We have a tradition in my family for when we have to take long road trips… we buy a neutral “sing-a-long” CD from a charityshop and play it almost non-stop for the duration of the journey. I say neutral because we all have unique taste in music… albeit with my adventures in distributing via netlabel or reviewing the more obscure sounds out there… my taste in music is more ’niche’ than Olly, Dayna & Miriam’s.
Previous years we’ve had 70’s disco and Duran Duran’s greatest hits… this year I bought The Proclaimers’ Greatest Hits… and boy did we have a laugh singing along to such classics as ’Letter from America’ and ’500 Miles’. Trust me… nothing beats singing with reckless abandon to these songs… it certainly takes your mind off the miles… in this case, from Motherwell to the Norfolk coast via Leeds.
The album is fab but one song stuck out for me… ’throw the R away’ is a really interesting song that caused my wife and I to look into both the lyrics and the song’s background.
Basically, for those who aren’t familiar with The Proclaimers… they sing in a broad lowland Scots brogue. It’s guttural… raw and… at least for my family and I… extremely entertaining. It’s like they are almost too-Scots, if you know what I mean? almost a Simpsons parody but not. This isn’t a criticism… I genuinely love them as musicians and Scots cultural icons.
Thing is… they have been pilloried for their broad Scots brogue. Their voices aren’t those you would imagine hearing on the BBC’s World Service… put it that way. This song is their response to all their critics… and what a response it is. Here is a snippet:
“I’ve been so sad
Since you said my accent was bad
He’s worn a frown
This Caledonian clown
I’m just going to have to learn to hesitate
To make sure my words on your Saxon ears don’t grate
But I wouldn’t know a single word to say
If I flattened all the vowels and I threw the “R” away
Some days I stand
On your green and pleasant land
How dare I show face
When my diction is such a disgrace.”
… It goes on.
The song got me thinking about the voices within the church. I’m not thinking about the shouty preachers or the folks I see in Argyle Street (Glasgow) who stand on bollards with microphones and literally talk down to people. I’m talking more about the conversation within the church.
Are we… in some way… speaking a certain way or expecting people to speak in a certain way within this conversation? Furthermore… does everyone who wants a voice have a voice in this conversation?
Whilst on my hols… I also contemplated the pluses and minuses of the increased homogenisation of our culture. There was little that marked where we stayed as being different from where we came from… and after a horrendous meal in the Poppies Tearoom in Lowestoft… I actually yearned for the comfort and safety of a homogeneous Starbucks.
Ask yourself this… are all the voices in the conversations coming from the same or similar voices?
I have a really nerdy obsession… I collect specific books by J.R.R. Tolkien (the Hobbit, Lord of the Rings etc) for their covers. I collect these books because I love them and love the variety in the illustrations and designs… the typography alone gets me all squeaky… but that’s for another day.
I see variety where others see similarity. The thing is… the body of Christ should be approached with the scrutiny of a book-collecting nerd.
The body of Christ is diverse… and should never be simplified or reduced to the lowest common denominator. Nor should it be allowed to be hijacked by singular voices. We need dialogue not monologue… and as a digital disciple we have a responsibility to actively seek out alternate voices.
We need to actively encourage variety… because it is in the diversity of our voices that we all become stronger.
Not only do we become stronger as individuals… learning to discern… to sort the wheat from the chaff, so to speak… but this wider perspective allows us to reach more people: being a follower of Jesus doesn’t necessitate that you are ’automatically’ pro this or anti that… and a wider perspective demonstrates this to ourselves and those not-yet followers. This is a good thing.
Sometimes I don’t recognise the Bride because of the way it is portrayed. Not just by those in our society who would prefer a society without Abba… but from the way some folks who claim to be part of the Bride actually articulate themselves. I come back to the shouty, condescending street preachers in Glasgow… as an example. I also think of more conservative voices too… you know… the ones who think its their way or the highway.
The thing is… I can be just as bad… I can present my views as being ’Gospel’.
We need to move beyond a protectionist approach to what we believe and encourage discussion and conversation with folks of differing perspectives. Don’t get me wrong… we don’t need to believe all we hear… but we do need to hear it… we do need to make up our own minds… we do need discernment.
Ask yourself this… who is in your Twitter feed? If they are all people you ’know’ from your safety zones of family, community and denomination… then I’d ask you to broaden your reach. If you are more liberal then follow more conservative voices… and vice versa. Get out your box. We need to keep challenging our views… keep seeking alternate view points and discern their truth.
And this is just the voices within the Bride… if all you have in your Twitter-feed is the voices of followers of Jesus then again… you need to broaden your view. I have some deeply interesting characters in my feed… and, dare I say, in my life… their perspective keeps my perspective truthful and refined. I actually find at times greater freedom to be who I am with my treasured Atheist and Agnostic friends… because, if nothing else, they accept me for who I am.
I guess this is where it all comes back to… acceptance. If we are willing to accept the voices of those who differ from us… accept them for having something valuable to say… then we are more likely to be accepted ourselves as having something of value to contribute.
So let’s stop making folks throw the ’r’ away. Let’s start walking the narrow way… the way seldom walked these days… and seek to broaden our perspectives by walking and talking with folks of as diverse and challenging world-view as possible.