Author Topic: Turned Off by Jargon  (Read 1008 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Turned Off by Jargon
« on: November 15, 2020, 11:15:35 AM »
I saw the following article about how scientific jargon can turn people off towards science.


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200212084357.htm?fbclid=IwAR3AX2EhL3Hx4nu1cDuHxHGccqqOmAoFGd8vjTWBItUF9AbSSySbjR6ocWY


I wonder if the same can be true with Christianity.



"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #1 on: November 15, 2020, 04:20:30 PM »
I saw the following article about how scientific jargon can turn people off towards science.


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200212084357.htm?fbclid=IwAR3AX2EhL3Hx4nu1cDuHxHGccqqOmAoFGd8vjTWBItUF9AbSSySbjR6ocWY


I wonder if the same can be true with Christianity.

I think so. When I led Writing for the Church workshops and trained writers and editors, this was a constant challenge. When church workers train for theology, they learn their special vocabulary (as well they should). When they get into ministry, they have to learn how to teach and preach without the jargon. I would often tell those I was training, "Listen to your people. They will teach you how to write for them."

Wording has to do with authority. Some can't comfortably do without their jargon because they feel a loss of authority without it. If everyone understands, they feel like they lose status as the only one or as one of the special ones who does understand.
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #2 on: November 15, 2020, 04:53:50 PM »
I saw the following article about how scientific jargon can turn people off towards science.


https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200212084357.htm?fbclid=IwAR3AX2EhL3Hx4nu1cDuHxHGccqqOmAoFGd8vjTWBItUF9AbSSySbjR6ocWY


I wonder if the same can be true with Christianity.

I think so. When I led Writing for the Church workshops and trained writers and editors, this was a constant challenge. When church workers train for theology, they learn their special vocabulary (as well they should). When they get into ministry, they have to learn how to teach and preach without the jargon. I would often tell those I was training, "Listen to your people. They will teach you how to write for them."

Wording has to do with authority. Some can't comfortably do without their jargon because they feel a loss of authority without it. If everyone understands, they feel like they lose status as the only one or as one of the special ones who does understand.


After one of my sermons at my first call, we were having lunch at a member's house and he asked me, "What do you mean by justification?" I had just assumed that all Lutherans were used to using that word. He either didn't know, or was questioning me about my understanding of the word. It was clear at that moment that I was no longer in the seminary community where all had learned our jargon.


I had worked as a type setter in a print shop, "justification," had its own meaning in that setting.


I keep my financial records in Excel and I've kept unofficial church financial records (just for newsletter and bulletin purposes - and I like math and graphs) and "justification" has its own meaning in the financial setting.
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Charles Austin

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #3 on: November 15, 2020, 05:54:34 PM »
Pastor Englebrecht writes:
Wording has to do with authority. Some can't comfortably do without their jargon because they feel a loss of authority without it. If everyone understands, they feel like they lose status as the only one or as one of the special ones who does understand.

I comment:
   Specialists (and bureaucrats) also see 16 tons of "meaning" or "implication" in some words and phrases that would be invisible to anyone outside their narrow circles. I encountered this when I helped write conclusions to some ecumenical dialogues and when I wrote speeches for LWF executives.
   A word or phrase that is relatively simple, understandable and informative to the average reader conjured up in the mind of a bureaucrat damaging "insider" intrigue or a nasty put-down of a competing agency. And bureaucrats hate it when you ask what a current buzz words in their realm really means.
   A  theologian would find in the simplest of language nearly heretical ignorance of a 200-year old, now irrelevant dispute between two minor theologians. The simple language would be read by folks who had never heard of the long-dead divines.  (Hey, that sounds like a good name for a rock band: The Long-Dead Divines.)
  On the other side of the question, I've heard sermons where the preacher tried so hard to "dumb down" the theology that it lost all depth of meaning or skittered into gooey and fuzzy warm-speak.
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Weedon

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #4 on: November 15, 2020, 05:57:15 PM »
C. S. Lewis: “Say exactly what you mean and mean exactly what you say.” Problem solved (i.e., language used to communicate with clarity not to obfuscate obscurity).
« Last Edit: November 15, 2020, 05:58:51 PM by Weedon »
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DeHall1

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #5 on: November 15, 2020, 07:04:50 PM »
Pastor Englebrecht writes:
Wording has to do with authority. Some can't comfortably do without their jargon because they feel a loss of authority without it. If everyone understands, they feel like they lose status as the only one or as one of the special ones who does understand.

I comment:
   Specialists (and bureaucrats) also see 16 tons of "meaning" or "implication" in some words and phrases that would be invisible to anyone outside their narrow circles. I encountered this when I helped write conclusions to some ecumenical dialogues and when I wrote speeches for LWF executives.
   A word or phrase that is relatively simple, understandable and informative to the average reader conjured up in the mind of a bureaucrat damaging "insider" intrigue or a nasty put-down of a competing agency. And bureaucrats hate it when you ask what a current buzz words in their realm really means.
   A  theologian would find in the simplest of language nearly heretical ignorance of a 200-year old, now irrelevant dispute between two minor theologians. The simple language would be read by folks who had never heard of the long-dead divines.  (Hey, that sounds like a good name for a rock band: The Long-Dead Divines.)
  On the other side of the question, I've heard sermons where the preacher tried so hard to "dumb down" the theology that it lost all depth of meaning or skittered into gooey and fuzzy warm-speak.

Sounds like you're making fun of Harris Glenn Milstead.....Is 1988 considered long-dead?

Richard Johnson

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #6 on: November 15, 2020, 07:40:32 PM »


I had worked as a type setter in a print shop, "justification," had its own meaning in that setting.


I keep my financial records in Excel and I've kept unofficial church financial records (just for newsletter and bulletin purposes - and I like math and graphs) and "justification" has its own meaning in the financial setting.

And of course, for someone who isn't familiar with theological language or typesetting or financial matters, justification has a quite different meaning still--it's the reason, or alleged reason, for doing something.
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J. Thomas Shelley

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #7 on: November 15, 2020, 11:58:34 PM »
C. S. Lewis: “Say exactly what you mean and mean exactly what you say.” Problem solved (i.e., language used to communicate with clarity not to obfuscate obscurity).

Lewis Carroll:  "'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.' 'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'"
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Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #8 on: November 16, 2020, 12:44:25 AM »


I had worked as a type setter in a print shop, "justification," had its own meaning in that setting.


I keep my financial records in Excel and I've kept unofficial church financial records (just for newsletter and bulletin purposes - and I like math and graphs) and "justification" has its own meaning in the financial setting.

And of course, for someone who isn't familiar with theological language or typesetting or financial matters, justification has a quite different meaning still--it's the reason, or alleged reason, for doing something.


More specifically, it is showing (or trying to show) that what one did was right or reasonable.


Even within theological circles, justification has more than one meaning. As I recall, and my recollections are not always correct, justification can mean that God declares us righteous (or not guilty) - we are treated by God as righteous but remain sinners; others consider justification as God making us righteous people - God is working in our lives to transform us from sinful to righteous people.


One of the issues with the Lutheran/Roman Catholic Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is that there are different understandings of Justification by the church bodies.


As an exercise, we could try to come up with non-jargon words to convey the theological meaning(s) of justification.


To start with, I looked at ways translators/paraphrasers deal with Romans 3:28 where more literal translations have the phrase, "justified by faith." Some of those that use other language:


Amplified: justified and made upright by faith
Common English Bible: treated as righteous by faith
Complete Jewish Bible: considered righteous by God on the ground of trusting
Contemporary English Version: acceptable to God because they have faith
Good News Translation: put right with God only through faith
The Message: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We’ve finally figured it
     out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or           
     anxiously trying to run the parade.
New English Translation: declared righteous by faith


One of my paraphrases is: "become friends again," slightly longer, "God seeks to make us his friends again."
"The church … had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

James S. Rustad

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #9 on: November 16, 2020, 07:44:19 AM »
C. S. Lewis: “Say exactly what you mean and mean exactly what you say.” Problem solved (i.e., language used to communicate with clarity not to obfuscate obscurity).
The problem is that the jargon used within a particular field can be perfectly clear to those within that field yet obscure to those outside the field.

An example: the acronym "IGBT".

If I were talking to someone outside the field I would need to use a longer description that included more information.  As the speaker, it is my responsibility to communicate clearly.  That requires finding out how much my listener knows about the subject we are discussing.

BTW, an IGBT is an Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor.  Here is the wikipedia article.

Rev. Edward Engelbrecht

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #10 on: November 16, 2020, 07:49:42 AM »
I would choose wording that kept the forensic sense of the passage. "Made right" is pretty good. English splits the Greek word for just/right, which makes it harder to see and understand that it is the same word and idea. Then I would talk about being in a right relationship. With kids, a parent-child analogy would likely help.
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peter_speckhard

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #11 on: November 16, 2020, 09:16:00 AM »
It is better to be adept at explaining what jargon words mean than to be adept at explaining concepts without using that jargon. I think teaching the jargon rather than avoiding it is important because it allows people to converse with many eras and ages. It brings the new Christian into the Church in a way that allows the Church to form him. When we relentlessly update language to be more readily understood we subtly change meanings, but more importantly we are doing nothing to allow the new Christian to become a responsible member of the Church, one who could, if needed, double-check what he is being taught against the voices of two millenia. Too many hymns, aspects of liturgy, common prayers, devotions, and great writings are out of reach to people to can't speak the language.

The problem, of course, is that most of the time we're speaking in mixed company, with people who can use the lingo and people who are still trying to grasp it. That can leave the impression that only those who know the language are "real" Christians, which is not true.

Randy Bosch

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #12 on: November 16, 2020, 10:20:27 AM »
Translation is interpretation, and choice of words and phrasing is significant.   

In his article "Franz Kafka & the trip to Spindelmühle", published in the November 1998 edition of The New Criterion*, Eric Ormsby addressed the myriad of translations of Kafka's "The Castle" by used detailed examples from several acclaimed translations to make the point that it would be wise to determine, at the outset, if the translator of the work you are going to read and study was following an Allegorical, a Symbolic, or a Literal reading of the original text.

Different translators -- and different interpreters of translations -- often have a very different intent/agenda/predisposition.  We often see a similarity in these precincts in discussions of individual's interpretation of translations.

Translation is interpretation.

* https://newcriterion.com/issues/1998/11/franz-kafka-the-trip-to-spindelmuumlhle

Weedon

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #13 on: November 16, 2020, 10:49:07 AM »
I do not think of the words that the Holy Spirit used in giving us the Sacred Scriptures as “jargon.” Nor the words that the Translators of those Scriptures into various languages used as jargon either. Do they require familiarity with the terrain in which they live? Well, of course. But attempting to avoid the words strikes me as both pointless and silly. The Church is the very gift to the world of the joys of living in these realities which the Sacred Scriptures open up to us. They are the open door of heaven, and the light from them beckons us into their light so that in His light we may see light. It is, of course, a life long journey and one never stops learning. But the attempt to avoid all unusual or peculiar words in God’s self-revelation is a doomed enterprise from the beginning. He takes the language unto Himself to give us Himself in and through it.
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Randy Bosch

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Re: Turned Off by Jargon
« Reply #14 on: November 16, 2020, 10:50:48 AM »
I do not think of the words that the Holy Spirit used in giving us the Sacred Scriptures as “jargon.” Nor the words that the Translators of those Scriptures into various languages used as jargon either. Do they require familiarity with the terrain in which they live? Well, of course. But attempting to avoid the words strikes me as both pointless and silly. The Church is the very gift to the world of the joys of living in these realities which the Sacred Scriptures open up to us. They are the open door of heaven, and the light from them beckons us into their light so that in His light we may see light. It is, of course, a life long journey and one never stops learning. But the attempt to avoid all unusual or peculiar words in God’s self-revelation is a doomed enterprise from the beginning. He takes the language unto Himself to give us Himself in and through it.

Wise words.  Thank you.