Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Theology and punctuation

I have long believed that proper punctuation and spelling is important. This is near and dear to my heart. I react to written statements like "I don't want to loose control" or "I went over they're" or "My son Joshua, had an evaluation done" or "There are too many law's today" much the same way a musician reacts to Junior Asparagus singing, or normal people react to the sounds of fingernails on a blackboard. Nothing annoys me more--well, okay, maybe negative attitudes about children. Conversely, a semicolon used correctly fills me with peace and joy. And maybe I have issues, but I have a point, I think, somewhere further down.

At any rate, proper punctuation is of the utmost importance in theology. Consider the name I plan to give my firstborn son: Peter Immanuel.

Peter means Rock. Immanuel means God is with us.

Taken together: The Rock God Is With Us. Obviously this is theologically inappropriate. Its meaning should be rendered: The Rock, God, Is With Us. This is just a silly example, obviously. (And no, it won't be Peter, Immanu,el.)

But today I read that someone thought a certain worship song contained the line:
Oh my God, this love, how can it be?
He thought it sounded like a "valley girl" misuse of God's name, as in, OMG, I love your hair!

Clearly this is part of a widespread problem in which worship songs are improperly punctuated. The correct punctuation is: Oh, my God, this love, how can it be? "Oh my God" is perilously close to a misuse of his name; "Oh, my God" is more clearly an address of the Father.

I don't know how all these mispunctuated songs end up in church computers. Some are theologically troubling; some merely funny; some are noticed only by the sort of grammarians who thought Eats, Shoots and Leaves was one of the funniest books ever printed. But it takes away from the sincerity and focus on the worship of God--at least for me. Maybe they were released that way; maybe someone typed something incorrectly along the way. But commas don't just go wherever you take a breath, or where there's a line break. Proper punctuation determines what a sentence means. A comma splice looks unprofessional to those who know it's wrong, and those who don't won't care if a semicolon is used instead.

As the sound guy's wife, I've occasionally had the opportunity to fix glaring problems before they were inflicted on the congregation as a whole. It feels really good. I encourage the stewards of church worship music to either properly punctuate the songs yourselves, or seek out someone who can. I, for one, would be thrilled and honored. Punctuating is almost as fun as compiling survey results!

This public service announcement has been brought to you by the Save the Semicolons foundation.

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Blogger Jenn said...

I think you make a really good point. Or full stop. Or . . . ;)

Also, have you ever heard of a blog entitled something like "The 'Blog' of 'Unnecessary' Quotation Marks"?

5:01 PM  

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