To or Not To

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May 21, 2008 | No comments yet

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By:Dennis Bates


Like the return of the proverbial bad penny or the cyclical plagues of locusts that have lain waste the fields since Biblical times, the suggestion to abolish or minimize the use of the verb “to be” reappears from time to time in writing circles.  The suggestion comes from self-appointed, well meaning, but poorly trained grammarian wannabes, who want to be trendy, but that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.


The suggestion centers on the proposition that active voice is better than passive voice, to which I reply, “Why?” I might say, “Who says?” but that makes it personal, and full disclosure requires me to say there are a lot of who’s that say that.


Still, what would Hamlet be without the famous soliloquy? Not the same: Somehow

“To or not to, that the question” lacks something vital.


So does my favorite opening paragraph ever written in “A Tale of Two Cities”:

“It best of times, it worst of times, it the age of wisdom, it age of foolishness: (how appropriate!), “it the epoch of belief, it the epoch of incredulity” (ditto above!), and most appropriate for this page, “we all going direct to Heaven, we all going direct the other way.”


Again, it could just be me, but that just doesn’t seem to have the same impact, let alone make much sense at all.


Still, much of this discussion has some entertainment value, and if nothing else, it demonstrates how much one little word can affect the beauty, if not the meaning and understanding of a sentence.


So translate that into what happens if we do that to the Bible. Believe it or not there are some  Christian editors, agents and publishers who think the answer to lagging sales is to be more “subtle,” and not use the words God, Jesus, salvation or anything that talks about experiences of a religious nature too directly. Not all, but some. They think we need to sneak up on people, not confront them directly.


The logical inconsistency of that is almost laughable, when some of these people are the same ones who insist on keeping things sweet. You know the ones. They are the ones that allow a kiss between the hero and heroine no sooner, if at all, sometime three to four years after the wedding scene which is required if the he and she even cross gazes while having a hazelnut latte at the local Starbucks. Yeah, those guys and gals. How do they ever raise families? Just wondering.


So let’s try the most famous New Testament passage that way: “For so loved the world that gave only begotten that whoever believes in shall have.” Does that work for you? Of course the use of any part of that may be construed as preachy, so maybe the whole thing is moot. All words, like all of God’s people are important. Don’t leave any of either one out.


Love Dennis’s sense of humor?  Check out his book, “Under the Burr Oak Tree” at  Go to Previews, and you can read the first several chapters for free. 

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