Friday, June 03, 2005

Theological Newspeak

What shall we say (much less do) about the lovely double speak that comes our of the mouths of bishops and other luminaries high in the ecclesial heavenlies? Garrison Keillor, no mean wordsmith himself, the writer of weekly monologues from Lake Wobegon, the daily Poets Almanac as well as many books, had this to say about the effect of the language in the ELCA Task Force Report and Recommendations:

“Pastor Ingqvist was so glad about the snow. He was thinking he might have to do a sermon on the Lutheran church, its announcement of its commission on its position on same-sex relationships and the ordination of same-sex people. But then he thought, “No, I don’t really need to do that. People are thinking about snow.” Nobody had really asked him about this commission report, which was a masterpiece of muddling through - just a masterpiece. It was a beautiful piece of writing. It’s a case where you establish a commission to take up a question that militants on either side are waving their bright shining swords, and they’re up in arms about. And you put a commission in there, and it takes three years to work at it, and it puts out a report which nobody can understand, which says that essentially nothing has changed, and yet, some things have changed, but we don’t approve of that, and yet if you went ahead on the basis of conscience and did what you wanted to do, don’t worry about us coming after you, because we wouldn’t do it. It’s sort of a “don’t ask, don’t tell, never mind” position.

“And it’s beautiful. It’s a Lutheran art to take a controversial subject, and to restate the question so that nobody understands it, and then to write the response so that it has to do with nothing whatsoever. And out comes the report, and nobody can really be that angry about it, because it’s made up of all of this mishmash, this beautiful mishmash, and these sentences that are like extruded marshmallow. And so all of the militants who would be tempted to go to battle over this… Peace is kept! On the basis of confusion! A Lutheran art, to achieve strength through indirection and vagueness. This is an irritating quality about Lutherans, and people have become angry at Lutherans. “Why don’t you say what you mean? Tell us what you think.” Well… no! No."

To prove that we are in an interdenomiational war of words (it is of course much mre than that) we have only to glance over at the Anglican world. Leanne Larmodin, in an editoral in the Canadian Anglican Jurnal, writes, "Why can't we simply say what we mean?,"Parsing the statements that emerge from the church is an art, not a science. Such statements are often the product of writing teams who agonize over verbs, massage texts and sometimes skillfully inject nuance into what is ultimately released to the church.
Sometimes, this effort results in exactly the opposite of what the drafters intend, obfuscating the meaning of the statement. Other times, the intention seems to be to include “something for everyone.” Then, there are the times that we seem to be saying something simply because it is expected."

We learned on the above editorial from Chris Johnson's Midwest Conservative Journal. In the piece "The Meaning of Is"

One blogger on T19 said, Shall we address the theological newspeak campaign to crush dissent? To quote Orwell:

"The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought – that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc – should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever."

Where does this lead for the average pew-sitter? Coverted to the Confusionist position.

Sola Scriptura, folks. Scripture speaks with clarity. Flee any religious person who does not believe this. They are already brainwashed and you will be part of their Light of the Living Dead if they get too close ...

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