Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Orality and a Changing Culture

The landscape of learning, understanding and beliefs is changing in North America at a surprising rate. The Church is struggling to find ways to better communicate the Gospel in meaningful and life-changing ways. Many of the problems can be corrected by a better understanding of the literacy issues facing us coupled with increased skills in effective oral communication. If the church needs an example, she needs only to turn to Jesus who lived in a 95% illiterate, or functionally illiterate society. Jesus was the master oral communicator!

Orality refers to the style of communication between individuals and generations that functions without the use of a writing system. However, it is a deeper concept than the mere absence of writing. It produces its own thought forms and processes that constitute ways of learning, conceptualizing, and communicating that are quite distinct from those of literate thinkers and communicators. Oral thought processes are less linear, and logic is associative rather than deductive and sequential. Orality also affects worldview, particularly in the area of truth perception. For literates “truth is seen as consisting in facts – specific descriptive statements about an objective, perceivable reality. Knowledge is the accumulation of facts. The oral culture, on the other hand, places priority on relationships, which produces a concept of dynamic truth. This focuses on relational skills, and truth is seen in terms of personal integrity and fulfilment of relational and family obligations” (Orville Boyd Jenkins,“Orality and the Post-literate West”). An oral culture is characterized by relational, face-to-face communication using stories, proverbs, drama, songs, chants, poetry and others forms of participative, communal and interactive events.

One has only to have a cursory understanding of post-modernity to see the parallel implications of orality in contemporary North American culture. Let he who has ears to hear....

1 comment:

Mike said...

This is an important issue in urban areas! Thanks for speaking to it! I'm learning too!