By Jeffery Kingry
I happened to be paging through a bound periodical volume and came across an article I once wrote. In one of the bloated paragraphs I came across the following sentence, “In almost all of the Brotherhood’ papers and in some books written by brethren, there has appeared manifestly solecistic dogma.”
I laughed for awhile remembering the day that I constructed that sentence from a thesaurus, much like a do-it-yourself carpenter turned loose in a lumber yard. It must have been divine inspiration that produced that line, for even though the writer had not the foggiest notion what it was he said, he spoke the truth.
Manifestly: “that readily perceived by the senses: Easily understood by the intellect.”
Solecistic: “an ungrammatical combination of words in a sentence, a minor blunder in speech.”
Dogma: “something held as an authoritative opinion.”
What I think I was trying to say was that papers and books published by brethren sometimes contain error. What I actually said in my ostentatious effort to impress was that most of the papers contain obvious misuse of the English language-and that preachers cling to their “Goggledygook” with mistaken zeal.
The English language is a marvelous tool that can be used to produce great beauty and stir sensitive hearts to noble service. It produced poets like Robert Frost, and writers of force like Hemingway-men of economy and precision in their choice of words. But it is also the English language that produced pompous profundity, alliterative literature, and demonstrably loquacious erratica, counterproductive to the latter most calculated design inherent in utilitarian journalistic endeavors (Translated, “English can be genuinely obscure and trite too.”).
God makes “manifest.” The brethren have a tendency to “obfuscate” (Which is an overblown way of saying “confuse.”). The Apostle Paul gave us specific instruction in how we are to teach: “Even things without life, in giving sound, how shall it be known what is piped or harped except they give a distinction in tune? For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for battle? So likewise, ye, except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? For ye shall speak into the air” (1 Cor. 14: 7-9).
Indeed, if the words we use can not be understood without a dictionary-what have we accomplished? If our sentences are constructed to “impress” others with our knowledge and scholarship-what have we accomplished? If our sentences are a paragraph long, and our original thought is lost in our tortuous windings–what have we accomplished? Our words merely dissipate in the air like steam from a kettle and the thought is lost in the air.
Good words are like swords or arrows. They cut through the facade we all carry to protect ourselves from the deluge of words we face each day. Good teaching pierces and pricks and focuses our attention to the quivering shaft embedded in our heart.
Words should not be like hot taffy on sticky fingers-a nuisance and a bother, impossible to consume without great effort and persistence. Consider this piece of written taffy, “The suggestio verborum here asserted, is reduced to its right measure by didaktois; for that word excludes all idea of anything mechanical, and implies the living self appropriation of that mode of expression which was specifically suitabl6 both to divine inspiration and to its contents as an appropriation capable of being expressed in very different forms with different given personalities, and of presenting itself in each case with a corresponding variety.” I believe he is trying to say something about inspiration, but as many times as I have tried, it still sticks to the roof of my mouth, and I cannot swallow it.
Brethren who write should write to teach, to change wrong behavior-not to impress. Papers are an excellent means for getting widespread recognition. Politicians and movie stars know the value of public exposure and publicity. Politics is defined “shrewdness in promoting personal policy among people,” or as one editor once put it, “writing oneself into the confidence of the brethren.” When the teacher preaches for the sound and glory of himself, when he writes to be seen of men, he differs little from the self-serving politician, or the vain movie personality.
Now, for those of you brethren who will now return to compare my efforts with the standard, I want to go on record with the brother who once wrote: “My position now is and always has been in direct conflict to what has been erroneously and venomously attached to my writings by the scurrilous efforts of those intent on obfuscating my verisimilitude.” Amen.
Truth Magazine XIX: 12, p. 186
January 30, 1975