Peggy Noonan References the “Many” Family or, Words Matter: A Crossover Podcast with T4E

When we say we forgive, do we mean we are forgiving a person or forgiving something a person did? Jaques Derrida used this question to describe what he meant when he talked about forgiving the unforgettable. He was speaking in post-Apartheid South Africa.

The Many Family

Thirty years ago my mentor introduced me to the Many Family. Unbeknownst to me the Many Family represented one of, if not the, largest families in the Church. They are often referenced, “Many people want . . ..” “Many people are saying . . ..” Many people [you fill in the blank from your own experience.]”

Recently I learned the Many Family was not only the largest family in the Church but in also in America. Peggy Noonan wrote a piece, the aim of the piece is irrelevant to the point, wherein she used the Many Family to support her argument. The problem is there is no way to substantiate exactly who the Many Family is or what exactly they represent.

One learns that the Many Family is not only the largest family they are the most stealth family. Ask the person invoking the Many Family and you soon realize you are likely talking to the Many Family. Under the guise of protecting those who prefer to remain silent, the person referencing the Many Family will refuse to tell you who really says, feels, wants, etc.

Muddies Arguments

My friend Marty who hosts and produces The Fourth Estate podcast contacted me to do a crossover podcast. He knows my interest in the way words work, how language works, what we mean when we say a thing. Marty sent the article and then wanted to have a conversation. He did not care to discuss the argument Noonan was attempting to make but how she went about supporting her claims.

One of the consequences of using the Many Family in support of an argument is that it muddies the argument. Many is hard to nail down in terms of numbers. I learned as a young person that a couple means two, a few means at least three, and that many could be just beyond that. In other words, many is relative to the person using the word. When many is used in this way it could be more than a few but less than a majority. It could mean a majority but lest than most. You see how difficult it is to find out just how broad an argument is supported or believed simply by invoking the Many Family?


Take the time to subscribe to Marty’s podcast, The Fourth Estate podcast. You will not be disappointed. One of his chief interests is in how the news is reported. He often digs beneath what are referred to as clickbait titles. You could say that clickbait titles are cousins to the Many Family.

As I hope you will subscribe to /patheological/: The Podcast for the Pastor-Theologian. Share the podcast if you find it helpful. Rate and review the podcast on iTunes.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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