When this happens, although I do not usually say it out loud, inside I am thinking, Wait. What did you just say? Could I have heard that correctly? And because I do not have a poker face, I am quite sure the speakers knew instantly that they had said something that did not sit right with me. (Or that I had a sudden stab of pain somewhere in my body.) The grimace was dramatic, I am sure. In the most extreme instances, and in my least Christlike moments, I want to shout, “Are you kidding me?! What kind of an idiot would say those two things together?”
I was going to just let this go. I have not blogged for over a year and, frankly, I have some other things to do. But I read something today in the Jesus Creed blog that was such a glaring example of this vocal dissonance, and in this case, unlike my particular experience, it has staggering implication for the human race. In Jesus Creed titled “Other Than the Name,” Scot McKnight posts a link to a Washington Post story about a small French town named La Mort aux Juifs, which means “Death to Jews.” It has had this name for centuries. Apparently, on at least two other occasions people have tried to appeal to the local ruling council to change the name, to no avail. I don’t know what the response to those attempts were. But the response this time is blatant in its incongruity, its dissonance. How a living, breathing, caring human being could say this in a few sentences is incomprehensible to me. According to deputy mayor of Courtemaux, which has jurisdiction over the hamlet,
“It’s ridiculous. This name has always existed,” she told the news agency Agence France-
Presse.”Why change a name that goes back to the Middle Ages or even further? We
should respect these old names. . . . No one has anything against the Jews, of course.”
No one has anything against the Jews, of course. Nevertheless, the town’s name is Death to Jews. Am I missing something here? Did anyone who heard this choke? Was there an audible gasp from anyone listening? You can read more about it on McKnight’s blog and in the article linked there. (See www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2014/08/14/other-than-the-name.)
My reason for blogging about this is not to further demonize this deputy mayor, although I confess there is part of me that wants to. The experiences I had last week and the experience of reading this blog, once I recovered from the immediate asphyxia, brought me to a place of self-examination. I wonder if I ever say things so blatantly incongruent. What are the beliefs, convictions, preferences, for God’s sake, that I am totally blind to in their incongruity with other things I claim to believe and claim to be? Blind spots. I am quite certain they exist and even more certain that I am totally unaware of what they are. This is, after all, the definition of a blind spot, and the only explanation for this human phenomena.
Though we strive to have the mind of Christ, our minds are still broken. And there are places where our minds—our hearts—and experiences are so entangled that even extreme brokenness is held together by the tangled mess of disparate thoughts and actions. Only another human from a very different place can hear the dissonance and see the incongruity. And what other human being will speak the truth to me? Only someone who loves me enough to not care whether I like them or not. Only someone who cares more about what God wants to do in me than about what he or she doesn’t want to do to me.
For me these encounters have heightened my awareness of the need to have people in my life who will say to me, while gasping for air, and trying not to choke, “What did you just say?” And then will have the time and patience to help me untangle the mess of thoughts and actions that have so blinded me. And if I have said anything in this blog that comes close to dissonance, please respond with, “Do you realize what you just said?” I am hoping to hear from someone.