Monday, July 18, 2016


Just now I am reading Flaubert's Parrot.

The novel is partly about how every communication is subjective. For example, a dating profile will always reveal a stereotype and not a person - 'They aren't lying .... but they don't tell the truth'. You are forced, in choosing to put your experience or self into words, to be false. Because language is at best a partial form of truth.

I tend to like a person in reality but find their facebook persona dreadfully irritating. Whether they present as a political campaigner, sharer of woes, advocater of positivity, a great wit, silent observer, perpetuator of selfies, memes and daily minutiae, I become dismissive much too easily. And no doubt it happens the other way around. (Or maybe I'm just particularly judgemental.....)

With the blog, I fret about the fact it only ever expresses tiny and necessarily skewed perspectives from my thought life. It isn't a summary of who I am - though in publishing it I become vulnerable to that misinterpretation.

In our society, we are less and less exposed to necessary personal interactions. We can even shop without a single conversation, if we wish. Recent political events show how bad we are at having conversations.

In our churches, increasingly and in worryingly similar vein, words are given priority over relationships. Want an evangelical church? Want a liberal church? Want an organ? Want social action? Open your laptop, check the websites, see which ones provide the items on your shopping list, then go along and compare the reality unfavourably with the sales pitch. Whatever happened to people defining the place?

Churches - and neighbourhoods - are stronger when they discover their ever-changing identity in real relationships. The more we try to fence ourselves of from reality-altering interactions, using words, the more false and fragile our identities become and the less genuinely truthful we are able to be.

In communicating, we need to remember the limits of written words. Pop next door. Chat openly with someone you know voted differently to you in the EU referendum. Scrap or abbreviate your statements of faith and policies.

And, in listening, let's remember every statement someone else makes is only a partial or even false utterance. That sounds a bit negative - but, actually, don't we do ourselves a favour if we  approach facebook updates, blogs, headlines and church websites as we might a dating profile? Let's look at them with a twinkle in our eye, assuming they are at least a little bit false......

.....but also assuming that there's someone real behind them who we'd really like to meet.

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