Tag Archives: Holy Sh*t

Affecting the Almighty

source: oxfordshire church photos via Flickr
source: oxfordshire church photos via Flickr

If you sin, how does that affect him?
If your sins are many, what does that do to him?
Job 35:6 (NIV)

Elihu, the fourth and youngest of Job’s so-called friends, continues his pent-up diatribe in today’s chapter. His point seems to be that God’s lofty omnipotence places the Creator above the affectations of humanity. Eli calls into question whether our sins or wickedness have any affect on the Almighty, and I find the question fascinating.

A few summers ago I read the book Holy Sh*t by Melissa Mohr who explores the history of swearing and profanity. I learned therein that throughout the middle ages Western culture would have answered Eli’s question emphatically. The really bad swearing of the day was to swear by Jesus’ blood or Jesus’ wounds. For example, in the opening scenes of Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1, the bawdy Jack Falstaff utters profanity in saying “‘sblood” (contraction of swearing “by His blood”) and “‘Zounds” (contraction of swearing “by His wounds”). The culture of that day held that swearing by the body, blood, or wounds of Christ was so profane that swearing in such a manner resulted in further bodily injury to Jesus. If you swore you were perpetrating actual physical harm to the Savior in heaven. Wow.

This morning I am once again finding truth at the point of tension between the two extremes. Elihu’s projection of God who is above being affected by humanity is inconsistent with the entire story of God’s Message, in which God intimately cares for His fallen creation and loves us sacrificially in order to redeem us. The believers of the middle-ages, however, took that intimacy to an opposite extreme in thinking that when my momentary frustration leads to an inappropriate utterance, I have Jesus crying “ouch” in heaven’s throne room. That idea of that, in fact, seems more than a little bit twisted.

My long sojourn through God’s Message and my experiences in this life lead me to believe that God does care about us. I believe that God cares about what we think, say, and do. I believe that God is grieved at our penchant for doing the things we know we shouldn’t and choosing out of the things we should say and do. Let’s not forget that at the beginning of Job’s story God actually expresses His pride and deep appreciation for Job’s righteousness. God could be above it all, as Elihu suggests, but that’s the beauty of the Christmas story which we just celebrated last week. God cared. God sent His Son as a gift to make a way for salvation, and He made a point by sending His Son to be born of a seemingly insignificant peasant girl, arriving in squalor, worshipped by poor shepherds. That doesn’t sound like an aloof God unaffected by humanity. It seems to me that this is a story of God’s affections for even the least of us.

My Summer Reading List

I have a confession to make: I’m a terrible reader. I envy those who can consume mass quantities of books, and I get jealous of people who write columns about the boat load of books they read over the summer months. Don’t get me wrong. I love books, but I read relatively slowly and books tend to stimulate my brain in such a way that I can barely get through a page before I’m thinking about how what I’ve just read relates to other things and I start pondering all sorts of connections and ideas. Pretty soon I’m staring off into space as my brain whirrs and minutes go by before I realize I better get back to the book. C’est la vie.

I made it a point this summer to actually get through a book or two, and I’m feeling pretty proud of myself. So I’m giving myself a guilty pleasure of writing a post about my summer reading list.

Moneyball ImageMoneyball by Michael Lewis. I loved the movie and had been told by two people I respect (one who’s not a baseball fan) that the book was a must read. They were right. While the movie did a masterful job of telling the true and enthralling story, there was no way to relate on screen just how much Billy Beane and his stat geeks changed the game of baseball and why. I loved this book and it prompted a lot of late night baseball conversations. The book made me love the movie even more.

Holy Shit ImageHoly Sh*t (A Brief History of Swearing) by Melissa Mohr. I wrote a blog post a few weeks ago about Melissa Mohr’s book about how swearing has developed in the English language from ancient Rome to modern times. Swearing has always involved the profaning of the sacred (the holy) or exclaiming what is scatological (the shit). The real story is in how the pendulum has swung between the two in history. It’s a fascinating book and Mohr does a nice job of taking what is really an academic work and layering it with her own sarcastic wit. It’s a helluva good read.

Whos on Worst ImageWho’s on Worst by Filip Bondy. If you read this blog with any regularity you know that Wendy and I are baseball fans. This quick, trivial read is a fun look at the worst of the worst in baseball history. I was pleasantly surprised at how few Cubs actually made the list (you knew there had to be a few). Perhaps my favorite chapter listed the worst deals the New York Yankees ever made, paying players millions of dollars for a few hapless innings of work. Amazing. It’s an easy, enjoyable read for baseball fans. And, it may help win me a few game of Lunchtime Trivia at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Tolkien Letters ImageThe Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien by Humphrey Carpenter and Christopher Tolkien. For a life long lover of Middle Earth, I can’t believe what a treasure trove Tolkien’s letters actually are. Sometimes personal letters are rather uninteresting, but Tolkien writes long letters to fans explaining things that have long eluded me about the mythology he created. I was amazed to discover in his letters just how central his personal faith (he was Roman Catholic) was to everything he did and wrote (he called Lord of the Rings essentially a religious and Catholic story). I was also fascinated to find out how often he references C.S. Lewis (it’s actually a lot) and what good friends and colleagues they were.

Saints and Sinners imageSaints and Sinners (A History of the Popes) by Eamon Duffy. I am not Roman Catholic (I have some irreconcilable differences on non-essential doctrinal issues with my Catholic brothers), but I have been fascinated by the long and complex history of the Popes who have shaped the history of the world. I found myself intrigued by the conclave that elected Pope Francis this past summer and have been impressed with the man himself. He’s a leader I could and would follow. So, on the recommendation of the Wall Street Journal I ordered Duffy’s survey of the popes. I’m just getting into it as I write this, but am finding his objectivity and honesty refreshing. It’s already stimulating and challenging my thoughts about the Great Story and the part the church of Rome has played in it.

Holy Sh*t

holyshitYes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ. Philippians 3:8 (NLT)

One of the books on my summer reading list is a fascinating treatise entitled Holy Sh*t, A Brief History of Swearing, by Melissa Mohr. I am intrigued by the subject matter on a number of levels. At least part of my motivation when I picked up the book sprang out of my role as President of our local community theatre. Most popular plays and musicals contain at least some swear words. Our organization regularly engages in conversation weighing the options of presenting a script as written (knowing that we will offend some of our audience members) or changing the script to eliminate some or all of the offensive words (knowing that in doing so we are breaking the law and our contractual obligations to the playwright and publisher). When people hear certain words they get offended. Then, they write letters. It’s my job to respond.

What most modern Americans do not realize is that the Bible is full of language that most people would consider harsh or obscene. After studying it for over thirty years, I’ve always understood this. In her book, Mohr does a great job of laying it out in a literary, social and historical context. The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew and the New Testament was originally written in Greek. The authors sometimes used words, phrases and euphemisms which, literally translated, would offend most religious people today. The verse above (Philippians 3:8) from today’s chapter is a great example. Paul was trying to make a strong point. All of the things that he once thought worth-while (e.g. being extremely religious, keeping all of the Jewish laws and customs, zealously persecuting anyone who didn’t agree with his religious view, and etc.) he now considers worth-less. But, Paul didn’t write it that way in his letter.

When Paul wrote that all of his former religiosity was “worthless” he used the Greek word that is transliterated in English: skubalon. It is the only place in the New Testament this Greek word is used. Literally translated in today’s language it means “shit.” When translators write this verse in English they choose to use a more acceptable English word such as “rubbish” or “worthless” so as not to offend. But make no mistake about it, Paul considered all of the religious trappings of his life prior to meeting Jesus as nothing more than a pile of shit.  And, he wasn’t afraid to say so.

Today, I’m thinking about words, phrases and euphemisms. They are little metaphors. A sound we make or symbols we write which represent something else without using “like” or “as.” One of the little known, rarely taught aspects of God’s Message is that it often uses words and word pictures that are offensive to those with fragile social sensibilities. Truth offends, and Paul clearly understood that sometimes Truth must be spoken in words that communicate its harsh realities.