Tag Archives: communication

The Slangification of Culture


Source: Ctrl-Alt-Del

I have something against the prevalence of slang in American dialogue. The way today’s youth talks – or at least _types_ – especially bugs me. This comic from Ctrl-Alt-Del very adequately demonstrates my annoyance with this growing trend and my opinion of those forum junkies and text messagers who resort to such sloppy and shoddy forms of communication. Granted, most of these abbreviations have arisen as shortcuts for frequently used phrases. Heck, I use a handful of them myself, albeit sparingly.

You see it most frequently on discussion forums, where entire threads devolve into a series of acronymistic call-and-response discussions. You start with “LOL!” Someone else responds with “FTW,” which is then followed up by a third response of “WTF.” Entire pages of discussion are lost to this bestial, primitive, mind-melting communication. Strangely, it is the younglings of our species who seem to be most prone to this form of dialogue. It’s almost a code to those of us in the older generation. We can scan down these pages and have zero clue as to what’s being said, let alone what the topic is, if there even is one.

As Ctrl-Alt-Del so satirically points out, as soon as someone tries to introduce _real_ dialogue and discussion, using _real_ words that _actually_ exist, the LOLlers are soon revealed as the slavering, drooling morons that they truly are, and the discussion thread implodes upon its own shallowness.

And is it any wonder why the youth of America find it so very difficult to communicate in a mature, coherent manner or why so many of them suffer from stunted social skills? I weep for our future.

Christians and Scientific Discussion

I stumbled across another interesting “science blog”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com yesterday, this one focusing primarily on Earth Science. In “this entry”:http://highlyallochthonous.blogspot.com/2006/12/truth-in-science-on-newsnight.html, Chris Rowan makes a couple of statements that all scientists (especially _Christian_ scientists) should take into consideration:

Furthermore, to properly interpret criticism you need a firm theoretical understanding of the theory you’re criticising.

This is one the primary reasons why lately I’ve tried to curtail myself from writing on topics about which I have very little knowledge and expertise. There are few things so embarrassing as making a dogmatic point only to find out you’re wrong and then have to backpedal.

I’ve watched a number of Christians debate certain scientific points, and it quickly becomes evident that these folks clearly have a less-than-adequate understanding of the other side of the argument. So most of the time arguing is spent trying to get the Christian to understand the point that the secular scientist is trying to make, rather than actually debating the merits of the argument itself and the supporting (or damning) evidence from both camps.

And let’s be clear – “evolution can’t explain x, therefore ID” is not an example of the scientific method in action, and “an unspecified intelligence at some point did something to DNA by some unspecified mechanism” is not a scientific hypothesis. When you make some positive hypotheses about the nature of God- sorry, The Designer- and when and how he has done his designing, and show (by experiment, not assertion) that your hypotheses explain the facts better than evolution does, then biologists might start taking ID seriously.

In the field of science, I’ve seen researchers on both sides of a lot of issues fall into exactly this kind of trap. Most commonly, it is the Christian scientists ((Let me be clear here – when I say ‘Christian scientist’, I am _not_ referring to the particular philosophy/religion/cult of Christian Science; I am merely making a distinction between the average secular scientist and the scientist who possesses a belief in a creator God.)) who will make specific claims, only to have them fall under the weight of evidence from evolutionary scientists.

As a result, I have to wonder how much of science from Christian research organizations is founded on actual evidence and research and how much is simply airy exclamations based on theological beliefs. Don’t get me wrong – I do believe the Bible to be accurate, and I believe in a literal, 6-day creation and intelligent design. But I fear that far too many scientists who are Christians try to make science fit into theology. I believe that science and theology _can_ complement one another, even when they seem to be in opposition. ((I attribute this to the fact that mankind’s understanding of the universe is finite and that there is likely no way possible that we will ever be able to understand everything, even under the best and most rigorous scientific study.))

I believe that Christian scientists do a great disservice to both science and theology when they try to force scientific evidence to fit their own personal theologies. I think that fear plays a large part in _why_ they try, though – science and rationality sometimes have a way of shaking one’s faith in the existence of God, especially when they seem to support the traditional Darwinian evolutionary viewpoint. But rather than facing their fear and examining fact, far too many Christian scientists take information gleaned in the scientific community and try to force it to fit a specific mold. Consequently, they come off looking like fools and their research is quickly debunked as garbage. ((For the record, I’m sure that even if they had indisputable evidence backing their claims, there would be those in the scientific community who would laugh and scoff. You always have naysayers.))

At any rate, it’s a little food for thought, and as always, this entry is open for discussion and debate. And I believe that reading through Chris’ site may inspire some interesting and new story ideas.

A Bit of a Restructure

It figures – life gets exceptionally busy, yet my mind finds that it is exceptionally quiet as of late. Well, mostly quiet. One of the hazards of the chaos that goes with being a new homeowner is that it leaves me very little time with which to stay in touch with current events. As a result there hasn’t been much for me to think and ponder on the last couple of weeks, hence the dearth of writing here lately. Of course, that doesn’t mean that my brain is actually inactive. It just means that I’m focusing on a number of _other_ things right now.

I recently read a book called For Women Only at my wife’s request. The book had been loaned to her by one of our friends, and it became a great conversation point for us in clarifying some areas of miscommunication in our relationship. ((You know, a lot of the usual male/female misunderstandings with which we are all familiar.)) Well, I’ve been working on the counterpart to that book, For Men Only and finding quite a lot of useful information there, as well. Once I’m done reading it, then my wife will read it, and we will sit down and compare notes. I also have the opportunity to read through Stephen Lawhead’s Pendragon cycle, so what little free time I have will probably go toward that.

As always, there are _lots_ of stories percolating in my brain demanding my attention. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to do anything more than scribble some quick notes about each, just so I don’t forget the basic storyline, and hope that I will be able to get back to them at some point in the near future and put them down on paper.

I’m also doing a little bit of a restructure on my website. I’ve added a wiki in order to catalogue some hard-to-find bits of information, and I am eventually going to replace the portal on my “main page”:http://www.open-dialogue.com with something else that will make it much easier to access my forum, wiki, and blogs. This all takes time to set up, of course, and what little free time I get at work has been going toward that endeavor.

Respect for What’s Important

bq. If you can’t laugh about your religion or personal beliefs on occasion then you need to take a serious look at what it means to you. You can find humor in any situation.

I ran across this quote earlier today, and it gave me pause. A lot of non-religious folk quip and make jokes (or simply snide remarks or witticisms) about various religions, laughing to each other over the punch line and nudging each other in the side as they watch the people about whom the joke was made vent and fume and react with offense. Then, they can’t understand why these people get so upset over what was so obviously a joke, telling them that they really need to learn how to have a sense of humor. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard this recently. Person A cracks joke about Person B. Person B gets offended and responds with words to that effect. Person A puts up his hands and says, Now hold on, pardner, itwasjustajoke. Person B is not placated because he cannot see any way in which the joke was funny. Person A chalks Person B off as being an extremist or having an underdeveloped sense of humor (or both).

What we actually have here is a failure for both parties to understand each other.

For Person A, who made the offensive joke, he fails to understand that Person B’s religious beliefs are _very_ important to him. They are, in fact, an integral part of Person B’s way of life. When Person B hears Person A making the joke about his own beliefs, what he hears is someone ridiculing and mocking his beliefs. What Person A is saying, by implication, is that Person B’s beliefs are stupid and childish. Even if Person B doesn’t know Person A from a stranger on the street, Person B is still hurt on a personal and emotional level because no one likes to be told that their beliefs are stupid, particularly when such a message is communicated via mockery. That mockery stings and hurts, and most people placed in such a situation are going to react defensively in some manner or another. What Person A fails to understand is just how important Person B’s beliefs are to him. Yet, when the roles are reversed, Person A reacts with offense whenever Person B (or Persons C, D, E…) make jokes about a belief that Person A holds particularly dear. Person A cannot find anything funny about Person B’s joke, just as Person B could not find anything funny about Person A’s joke. In both instances, the belief joked about was held dear by the joke’s ‘victim’, making it no laughing matter for that person. Unfortunately, Person A gripes about how unfair Person B’s joke was, often forgetting about how unfair his own joke about Person B was. Person B, on the other hand, fails to grasp how unimportant his own beliefs are to Person A and forgets that he should not take Person A’s joke personally. So Person B ends up reacting in a way that does little to make the situation better.

Sure, it hurts to have others make fun of you for your beliefs. But unfortunately, it is also a part of life. Lashing out because you feel hurt is not usually a good way to handle the situation and, in fact, typically only serves to justify the point of the joke. If you are going to address the joke at all, ignore the joke itself and discuss the _point_ of the joke. Make a good discussion about it, and don’t let yourself get all up in arms about it.

Water off a duck’s back, as they say.

European Efficiency

I mentioned Blaise Cronin in my “previous article”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=253 ((I keep wanting to replace his last name with ‘Pascal’.)), and listening to him speak reminded me again of something I call European Efficiency ((Though, to be fair, I don’t know that it applies to non-English-speaking countries, since I obviously don’t understand the languages there)). I’d call it British efficiency, but that might be an affront to Dr. Cronin. ((He’s an Irishman.)) What I am referring to is the uncanny ability to use exactly the right words to convey the most amount of meaning in the briefest way.

Dr. Cronin was exceptionally interesting to listen to in part because he frequently used words that were loaded with meaning. His level of verbal precision was stunning and awe-inspiring, and it made me slightly jealous. I consider myself something of a wordslinger, albeit amateurishly. The quality of his dialogue was something that inspired me to find greater precision in my own speech and writing. American dialogue involves so many wasted words. We talk just for the sake of hearing ourselves talk. We are uncomfortable with silence, something else I noticed at this conference. It is possible that the quality of our communication might just improve if we strove for greater efficiency in our own discourse. We might actually find that we need to say less and that we are actually more comfortable with silence. Sometimes, words are not necessary to say what is important.

Brevity of Verbosity

Have you ever noticed how most people in our culture are uncomfortable with silence? We leave our TVs and radios on, even in rooms that are unoccupied, just so that there is some sort of auditory interest. In conversation gaps and lulls have to be filled with something, even meaningless chatter, just so there aren’t any awkward pauses. We just find ourselves uncomfortable in the quiet.

I am one of those who has experienced such discomfort. I am also one of those who is learning to become comfortable with silence. I am learning that it is usually better, when you have nothing of import to say, to say nothing at all. Back to that whole “simple solution”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=180 thing — simplicity in dialogue is usually better than verbosity. Say it simply, say it plain, and when you’re done, say nothing more unless you need to. This is not to say that there is no place for the casual chatter between friends and acquaintances, but it _is_ to say that there should be no pressure to fill every silence with words, at the risk of rendering that sort of dialogue hollow and meaningless.

I am a man of words. I enjoy discussion, I enjoy writing, and as such I feel an almost inherent pressure to spout such words as come to mind. But often such venting is superfluous, and I find that functionality of communication takes precedence over artistry of communication. My job requires descriptions and explanations to be brief, since what matters are the numbers I produce and since too much written out gets skipped and ignored. Phone conversations and emails are straight to the point because getting the job done is what’s important. But even in casual encounters, I am learning to take comfort in silence. There is no need to talk all the time — just being in the presence of friends is reassuring and refreshing. Fellowship can take place even when not a single word is spoken.

Oil & Water

It is impossible to be arrogant and have wisdom. The presence of pride precludes the presence of wisdom. Pride suggests to the individual that he already knows everything he needs to know, that he already sees as clearly as it is possible to see, that his insight is clear and complete. The individual, therefore, does not seek the wisdom and advice of others, or if he does, he does not really listen to the wisdom of others, unless it matches the conclusion he has already reached, because he believes his perspective to already be perfect.

Arrogant people are prone to miscommunications, believing as they do that they always have a complete understanding of what other people are about, what other people mean to communicate. They assume implied meanings to other people’s communication, reading insults and slanderings where there are none. This is because arrogance often comes at a price, even though the individual does not know it. Despite the arrogance, despite the overpowering self-confidence, arrogant people are also usually extremely self-conscious and insecure, harboring fears and worries that their braggadocio attempts to cover. They fear failure, they fear rejection, and to compensate they boast and swagger and claim wisdom and insight where there is none, mocking those who they view as having no wisdom, all in the effort to prove to everyone else how valuable they are and how worthy they are of love and attention.

Everyone but the prideful knows the truth, however, knows that wisdom and insight are figments of the individual’s mind, that the individual is, in fact, a fool, made all the more so by his continued attempts to prove his value and worth.

I know about these things — I have often been the one who is prideful and arrogant.

bq. When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom. Prov. 11:2

Silence Is Sometimes Golden

Maybe this article should be titled “Speaking with Purpose,” because that’s really what it’s about. In a time when everyone has an opinion about everything and when it’s acceptable to say whatever comes to mind, perhaps it is good to be reminded that sometimes it is better to simply keep quiet. Not every thought needs to be voiced, not every opinion declared. I’m all for open dialogue, especially as a means for discerning truth. It is important, however, that all discussion be exercised with wisdom. As such it is sometimes better to say nothing at all. There are two cases that come immediately to mind where silence is the better part of valor.

The first instance is in those cases where you want to speak your opinion on an issue where you are only partially informed. It may be that you have a strong opinion on the topic and feel obligated to spout your feelings, however much or little they may be grounded on actual facts. While this may help facilitate the discussion (or argument, as chance may have it), it often leaves you looking the part of the fool, since it becomes immediately clear that you have little idea what you are talking about. This can work out for the good on occasion, particularly if you are open to correction.

The second instance is typically a much more difficult one in which to keep quiet. This one occurs when someone else in the discussion falls into the first instance, i.e. they obviously have little knowledge on the subject and aren’t afraid to display their ignorance. Sometimes, it is beneficial to speak up and offer correction and instruction to this individual (or individuals, as the case may be). Sometimes, though, the only good thing to do is to keep silent and possibly even withdraw from the discussion itself because it is apparent that even in speaking correction, no one will be listening and so the effort will be wasted.

In all things said and done, it is important to think about what that action will contribute to the dialogue. I often find myself wishing to speak up and contribute an alternative viewpoint and snippet of information that is unknown or being overlooked, but I try, as well, to think about what effect my contribution will have on the discussion. Will it matter? Will anyone listen? Is anyone willing to learn something they didn’t know before and consider it before accepting or rejecting it? Will my attempt at speaking truth be recognized or ignored? In those cases where I know I will ultimately only be ignored, or listened to only enough to be argued with, I find it behooves me to simply hold my tongue and bow gracefully out of the conversation. I mean, what’s the point of continuing in a discussion where all the other participants continue only so they can keep arguing? It does make me sad to leave such people in their ignorance, but by the same token, I know that even offering what little wisdom I have will make no difference, either in the lives of the other participants or in the conversation in which they partake.

Sometimes, however much discipline is required to maintain it, silence really is best.

Dealing Truth with Grace

Back from the weekend internet desert…

bq. Jim,
OK…now here’s the dilemma I find I get myself into…but I feel you can help me clarify this in my mind. I believe in absolute truth. And yet, in situations like you’ve described here, with the Hindu, (very similar to what I deal with on my blog in some ways with some of the visitors I get) how do you declare that your truth is absolute without offending them to the point that you can’t be agreeable? I sometimes feel like I don’t speak the truth plainly enough and yet, I do…I really think I do. I don’t know. Can you give me a word of encouragment about this…”#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/?p=108#comment-269

Good question. Honestly, I think the way you would handle this is going to vary a bit, depending on your audience. To some extent, we have to do exactly as Christ instructed — declare our faith with boldness. Sure, this is going to offend some people, maybe even a lot of people, but Christianity is offensive to those who want to live life on their own terms. They don’t like to be told that the things they do and believe, that the way they have lived their lives is wrong and displeasing to an Almighty God. But the only way they are going to know is if someone tells them.

Now, this does not mean that we have to be harsh and cruel about it. Tact is a virtue. With people who are more understanding and not quick to anger, I am usually able to speak with a greater degree of frankness without having to worry about using exactly the right phrases and words to avoid stepping on their personal sensibilities. With people who are, in my opinion, more insecure, I try to speak openly and honestly about what I believe and why without using dialogue that is abrasive. Essentially, I share what I believe, that I hold that my beliefs are right and true and the _only_ way to live and believe, without trying to force anyone to believe as I do. I try to always make it clear that I can’t make anyone think the way I do and that I am not trying to. Part of this requires me to treat the viewpoints and opinions of others with respect, even if I disagree, and if I can poke holes in their arguments, I will do so (even though this is not usually well-received). But part of discoursing about what is truth and what is not requires people to talk and share and pick apart each others’ arguments.

One of my favorite philosophers is Francis Schaeffer, and it was his ministry to tear apart the inaccurate philosophies and worldviews and demonstrate why those philosophies could not be held with any kind of consistency. He showed time and again how the philosophy of the Bible was the only one that could be adhered to consistently. Yet, he was not ‘offensive’ about it, _per se_, though he offended a great many people by demonstrating the untruths of their philosophies.

It is impossible to live the Christian life well without offending other people. Christ said that we would be hated by the world for our beliefs, and we see this every day. But it is possible to have agreeable discourse with those who disagree with our beliefs. Really, I think the biggest part of attaining this is maintaining respect for people who disagree. Those Christians who lose respect with the world and who find they cannot minister effectively are typically those who treat the world with condescension and snide behavior. It is impossible to share Christ when you make yourself better than Christ.

Professional Weaker Brothers and Christian Diatribes

bq. (Whether their points are valid or not is often irrelevant, as their approach to criticizing the generalization usually stonewalls further discussion.) “#”:http://open-dialogue.com/blog/index.php/archives/65/trackback/

“Professional weaker brothers”:http://www.rmcrob.com/?p=2459 are those Christians who are not so weak in their faith as they would have everyone believe, but who fake and exaggerate their weakness and claim offense against other Christians. We’ve all seen and experienced it to some degree, I’m sure. “iMonk”:http://www.internetmonk.com, aka Michael Spencer, “writes”:http://www.internetmonk.com/index.php/archives/the-tyranny-of-the-offended at length on the subject of how to deal with such individuals and how we as Christians are to live and express our faith in the face of those who are easily offended by just about everything.

Christian Diatribists are, I think, in the same camp as the Professional Weaker Brothers. These are those “individuals”:http://dyinginchrist.blogspot.com/ who twist their faith and their beliefs so that they allow them to fuel their own personal “hatred”:http://scatteredwords.com/d/2005/12/feeling_i_dont.php#c22638. Often, these are the same people who hold such a narrow view of Biblical truth that they, 1) misunderstand the truth of their ‘pet’ Scripture passages, the ones they quote regularly as proof for their anger, hatred, and animosity; 2) rail against any who believe differently, using abusive, bitter language; and 3) “complain and rage”:http://scatteredwords.com/d/2005/12/nostalgia.php all the more and claim offense when they are called onto the carpet for their actions (even when the confrontation is peacable).

Both the ‘brothers’ and the ‘diatribists’ share this in common — they are easily offended, often use strong, abusive language when making their arguments, are driven by personal anger, and destroy any valid points they _might_ hold in their offensive approaches to confrontation. Perhaps it is merely human weakness, to see something that frustrates and aggravates you so much that you let your anger take over and control everything you say and do. Yet, for Christians, even this benefit-of-the-doubt excuse fails to justify such behavior. As Christians we are called to a higher standard of peace and love. Christ Himself says that we are to love all men, demonstrating this so well by associating with the worst of society’s sinners. Always His tone and His manner expressed grace and love. There is no place within the Christian faith for the level of hatred, anger, and animosity that we see proceeding out from the Professional Weaker Brother and the Christian Diatribist. No dialogue or discourse can take place with such individuals, either, because they are unwilling to listen and learn. The most we can do is present them with the errors of their ideologies, love them and respond to them in grace, pray for them, and continue to encourage them to think and to change their aggressive behaviors. Unfortunately, most of us would probably rather respond in kind (and sometimes do), which makes ministering to these individuals and helping them grow in their faith that much more difficult. Yet, it is our responsibility to come alongside these people (if they will let us), teaching with patience and grace, striving to help them open their hearts to the work of the Holy Spirit, rather than letting them continue on in their anger and their ignorance.

Oh, that grace would abound!