Monthly Archives: January 2013

  • Borders, Language and Culture, part 4

    In many ways this is the trickiest of the three subjects we have been thinking about because culture has been, and rightfully can be, defined in different ways. Some think of museums and symphonies when they hear the word, usually upper class. Others think of things that need to be modified by the word “pop,” lower class manifestations of culture. I am thinking of culture in a third way here. Here I am thinking of culture more in a way of practices and beliefs and stories that shape ethnic communities. So, for example,

     All cultures cherish and recognize that they are connected to a particular past.

    when I was growing up my great-grandmother spoke only Italian. She lived with my grandmother and when I would go to visit her I would see handmade noodles handing in the kitchen. On Sundays the … Read More »

  • Borders, Language, Culture, part 3

    If you spent any time in an evangelical youth group—as a student or as a leader—then you have no doubt heard the spiel about the dangers of “Christianese.” This was a language that we were not supposed to speak, lest we be completely tuned out by the world that

    The fastest way to make the church completely worthless is to do away with her particular language.

    needed to hear us. In contrast to youth pastors, those who have actually thought about sociology and language know that for cults and cultures to remain in existence there must be a common, agreed upon, and unified language. In fact, as Genesis 11 makes plain, the fastest way to dismantle a society is to confuse the language. What this means is that we should never talk about the dangers of “Christianese” but instead extol its … Read More »

  • Borders, Language and Culture, part 2

    Last week I introduced this short series and suggested that the church needs to preserve her unique identity; and that if she does not she will inevitably disappear and the witness will be lost. Ironically, then, the thesis of this series is that the church is most missional—a Christian hipster word—when she is most distinct from, and irrelevant in, the eyes of the world. We do this by preserving our borders, language, and culture.

    The church’s borders must be clearly distinguished so that it is crystal clear to everyone who is in and who is out. Just like when you pass through customs and show your passport, so too the church must have a clear line of demarcation. What is that border? Or to put it another way, how does one cross into the kingdom of God?

    The border begins with the … Read More »

  • Borders, Language, and Culture – Part 1

    Some years ago I stumbled upon a loud-mouthed political pundit whose criticism of the right and left sides of the aisle always revolved around his philosophy of the need for distinct national borders, a unified national language, and a particular culture. He suggested that when a nation dissolves her borders, does away with a common language and embraces multi-culturalism, that she is in a downward spiral which will eventually lead to her demise. His was a critique of America. I want to hijack his categories and apply them to the church.

    The church has defined borders, a distinct language and a peculiar culture. When these are threatened the church’s existence is threatened. The church’s existence is threatened when her borders are dissolved, her language lost, and her culture subsumed by another because she then fails to offer anything that is distinct … Read More »