Waylan Owens, dean of the Terry School for Church and Family Ministries at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written an intriguing post about the use of the term “lewd.” His post asks why this word is not used and whether it should return to our vocabulary in light of some recent events in pop culture.
Here is an excerpt:
In all the hubbub over Katy Perry’s ritual dance and Jay-Z’s and Beyonce’s sex show, and in all of the Christian commentary, I noticed a word was missing. In fact, I have noticed that this word is seldom used at all in such cases, like Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl wickedness with Justin Timberlake, even though it seems to be the most appropriate word for it all. In fact, I do not hear the word used even by Christian pastors to describe anything that goes on in American culture.
The word, of course, is “lewd.” According to the online Merriam-Webster, the first definition for the word is “evil, wicked,” but that definition is now obsolete. In fact, that definition has been obsolete at least since 1975, according to my “old” Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. That is a shame because a strong case can be made that anything we would call “lewd” would be called evil and wicked in the Bible.
The second definition is “sexually unchaste or licentious.” Licentious means “lacking legal or moral restraints; especially: disregarding sexual restraints.” That would fit the Grammys, and it would fit much of what is on television and in the movies these days. I doubt that even the actors on-stage, doing the lewd things, would disagree that what they were doing was “sexually unchaste and licentious.” The point of their music is and the point of the show was to disregard sexual restraints.
So, if we, Christians, do not use the word “lewd” to describe aspects of our culture, is that because we do not think these aspects are lewd? Have we adopted a better word? I am not sure just what that word would be. Concupiscent? Lascivious? Lecherous? Wanton? Obscene?