Tuesday, April 26, 2011

God Speaks English Very Well

God speaks English very well.  And so do bibliobloggers.  Some of them last week used English well and called me names.  Deane Galbraith called me a pseud (and Stephanie Louise Fisher did too) in comments at his blog.  Jim West said "gayle is an emergent" in a comment under Joel Watts's facebook post.  Mike Sangrey sent me an almost-private email (copying all of the men who author posts at BBB) and said I was an incessant questioner with "Post-modern assumptions" that they collectively, he said, constantly feel the need constantly to "have to uproot." 

Notice the fact that none of these speaks, or at least prefers to speak, King James English.  None speaks 1960s Saigonese or 1970s South Vietnamese.  None speaks Indonesian.  No.  They all speak clear English.  Therefore, theirs is more of a contemporary English version of English of the 1990s.  It's presumably my heart language.  And it's my heart language that God, of course, speaks well.  "Heart language is what babies hear from their parents and older siblings. It is language which best moves people emotionally and spiritually."  This is what Wayne Leman speaks too.  The quotation of mine here in this paragraph is well-written English of his (this in a comment over at BBB today, to which Mike Sangrey, in well-spoken heart-language replies:  "I’m glad Wayne responded as he did. Because I realize it might be rather easy to misunderstand what I said in my comment a little before.")  Thus, when I hear this language, I am moved.  When they call me names, I am moved.  When God speaks this way, he moves me best.

Except I have other langauges.  God does too.

So does Sylvie Lambert.  She's Wally Lambert's daughter.  They're bilingual Canadians.  Unfortunately, they're also linguists who've begun to expose how one's heart language can take things different ways.  Wallace E. Lambert and Sylvie when she was younger developed what's been called the Matched-Guise Technique.  They get actors speaking French into a microphone.  Then they get the same actors speaking English, clear English, well-spoken English, into the same microphone saying exactly the same things as they first said in French.  Then they get people listening to the actors' voices and what they said so clearly.  Except they don't tell the people listening that the actors speaking French are actually the same actors speaking English.  And the people listening assume the ones speaking French are actually different people from the ones speaking English.  That's why Wally and Sylvie called this a "guise" technique.  They actually called it a "matched guise technique" because they match the reponses of people listening to French to the different responses of the same people listening to English.  What comes out is that some of the people listening have preferences for French speakers and prejudices against English speakers.  Others of the people listening have preferences for English speakers and prejudices against French speakers.  The listening people will judge.  They will rate differently the English speakers and the French speakers, even though the people speaking (the actors) are exactly the same people speaking exactly the same thing. 

When God speaks French, the listeners may presume, he sounds different from when God speaks English very well.  When God speaks 400-year-old-English, he soundeth different from when God speaks English in your heart language and mine.  When God speaks Arabic, different.  When God speaks Matthew's or Paul's or Aristotle's Greek or Homer's or Hesiod's or Sappho's, still different.  When God speaks Hebrew, he sounds like Isaiah or the psalmist:  different.  And we wonder if they spoke Hebrew well.  Or did they speak it typicallyAnd, as importantly, how can any of us know definitively that the Psalmist and Isaiah meant to use Hebrew that was “typical”?  (This is what Mike Sangrey called "The never ending question..." the incessant one rooted somehow in post-modern assumptions.)

I think about, as I listen to Deane Galbraith and to Jim West and to Mike Sangrey, what they must mean definitely and clearly and definitively.  They are using somebody's heart language.  And it is clear.  They sound like the Lord's Prayer in the Contemporary English Version of the Bible.  It's memorable stuff, moving language.  If they were bilingual speaking to me, about me, calling me names in Vietnamese, then I'm sure they'd sound different.  Then my real prejudices and my heart-felt preferences might show.  For now, I guess I'm glad they just speak one language.  From them.  To me.  Just like God does so well.



Sometimes white men will write about african american women in English.  Sometimes those women read that.  I think I'll go read Jacqueline Jones Royster's essay now:  "When the First Voice You Hear Is Not Your Own."


Kristen said...

You go right on being an incessant questioner, Kurk. Only those who question assumptions, have the possibility of getting new answers.

J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks for that encouragement, Kristen. Just wish that the blogosphere -- and more bloggers especially on what they see as "the Bible" -- were less afraid of the honest questions.