Monday, 6 October 2008

Mind your language Timothy

Just read this on divine nobodies as I had referenced the site in my last post.

I was recently talking with one of my “divine nobody” friends who reads this blog regularly but does not comment. he mentioned that sometimes he feels like it’s too complicated for him. so, just let me ask the question: do you have to have a PhD in Philosophy from Harvard or spend two years at the Institute of Metaphysical Studies in order to grasp and live the simple truth? i hope not!

I know for me, i tend to steer away from using typical Christian language to identify or describe things i’m experiencing because for many years i used this language and it either reinforced error (at least the way i was using it) or it was just nice-sounding words or phrases that sounded good and Christian but did not correspond to anything real i was actually experiencing in life. so, i became more descriptive and at times replaced words like “flesh” with alternatives such as “ego-mind.” but then the way it goes, the new language can also become nothing more that just some new, progressive, more enlightening-sounding language that still may not have any connection with the reality of your life.

It really made me think:

We have posted before about not wanting to alienate people by being.... well....'up ourselves' and its a good reminder. There was a french guy called Foucault who talked a lot about how different vocabularies can be real power games. Take for example the way a dodgy car mechanic looks under the bonnet, draws a sharp intake of breath and pronounces that "the cosset flange has spilt the oogeewotsit bracket". I, not knowing that world, that language, have to take his word for it and shell out £300 for a new fan belt! Surely religious words and phrases can function like that, excluding those who would describe things in there own way and making sure only proper insiders can talk the talk. Sadly this doesn't really protect 'the truth' - it limits our expression of it and many everyday people's access to this wonderful conversation we are engaged in about God

I have recently been totally bemused by some things that Christians have said. Not the content or the beautiful, gracious intent but the way things are said. The words sounded like they came from a specialised vocabulary based on more in the King James version and the 1900's Keswick convention rather than the pithy sayings of a 'chippy' (carpenter) from Palestine never mind people living in 2008.

I think the challenge is to find our own words to describe the realities of God and God in us and the world, like the the first followers of Jesus and Jesus following writers did. Surely that didn't fix language, nor did the various bible translations or all the waves of tradition. Every retelling of our story is an interpretation. That's nothing to be scared of, in fact its a reason to be yes careful and responsible but also brave, embracing and adventurous.

Surely the example of the previous generations of saints is to 'tell out our souls' in all their technicolour, 21st century, digital, glolocal, post modern glory - and also as validly (or more validly as the information economy puts power in the hands of the guardian reading digi pomo guys) people telling out their souls with no stupid privileged white middle class garbage buzz words and 'ain't I clever' overtones (he said in double irony!).

Basically - tell it as it is for you in your way cos that's what I reckon God wants us to do. Not for the sound of our own voices and the glory of our ideas but so we and the rest of the world gets a chance to listen to how God loves and lives and what he is up to in and amongst us.

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