Monday, October 4, 2010

Talkie Talkie

Dialect inconsistencies beckon authenticity with a familiar stranger. Brown eyes look into mine as we stare at each other, thinking of what to say and how to respond. The reflection I see in the mirror demands genuineness and an explanation of idiom conflictions. The divergence of my tongue beckons analysis to resolve why irregularity exists at all. What are these contrary words I observe? Do these words translate into actions or lifestyle?

I received a text message several days ago. As I reviewed my own words I was struck with the reality that they were spoken in a much different dialect than I would normally respond.

Text received:

“Good to see you this a.m. How’s marriage?”

My response:
“…marriage is amazing, truly a God thing I’m getting to enjoy…”

There is nothing in itself inerrant in my response. There is no evil in attributing my wonderful wife as a gift from God. This was a friend from the church community I would call myself a part of. I wonder if this were an atheist friend of mine would I respond the same. This quandary led me to think about the language I observe daily and within certain environments. Again, this I not villainizing (an awesome made up word meaning to attribute bad qualities to something) giving God credit for providing me an awesome wife, this is focused more on the consistency in which I would say something like this and what that implies.

This thought makes me also think of what my life looks like as far as outwardly appearances. I go to a church community gathering on Sunday mornings. I attend a gathering of a church community on Thursday night as well. I know it’s odd that I refuse to call these gatherings church, but there is a lot of theology behind the non-use of familiar terminology. I find it odd and awkward that people ask if you went to church or say things like you need to go to church because of what the word church actually means. If you were to go back in time several thousand years and ask the early disciples of Jesus these type of question I think there would be a lot of face scowling, tongues coming out of mouths, and eyes rolling the upper right hand corner of heads. I think there would be a physical look of confusion of the faces of recipients of this question. Church is a description of a community, almost more of an adjective than a noun. Church is a community of people living in a way, like they actually believe Jesus way is actually life and living into it changes things. The organizational aspect of what the community requires and needs is unfortunately what it has come to be known for, instead of an organic community. It is necessary to organize and some of the things the organization provides at its capacity, but that does not mean it defines what church is. Ok, time to evacuate my position on that soap box; getting back to the idea of outwardly appearances being questioned as well as inconsistent language.

I suppose all this reduced down to me asking if the church organization and all that comes with it did not exist and I were to go mute would people be able to tell I actually was one who believes in God and is trying to follow Jesus example as the most abundant type of life available and what we were meant to be? If I didn’t have stories to tell about church or small group and couldn’t say I’m blessed by God and such and such would my lifestyle be enough to show others that I was a Christian. Would people even care if they did not have this religious culture and language to gauge others by? If there were no moral code, no theology or right and wrong would I do right?

I would like to say I would and that my life would be a reflection of my spirituality. It has been challenging for me to consider this though. My words and religious affiliation seem to validate my spirituality, it lets others, and myself at some point, know where I stand. What if those validating variables were taken away, were missing from the equation of life? My reflection cannot smile back immediately because I’m left thinking, contemplating whether or not I could stand alone, if my faith were good enough to just live and not have to say or show it (in a religious way, like church activities). The old sage had great parables, one of which parallels man and trees, lifestyles and fruit. The saying goes that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit, a good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Pretty simple to follow right? I suppose I just wonder if a good tree is good if it doesn’t say it is? Isn’t the evidence the fruit, what it bears? Should the same be true of man? No religious affiliation or language should or can identify what you are, it should be what you bear, your fruit, your lifestyle. It’s kept me thinking and humbled all day to think about it, what if there were no Christian-talk or church-world to validate identity, would it be enough to trust one’s lifestyle?


  1. If there's no church-world or Christian-talk, is that then an abandonement of the "great commission", or is the hope that the evidence of the fruit will spark questions and curiosity from others as to your "peace of mind"?

  2. Thanks for the comment Andrew. I do not think the great commision has anything to do with how we has to do with a lifestyle that impacts and teaches others of the life God created us for. So no, I don't think the absence of church-world of Christian-talk would abandon that. I think one's life should and will spark discussion and if we're willing to actually invest in relationships then I trust God is big enough to make those conversations happen rather than feeling burdened into having to talk or say certain things.

  3. What I hear you saying, then, is that it's possible to let attendance at religious events and conventions of speech usurp the essence of one's faith--that the Form can consume, replace, or expel the Content. Is that at least on the right track?

    I'm with you. I think many Christians find themselves adopting neologisms (such as your "villainizing") and affinities (such as to a community's building or Program) only to wake up one morning with the realization that they are more devoted to a particular pattern of speech than to its meaning, and that they are more devoted to a building or social organization than to its users and members...

    ...but, there's always a "but," (right?)...

    I also hear you saying that one should be able to test one's hypothetical alone-life against a life steeped in Christian ritual--a Christian, in other words, should be able to live life apart from Christian community and the safety of a Christian cultural bubble... am I on track with this as well?

    In the same way that you said Christians in the early (say, first century) church would find the present use of the word "church" to be odd, obscure, perhaps even unintelligble, couldn't one claim that the first century church would also find your suggestion of a solitary Christian life (specifically, of a Christian whose identity had nothing to do with Christian community) a bit obscure, odd, or foreign?

    The point I'm getting at is this:
    While I agree that if one uses "Christianese" and quips regarding weekend Christian activities as labels of belonging instead of living a genuine walk of forgiveness, mercy, generosity, and integrity that invites relationship then one has missed the boat. However, Christ calls us to press into Christian community because that is where discipleship happens. Moreover, Christ uses that community to enable us to live with grace, with forgiveness, with integrity--without community, Christians fail.


  4. Danny,

    You were on track until you thought I was saying community is not important. We were made to live within a community. Christian gatherings are not the only medium of community though. Does that clarify a bit? Thanks for your comment.