If Nothing is Sacred, Nothing Can Be Profaned
I really enjoyed this post on EVANGEL, a blog site that is hosted on the First Things web site. You might enjoy adding it to your regular blog reading. As a blog site that has a large number of contributors, the posts come frequently, and not all are worth reading, but, it’s an interesting way, quickly, to keep up with trends in thinking in American Evangelicalism. Here is a post that gave me food for thought, and it may do so for you too:
If nothing is sacred, nothing can be profaned.
This line has been haunting me for a few months. The video of the fellow tweeting during his wedding brought it back to mind.
As one commenter on put it in response to the video, “It seems to me the issue–an all-too common one these days–is a lack of understanding of the sacred.”
Sacred space, sacred speech, sacred behavior–our emphasis on intentionality and the universalizing aspect of the Holy Spirit’s presence make adopting such categories…difficult. ”Don’t judge the heart, which is the important part. I can worship God anywhere. Don’t limit him to a building. There’s nothing intrinsic to the words themselves.” Focus too much on externals, and someone will accuse you of adding law to the Gospel–without acknowledging the possibility that as humans, we are changed not only from the inside out, but from the outside in.
This is why profanity still matters. The sacred implies an element of mystery–which Paul calls marriage in Ephesians 5. To profane is to seize the mystery and lay it bare for everyone to see–to throw it out of the temple, as it were. What this means, though, is that only within communities where such mysteries have meaning can profanity have power. If there are no mysteries, nothing can be profaned.
I don’t wish to be crass, but most common swear words seem to have as their primary referents some action or thing that has historically been done or kept in secret. The chief exception to this rule is He who is the greatest mystery of all, our Lord Jesus himself. As such mysteries lose their force, so will (ironically) the force of the words associated with them. That many of us young evangelicals do not think seriously about the particular aspects of the words we deploy suggests our reverence for what originally made them profanities is on the wane.
I have no intention of restarting the wars over whether profanity is permissible or not. My interest is the conditions that make it possible, conditions that sadly seem to be increasingly rare.