Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Is God Speed Faster than Light?

Today, I again picked up on a phrase folks seem to use a lot: God speed. It was used in referencing the anniversary of the death of someone. Its not a new phrase. Its been used for as long as I can remember, and I'm sure I've used it myself on occasion.

But for the most part, I've quit saying it because I'm not really sure what it even means. God speed? What is that?
  • Are folks saying the recently departed should hurry quickly to heaven? If so, shouldn't the phrase be Heaven Speed?
  • Are folks telling God should speedily draw the soul to heaven? If so, is it our place to tell God what to do and when to do it?
  • Are folks telling God to drive fast? If so, that's silly too. God doesn't have a car. And if he did, he certainly wouldn't have to worry about speed limits because he is God. What cop would write him a ticket?
Look, I'm not mocking God. (The third bullet was a joke - not a mocking. Capiche?) I'm a believer, and I'm just trying to get a handle on what the phrase means.

Searches at,, and even the always-accurate (wink, wink) Wikipedia weren't much help. Phrases such as the following were found:
  • an expression of one's good wishes for a person's success and safety
  • success or good fortune.
  • used as a wish to a person starting on a journey, a new venture, etc.
  • a band featuring 1970's teen idol Leif Garrett (thanks Wikipedia for nothing)
Good wishes? Best of luck? Starting a new venture? This just in: the person is gone from this world. Their soul either went to the pearly gates or not. A trivial "God speed" seems to be analogous to a shoulder chuck to the soul as it hurtles towards the light.

If I really wanted to be a fundamental literalist about it, a pretty good case could be made "God speed" is an example of using the Lord's name in vain. It sounds like a more pleasant, well-intentioned phrase relative to the more repulsive GD. Yet if you invoke God's name but don't know its meaning, isn't that the ultimate "in vain"?

For the rest of us who remain, our lives on this earth do remain a bit of a lottery. So to each of you, I wish you God speed in living yours - well, all except the part about trying to find an out-of-print Leif Garrett LP.


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