I’ll ‘Worship’ Easter, the Virgin Mary, Even the Mayor. But I’ll Only Adore Jesus Christ.
Okay, today I’m going to be a little pedantic and “educational.” I’ll unpack important words and unearth their ancient meanings. Because that’s important. But first let me stipulate:
Yes, we should be irritated. In the wake of the Sri Lanka Easter slaughter pols and reporters seem to have colluded not to say “Christians.” When hundreds of innocent Christians get murdered, the left won’t say the C-word. When Muslims do the killing, they won’t even say the M-word. Suddenly we’ll hear of “worshipers” targeted by “militants.”
Such stories bore reporters, and also confuse them, since they seem to mix up the designated villains with the victims. Count on such events to be reported perfunctorily, and soon forgotten.
Reporters at the Dog Run
These numbing abstractions are things that poorly schooled reporters pick up by imitation. Like dogs at a dog run, or leftists in Park Slope, they watch each other for signals of which way the pack is running. Or else they consult the Newspeak style manual sent out each year by the Associated Press.
The roots of such sloppy usage lie in the latest ideological madness that prevails in academia. Not that these journalists actually took any serious courses in liberal arts or history. That’s why they make howlers like reporting “the body of Christ” rescued in Notre Dame not as the Eucharist but a statue.
Conversely, when Muslims are victims, the M-word gets lots of play. Likewise when the lead-paint-chip eaters of the Westboro Baptist Church stage some stupid protest with, like, 13 weirdos. Then, of course, the C-word features prominently. Media treat the “religious right” as if it were a dark, secret conspiracy, while the “religious left” rarely gets mentioned, except in hopeful terms. Tattooed pansexual leftists get called “progressives,” and doused with happy confetti words like “welcoming,” “accepting” and “inclusive.”
Victimhood Is Powerful
All this bias is true, and it’s infuriating. What’s more, if we shrug and turn the other cheek, we’re actually making things worse. Alas, in our advanced stage of cultural degeneracy, claims of victimhood are the currency of power. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and then control of the levers and gears of government.
Until quite recently, being thick-skinned and Stoic was seen as a mark of excellence and led people to trust you. But now it’s a formula for letting people step on you and yours, including your kids and your church. Our elites encourage Muslims, illegal immigrants, sexual innovators and other designated victims to take outraged offense at the most trivial and inadvertent slight. And that works wonders for them. Sadly, we have to feign the same, since that’s how this wretched game’s played.
Of course, there’s an innocent explanation for how “Easter worshipers” got published in the first place. Imagine any of the following set of headlines. “Militants” (that is, Muslim jihadists) “targeted in a suicide bombing. … ”
- “New Years Revelers”
- “Halloween Trick or Treaters”
- “Christmas Market Shoppers” or
- “Easter Worshipers.”
Jihadists Gonna Jihad
Of course, none of those headlines should really surprise us. Jihadists gonna jihad, and this is how they have rolled, since Muhammad led his first jihad army out of Medina. And it’s how they’ll continue rolling, as long as Islam exists.
Jihad is as central to Muslims as Easter is to Christians. And for the same exact reason: to them its triumphs prove their faith. Christian faith got vindicated by the resurrection of Christ. Islam’s vindication came with the conquest of vast empires, from Spain to India. That’s the miracle which proves the truth of their faith: Not the angel standing at the empty tomb, but armies with their feet on the throats of the conquered. It’s weird, I know, but not all religions are the same.
Your Worship, M’Lord
Nor are all words referring to religious practice interchangeable synonyms. There are different levels of emphasis in Christian faith and practice. Theologians can be quite precise about them. Or at least, they used to be. Let’s look at “worship,” for instance. For hundreds of years, it was used in wedding vows in English weddings. And did you know that a traditional title for the mayor in English-speaking countries is “Your Worship”? That’s not because the English ever divinized their mayors. (Just so, “M’Lord” means something quite different from “My lord and my God.”) The Oxford Etymological Dictionary explains things:
Old English worðscip, wurðscip (Anglian), weorðscipe (West Saxon) “condition of being worthy, dignity, glory, distinction, honor, renown,” from weorð “worthy” (see worth) + -scipe (see -ship). Sense of “reverence paid to a supernatural or divine being” is first recorded c. 1300. The original sense is preserved in the title worshipful “honorable” (c. 1300).
The Worship of Mary
It’s in this sense, and this sense alone, that we Catholics were ever said to “worship” Mary. Because the word’s meaning has shifted, we no longer speak that way. We’d now say we “venerate” her, which no more means divinizing her than it does when we speak of the Venerable Bede. That veneration goes beyond what Lutherans offer Martin, or black Christians extend to Martin Luther King. It’s akin to the respect we’d have for the apostles. And unlike most Protestants, we sometimes ask Mary, the apostles, or other saints, to join their prayers to ours. The way you might ask your pastor to pray for you.
The correct theological word for what we offer Jesus Christ, the Father, and the Holy Spirit alone? That’s “adoration.” As in “We adore you, O Christ, and we praise you, because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.” Back to Oxford for answers:
late 14c., aouren, “to worship, pay divine honors to, bow down before,” from Old French aorer “to adore, worship, praise” (10c., later adorer), from Latin adorare “speak to formally, beseech, entreat, ask in prayer,” in Late Latin “to worship,” literally “to call to,” from ad “to” (see ad-) + orare “speak formally, pray,” from PIE *or- “pronounce a ritual formula” (see orator). Meaning “to honor very highly” is attested from 1590s; weakened sense of “to be very fond of” emerged by 1880s.
If we were to speak precisely, then, we would never “adore” a feast like Easter. But we might well “worship” it, in the sense that we hold it holy, and set it apart.
Our Preaching in Vain
Of course, there’s a deeper issue here. We wouldn’t “adore” Jesus if we didn’t “worship” Easter. If He hadn’t really, physically risen from the dead, Jesus would be nothing more than a figure of pity. Another dead zealot, with delusions of divinity to boot. As St. Paul told the Corinthians, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” (1 Cor. 15: 14)
It’s not polite to say that to liberal “Mainline” preachers, of course. The Rev. Serene Jones, for instance. No, she’s not a fictional character from a bad apocalyptic novel. In fact, she’s a self-described “fierce theologian,” a professor, and president of the chic, declining Union Theological Seminary. And she chose Easter weekend to preach that the tomb is full, and Jesus un-risen. See our brief exchange below:
Go get a real job. Like, at Panera or something.
— John Zmirak (@JZmirak) April 22, 2019
Serene Jones doesn’t “worship” Easter, and so she really can’t “adore” Jesus Christ. Which means she’s probably perfectly safe from all the “militants.”