Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Squeezing salvation in...

It's occurred to me that the word "salvation" seems to suffer from the assumption that everyone knows what it means, yet do we all mean the same thing?

I went through a free association with the word salvation this morning and wound up with the word "salvage." Here's the funny thing. In the online dictionary of etymologies, the two words sit next to each other:

salvage (n.) Look up salvage at
1645, "payment for saving a ship from wreck or capture," from Fr. salvage, from O.Fr. salver "to save" (see save). The general sense of "the saving of property from danger" is attested from 1878. Meaning "recycling of waste material" is from 1918, from the British effort in World War I. The verb is 1889, from the noun.

salvation Look up salvation at
c.1225, originally in the Christian sense, from O.Fr. salvaciun, from L.L. salvationem (nom. salvatio, a Church L. translation of Gk. soteria), noun of action from salvare "to save" (see save). In general (non-religious) sense, attested from c.1374. Meaning "source of salvation" is from c.1374. Salvation Army is from 1878, founded by the Rev. William Booth. The verb salve "to save from loss at sea" (1706) is a back-formation. (etymonline)

So then I started thinking about the idea that perhaps salvation and salvage might be related. What if we thought about salvation meaning to "save property from danger" or "recycling of waste material"? It's interesting that both have ship references attached to them.

I like the idea of salvation being about salvaging. Salvation is too often attended with triumphalist assertions - like Ted Haggard's recent claim that he is now healed of his bout with homosexuality (in only three weeks of counseling.... Glory be!).

What if we talked about salvaging our lives after our mistakes... like my daughter's car. We bought a salvaged title. We got the car painted, we changed the battery, we put in that air freshener strip to get out the smoke smell... and she drives it. It runs. We love that little corolla. It is reliable and just what we expect of it. Nothing more, nothing less.

What role would faith have in a salvage operation? What do salvaged lives look like compared with saved lives? I wonder. Just a few of my Wednesday musings. Class was cancelled for tonight.


carrie said...

I feel like a salvaged ship, limping along in tow and very grateful for not being on the bottom of the ocean. ;-)

Good thoughts.

Dalissa 365 said...

I'll just ditto what Carrie said. Salvaged or saved, my life can be described as being recycled after what's left after the wreck so to speak. ;) It'd be nice, though, if I could stop at one wreck rather than have other wrecks along the way.

Cheryl said...

I like this, Julie. Your ideas of salvation parallel the ways I like to think about my spiritual life as being in a constant, ongoing state of "redemption."

"Salvation" might be an appropriate word for what people experience, but for me, it's too much about past and future. I have statically been saved from something and saved toward something... but what about now?!

For me, the better word that describes my spiritual journey is "redemption." And it fits well with your daughter's car analogy. The parts of my spiritual life that need replacing, repairing, shining up, etc. are an ongoing maintenance process that keeps the car going, doing what it's supposed to do.

And about a little sub-topic you mentioned—I've wondered what you thought about Ted Haggard's recent proclamation. If he's truly 100% straight, why did the church pay him off to leave Colorado Springs and avoid working in ministry? I'd love to hear your take on the whole thing, especially after your previous article on the matter.

brian said...

Interesting that you should mention this in your post today, Julie. We're going to discuss Salvation at Nexus this Sunday and I just wrote a short piece on what salvation means to me that I'm going to publish next week.


Dave said...

This brought to mind some of the conversations we've had on the email list about doing a "salvage job" on our beliefs, i.e. reinterpreting classic Christian affirmations in such a way as to use the familiar wording even though our understanding of the reality behind the doctrine has changed. I would say that for the most part, "salvage" is meant in a demeaning way in that context... basically, that the person isn't being fully honest in trying to change the meaning or the way that words are commonly understood. But I'm not so sure that we should look down on "salvaging" important words, concepts, symbols, etc. in that way. Who says that the original usages of those words weren't salvage jobs themselves?

I think religious faith, belief and institutions often need to be salvaged, cleaned-up and overhauled for them to remain relevant and useful. Of course one could just dispose of the whole mess and buy something new, so to speak, but there is value in continuity, not to mention the whole idea of "stewardship!"

Thanks for connecting those two theologically loaded words and allowing us to see them in a new way.