A couple of weeks ago, Natalie and I had a terrific conversation with some friends that’s been percolating away in the back of my brain ever since.
One thing we talked about was the idea of the Australian heart language.
‘Heart language’ is a concept that Bible translators and missionaries would be familiar with. It’s traditionally carved out in opposition to the trade language. It’s like the Kriol into which the Bible was finally translated in 2007 so that indigenous Australians could encounter God’s Word in a more direct and meaningful way.
But I’ve been wondering whether the concept’s got wider application to helping us promote Jesus in contemporary Australia. Basically, I’m not sure we’re hitting the mark when it comes to presenting the good news in terms that connect deeply and directly with people.
Let me give a personal example. A few years ago I read North American novelist Don Delillo’s book Falling Man, which is set in New York City in the wake of 9/11. It contains explicit, extensive discussion of the problem belief in God in the face of such large-scale suffering. It’s language and register is very close to what you’d find in articles and online. But it left me feeling cold.
In contrast, a novel like Tim Winton’s Dirt Music resonated much more powerfully with me as it handled similar issues. It just seemed to speak much more directly to my heart.
Reflecting on this sort of experience has got me thinking about whether I speak a language other than that in which most Australians think and feel as I seek to communicate the good news of what God has done in Jesus. I’ve started asking myself: Are the words, images and stories that I typically reach for when speaking of Jesus recognisable? Or are they too ‘high culture’ — or, worse, too evangelical Christian sub-culture?
What I’d love from you are suggestions about novels, TV-shows, radio-programmes — anything really — that you reckon speak the Australian heart language? I urgently want to tap into them so that I can get better at promoting Jesus to the people I know!