Thomas S. Kidd has written an interesting column for USA Today concerning President Obama’s use — or misuse — of religious language. I recommend you read it here.
Mr. Thomas S. Kidd has expressed criticism of President Obama’s use of “religious language.” Specifically he cites the President’s omission of “Creator” when quoting the Declaration of Independence and failing to mention that our nation’s motto is “In God We Trust.” In both cases the criticism is justified but a broader issue arises.
How should we use “religious language?” How should we hear it? What exactly is it? Is anything really at stake as we speak religiously?
I take it that “religious language” is a word, or combination of words, that speak of a reality beyond this life, this world. Religion is about something beyond nature; it is supernatural. Therefore we should speak religiously with the kind of respect we speak of anything else. Baseball is something real. So too is what is in view when we speak religiously. Careless, disrespectful speech about supernatural reality is sure to offend and cause confusion.
Does it matter how we speak of religious things? One may as well ask does it matter how we speak of other real things. When the TV shows the couple coming into their newly redecorated house and someone says, “Oh, my God!” what is being communicated? Is it prayer? Is it worship? Or is it meaningless jabber by use of ultimate reality, a reality denied or made trivial by the use of such language.
Another example of “religious language” that carries with it serious harm is trying to speak religiously by use of profanity. Perhaps the worst example of desecration is the use of the name Jesus Christ as curse words. Such a practice denies or downplays the reality of Jesus Christ; it is destructive of what is real; it desecrates the Holy.
This issue is especially important for anyone who holds himself out as a religious person. James has it, “he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.” (James 1:26).
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