You've reached the shared blog of Michael Mckay and Todd Frederick. Two friends who have worked together in ministry and labored in similar educational endeavors. Please join us as we consider the interaction of Christianity with modern culture...

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Missed metaphors

Don’t you just hate using a metaphor and then having to explain it? Imagine a world where we took all metaphorical speech literally: “man, I’m beat.” Wait, who beat you? “That girl is a fish!” What! You’ve discovered a mermaid! “I feel like the dog’s breakfast.” You feel like small crunchy bits of kibble? That doesn’t make sense... Exactly. We use metaphors all the time to make speech interesting and communicate a literal truth using figurative language. The comic takes a metaphor and intentionally misses the meaning. The birth of a child refers to Jesus and the flesh and blood refers to communion, which is the ceremony that memorializes the meaning of his death. In communion, the participants eat a wafer of unleavened bread and drink a small cup of wine or grape juice. The elements of communion bring people into the symbolically dense world of the Bible, which not only refers to Jesus’ death, but also the Old Testament sacrifices which anticipate his death. To unpack all the meaning here would take, well, it would take the majority of the Bible. The comic ends with an allusion to cannibalism, which Christians also faced as early as the second century (100’s a.d.). I’m pretty sure that most Christians don’t practice cannibalism. 

               Personally, I think the comic is funny and illustrates a problem between Christianity and folks who live outside our shared assumptions and stories. How should a Christian connect with people who know little or nothing about Christianity? Our culture has its own language that we should not assume in our conversation with those folks who don’t share our view of the world. This happens often when we ‘evangelize’ people who are not familiar with Christianity.

               Perhaps the most egregious form of culturally insensitive evangelism is the drive-by. This is when a Christian meets a person for the sole purpose of presenting an opportunity to become a Christian (see: Jim Gaffigan, Beyond the Pale, Jesus). Within just a few minutes, a stranger gets hijacked and interrogated about their fundamental theological commitments. This happened to me as I ran into a convenience store to grab something. As I’m in the checkout line, a friendly gent asked how I was doing and I replied in a similar friendly manner. Immediately (and inconveniently), he jumped right to Jesus, probing my faith commitments. I was flabbergasted… and I’m a Christian! Imagine what someone outside Christianity would think about such an approach. In our time and culture it seems that such techniques create rather than solve problems. There are some folks who can do such a ministry and not seem like Amway salesmen, but I’m not one of them. I much prefer getting to know people and presenting the stories and metaphors of Christianity in a way that helps one make an informed and intelligent decision about Christianity. 

               You should certainly share the gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but you must also present it in a way that the hearer understands and can make a clear decision about their faith. It does little good to ‘ask Jesus into your heart’ if you don’t know who He is and what He’s done for you.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing the comic and giving some excellent thoughts on Christianity's "cross cultural" situation. The communication is painful in these kinds of situations. It is less painful but no more dangerous within the church setting as well. As biblical terms get hijacked by meanings which preach well but unfortunately have only a superficial overlap with the Scriptural passage. Thankfully, a step towards a solution which will go a long way is for Christians to be aware of the "terminological divide" which exists. Didn't GI Joe used to say that "knowing is half the battle"?