Language Monopoly

This is not unique to the UMC, however the church has a number of monopolies on language. I am not saying that the UMC has a monopoly on, say, language about grace or love. I am saying that within the UMC there are groups that have a monopoly on language such that it will cost an outsider something if you use language held by a monopoly.

There are some words that are used by the right and some words that are used by the left and if you are on the right and you use words held by the left monopoly then it will cost you something. And vise versa, leftists use the right's language with an awareness of the cost. Monopolies are effective in using their language to be sure, but what makes them each a monopoly is how the words are loaded. You know you are dabbling in the language held by a monopoly when you want to use it but then have to say what you are not saying. For instance, Progressives shy away from talking about Satan. So when a progressive is desires to use that word, there is often an apology that goes with it, "Satan is alive in the world. And when I say Satan I don't mean a personified being with horns or demons he controls. I mean..." 

For a silly example, at General conference there was a vote to be taken, it was not an important vote (from what I can recall from my notes it was a procedural vote). When these votes came up for action, it was allowed by the rules to use raise placards. Delegates were each given three placards, one red, one green one yellow. These colors were used in previous conferences to signal different action, however the 2016 conference had electronic devices to handle that action. So rather than waiving a yellow placard, you just punched into a computer tablet at the table your ID number and "point of order". The three colored placards were not needed, however this was the tradition and this is what tables had for this vote.

Except one table. 

One table did not have green cards and prior to the vote a gentleman ran to a microphone and signaled to the presiding bishop for attention. When called upon, the man stated that his table did not have green placards for this procedural vote. The Bishop stated that when she calls for a vote using the placards, and color will do. You could even use white paper if you needed to. The man sat down and the Bishop stated that the vote was about to take place and, just to be clear she said to get a placard of any color. To hammer the point across she said, "we will have a rainbow vote."

There was an audible gasp from the observing area where I was seated at the time. 

You may be thinking what was the gasp about? It was because a monopolized word was invoked without the apology/clarification. Calling anything "rainbow" is colored with a particular hue. While the bishop was clarifying the color of the placard does not matter only that you have one to vote, the word "rainbow" fired off all sorts of associations. 

Rev. Mary Spradlin, Rev. Rob Renfro and me. Three people, three different theological perspectives.

Rev. Mary Spradlin, Rev. Rob Renfro and me. Three people, three different theological perspectives.

This is a benign example, however this is not the only example. At one of the more dire moments of the Conference there was an accusation made on the floor that a bishop was signaling to others how to vote by "discreetly" holding up one or two fingers while holding the microphone. This accusation was not founded on anything other than in subcommittee there were people who would accused of signaling delegates how to vote with the same signals. I don't know and heavily doubt if these accusations have any merit to them, but it does serve as an example that even non-verbals can be monopolized by a camp and even if used without intent it can be costly. In this case the left monopolized hand gestures to mean only "this is how you vote." It could not mean anything else.

The General Conference had about a dozen languages being translated in real time. While the Church literally does not speak the same language the Church also metaphorically does not speak the same language. 

Within their monopoly, conservatives have words like: Orthodoxy, Biblical, authority, moral, traditional, schism, under attack, liberty, Good News, the faithful, etc. Liberals have the monopoly on words like: LGBTQ, prophetic, justice, protest, rainbow, love your neighbor, love prevails, reconciling, Orthopraxy, etc. 

The reason this matters is that if we desire to be a church that wants to better understand our neighbor and world, if we want to be a church that is interested to heal where there is division then I believe one of the first things we can do is adopt one another's language in order to break up the language monopolies. Conservatives need to use more unity and reconciliation language, Progressives need to use more victory and salvation language. 

Monopolies are unhealthy for an economy and for the people.

They can kill a church.