Irony: an outcome of events contrary to what was, or might have been, expected.
"Epic FAIL" - tosses about in the sea of our contemporary language, floats through the media, cutting people as it peppers our conversations. Yet, rather than communicating new understanding, "Epic Fail" emerges as an attitude of self-gratification and humor at other's expense ... reveling in misfortune not our own, laughing at the comedic nature of foolish and boorish actions with little regard for the pain and embarrassment. The Darwin awards, websites devoted to "Epic Fail" (mostly crude and filled with innuendo), ridicule tossed out so that we feel superior*. The irony of the situation is not even apparent when we're on the receiving end.
By the measure of effective communication that leads to understanding, the way this phrase is used is, in itself, an Epic Fail! Irony.
But if instead we were to use the words as literally intended -- epic (as in, of unusual extent, a series of great events) fail (as in, unsuccessful) -- is this not a fair reflection of the Church's communication with the world at large, a defensible grade of (non-)achievement? Is the Church's voice today, in general, an epic fail?
Especially at this time of Easter, arguably the most important (or second most) remembrance in the Christian calendar. "Easter": an adoption of a pagan term, probably Austron, a goddess of fertility and spring. What does that communicate of value to Christendom? And "Easter", used by Christians to refer to the time of the Jewish Passover celebration, how does that connotation sit with Jews? Offensive? Mostly!
Easter church services are commonly of rituals unchanged by the centuries, with phrases half remembered from the indoctrination of our youth, words of forgotten meaning, hymns in archaic idioms, toneless pronouncements with sepulcher voices, buildings that reverberate with an otherness of experience, pews that numb the bum.
For the faithful, maybe there is a connection, an awareness of the deeper reality of a relationship with God. For the faithful, mostly, maybe. For the uninitiated; a barrier of mystical language, metaphors from a bygone era, imagery that's bloody and repugnant.
Yet, this is a time when we remember Jesus riding into town to cries of adulation, where he spoke with words that lanced through the facades of cultural protection, that connected in fire to hearts that either fled in fear, or were drawn in fearful hope. Jesus, who drew on himself the bitter anger of a people unable to face themselves. Was there ever a better communicator?
How would Jesus communicate today. I'm sure he would offend, but do so by stripping away the layers of defense we build against self awareness. I'm sure he would draw those with enough courage to face their failings, and who find new value in a life bigger than their own. I feel sure he would use the language of the common people, the metaphors and idioms of the day, telling stories that unveiled the reality of how we live our lives.
Would he entertain? Probably not. Would he put on a performance with professional technology and slick timing? Unlikely. Would he use the medium and norms of the day? Surely.
So why do we get it so wrong. Why do we cater only to the inside culture of the church initiate?
For the unfamiliar who chance to enter the door for their once or twice a year observance of tradition, are we any more to them than a massage parlor for consciences?
Too many question, not enough answers. But if we do not even try ... Epic Fail!
The problem with communication is the illusion that is has occurred. George Bernard Shaw