Work Title: You Talkin' to Me?: Speaking to God and Others
Work Author(s): Henry L. Carrigan
Byline: Henry L. Carrigan
In the movie Cool Hand Luke, the sheriff sums up his frustration and anger with the rebellious prisoner Luke (Paul Newman) in the memorable phrase, "what we have here is a failure to communicate." The phrase soon became an emblem of a generation who felt that their elders simply didn't understand their words or their ideas. Not much has changed. If we believe today's talk-show culture, we all fail to communicate---with our partners, children, business colleagues and clients, and friends and neighbors. Language is the seam that holds the fabric of society together, yet we speak so many languages---the language of the street, the language of the office, the language of politics, the language of religion---and are bombarded by so many voices that the seam often bursts and social order is frayed.
Religion publishers have discovered the fascination with communication to be especially profitable. After all, language and words are at the center of most religions. Christianity claims that its central figure, Jesus, is the word of God; Judaism has at its core the ten words (Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments) as well as the words of the prophets; Islam obeys fervently the words of the Prophet, as they are revealed in the Koran. Moreover, many religions use language as a primary way of communicating with their deities, whether through prayer, incantations, or spells. In some religions, preaching forms the center of worship, and so pastors and religious leaders pay careful attention to the ways that they craft words for public utterance.
In religion publishing, numerous books exist for the preacher and pastor looking to fashion his or her weekly sermon or homily. These range from sermon aid books, which provide a sample outline of a sermon on a particular topic, to sermon illustration books, to volumes on the meaning and history of preaching itself. While libraries and bookstores might carry a few of these kinds of books, they are more likely to be found in seminary bookstores and more specialized stores.
By far the more popular books on religious language are those that focus on interpersonal relationships and the power of communication in maintaining and nourishing those relationships. Shelves also overflow with books on prayer and using human language to talk to God.
When religious people are asked to speak in...