The Sportsing Apparel Hermeneutical FailOctober 16, 2015
My son emerges ready for school wearing a red top.
In big letters across his chest reads ‘Standard Chartered’ and there’s a little logo to the right.
I think carefully about this.
‘What club is that? ‘Standard Chartered’. That’s not the name of the team is it…?’
‘No mum. Liverpool. Football. Club.’ he says slowly, pointing at each letter on the small logo.
‘Right. Got it. Just, going by the picture, it could have stood for Little Fancy Chicken…’
– In the absence of experience or information we make our own meaning from the
symbols before us with the resources of imagination. I think this is an important lesson in these times of many images and low religious literacy.
Are we sure we are reading the imagery and symbols and codes of others with intelligence? Sometimes misinterpretation of other’s philosophical or religious language and symbols is deliberate and malevolent. Sometimes, like my little fancy chicken faux pas, it is from benign ignorance. Either way, we need to be willing to recognise we are prone to getting it wrong.
Are we confident that we understand our own religious language and symbols well? If it is only by deep participation in the culture and the community of something that we can learn its meaning, what does that mean for religious practices that are largely passive and observational?
And, thinking about the living faith formation of our children, if their exposure to the symbols and practices of our faith in its fullest, deepest, richest, most mature forms is only ever from the sidelines, at arm’s-length, how shall we be confident that they do not make the same mistake I made of the Liverpool Football Club for the Little Fancy Chickens:
May we so embrace our children that they never mistake
the breaking of bread and sharing of wine for a funeral wake,
or the reading of scripture for the reading of the riot act,
or generosity for guilt-assuagement,
or compassion for condescension,
or loyalty for obligation,
or faithfulness for habit.