Vocabulary enables us to interpret and to express. If you have a limited vocabulary, you will also have a limited vision and a limited future. - Jim Rohn
Darkness limits our freedom because it prevents us from moving around quickly. Consequently light gives us freedom because it allows us to see the world around us more clearly.
Language is like a light bulb burning in the darkness of ignorance. The limits of our vocabulary are the limits of our communication and thoughts. So you could say that the greater our mastery of language is, the brighter the bulb. And the brighter the bulb, the further we can see.
The world around us is dark enough already, why should we choose to make it darker by not expanding our horizons to at least the limits of known and set by other men?
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world -Ludwig Wittgenstein
Cultural literacy is nothing more than being aware of popular cultural references. It is not, contrary to popular opinion, the same thing as being intimately aware of all the current trends of culture. Why is it important to be at least minimally aware of current trends in culture? Well, as any good marketer knows, the timeliness of a message is just as important as the message itself. And as Christians, our goal is to tell others about the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. To do that we can and should use as many cultural references that we can.
Here’s a helpful story by way of illustration:
Whenever I go to back to my parent’s house to visit I generally try to go to their church if I’m going to be there on Sunday morning. One Sunday I went with them and decided to visit their young married Sunday School group. During the lesson the wife of the leader mentioned how they watched Twilight recently and how she regretted it somewhat because it was “a complete waste of time”. To that I responded that an underlying theme of Twilight is the refusal of one of the main characters, Edward Cullen, to marry or have sex with Bella, the love-sick (and stupid) teenager. Part of the culture’s fascination with this story is due to the illogical purity and deep and abiding love that is portrayed in the Twilight series. From that simple plot overview, it would be relatively easy to strike up a conversation with a Twilight fan and lead them rather quickly into a conversation about ethics, morality, and ultimately, Jesus Christ and His passion for His bride, the Church.
Cultural literacy is all about maximizing the communication surface for our message. And any attempt to artificially limit that surface is detrimental to the spread of the gospel.
Technology has become a god “in the sense that people believe technology works, that they rely on it, that it makes promises, that they are bereft when denied access to it, that they are delighted when they are in its presence, that for most people it works in mysterious ways, that they condemn people who speak against it, that they stand in awe of it, and that in the born-again mode, they will alter their lifestyles, their schedules, their habits, and their relationships to accommodate it. If this be not a form of religious belief, what is?”
–Neil Postman, The End of Education
Cyberspace stands in sharp contrast to the book. The book is linear.Its very nature affects how and what we understand—and so does the nature of cyberspace. But they are very different. The communications medium employed shapes the message: “the medium is the message” is true, whether one accepts all the details of McLuhan’s communications theory or not. There are inherent characteristics in the very medium that do affectboth what can be communicated and how it is communicated. Technology is not neutral.
Television, for example, molds and shapes what we understand from a message and even how we view our world as we peer through its lens (more on that below). Likewise the technology of cyberspace. Staring
into its glassy face affects the shape of the message transmitted, the receiver, and the transmitter in unexpected (and often unhelpful) ways. The book differs from both television and the Internet in significant ways—ways that impact the nature of Christianity.
Christianity, as Judaism before it, is a revealed religion. Its base is in revelation. From the first recorded revelation of God and his will to humanity—inscribed in stone by the finger of God—to the Torah, to the completed OT, to the incarnational revelation of the Son, to the writings which comprise our Greek testament, all assume propositional truth as the essence of communication. We have a worldview that is almost exclusively text-based.
Communicating the Text in Cyberspace