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SWEARING, SWEARING AND HALLOWING
Yes, these are three, and not two.
The Australian, June 7-9, 2008
In this paper, a psychologist is cited as declaring that more young people are now found using foul language at school, but that he has "found no credible evidence that this damages them".
We will consider foul language, bad language, therefore and consider the case of what it is, does and what it is all about. As to 'damage', it may not damage you if you hurl a beer-bottle at someone, either, or him, if it misses. It will however effect damage of various kinds on both parties, on the perception of wisdom in the one, which is being taught to be careless of conditions and dangers, and on the other, in that if it does hit, it could create vast damage.
Damage ? it is mental,
physical, social, intellectual, spiritual, moral, verbal: multi-formatted.
But this itself is only a minor part of the problem. It is WHAT you are doing that matters, and in allowing this, what is implied.
Brandishing a non-verbal sword also has results, in terms of public order, additives to the brandishing and the type of wound involved. Man is wounded by such displays, being TAUGHT to make of himself from school age, with school permission, into a rank intruder into life, fashioning the irrelevant, stating the debasing, in effect cursing the conditions of life or its Maker, relishing religious or human reductionism or its correlative, and casting these stones at the image of man. As this is done, it is as if a complete mental breakdown within the human race were being adorned by incoherence of speech, where twisted references to various persons or functions, brought into the air by violence or hatred or a rush of blood, termed swearing, were now a fitting lover for its end.
There is currently in Adelaide some conversation in the papers about swearing, the use of bad language.
Why however is it called 'bad' ?
It is because it is not good for anything. Actually, if someone wants to communicate with someone else, that may be fine, depending on the topic, the persons and their relationship.
If someone wants to communicate some point about an experience, or an attitude, or a party or body, that too may be fine, providing that the situation and the relationship is built to bear it. In general, we are not excessively exclusive about who can speak to us; we are ready to listen in case it is apt and good.
However, if someone wants to tell us about some topic, in which we have interest, in a way or for a reason which seems just, or a matter of compassion, or whatever else, then there are options. The person can TELL IT LIKE IT IS, to use the abominable ungrammaticism (minted), or tell something else or instead. That is, the subject may be stated or tainted with the irrelevant, the aborative, the aberrational, the intrusive.
If it is something else that is given instead, then there is deception.
More lively, however, It is given with additional information, instead, not clear but aroused. Something else is a throw-in. It comes as well.
If it is as well, then there is a question. Is this something else equally acceptable to the topic ?
If it involves, for example, as in swearing, two further topics, it may or may not be acceptable. These would be irrelevant to the communication which the listener may have been set to receive; and whether the additives are to be 'bought' depends on the customer, the recipient.
Thus in a normal case of this abnormality (not so much statistically so as verbally), there may be two added components. Reference, without being necessary or apt to the topic, may in passing be made to various parts of the human body, or functions which exist in its repertoire. If this is irrelevant, then it is intrusive, abusing privileges of communication, potentially dishonest (only potentially so, because some people speak in this way to KNOWN acceptance of such additives, while of course, others speak without knowing whether it is acceptable to the listener or not, or even despite knowing that it is NOT acceptable).
This however is only the first aspect. The second is this: such reference my bespeak, imply or actually express an approach to such organ or function which is in spirit and in word derogatory, evacuative of respect for it, and this in conjunction with a debased and degraded concept of it. If then one wishes to refer to such parts or functions, or again, in the case where it is not in reference to the body of man, but to the body of the Lord, as in the great Australian adjective, so-called in its apparent root, or to God Himself instead, then there is indeed an additive of a further assault.
Even if these more advanced cases are degrading, or mere expletives, not intended to carry their normal meaning relative to the deity, then of course this is taking the name of the Lord in vain, just as in many other cases, His products in derogation.
To insist that this is normal, or right, or apt, or appropriate is to insist that anyone can do anything to anyone else. You may say: Not so, it is so only verbally. It is only verbally that this is done.
Where is the line however for this privilege ? If the other person matters at all, then USELESS and INEPT, callow misuse of terms that are irrelevant or merely seduced into action for effect, this is imposition. Further, it is imposition of a viewpoint of degradation, and to an attitude of derogation. Worse, it is so in the context of not actually communicating ABOUT the topic, but inducing its presence in order to abuse it.
Moreover, it often is adduced as seductive, to imply or seek to imply that the things in question OUGHT to be so regarded, or so described, or are susceptible to it when one is enraged or displeased, disappointed or wishing a special form of emphasis. It can become a test of seemliness, viewpoint, perspective for the human race, as if stealing an apple in sight of a farmer were a test of his attitude to stealing in general. You can thus test the waters for further fouling, or deposit drainage from the soiled soul into them, or make a practice of engendering attitudes of this kind, without anyone telling you of your abortion, distortion or degrading of values, language and the life of inter-relationships.
This is different from reasoned talk on a TOPIC for the SAKE of a topic. Always truth is a ground. In swearing, it is not at all truth, but mere ASSUMPTION mixed with presumption which is occurring. It gives no grounds, but imports horror to those who have respect either for the due usages of the human body, or the reasons for these or for the Maker of them, in Himself or in His works.
Hence swearing is not in the area of liberty of expression to hold and to present truth, or what is presented as truth. You could have 'free speech' without free swearing since this is free misuse of speech to evoke images or attitudes not being either the subject of discussion or given ground for the attitude chosen and shown.
There is never any excuse for swearing, except where the recipient is KNOWN to favour its use. It is not enough that the person suffers its use. It is then still an imposition.
That is not to authenticate swearing between those who like it. It is merely to limit this aspect of one's approach to the topic, in its relevance to such cases. Where people swear at each other, as dogs bark, and like it, that is, include this in the routine diet, this is not thereby accredited, but it is not the case in mind. That case ? it occurs EITHER when it is not known how the listener thinks on this swearing, this verbal irrelevance or degradation topic, or when it is known, but this point is disregarded.
The use where both like it, then, is merely the same as any other derogation or reductionism: it is contrary to reality but acceptable to some. The milieu and the implications are still of this type, and it becomes a philosophic excursion without ground and contrary to any ground, a belligerence to words and a defalcation of areas without relevance to these themselves. That carries its own condemnation for its callow incompetence; but it is not the case here in mind.
To raise the point, for example, of the swearing use of the name of God, and its exclusion as reductionist propaganda, debasing in irrelevance what is not shown to deserve this, and is contrary to all argumentation to the contrary which can be sustained (cf. SMR, Deity and Design ..., TMR). If this were excluded, that is NOT TO HALLOW God. It is to object to bellowing at His name, as if it were available for angry emission without either addressing Him or presenting material to Him, but rather debasing His name by its negative deployment.
You would probably not say, for example, Churchill, I am fed up! If you did, the nature of your reference would be of a certain type, relative to that leader. Your expression would reek with this additional inflammatory datum.
either in the use of His name in vain, irrelevantly, not even in terms of argumentation, but in those of degradation, or in the attitude to His creations, or to His salvation indeed.
To what then does this point ? It is this.
You do not HAVE to hallow the name of God if you do not want to do so, any more than you have to drive in Australia on the left hand side of the road as a norm. However there are penalties if you do not do the latter, since it may cause a mindless accident, and comes close to assault.
If you do not want to hallow the name of God, then, that is one thing and you are perfectly free to abide by your ideas in this world; but to dishallow what relates to Him, to disjoin this from respect, this is another matter. Nor is this to argue that it is wrong to argue, to present grounds for a view, or to express it with the warrant of reason and implication, with strength, with cartoons if the ground is cleared for them, indeed, first. This however, in the case of swearing, is not the case in view.
That is, to express with strength what is unargued, and to debase things without presentation to support this and to debase, tend to discredit, associate various things with rage or frustration, for example, this has the impact of the wedding of the term and the temper.
To express this disjunction in unknown company is reaching the limits of the wanton. You simply breach many constraints because it is desired. Many things are similarly desired, like robbery, but this is no ground for their acceptance.
When however it comes to swearing IN God's name, for some official purpose, for the Christian, what is the position ? Here the word of God is explicit for the believer, so that you have a somewhat challenging case. People may indeed swear in the name of the Lord in the sense of stating that He is Lord and God indeed, and that one is knowingly acting in His sight. However, to swear at ALL in the sense of saying that what one says is backed by the Almighty (unless one is quoting His word, or its most direct indications) is merely to presume.
If you SWEAR IN HIS NAME that what you say is true, you are using His name as a convenience. If you swear that He is true, you are not.
How could one swear by God that this or that is so, as a Christian following the Bible, the word of God, when James tells you not to swear at all, and Christ tells you how ludicrous it is to swear by the Temple and such things (Matthew 23), set in the realm of hypocrisy.
To say, in effect, I am aware that almighty God is the One in whose presence I say these things is not in itself bad, except that it can readily come to mean, I am swearing these things and HE is my backing that it is true. In that case, except it is HIS word that you cite or present, you are making His sublimity a basis for your imperfections, always a most dangerous thing to do. Swear then not at all, unless you CALL this 'swearing', namely to indicate as Paul did, that you are aware that God is watching and alert to what you are saying: for THAT is a FACT! (Galatians 1:20).
Paul here in fact is calling on the name of the Lord to the effect that he, Paul, is not lying. In that case, lying being a voluntary thing, it is of course possible to do make such a declaration. Paul either knows or does not know that he is lying, that is, whether what he says be in fact true or KNOWN TO BE false. He can therefore state that it is before the living God that he is saying this, and that he is not lying.
To affirm that something is the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, in the name of God, is however ludicrous. Who but God HAS the whole truth, point one; and who is so sure of himself/herself that it can be said that it is all correct. Sometimes one suddenly remembers a corrective or additive. One cannot speak such things: swear not at all.
Let us be clear. It is only when the swearing is not calling God to account for your words as truth, that there is an open door. If it be defined as 'swearing' to say, I AM NOT LYING, and I state this before Him, this is permissible, for it has neither assumption nor presumption for the Christian and does not come into the area of Christ's debunking or the arena that James evokes. It presumes nothing and affirms only what is relevant, true and demonstrable. TO LIE, you MUST KNOW IT.
We come then to the final point.
Let us put this in the context of the title of this volume.
1) speak about God without
meaning to refer to Him
2) do so with words which
indicate that His name seems suitable
3) use it in conjunction with
dissatisfaction or an atmosphere of defenestration
then you are DISHALLOWING HIS NAME.
That is to say, you are actively doing the very opposite of what is apposite,
removing from His name even dignity and righteousness, INSTEAD of adding to it,
for those who do not know Him, the glory which is its due.
This is an assault on deity, of which the final outcome in action was the crucifixion. It is well to know what one is doing, before doing it! If this is the intention ...
But what of a different case ? that of those who speak in a way which does indeed hallow God's name in the hearing of, or indeed in address to those who do not hallow it, or want to hallow it or even actually dislike or detest it ?
Is this a matter for any more liberty than that of those who abuse it ?
It is always a liberty to speak the truth in any free society. Truth is a cost to no one. If you have no reason to think that someone will be hostile at truth, then of course you can so speak. If however you have reason to believe someone is hostile to truth, then even so, you do not necessarily withhold it, any more than you would withhold 'Good Morning' from a known grouch.
Truth has its privileges. But what if someone thinks you do not have the truth ? That is fine, this does not alter it. What if you speak thus and know it will not be appreciated ? This depends on the prior question, Do they need it ?
What if someone says, DO NOT tell me this truth ? It is then, Christ being freely accepted or rejected, you refrain from doing so, unless to correct a misstatement, an error, an attack on Him or assault or on what belongs to Him. HOW do you correct ? It is never by force (John 18:36), but it is by word as God gives you utterance. Dumb dogs who do not bark are not loved by God (Isaiah 56:10-11).
The fact that some who do not know God and dishonour His name, reject His Gospel, are certainly headed for everlasting shame, makes anyone of sensibility and feeling keen to help if the way opens, just as you would be, if a friend were already 25 stone in weight, and while sensitive to the topic of eating, did not forbid expression in these terms. If you do not speak, in this literal case or in the spiritual one for which it is an analogy, then it is to be careless, uncaring, almost inhuman. If they forbid, so be it. If they are not keen, this is not determinative. One has been in situations when not keen to hear what afterwards one finds is after all, both good and to be known!
It is only in the prohibition case, that the exclusion applies, and even then, one naturally and most properly seeks to help where the wind changes, or the need indicates a new situation
That one must speak once, however, in order to KNOW, this is clear enough. One is not always in a position to speak; but custom is not king, and this is not to be interpreted in a way which would be inept for the fatness case. Care cares, and that is that.
What if, however, a government forbids one to HALLOW the NAME of GOD. Then one simply has to disobey, since God commands one thing, and a group of men are commanding another. As Peter put it, Judge for yourselves whether it be right in the sight of God to obey you or God! (Acts 4:19).
In the end, this world is judged already, and its end is sure and according to its works (II Peter 3); and while one does not intrude where one is asked to abstain, except to the extent of the cases noted, and this request is made by the ONE CONCERNED (who thus has total responsibility for irresponsibility, and is not deprived because of someone else, of the knowledge of salvation), one must not allow some group to deprive some person of what that person wants or needs, and does not exclude.
God is the one to whom one is responsible, and as to Him, one does in love do what is required by Him, for a world such as this in its testing season: this is to be wrought, whatever anyone else says. Does one cut one's own throat if the government asks for this ? or do what amounts to much the same for someone else if so asked ? TO deny truth by group command, to those who need it, when it is sustainable and capable of expression amid any attempts to derogate it, this is surrender if not now to Hitler or to Stalin, ideological as well as military dictators , then to those who impose no less. Will a man surrender to men in the presence of God! Is this to be a man at all! If God is one's God, men who rebel are but servants of ruin. To follow what ruins is not to serve God.
Yet some say, This is only verbal. Verbal indeed, when many were burnt at the stake on just such grounds, and Christ killed for it. Words signify and what is signified is what man fights about. A symbol gives the substance to the mind, and the mind that rejects the substance tends to reject the word for it, being rational. If the result is cruelty, this is not the fault of the word, which serves, but of the heart.
Thus the word may be forbidden, the word of the living God, and the world may desire to be stilfed with the heat of abuse by crass betrayal of truth. There have been many such times, and there is to be a last time.
Meanwhile, while the body may be made to suffer by tyrants, social or other, yet the body is not the ultimate ground for imposition, but in man, what controls it, his spirit: this is the place of torture above all, of responsibility and of action. Small wonder Christ is willing to refuse acknowledgement of those who refuse on this earth to acknowledge Him (Luke 9:26).
Life in Christ CANNOT fail to acknowledge Him, for it does so in the very living, and to be sure, one may fail as did Peter in some episode or episodes, but in the end, one either makes free confession of Christ or one does not; and to hallow His name, you do not hide it. You may, to take another analogy, be unwilling to discuss freely and intimately your marriage in public; that is understood: but the FACT that you ARE MARRIED and the ONE to whom this bond relates, you could not justifiably refuse to acknowledge in general. You could not, that is, without dishonouring, and that markedly, your spouse.
How much worse to dishonour, and that markedly, your God and Saviour and Creator and Sanctifier. For the Christian, then, this is the position, the rationale, and the command.
HALLOWED BE THY NAME!