Tonight I watched half of "Transformers," an interesting juxtaposition with "Terminator," which Ben watched last night, while now that Ben's home, we're watching "The Great Debaters." "Write your own dictionary, and mark this as a new beginning."
Unfortunately, the real reason we're watching movies is because I'm too tired to be doing the reading I'm meant to be doing, or the laundry that needs doing, or even writing a more coherent blog post (although this is an improvement over last night's). The truth is that the more tired I get, the shorter my attention span becomes. So I'm simultaneously listening to and watching the movie, wondering about what's going to happen next in both the "Transformers" movie I stopped (Ben doesn't want to see it) and the novel I'm reading ("A Clash of Kings" from the Songs of Ice and Fire series by George R. R. Martin, an exercise in futility as the series has not been completed yet, but they're good stories), and writing run-on sentences.
This difficulty carries over into work: I use the expectations I have from others (i.e., the man will be here in the morning to work on the computers) and structure the rest of my day around that...and when that expectation collapses (the man calls to say he won't be able to come), then it takes me a while to regroup.
Did I mention I also have a tendency to ramble when I'm tired?
It's that quote I keep coming back to:
"Write your own dictionary, and mark this as a new beginning."
I would not presume that my experiences as a white female clergyperson have any connection to the experience of the people depicted in the movie. That's not at all what I'm trying to say. But instead I think that it is an expression of where many people find ourselves in our culture. We don't have a fixed dictionary. The internet and other mass media have blurred the lines of what used to be expected of us; many of us either have either rejected the compass our parents would have given us or did not receive one to begin with. The vocabulary we grew up with is not fixed: Atari was cutting edge, flash drives were unheard of, the notion of a public rather than a private diary was a conceit. New language is being invented at an unprecedented pace, and the boundaries between languages and cultures are becoming less and less firm.
We have a real problem with the language of God and church. Christians are suffering from adverse connotations--the language of our faith does not have universal meaning. Where I say God, another may hear Allah or goddess or gods, or simply noise. Where I might talk about faith, another may hear irrationality or dogmatism. Even one of the evaluative tools commonly used to help us "discern" our call to ministry (there's a bunch of loaded language), the MMPI or Minnesota Multi-phasic Personality Inventory, has a bias toward understanding religious faith as mental illness, because we believe we are guided by the Holy Spirit, by an external force. We believe that we might in some way hear from God, and that looks on the test like schizophrenia. And where I affirm the essential goodness of God, so many see a distant, absent, or uncaring God, or none at all. And in the face of earthquake, cyclone, genocide, a struggling economy, and more struggle and strife than I know about, I have to find new and different language, common ground, reclaimed operational definitions to communicate the goodness, the grace, that I know to be true about my God and my faith. So it is perhaps time for us to write a new dictionary. Perhaps it is time for a new beginning for those of us who follow Christ. Perhaps we can claim a language that is both our own and easily communicated, tell our stories in ways that invite others in and do not exclude.
At least, I hope so.