A man stood outside a meeting room and heard the speaker say “47” followed by loud laughter from the audience. This laughter was repeated, with different numbers. The man asked what was happening, and he was told “This is a joke club. We know all the jokes, and each reference number prompts us to laugh at one of our jokes.”
The man stepped into the room and shouted “four hundred and seventy-eight.” The room went silent, and then someone giggled. The giggling changed to loud laughter from everyone, and soon people were crying and falling out of their chairs, from laughter. The man was confused, and someone said, “You just told a joke we’ve never heard before.”
Evoking means we wave the flag, shout out the number, and trust that the audience knows the back story. It’s a form of cheerleading.
Rick Mercer is a famous commentator in Canada, and he has the fluency, articulation, and gift of the gab of a true Newfoundlander. Even when I disagree with him, I admire his skill. But recently he talked about Donald Trump, and I was not so impressed.
In my opinion Rick Mercer mostly waved the flag and identified the orthodoxy for his tribe. He doesn’t like Donald Trump, and he wants us to be like him.
I know what he thinks, but I don’t see much teaching or persuasion; reasons why I should think like him.
In Canada, it is still popular to say “O Harper” and roll your eyes or “Go Harper” and smile. Stephen Harper is the former prime minister.
Before him people used to say “Bush” when they talked about American foreign policy. The name was a trigger word, a flag or a cheerleader’s pom pom. It evoked a back story and everyone would line up with their tribe, and approve or disapprove.
Evoking is cultural shorthand, and it means the culture is dying. I know this because I was raised in churches where orthodoxy was evoked, instead of taught. Like a football fan who holds up a cardboard sign with “John 3:16,” I remember a woman in church who used to shout “PTL, PTL.” Someone finally told me she meant “praise the Lord.”
In my generation, too many Christians dropped out when life got busy. A flag waver can easily put down a flag and pick up another. Protest movements with uninformed cheer leaders come and go like mist. Christian churches can fade away with a new generation.
“John 3:16” on a cardboard sign is a flag, but these are the words with power: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
We can experience what we know.
A friend once asked me why I was a Christian, and I remember that I couldn’t explain. That friend later became a sincere Christian, after someone else taught him. I was not taught, and I could not teach.
The Bible has the backstories to our faith. Christians who are taught, endure. Teachers build the church.
In our dying culture, we can’t improve on God’s formula for success:
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11 to 13)