[personal profile] wingedbeast
In the Bush era, there was a consulting firm for Republicans that helped with communications. It had a slogan that read "It's not what you say. It's what they hear." Whatever your political position or your opinion on the influence of that firm, there is some truth to that slogan. What is said and intended isn't always going to be what's heard.

That slogan will be the basis of at least two different tips.

Here, the tip is about context. Way, way back at the beginning of this series, I made the point about passing the Turing Test. That was about keeping the conversational context in mind. What had been said throughout the conversation, not just the last line. Take that same basic idea and extend it to cover social context.

That's a hard one to do, particularly for Christians in America, because you spend so much time not needing to be aware of the social context as it applies to faith. To you, an America wherein your elected officials, by vast majority, express and perform, in general terms, your faith is the norm. There are many things you might not notice about the experience of those of other faiths.

Whether you're aware of the social context or have that social context in mind at the moment, it will speak volumes.

Let's take this message that came up on my Facebook wall. "An early 2017 Fad that I can't wait to see dissipate: Making Christians a monolith and hating them."

Absent context, this would seem a reasonable complaint. Nobody wants to be made a monolith for others to hate. Add in the context of knowing that there are some areas where people do exactly that, often in a certain part of atheist YouTube. This becomes even more valid a complaint.

But, then add in yet more context. Add in the context of people of most faiths doing exactly that with Islam. Add in the context of people of most faiths doing exactly that with Judaism and atheism.

Do you imagine a candidate seeking the office of Presidency saying that Christians are a threat to national security? Do you imagine a state legislature responding to a Christian invocation by "correcting it" with one of another faith? Do you imagine Christians being told that they have no morality and cannot be trusted?

There's some specificity here, but that's being a non-Christian in America. It's being made a monolith. While not by the majority all the time, it's often being hated for that monolith. It's not the only axis on which that condition applies, but it does apply.

Now, see a Christian repeat that complaint and the context says something. It says that someone who will not even notice Muslims or Jews or Hindus or, in my case, atheists, going through exactly the same thing. Or, if they do notice, they'll not be moved to make a complaint. But, when it happens to you...

Sometimes, in the effort to evangelize and say something beautiful, someone will try to use this to their advantage. One church had a sign up that said that, in the eyes of God, all lives matter. Absent context, might be a nice thing to say. In context, it's using what someone else is trying to say in order to obscure their message with your message.

To some extent, this is impossible for anybody to avoid. You speak and you say not just what you're saying, but that you're the person in the context to say that thing. So, when you're trying to convince others that your faith is the faith of people who care, you need to have some concern for that social context. Because, sometimes, in your effort to say you care, the context is saying you don't.



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