In the UK we are gearing up to vote on how we vote.
Yes – really – we are about to vote about how we elect our members of parliament. If we vote ‘Yes’ our traditional ‘first past the post’ system will be replaced by AV – the Alternative Vote system where we will place 1 next to our first choice candidate, 2 next to our second choice and so on…
The ‘No’ campaign has been energetic in their objections to this new innovation. It will be confusing, complicated and too difficult for ordinary people to understand. And because it will be too difficult to understand, it will put ordinary people off voting at all.
But the bottom line for many in the No campaign is a simple unwillingness to embrace change. They want things to stay the way they are, even if something new might just be better.
The irony is - there is another AV, which is much loved by people who like things to stay the way they always were – loved by the kind of people who hate change. This AV is being celebrated this year for its 400th anniversary. But this AV is genuinely confusing for some, difficult for most, and has a habit of putting people off.
This AV is, of course, the Authorised Version of the Bible – authorised that is, by King James in the year 1611.
Not surprisingly, the English language has changed a bit since then. Words have changed. Sentence structures have changed. Nuances and idioms have changed. The language is still beautiful to those who have learned to love it, but most people find it obscure, difficult to follow, and generally off-putting.
I remember a elderly member of a congregation who completely stunned me one day when she defended the Authorised Version saying, "I like to hear the words that Jesus actually spoke." While few would be that confused, why not survey a few people around you to see if they know what these words mean:
‘Bewrayeth’ ( Matthew 26:73 )
‘Bolled’ ( Exodus 9:31 ) – no it doesn’t mean boiled!
‘Choler’ ( Daniel 8:7 )
‘Incontinent’ ( 2 Timothy 3:3 ) – where incontinent people are a sign of the end times
‘The price of a dog’ ( Deuteronomy 23:18 )
‘Redound’ ( 2 Corinthians 4:15 )
‘Spikenard’ ( Song of Songs 1:12 )
‘Or in the woof’ ( Leviticus 13:49)
So how did you do?
Why do some people still insist on using the AV in church? Perhaps it is because they want no-one else to understand – because they don’t want ordinary people to get involved. Perhaps it is because if you can’t really understand the message, it can’t challenge you too deeply.
In the battle over AV, we do need to keep the message clear, not so much in our method of voting, but certainly in the Word of God.