Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Language of God

I heard the morning show on the way to get coffee and spilled it all over myself when I heard their guest refer to Obama as speaking "like a normal person" versus speaking black, or as he put it - "street".   My complaint to the station was sent minutes later.  "His inference, intentional or not, is that Blacks aren't normal.  Is this what we get to look forward to for the next four years?  I expect some folks are going to learn a lot about their hidden racism as this administration takes shape.  The visibile racism of Jim Crow laws may have diappeared, but the subtle messages - such as how we define normalcy - is equally marginalizing.  As an English professor, I spent a great deal of time arguing that "proper" English suggests to a black "street" speaker that he is abnormal.  Until we change our language and  how we define people, we will continue to have "traditionally marginalized groups."  Whether or not we have a Black president won't change this reality.  Racism is embedded into everything - as this morning's show proved - especially our language!  (Oh, by the way.  Inform your guest that Obama is bidialectical - skilled in speaking more than one dialect.  Being bi-racial myself, this is an acquired skill...but that's another story.)"  I had more to say, but I'm glad I had limited space; it kept me on point.  

After submitting my penny's worth, I felt thankful that God is not a respecter of persons, otherwise we'd have to put up with the same discriminating poof we deal with here on earth. The language of God doesn't degrade or oppress, rather it uplifts and liberates.  Even better, he doesn't often yell to be heard, talk over the other person when she's talking, or argue for the sake of argument.  He doen't use language to sound smarter than He is or indicate what set He's claimin'.  God's language is much simpler. Ironically, it is this simplicity, that causes so much miscommunication.  The western world is not alone in it's knack for making just about everything more complicated than need be.  Our own minds interupt the transmission and we end up lost in translation.  What starts as simple words become loaded - like normal or street - and instantly our historical context, societal constructions, personal judgements, emotions, "issues"  transform simplicity into a big pile of poo.  When we're not layering language with our own refuse,  we overuse words to the point they lose meaning and value.  We  elaborate or embellish, make up riddles, rhymes and over-reason.  I am in awe of how God is able to hear us despite all the noise we call language.

Praise be to God, for when the Lord speaks He is clear, direct, and concise. "I am who I am." (Exodus 3:14)  It doesn't get much simpler than that.  So what, then, is this language of God? It's who He is and it's all there is, and it's all we need to communicate effectively.  I'd tell you, but it's one of those truths you already know.   

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