Sunday, January 25, 2015

The Immorality of Bad Grammar



Some people are just ignorant. I get that. Sad to say, some people are just stupid. We don't mean intellectually stupid necessarily, but stupid in the sense of what the Bible calls "a fool." But are ignorance and stupidity in themselves immoral? Not broadly immoral as in encompassing all transgressions, but much more narrowly immoral in terms of language: Is it immoral to speak so as to articulate one's ignorance and stupidity? We think "yes." Forest Gump was only partially right when he said, "Stupid is, is stupid does." He should have added, "Stupid is, is stupid does and says." All fools are double fools, behaviorally and rhetorically.
 
One of my favorite topics to address in composition, literature, or theology classes is the trinitarianism of language. It goes like this:
 
"Every word is a trinity."
 
One of the first things we learn about God in Holy Scripture, after the very invocation of His name "Elohim" awakens our inability to contemplate infinite majesty, is that God is a God of language. Yes, the Deity is magisterial and creatorial - "Elohim created" - but we would not know smithers about the magisterial and creatorial nature of God if it were not for this:

"Elohim said."

What follows that declaration is illumination -

"Elohim said, 'Let there be light.'"

If the emanation of light from the spoken word is the Divine prototype for that species created ad imaginem quippe Dei, then to what depths of darkness has our species fallen, for there is little light shining from the mouths of mortals. Perhaps that's why Paul describes the human throat as "an open tomb," and thus a place of dark emptiness and empty darkness. 
 
It began in the Garden.
 
Perversion of language, that is. The Old Serpent was "a liar from the beginning" - "God hath not said" - and wobbly Eve soon followed suit - "God hath said, 'Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it" - the "do not touch" clause being the first human prevarication. But we digress.
 
Every word is a trinity.
 
Ideation, inspiration, incarnation - thought, breath, flesh. The mind conceives an idea and the breath inspires the flesh to incarnate that idea. More pragmatically stated, an intellectual concept is communicated when breath stirs the vocal chord and, voila, ho logos! - the word.
 
If Jesus Christ really meant what He said, "Every idle word that men shall speak they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment, for by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned" - if the Son of God really meant that, then humanity is in a black hole.
 
Look at it this way.
 
Imagine that you're strolling through the Museum of Fine Art, viewing beautiful expressions of artistic imagination - Monet, Renoir, Seurat, Raphael - and suddenly you come upon a priceless sculpture comprised of gold and silver, specifically, apples of solid gold creatively set in the purest silver, untarnished and shining brilliantly.
 
That's the picture Solomon paints for us about the right and proper use of even a single word: "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver."
 
But if we stroll over to the Museum of Modern Art, we would find quite different renditions of the same theme: golden apples in jars of urine, and silver slop jars filled with . . . well, you get the picture.
 
Ignorance and stupidity.
 
So what's my point? - Be careful little mouth what you say.
 
If every word we speak inherently replicates the very nature of the Divine as trinitarian, let us be careful not to pervert the image of God when we speak ignorantly or stupidly, much less falsely or blasphemously.
 
When we speak, "let there be light."

Or at least "let there be quiet," for "even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise."
 
After all, when the Almighty wanted to designate the apple of His eye in one word, He said it like this:

"In the beginning was the Word,

and the Word was with God,

and the Word was God."

No comments: