I have watched proceedings at United Nations gatherings where each delegate is listening to what is being said on a head set. Through the headset he or she hears the speech being given in simultaneous translation by a gifted translator who has the ability to hear and speak in nearly the same moment that which they are hearing but in a different language. I think that is fascinating. I envy people who can speak a foreign language particularly fluently enough to listen in one and speak immediately in another.
When I listen to other ministers when I am in their churches, which does happen while we are on vacation, I often have to do that same sort of thing. I feel like I am doing a simultaneous translation of their “language” so that I can “understand” and appreciate what it is they are saying, or so that I can agree. Let me give you a quick example.
When the minister (or anyone else for that matter) says, “Jesus is Lord of my life.”
I hear, “Jesus’s teachings govern how I should live.”
Or this one, “Jesus died for my sins.”
I hear, “Jesus was put to death trying to rid the world of separation and oppression.”
Here are a couple of simple ways to ‘reinterpret’ what one hears:
– “to sin” means “to be separated from.” Think about the so-called big sins, lying, cheating, stealing, and killing; truly they are separating people one from the other.
– Lord means “that which rules one’s life.” Ask the question of yourself. What rules life? A desire for justice. A longing to feed the poor. Quest for wealth. Those things become the “lord” of your life.
– “Kingdom of Heaven” Is the state of right living that Jesus died trying to bring about, on earth. It is the Community of the faithful followers who long to be welcoming to all and treat one another with compassion, here on earth.
In this way I believe we can agree to agree on what our Christian faith is really all about. I think that the terminology has so morphed into something other than what the language meant 2,000 years ago that we have to find the core of the message and understand it in a way that it was originally meant. So what I find myself doing is thinking I can agree with what someone is saying so long as the interpretation of the words is mine.
What I long to be able to do is encourage others, particularly the members of my church, to be able to understand Jesus’ message and how it fits in with the message of other great teachers of the world’s religions. I hope we can learn to celebrate the similarities and accept the differences without distancing ourselves from the spirit that guides us. I want others to be able to hear an Evangelical minister speak and hear the words interpreted through the ears of progressive theology. I hope that in teaching what I believe to be a more ‘open’ view of the meanings of certain ‘catch phrases’ that we can come to an understanding that we do, in many ways, agree with each other. I believe that will help progressives to view conservatives from a more compassionate standpoint.