There is abundant evidence that the Church, in carrying on its teaching function has put too much faith in the use of words, and used too little the language of relationship. The result is that people have not been helped to understand the meaning of their own experiences or to bring these meanings into relationship with the meaning of the words used in preaching or formal teaching. The teacher ought to be equally responsible for the relationships out of which come the meanings essential to our growing understanding and maturing way of living. (Howe, 136-137)
I’ve been reading The Miracle of Dialogue over the past few months, and I have been continually blown away by the insights of Reuel Howe. Why is it that great books like this go out-of-print and vastly inferior books stay in print?
We, as Christians, too often say words and think we’re communicating. Non-verbal communication comes into play as well, though if we are ‘in relationship’ to people, our entire being is part of the communication process. One of the mantras of my education was: You cannot not communicate. Another mantra, which is very relevant here, is: Meanings are in people.
When we use a word, such as Father (in reference to God), the term father will be generally understood by almost everyone, but whether the word is viewed positively or negatively, what image they see, what they feel, will be largely determined by their experiences up to that point in life. And when we, as Christians, have a subculture with its own vocabulary, the language of relationship becomes all the more important. If we don’t connect with each other and share meaning, then we’re just talking at each other…
Howe, Reuel L. The Miracle of Dialogue. New York: The Seabury Press. 1963.