This first thing to realize when talking with anyone is that it requires cross-cultural communication skills.
Let me tell you a story about something that happened to me yesterday:
I was taking my dog Abby for a walk. A neighbor (let’s call her Sue) was driving by and I waved. She stopped her SUV and rolled down her window and we talked for a minute. It was 10am Sunday morning. She was all dressed up and made up. So I said, “Heading to church?” “Yes” Sue said. I asked, “Where do you go?” She said, “So-and-so’s church. Do you know him?” I said, “No, I haven’t heard of him.” More talk about his amazing church. There was a car approaching from behind, so she said, “Well, I gotta go.” I said, “See you!” I said. Sue replied, “Praise God!”.
I thought about that conversation for the rest of my walk. I’m still thinking about it now. That was an exercise in cross-cultural communication.
Her language is very familiar to me. I have never spoken that way, but I have used some of the words, like “God” and “praise”. But not so prolifically.
The thing is, not too long ago I would have been repulsed by this kind of speech. Maybe even repulsed by that kind of person. A few years ago I might not have even waved.
It’s very strange to me that even though most people know about my serious theological, religious and ecclesiastical shift, they still talk to me as if nothing’s changed. But everything’s changed! My mind. My language. My life! It’s like they refuse to admit that I am a different culture.
I’ve learned a lot. And one of the most important and practical things I’ve learned is that we all live in our own little micro-cultures with their own paradigms and languages.
Let me give you simple examples of how I do it:
“God” for me means the source of all that is. All that is. Reality as such. Sue might mean a benevolent, wise old man in the sky. But I understand, when she says, “Praise God!”, that there is reason for me to somehow trust that all is well, that even though I do now understand the mystery of all that is, I can rest in knowing it is for me and not against me. I can even trust that even though I may not know what they are, there is meaning and purpose in life. There is no arguing with reality. There is no denying what is. In fact, the truth is what is. There’s nothing truer than that. And nothing greater. It is the Great I Am.
What is important for me to remember when talking with Sue is that her language is an expression of her paradigm. Just like mine is. I’m not saying hers is wrong. I’m not saying mine is right. I’m just saying they are different. And it is so important for me to remember this when communicating with her. We are different cultures trying to talk.
Now, I do happen to think my paradigm and language is more helpful. But everybody thinks this way.We all believe what we believe because we believe it’s true. That’s why when you talk with your religious parents, they totally believe in their paradigm and assume you still do too because it is right, and, if you don’t, then you are living in blindness and error. Simple as that.
So I will go ahead and say that I feel the way I think about it is healthier and more helpful because I think Sue’s paradigm and language is narrow, exclusive, out of touch with reality and less equipped to deal with it. On the other hand I’ve me people with her world-view who are very kind, gentle, gracious and compassionate. Like Sue. But I do think at many points in reality her belief-system would fail.
These days I’m endeavoring to articulate a unifying theory that is open, all-inclusive, in touch with reality and fully equipped to deal with it. Even though I “see” it in my mind’s eye and enjoy its benefits personally, I still need to write it down for the benefit of others.
So far, this is what I’ve got in a nutshell:
“God” is the infinite source of all that is; “Jesus” is materially all that is; and “spirit” is that which connects all that is.
For me, all religions, philosophies and world views can find their place in this trinitarian theory.
So when family, friends or acquaintances say things like, “Papa God, or Abba Father, or Daddy, or Higher Power, or brother Jesus, or Lord and Savior, or the Messiah, or Holy Ghost or Spirit”, or whatever, I let the words fly past and keep the gist of what they’re trying to communicate so that I can respond in a way that respects their culture while respecting mine.
And I do my best to communicate to them from my perspective without arrogance or fear, because that’s what communication is.
I’d love to hear what you think. Or even some stories!
Love you guys,