Without languages the world languishes

Sub-title: Would Jesus get a PhD?

Reason for this post: writing helps me think and also Steve Lowton and I have just had an hour or in conversation, so he is partly to blame.

There are so many languages spoken, so many combinations of words and sounds used to communicate.

Gayle and I are very interested in how movements grow and develop. In Spain there is a political movement that pushes back strongly against the status quo. We do not expect any movement to be perfect, but some of the aspects of this movement have impacted us. At the core, and at the roots of its birth, are a set of relationships that were involved together at the University and academic world. Iron has sharpened iron in that environment. So often movements for change have a strong philosophy at their roots, a philosophy worked out in the academic world.

Maybe this is how it is meant to be… Maybe the academic world is the place that initiates change. However, there is a difficulty for many of us in this. If we are not versed in the literature, and do not have the intellectual ability to access it, we will find it hard to critique what is being presented. Let me give a simple example. I have been hugely influenced by N.T. Wright. Why? Is it because I have judged what he presents as being on the ball? Or is it (and much more likely) I do not have the means to see where he is missing it and therefore he must be right? If I had been exposed to someone else maybe they would have convinced me.

Remember the days of debate on women in leadership? (Thank God so many, many years ago.) A pro-women in leadership could present the biblical material one week, the ‘male is leadership’ person the next. Then the rest of us could be convinced one way on week 1 and the other on week 2. Or the current debate on same-sex unions. Read author 1… and I am so convinced; read author 2… I have changed my mind. Truth is on many issues we do not simply have the ability to work it out intellectually.

Back to N.T. Wright and other such genuinely bright (and humble) people. There are many aspects of N.T. Wright’s writings that I like, and I respect enormously that he can write at an academic level and a popular one. If I can (just about) access the popular level it does not make me his equal!

I am sure the academic world is important. The world of analysing and dissecting, thesis, counter-thesis etc. But is it the only voice we need to hear?

A movement I am very keen on is that of Liberation Theology. Birthed in the favellas of South America, allowing for interpretation of Scripture that was not academically based but a ‘how do you read this from your oppressed situation?’ That kind of question is so important. I am sure not the only question that needs to be asked, nor the only people who need to have a voice, but people and voice that is seldom heard.

Much is often made of the uneducated nature of many of the disciples of Jesus – a number pulled from the world of the norhtern fisheries, not from those who had completed first and second degrees. Maybe because of that some of their writings are not as theologically dense as we might think… Maybe even in the case of Paul, someone who was probably pretty intellectual, we might find him pulling a face if he could see all the theologies written that explain what he was really saying. What if he was unable to access the theologies on his writings because what was written was just simply beyond him?

And back to the sub-title. Did Jesus have the intellectual ability to obtain a PhD? I don’t think we should automatically assume he did. He certainly had wisdom beyond any other wisdom, but that does not mean he had the intellectual ability to access the academic world at that level.

OK, coming in to land after such a waffle. There are many voices. Most are very small. Most of us have learnt so little, but the voice has value, and it is in the multiplicity and diversity of voice that the voice of God is heard: the sound of many running waters.

God bless the academics, but if I have a say on it at any level, let’s have a strong breath from heaven to amplify the voice on the street.

5 thoughts on “Without languages the world languishes

  1. Defenceless Flower by Carlos Mesters was an eye opener for me (as was plenty of LT stuff) with so many interpretations of scripture from the street. Someone wrote that when the poor read the bible they see themselves there. The thing about LT academics is that most of them go to the street and listen. I for one would not have heard the voices from the favellas if not for the academics leaving their towers, but also coming back to write and make them known and once heard how to respond?
    Closing the gap in context by moving from our safe place maybe means the multiplicity of voices can speak a similar language (or at least a similar story in many dialects) and yes definitely amplified from heaven, but also experience it breaking in. Thanks for your prompting as ever!

  2. I think maybe there is a bit of misunderstanding about who makes up academia at this point. Most academics are actually not well off and not separated from the rest of society. Education today, especially in Europe and North America, is precarious, contract work. We live contract to contract reapplying for our own classes every term. We are underpaid by up to half for the value of our work. Most of us cannot afford to do research to increase our possibilities of full-time employment as we have no academic institutional backing. And once in the precarious, part-time ecosystem, it is almost impossible to break out. In Canada 60-70% of all post secondary educators are part time, contract workers. That is true for both universities and colleges. I suspect Spain is similar.

    It has been well documented in the USA, where conditions might be worse due to a lack of unions, of educators living in cars, working multiple jobs, running into their own students as they are working in a Walmart or a fast food place. Educators are homeless, without medical insurance and therefore without medical care, they go hungry quite frequently. And as such are completely disrespected by the administrators who manage them. Personally, this month and next I will struggle to pay bills and eat as I will not see another paycheck until a month into a new term. But no matter, in class I will be focused on the students and their well-being and give them my best. Most of us do.

    So please, rethink your view of educators. The days of the isolated ivory tower ended years ago. Sure there are a few still with tenure who sit around as dead weight and often intentionally or unintentionally contribute to the negative conditions of their contracted co-workers. But those folks are retiring and dying. The real isolated elites in academia are not the researchers and faculty but administrators who tout newly developed educational management degrees and award themselves increasing salaries, now up to a half mil for college and university presidents here in Canada. Meanwhile tuition has gone up, impoverishing students who both work and study. And impoverishing the educators who must chase expensive credentials only to be rewarded with a life of financial struggle and stress in precarious contract employment.

    Educators today are the poor and financially stressed. We may be well educated ourselves but that has given us little except our own school debt.

  3. My view – in the world of special education – and as a shaper of future policy and provision at local and national government level…… having worked with international leaders in the field I believe the research world has so very much to offer in relation to shaping the future and as Ann points out researchers in their specialism rely so much on working closely with people on the ground. I have been so blessed to have been part of developing the future combining both the research and workers in the field as well as the remarkable hand of God at work throughout this journey…..

  4. Thanks for the comments. Truly it is the gifts of one and all submitted as gift for the common good. The smart people whose language might be difficult to grasp, the smart people who work to be a voice or an explanation for others, and those not-deemed-so-smart by academia, but whose gifts given I suspect make them very smart in the world of ‘God-ademia’.

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