Naming Grace and Un-Grace

Grace and Un Grace: Preventing Sexual Harrassment and Saving the Words

Mary Catherine Hilkert, in her book Naming Grace: Preaching and the Sacramental Imagination, defines preaching as naming that which is not Grace and naming Grace in the world. Not just for preachers, but for all people of faith, naming that which is not grace is a prophetic, crucial prelude to naming grace, that which God seeks to do to repair the world, what the rabbis called Tikkun olam (repairing the world).

I heard about an example of naming un grace on NPR on my drive to work this afternoon. Sexual harassment is a growing problem in Egypt. A group of activists has launched a project called HarrassMap in which women who are subjected to sexual harassment can report these instances via facebook, email and twitter. The location is then pinpointed on an online map. The result is a map of ungrace in the city of Cairo.

As I reflected on our task of naming grace, God’s goodness and redemptive work in the world, I heard about another website called Save the Words. The site is dedicated to the rehabilitation of lost vocabulary, extinct words.

Visitors to the site click on a word and find out its meaning. Ever heard of pomarious (of or belonging to a fruit garden) or veprecose (full of prickly shrubs or bushes)? I haven’t. These words have become extinct.  Visitors to the site have the opportunity to adopt this word. The adoption promise is this: “I hereby promise to use this word in conversation and correspondence, to the best of my ability.”

The crafters of the site fear that with new words coming into our vocabulary, we may forget the old. In our infatuation with blog, bromance,  supersize, drama queen, unibrow, mouse potato, and ringtone, we may forget jussulent, piladex, medioxumate, and ecstasiate.

We need a Savethewords site for our theological vocabulary. Rather than jettison sanctification, redemption, atonement, and justification, we could always promise to “use them in conversation and correspondence to the best of our ability,” and maybe, even seek to understand their substance so that we can better explain them to those who have never heard of them.

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