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Innuendo: Out of the mouth of babes

by Jaynan Clark Egland, (President, WordAlone Network)

July 25, 2007

photo of Pastor Jaynan Clark EglandAs Lutherans the Word is paramount. The Word residing in Jesus' real human flesh is primary as are the spoken and written Word. In his letter to the Romans, one part of the written Word, Paul reminds us you need a preacher. This is how God works in our lives and forms His church, one sinner at a time claimed by the promises of the Word.

As people of the story—Words comprise it—we also are very aware that it isn't just what you say or how you say it, but what you don't say that is important. The whole omission, commission "thing" we often associate with an old confession of sin readily applies to our present day writings and pronouncements.

The most recent issue of The Lutheran, July 2007, included in its "News" section an article entitled "WordAlone: 'The Bible reads sinners.'" A curious Lutheran reader not present at the annual convention of WordAlone and unaware of the ministry of the WordAlone Network should have been left wondering what was left out, not said and why. Like a curious preacher first looking up the text for next Sunday, often it is what is not included behind the 'hyphen' that omits certain verses that is most revealing. The context of Karl Paul Donfried's comments represented by the writer with mere ellipsis changes both the content and intention of the address. Whether intentional or accidental this type of reporting is not helpful.

More bothersome is what is inferred by the use of certain words. In the third paragraph the writer states that, "WordAlone members believe that understanding must include among other things: the centrality of Christ in Scripture, . . ." Following is a rather long laundry list of "musts" that are quite orthodox and becoming of what Christians have believed and taught for 2000 years but I wonder if the laundry list paints WordAlone as rigid and legalistic. If so, it is a technique of innuendo.

Just recently while I was in the video store with my children consulting the rating of a movie and wondering if it was appropriate for the whole family to view I heard my 13-year-old daughter read aloud, "Rated for intense action, some violence, brief strong language and innuendo." She turned and asked me, "What is innuendo, Mom?" I explained that it was a suggestion of something but didn't really show it. Later we went home and looked it up in the dictionary to find the definition to be, "An indirect or subtle and usually derogatory implication in expression, insinuation."

Having just read the article in The Lutheran and thinking to myself that it contained "innuendo" that was derogatory in its implication, I read to my daughter the above mentioned section to which she commented, "They want to make you look like a bunch of old, grumpy people." Interesting.

I went on and read to her the other portion that bothered me toward the end of the article in the subsection entitled "Reform efforts." "WordAlone says it wants to reform the ELCA in a number of ways, . . ." Then there is another laundry list that is quite becoming and accurate regarding the goals of WordAlone but as our 13-year-old child pointed out in her hearing of these words, "They want people to think you are liars who 'say' you are trying to reform the ELCA but they don't think you are."

She learned, by living it, what innuendo is and how derogatory it really can be. Out of the mouths of babes our Lord speaks clearly to us across His church. While what is said is important, how it is said and what is left unsaid is revealing. We may sometimes believe that even bad press is better than no press at all . . . yet, the time for a corrective on such invective is now.