|Praying, at Redeemer|
In my book Leading the Presence-Driven Church I make the case that the words and language we use do more than describe, they shape and structure our experience. I refer to Kenyan scholar Ngugi wa Thiongo's Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. Thiongo's argument is that, more than British cannons, it was the British schools that taught children English that imprisoned Kenyans.
My argument is that, in the same way, secular language has colonized the Christian heart and mind. Examples include "church" (meaning a building), "program" (meaning the "order of service"), and that deadly, cancerous word "relevant." (For more see my book.)
I am pleased to see the recent New York Review of Books has an article on Thiongo ("Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o and the Tyranny of Language"). While reading, I thought about substituting Church language into Thiongo's ideas. Here we go!
(Thiongo) - “The condition for acquiring the glory of English was the humiliation of African languages."
(Me) - “The result of acquiescing to secular language has been the humiliation of biblical language."
(NYR) - "Long after he had left the Alliance High School, Ngũgĩ was struck by how little he and his cohort had noticed, let alone responded to, their socialization into a Western-oriented outlook. "
(Me) - "I am struck by how little pastors and churches have noticed, let alone responded to, their socialization into a secular-oriented outlook."
(Thiongo) - "The language of power is English and that becomes internalized. You normalize the abnormal and the absurdities of colonialism, and turn them into a norm from which you operate. Then you don't even think about it."
(Me) - "The language of power is secular English and that becomes internalized. You normalize the abnormal and the absurdities of secular materialism, and turn them into a norm in which you do church. Then you don't even think about it."
(NYR) - "Whether or not the British in Kenya truly believed in their civilizing discourse, the rise of English in place of the local tongue helped to deepen the colonial endeavor and fix its structures into place."
(Me) - "Whether or not the Christians in America truly believed in their disenchanted, reductive discourse, the rise of desacralized language in place of biblical discourse helped to deepen the secular a-religious endeavor and fix its structures into place (in the Church)."
There's much more. This is about linguistic imperialism, which relegates biblical language to an unsophisticated, backwards culture that is uncivilized compared to mature, progressive, rational secular humanity. It overtakes Church culture, and becomes the linguistic air we breathe. Then, churches play the game, striving to be loved, cool, "reasonable," and accepted. While no one notices.
See Leading the Presence-Driven Church, Chapter 7, "The Language of the Presence-Driven Church."