.

That way they'll learn what it means to be a disciple.

Even if Oxford Press won't tell them.


Weblog:  Check out my blog, "Get Anchored."  Some things to look for...

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