Words Are Holy. So Why Don’t We Talk Like They Are?

Christians should cherish words in a disposable age.

When I was a boy, a whole room of my grandmother’s home was dedicated to her library. Thousands of books filled dark, neat shelves. Art deco prints from Maxfield Parrish lined the walls with images of ruined pillars and children lounging in blue sunsets. An antique bronze of Hermes, god of language, faced the door, right hand raised to heaven, face cast upward. That library was not only a place of knowledge or entertainment; it was almost sacred. Standing on thick carpet, one breathed quietly the smell of aged paper. Each word held there was precious.

Christianity joyfully affirms that language is worthy of such honor. After all, “In the beginning was the Word,” John 1:1 states, and the theme of word can be traced brilliantly through the entire Bible. Christians, extending the Jewish tradition, have been known for ages as “people of the Book.” What happens when we write and speak is something holy.

But today, we live in a crisis of language. Not only is the sacred nature of our words largely forgotten, but language is becoming degraded. In a world of significant social, ecological, and spiritual crisis, this may seem like a low priority. But healthy language, like clean air or water, is something we take for granted until it is gone. And if language falls, so do uncountable other things upon which human well-being depends.

This crisis has been growing for many decades. In 1946, George Orwell, novelist and one of the great defenders of language, opened his essay “Politics and the English Language” with “Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about …

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