Tuesday, October 09, 2007

You Don't Understand Because You Haven't Tried Hard Enough

I interrupt regularly scheduled non-programming to bring you this vocab issue from one of the the circles I typically frequent: The question of insider jargon.

Sometimes, practitioners (the "purists") will argue that if you want to understand a field of study or academic discipline, the onus is on you to learn the involved, technical language so you can understand the conversation. Sounds good in theory, but is rarely realistic for anyone who is not a librarian or is not enrolled in grad school.

Then there are the "popularizers" (Briane Greene, John Horgan, C.S. Lewis) who are often frowned upon by their very learned colleagues. Their sin? Taking the precious codified knowledge of their professions (Physics, Science, Theology, respectively) and dumming it down so average people can understand it!

And now, an illustrative example of "pure" jargon from the field of contemporary theology, or "emerging church."
"Doesn't all of this suggest that Paul's rhetoric reflects an inherently totalizing regime of truth designed to wipe out alterity, delegitimate difference and allow only for the univocal discourse of orthodoxy?

...unmask the power grab ... deconstruct the normativity of the author's voice and give back legitimate voice to that which has been silenced and marginalized.

What such 'reading against the grain' of the text actually accomplishes is a new kind of violence with a new opponent who is deemed to have deviated from another assumed normative stance..." - taken from Colossians Remixed, reviewed here

What does one make of this? I study theology. In school. And it would still take me considerable downtime plus a dictionary to glean anything helpful from this writing. Given the density of much expert verbiage, who does one turn to? At what point does specific, technical language become overreaching and begin to obscure meaning instead of revealing? Should popularizers be hated, tolerated, or applauded?

I'm leaning toward the last.

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