That ubiquitous F word: don't demean the sacred

That ubiquitous F word: don't demean the sacred

Fr Max Barrett CSsR

Let's begin with a definition. Today's much consulted website source, the Wikipedia, defines the "F" word as:

• in its literal meaning, sexual intercourse;

• by extension, the word that is used to characterise negatively anything that can be dismissive, disdained, defiled or deformed.

Wikipedia adds: "Most English-speaking countries censor this word in radio or TV and in the presence of women. And it is generally considered highly offensive in the presence of a child."

One might query whether media censorship in English-speaking countries still holds since it would appear that a breach has been opened up as wide as the Great Australian Bight.

The incidence of the "F" word often occurs in inverse proportion to the quality of the media presentation. If the script writer has talent, the dialogue grips by reason of its inherent value. If the script is uninspired, the ears of the groundlings are smeared with smut; a censer is swung in the direction of the censored word. Ho hum.

The "F" word can be used as a noun, a gerund, a verb or adverb, and as an adjective or interjection. (I've not heard it used as a preposition, but no doubt there is a genius working diligently on the challenge.)

From some mouths it can be spat out as every second word, with the raking repetitiveness and the amiability of a Gatling gun. Thus we have speech which - loosely - is the language of Chaucer and Shakespeare, but on a self-destruct rampage.

Does anyone recall the fable of the bewitched person whose speech was an embarrassment? Every time she uttered a word, a toad fell from her lips.

Today there are speakers who are neither bewitched nor particularly embarrassed but their speech is peppered with the "F" word and - all of a sudden - somehow toads begin to look relatively refined.

So, what harm is there in using "F"?

Basically it is blasphemous. Basically it is an insult to the God who made them male and female and fertile; an insult to the God who lifted generativity to the status of a sacrament.

It is a besmirching of the creative act of our bodily selves: our bodily selves given by God to be the crown of visible creation.

God created man in the image of himself: in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them (Genesis 1:27).

God said: Increase and multiply. Be co-creators with me. In the moment of human conception, God breathes his life, his love, his immortality into the life emanating from man and woman.

God's word is love. The pejorative current word is "F". The two terms do not equate. Either God has misconstrued the issue, or we have. It would be the height of blasphemy to gainsay God's word.

As already noted, God lifted the union of man and woman to the dignity of a sacrament. In the liturgy of marriage there was a time when those entering into this sacred gift of self declared: "With my body I worship you." The act of human love was an expression of divine love.

Love. The word is less used these days. Instead of a word expressing reverence and respect and commitment, we hear something with overtones of conquest and self-gratification.

Wikipedia categorised the "F" word as "highly offensive in the presence of a child".

Children - whether their age be nine or ninety - are influenced by the high-fliers of the here-and-now. We "achieve" through our idols and - not least - our sporting idols. We become addicted to them.

Feeding this addiction, the TV camera homes in on the contestant in a cricket or football fixture. He drops a catch or is unceremoniously lifted over the fence for six or muffs a kick at goal. He loses his cool and, with great intensity, utters a monosyllabic "F".

The probing camera misses nothing. And one does not have to be a trained lip-reader to pick up the message.

What message? That the manly reaction to this failure is this expletive! That you can't have hair on your chest unless you foul the air with a four-letter defilement? That's what the Olympians do! That's what the greats of the sporting world do! That's what the hero-worshipper imitates.

Note well: not all the televised sporting celebrities carry on with this caper. In fact, the best of the best have self-respect, have respect for their mothers or sisters - and for God - and they leave aside this mindless cover-up.

It might also be noted: with the rather frequent revelation of scandal in the top echelons of sport - be it performance-enhancing drugs, or simply drugs, or sexual practice, or whatever - the protest is sometimes voiced by these top-rating performers: don't pin hero status on us. We are not heroes. We are not models of manhood.

To which we respond: True. Not heroes in the category of those who have been under enemy fire in war. You don't rate with the men and women who have given all their energies to the underprivileged in undeveloped countries.

You are not on a par with the parents who tough it out, day after day; parents whose centre of gravity is outside themselves, who love their kids and who, steadfastly, unspectacularly, live for them. But you are in the limelight. Don't get bedazzled by phony glamour. Don't demean the sacred.

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