“let everyone be swift to hear, slow to speak” James 1:19
We speak often of the power of words, too often . . . for we rarely reflect upon the nature of their power. Why do our words have such power? And more importantly why, given that our words have such power, do we speak so much and so thoughtlessly?
In the Source of things, from The Beginning, we learn that Words Create Worlds, and I was reminded of that just this morning reading a Facebook conversation about what could and couldn’t be done by a priest at a ‘non-religious wedding’. [The alert reader might call on me to ‘stop right there!’ Well Done . . . but excuse me for carrying on for a few more lines before returning to that oxymoron.] In England, a member of the clergy cannot participate in a wedding which a civil Registrar conducts. There can’t be ‘religious’ elements. So, no religious stuff until the Registrar has left the building . . . See what I did there with my words?
The fact of the matter is that a marriage is not some mere material contract between two people in a universe devoid of any spiritual content. In the way we use the term, there is no such thing as ‘a secular marriage ceremony’ (one in which ‘the spiritual aspect’ is locked outside of the door). Yet we create such an illusion by our use of words, and not only do we create it, we reinforce it over and over again. The language of ‘secularism’ is just that, language, words we have created, and a world we have made built upon this tenuous edifice of words. (Language is the most powerful creator of Culture)
Now, I understand that many many folk might not be too happy to be told that ‘The Secular World’ is an illusion. After all, for those who want nothing to do with G_d . . . it’s a useful, indeed a careless contrivance. But my contention is not with them, but with we Christians.
I had thought that we follow the one through whom all things were created and in whom they have their being. (You may wish to ponder the opening of John’s gospel, or indeed the first chapter of St Paul’s letter to the Colossians, with its drumbeat of ‘all things’, ‘all things’, ‘all things’. Yes, dear postmodernist, it is a totalising metanarrative, The Totalising Metanarrative) Given the Givenness of that, something we cannot aviod by leaving the building as there is nowhere we can go from His presence, why as Christians do we so readily assume the linguitics torture of ‘secularism’? We are to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land, not parrot Babylonian! (Of course anyone who knows the history of The Protestant West knows that we in our own way created Babylonioan . . .) We need to be slow to speak, because when we speak without thinking we reinforce, and verbally create the very illusory state we so rail against!
Regarding a wedding, it is in more ways than one a ‘religious’ act. Firstly, although the etymology is disputed, religio is to bind, to join together . . . so unless marriage in our society has become devoid of any explicit sense of endurance, then there is a religo(us) aspect to what the civil registrar does [with apologies to all such people, I’m sure that they’re a very fine bunch of men and women].
But there is really no escape, for our lives are materio/spiritual whether we like it or not, and nothing we can do can undo that. The Registrar may have left the building before a Priest stands up to pray, but he or she has already conducted a religious ceremony of profound spiritual content. We can only pretend otherwise, creating an illusion of separateness by what we say. And by and large we do – which acts on our own minds and thinking, and the next moment . . .
Marriage Is a Metaphysical reality, which is why we need to be Very Very Careful when we try to re-form it for we have no idea, or cannot SEE what we are doing . . .’Father forgive us for we know not what we do. Insofar as secular means what it does for so many, devoid of religious/spiritual content, Marriage has no ‘secular’ form, indeed nothing does.
We need to mind our language, and stop building that which we know to be a poweful and deeply unhealthy illusion.