Welcome to Found in Translation, a blog devoted to the dream of a coming kingdom and a beautiful church. One day we will have attained to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, and be prepared in all respects to receive our bridegroom. It is the day of glory to which all history points and for which the whole of creation waits with bated breath.
There are of course many blogs with not dissimilar themes, but this is a blog written from a particular perspective — that of the translator. I have spent my life as an alien in a foreign land, and grown to love it. I have lived cross-culturally and in the process I have necessarily become a translator. I have had to learn how to translate from South African English to my native British version and vice versa. Then later to and from Brazilian Portuguese. But the real delight has been not so much to translate language, but rather perspectives and understandings: in fact to be a cultural interpreter.
The great imperialist deception of the 19th century was that British culture was clearly superior to any other and was in fact the only one that really mattered. The great liberal deception of the 20th century was that all cultures stand on an equal moral footing and must be accorded equal treatment. In fact there is merit in each and every culture, as well as a darker side. The anonymous observation sums it up:
“Heaven is where the police are British, the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the lovers are Italian and it is all organised by the Swiss. Hell is where the police are German, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the lovers are Swiss, and it is all organised by the Italians”
Culture is the inescapable context of human social existence: we cannot live without it, any more than fish can live without the sea. But culture is not always harmless: we can never afford to be seduced by the obvious rightness of our own culture into devaluing the culture of others. Our own culture feels safe and self-evident, and we resist the inroads of “foreigners”. (I am British and will continue to balance peas on the back of my fork for no good reason other than that is how I was brought up.) The fact is that good things are hidden for us in other cultures.
Translation takes what is good in an alien culture and expresses the point in a form intelligible to the home culture. It is not in the first instance about changing anything, only the more modest goal of understanding. But through understanding comes the possibility of valuing, and through valuing, desiring, embracing and then changing. Fear of course will stop us ever starting. But perfect love has cast out fear…
So being a cross-cultural kind of person I have trouble with labels and boxes. When people ask what kind of church we are, I try my best to help them understand, but there is no single label or brand that works for us. I am the charismatic in the theology lecture, the intellectual in the Holy Spirit fire tunnel, the bible expositor in the revival meeting, the prophet to the cessationists, the scientist who delights in revelation and of course the pastor who rides a motorbike to work.
It’s not that I don’t want to fit in. I am not at heart a rebel or anarchist. But I have so great a reverence for God, for the sanctity of His church and the greatness of His kingdom that I never want to get too comfortable with what any one group has decided that looks like. I never really was a company man, because I never really believed the propaganda. I do believe! I do believe that God is always good, that He has redeemed me through the blood of His Son, that His kingdom is coming now, that the church is His body on earth, that He has destined me to be His son from all eternity. But please don’t make a box out of it!
So this blog is written with the perspective that just maybe some people who don’t fit in “our group”, whatever that is, might have something worth understanding. The heart cry of unity finds fulfilment not through massed stadium meetings or interdenominational prayer movements, but through valuing one another. Too many of us are all ears and have no use for hands or eyes, in Paul’s metaphor. And valuing one another comes through understanding and understanding comes through translation.