After attending the LLF training day last week, I’ve been left deeply troubled by what I believe is sloganeering. Members of the Church of England have shown a remarkable adeptnessover the years for latching onto slogans, misusing them and exercising the power of slogans to elicit a response.
What are slogans and how to they work?
In 2020, two slogans changed the way British society both thought about itself and behaved.
Stay home. Protect the NHS. Save lives.
Black Lives Matter.
People stayed at home and society talked more openly about the way white people treat black people.
There are different kinds of slogans which have different kinds of power
Not all slogans elicit the same response, just think of these
- The Best a Man Can Get
- Just do it
- I’m Lovin’ It
- Never knowingly undersold
These slogans are designed to make connections in our minds with certain products or retailers
But these are not the same kind of slogan as
- The axis of evil
- Abortion on demand
- A transwoman is a woman
Some slogans moralise and have the power to change moral attitudes
Why am I concerned about slogans?
At our diocesan Living in Love and Faith training day, I was very uncomfortable with the way that “Living in Love and Faith” was being used in different ways at different times. I believe it is important for us to be aware and think it through.
I would like us to ask two questions.
First, has “Living in Love and Faith” been sloganised
And, second , if so, what kind of slogan is it and so what responses are elicited by its use?
Has “living in Love and Faith” been sloganised?
In one way, it is simply the title of a book and the name of a course.
Living in Love and Faith is a label. It doesn’t say everything. I can’t say everything about the content of the book or course. Living in Love and Faith is being used in this way as an advertising slogan. It engages the hearer to read the book, do the course, and investigate the material behind the title.
It is also being used in a very different way at the end of the highly emotive video testimonies.
Each one of the LLF testimony videos ends with the line
“I am Joe Bloggs and I am living in love and faith.”
“We are Joe and Jim Bloggs and we are Living in Love and Faith.”
I believe that in this way “living in love and faith” is a moral slogan.
As a slogan, what response does it elicit?
I believe that the slogan has the effect of normalising the diversity of the relationships in the videos. It claims that each kind of relationship, whether celibate, opposite sex marrried, same sex marrried or same sex but transgendered is a way of “Living in Love and Faith.”
If “Living and Love and Faith” is allowed to become a moral slogan in this way, then no matter how much thinking deeply, reflecting biblically or teaching from scripture is done, it won’t be heard.
I reflected on the LLF training day and was left with three insights:
1. The slogan at the end of the emotive videos does what a slogan is designed to do. It has a powerful effect on memory and thinking, it normalises all sexual identities, like all slogans, repeated enough times, it becomes a form of brainwashing.
2. I can’t remember any of the theological points made in the other videos. That might just be me, but in the volume of information, the detail got lost.
3. Slogans trump deep theological insight in group think.
How should we respond to this?
What follows is just the start of my thinking and it goes no deeper than the bible reading I was doing with someone last Thursday, just after the LLF training session.
There is a strong contrast between the way “Living in love and faith” has been sloganised and what Jesus said as recorded in John 14:15-24.
Jesus uses a phrase which could be described as a slogan. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments”.
Yet, the slogan alone is not enough. Jesus then unpacks and expands what love and obedience are and from where they flow.
In this passage, Jesus repeatedly links the love of the Father and the love of the Son to the obedience of people to the commands of Christ.
The context is the announcement that Jesus will go to a place where his disciples can’t come yet. They will love him and obey him and Jesus will ask His Father to send the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to counsel the disciples.
Three marvelous truths
- Adoption as children, v18, or as Mark Stibbe put it, from orphans to heirs
- Sight of the invisible Christ, v19, sight is a major theme of John’s gospel, as we see the light of Christ in the spiritual darkness
- Knowledge of the indwelling reality of God the Father and the Son by the Spirit, who make their home in the disciples.
Adoption, sight of Christ and the presence of God are the only source and foundation of love and obedience. Without them, no one can love God or obey Him.
Then three times in these 11 verses Jesus links love for him and obedience to him.
The first, the slogan, “If you love me, keep my commands.” (v15)
The next two unpack and expand on the slogan
Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” (v21)
Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them. Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching. (v23-24)
Three things of relevance to LLF
1. Slogans on their own are not enough. Jesus gives the slogan “If you love me, keep my commandments.” ‘Living in love and faith’ is a slogan which reflects something of the reality of love for God and faith in God, but not all of it. As a slogan it is open to interpretation and therefore to misuse. ‘Living in Love and Faith’ needs to be expanded on with background teaching.
2. Jesus makes it clear to us that there is a radical change when the Father and the Son come to anyone. The experience of love can only result in obedience to Jesus. Living and Love and Faith does not establish this link.To reflect what Jesus said, the slogan needs to be something like
“Living in Love and the Obedience of Faith.”
“Living in loving obedience by faith”
“living in love and the willingness to obey by faith.”
3. Jesus uses both the positive and negative, the affirming and disqualifying, the exhortation and admonition in his slogans and further teaching.
‘Living in love and faith’ is only positive, affirming and an exhortation to love and faith.
The words of Jesus in John 14, “if you love me, keep my commandments” elicit a very different response in us when compared to “living in love and faith”
There’s another conversation to be had about the slogan “radical inclusion” which is also open to interpretation and misuse. I am aware that there are people here who are engaging with the sloganeering in different ways. So, over to you. I have two questions which I don’t know the answers to:
As we prepare to engage in LLF, how should we respond personally to the sloganising of half truths?
How can we best help others when the slogans elicit all kinds of wrong responses?