Thursday, May 13, 2004

Just a short post-script to my last blog. I was talking through my thoughts on the way that liberal Christians (like me) teach the faith to children and the 'unchurched' with my vicar. We agreed that much of liberal Christianity assumes quite a deep involvement with matters of faith. We also reflected that our culture is losing what connection it once had to matters of Christianity. The way in which RE is taught in most schools is part of this, as are the more general assumptions made by the media. This reminded me of a novel I have read recently - The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. The main character in this book, Christopher, suffers from asbergers syndrome. At one point he explains that he doesn't like metaphors, because these are simply 'lies'. Similies are alright because they state clearly that something is 'like' something else, and do not pretend (lie) that they are something else. It's a subtle point of grammar, but one which is consistent with asbergers. To communicate with Christopher, one must not use metaphor. Anyone who speaks in metaphors to Christopher is simply seen as a liar. As the story progresses it shows just how many metaphors we use in day to day speech.

It occurs to me that contemporary British (or at least English) culture has a form of asbergers syndrome towards religion. It can cope with similies, but metaphor is absolutely beyond us. This has enormous implications for religion, much of which operates on the level of metaphor. If we are to communicate to our culture, we have to be very careful about how we use 'metaphors' in our religious language. Metaphor is a complex and sophisticated way of using language. In order to use it, you have to be proficient in using language. Perhaps we need to give people the building blocks of the 'language' of Christianity before expecting them to understand quite what we're on about!

1 comment:

maggi said...

that's a v. interesting point, especially given that most religious truth almost defies non-metaphorical language. What do we do - teach people about metaphor?
Is it possible to talk about religious and (Christian) theological concepts without metaphor?