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  • Writer's pictureGreg Dover

Greg's Weekly Word: "profane"

Maybe you stubbed your toe, or you got cut off in traffic, or maybe it's just a normal part of your daily vocabulary. But we have all uttered a profanity at some point or another. (The Australian comedian Jon Bennett has a hilarious story about his dad, who never cussed...except when Jon shot him during a hunting trip. It's only about eleven minutes long, but be warned: it does have explicit language!)

When we think of something being profane, we often think of language - something crude or blasphemous. And if not words, then perhaps a shockingly disgusting or uncouth action. But the word profane literally means "outside of the temple" or "not allowed in the temple." And that may be why we often think of a clear divide between what is holy and what is ordinary, or the church and the world, or the sacred and the profane. As if anything not related to church and faith (anything not "sacred") is, by definition, profane.

(And if you want to nerd out like I do, you can read Mircea Eliade's book tracing manifestations of the sacred throughout human history, even when we believe our world is purely profane.)

But I have to wonder what is more disgusting or blasphemous or profane: dropping an

f-bomb when you burn your hand in a fire, or dropping bombs and firing rockets that take thousands of lives?

What is more disgusting or blasphemous or profane: crying out "Son-of-a-______!", or the fact that 1 in 6 children in our country - almost 12 million sons and daughters (someone's children!) - cry out from a life of poverty?

These are the realities of our world "outside of the temple." And to think that these are somehow separate from our faith is blasphemous. After all, Jesus spent most of his life and ministry outside of the temple - with ordinary people, in the midst of everyday life, beyond the walls of religion. He brought the holy to the ordinary. He brought the sacred to the so-called "profane."

And if we are going to follow in his Way, then we have to be willing to be more profane. We have to bring the church to the community. We have to bring our faith to life - taking the sacred truths of God's grace and Christ's love to people and places that are outside of the temple...outside of the bounds of what we may think of as "holy"... beyond Sunday mornings sitting in pews to Monday through Saturday, wherever we are. If we are truly called to be the presence of Christ in our world, then (to draw on The Doobie Brothers) we'd better be "takin' it to the streets."

And when we do, we'll likely find God's sacred presence is present beyond where we ever thought it could be, would be, or should be... even in the "profane."


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