Language and Gospel
I try hard very hard to be socially, ethnically and racially sensitive. One of the worst insults anyone could throw at me is to call me a racist. (Well, that and calling me a Cowboys fan). I’m all for truth and justice, but I know that the American way is only one way among many ways. I don’t expect the whole world to speak English. I BOTH regret that so many American jobs have been outsourced overseas AND I admire and respect people in other countries who work so hard and so long to better their lives and the opportunities for their children.
All of that aside... ARGH! I just spent an hour and a half on the phone with tech support at Xerox trying to get our copier/printer/scanner printing and scanning. All the network settings somehow got completely scrambled (I brought up the web interface for the printer, I got our web cam! Fun!) A network printer/scanner that has no network settings is neither a printer nor a scanner. So I called Xerox. The young woman I talked to was eager to be of assistance. Every time I called, she asked, “How may I be of assistance?” (At least, I think that’s what she said.) The problem was that she didn’t have the English skills to communicate clearly enough to walk me through the technical issue. Hey, I don’t speak Hindi or Bengali or Telugu, and I’m not trying to be the ugly American. But when communicating technical information to Americans is your job, you really need to be able to speak English. Or is it just me?
I eventually just let her think that she had solved the problem and then spent 10 minutes on Google and figured it out myself. After setting up a new IP for on the printer then changing the IP in the printer driver on the computers, I had to give it a 139 port number for the scanner driver. I don’t now why, but it seems to work; the copier is now a scanner and printer again. Roger is on his own changing his printer driver—I don’t do Vista. Vista is a foreign language.
When you want to communicate important information, it is up to you to make sure you are speaking the right language. I wonder if that is our problem when communicating the gospel to a world that is totally foreign. We tend to make arguments and stress issues that made little sense a generation ago and that now totally garble the basic message of the gospel. To be honest, postmodern people have little interest in arguments period; they want to see something working. So maybe the more we argue, the less it looks like the gospel is working. I’m not suggesting that we back away from truth; our story (metanarrative in postmodern parlance) is still the greatest story every told. But when we equate this story to our silly-isms and arguments from command-example-inference, we confuse people with what amounts to a foreign language. The world is asking today (even when they don’t know that it’s what they’re asking), “We would like to see Jesus” (Jn 12:21). We need to make sure we use the right words; we need to point to the Word.