Page 6, 31st August 2001

31st August 2001
Page 6
Page 6, 31st August 2001 — The patronising language the young do not understand

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Locations: Cambridge


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The patronising language the young do not understand

Personal view

Fiorella Sultana de Maria

Ido love it when the establishment takes it upon itself to patronise teenagers. It makes me feel grateful for having reached the ripe old age of twenty-one relatively unscathed.

I was bemused enough when the Church of England brought out a poster of the Three Kings entitled "Bad Hair Day?" five years ago, to discover that they were actually referring to the moment of the Incarnation. The slang and the grinning cartoons were meant to aid my understanding of the greatest of mysteries by speaking in "the language young people understand."

Pardon my ingratitude but it is impossible for me not to give a slight shiver whenever that expression is used in my hearing. Apart from the fact that the use of slang varies so much from region to region and changes so rapidly that many of my school friends did not know what a "bad hair day" was in the first place, the assumption that "grown-ups" have to speak in monosyllabic trendy language to be understood by the young is almost too obscenely patronising to be believable.

Does the Church of England really believe that young people will come flooding back to church on a Sunday if the religious leaders of the country persist in the belief that young people are stupid, superficial creatures who need theology broken down into cartoon-size morsels for their consumption?

Take the latest attempt to "relate to the young". Two parodies of the Our Father, one about drinking for the lads, one about shopping for girls (no gender stereotyping there at all) "intended to help young people to understand the meaning behind it." Well, most of us know the meaning behind shopping and alcohol but do these people think for a moment that young people will be inspired by yet another attempt to pander to yob culture?

I am a young person so 1 apologise if I have completely missed the point — you may have to take out the long words like "barrels" next time — but I thought that the beauty of the Lord's Prayer was in its simplicity and intimacy. Absolutely wrong, of course, Jesus gave it to His disciples to confuse them.

I know exactly where my non-Christian or lapsed-Christian friends at Cambridge would put such an insult to their intelligence. Probably the same place the "trendy" copies of the Gospel disguised as mobile phone catalogues went during the Christian Union's last crusade. I do not pretend for a moment that the mission itself did not have its successes, but how many more students might have been reached if the intellectual capabilities of the student body had been considered? I remember one article in the student newspaper complaining about the notes printed in the margin of the copy of Mark's Gospel he was given. "This is to show that Jesus is not a regular person" or words to that effect next to an account of one of the early miracles.

"Yeah, thanks," was the shamelessly ungrateful reply. Even that. though, was nothing compared to the Graduate Christian dinner I attended at the beginning of the year, where the after-dinner speaker spoke with the slow patience of a primary school teacher and where the longest word in his speech was "traditional."

I do not pretend to have easy answers to the decline in church attendance among the young, but may I suggest that the problem can only begin to be tackled if us poor stupid youngsters are treated with the respect we deserve, on equal terms with our elders, and allowed to voice our concerns freely. Yes, our concerns, not the concerns that the older generation think should be the concerns of the young.

Amusing as it is to be sent hate letters by people who label themselves "old crumblies", distressed by the fact that I pray the rosary with my friends and belong to Youth 2000, a Eucharist-centred Catholic organisation, I have no apologies to make for not being the sort of modern Catholic the elders of the Church would like me to be. Stop telling me what my problems are, stop telling me what I apparently "really want" from the Church and society. Forget the jargon, forget the trendification of religion. If the youth of the 19605 cannot help forcing its own agendas onto the youth of a new millennium, there is quite simply no hope.

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