Archive for December, 2012

Every age becomes famous for what it leaves behind. In most cases what is remembered by history is change, whether that change is good or bad. Those who bring these changes are those called taboo-artists. Such artists are not just artists, nor are they just makers or breakers of taboos—rather they are 100% artist and also 100% taboo (maker or breaker). Although many people from a variety of fields can fall under this category, perhaps none is as important to the current state of Western Civilization as Jesus Christ.

Jesus is the ultimate taboo-artist: not just a breaker of taboos but also a master of creating new ones. How many laws did he break or rewrite? How many boundaries did he push? What was Christianity in Roman times if not taboo? Whether one believes in the message of Christ is not important here, because regardless of the validity of religious beliefs, we know that Jesus transformed the future into what we now see as the present.

Thomas H. Troeger echoes these ideas in his book Sermon Sparks: 122 Ideas to Ignite Your Preaching:

[…] A Syrophoenician woman helps Jesus himself overcome the powerful taboos that separate Jews and Gentiles, men and women, in order to heal her daughter (Mark 7:24-30). If Jesus had not broken the taboo, he would not have been able to respond to the woman and restore her child. There are taboos that need to be broken and taboos that need to be kept. A world without taboos would be a world without any moral values. Jesus challenges taboos that oppress and exclude people, but he also establishes other taboos. […] Jesus has a taboo against the world’s usual hierarchies of power […].[1]

Just as Jesus has a taboo against universal issues, other taboo-artists will attack the issues at a more particular level, for instance in music, art, fashion, etc.

Jesus Christ was and is the ultimate taboo breaker and maker, and thus the ultimate taboo-artist.  However, more than destroying minor social taboos, Jesus stripped an entire religion (Christianity) of its taboo status and left other religions in its place. But how could Greeks and Romans predict Zeus/Jupiter’s fall into prohibition? In truth, only the artist can predict such desired outcomes, although the outcome might have no desire to act in the expected manner. Like any artist, the taboo-artist can be unsuccessful in his or her artistry.

Over the next couple of months I intend to look further into individuals we can classify as taboo-artists. These are more than the artists who make the solid foundations of taboo shake; they make them crumble.


[1] Thomas H. Troeger. Sermon Sparks: 122 Ideas to Ignite Your Preaching (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011).

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Synonyms For Taboo

Posted: December 5, 2012 in Defining Taboo

The worst word in any language is taboo; and the best word in any language is taboo. The synonyms of taboo have filled eyes with tears, turned hands into weapons, made feet march, tongues curse, crowded hell and heaven. The past hugs taboo as if a circle of one. Yet the present scolds taboo. Time transforms taboo, makes it slough off its old tattered skin. Below is a list of so-called good and bad synonyms for taboo:

Good synonyms: revolution, evolution, changed, revised, new.

Bad synonyms: rebellion, restriction, sin, bizarre, ugly, wrong, illegal, rude, impolite, unacceptable, forbidden, banned, prohibition, different, changed, hated, broken, old, new.

History shows us that a synonym can become its antonym.