Johannine Anti-Tongue | Dying inmate
You can’t really understand the gospel of John without getting the Johannine anti-tongue.
The light at last Sunday’s Gospel readings in John’s “Bread of Life Discourse” I recently blogged about the Johannine Anti-Tongue here and here.
Linguist Michael AK Halliday and Context Group researchers Bruce Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh say anti-language is the language of an anti-society. And the Johannine anti-language is the language of the Johannine anti-society.
In anti-language, anti-societies communicate with initiates within the language of the dominant society against which they resist. But anti-language doesn’t welcome strangers – in fact, it’s a wall that says in big, bold letters, “STAY OUT!” Ultimately, the Johannine anti-language excluded foreigners from the Johannine anti-society. Even other groups of Jesus did not “understand” it.
How ironic, given the way Christians use the gospel of “John” today.
To see what I mean about the Johannine Anti-Speech, take a look at this overview video—
What is Johannine Anti-Speech
Researchers such as Halliday, Malina, and Rohrbaugh explain that we shouldn’t think of Johannine anti-language as jargon or technical terminology. Instead, marginalized people espouse an alternate perception of reality and, in doing so, create it. Forming an anti-society against the dominant group, they express their counter-reality through anti-language.
This is what “John” is. Stop thinking of it as a masterpiece of Christology. The author was not a theologian. His gospel is the Johannine anti-language opposing the established way of perceiving and conceiving.
Johannine anti-language and irony
American Christians who read “John” produce a rich irony. Since they are from the most individualistic society of all time, they think they love the fourth gospel called “John”. It’s a favorite for many of us. Look at how widespread interest is in “John”, or what we thought he tells us. Yet they don’t understand the Johannine anti-language. We don’t even know how to look for the interpersonal.
Ask Huston Smith to describe Jesus and Christianity. He does so almost exclusively in the “Johannine style” (see his bestseller “The religions of the worldDo you know how many ministry groups I can think of where the only Jesus you get is a hyper-version of Johannine Jesus? Just as so many seminaries teach Jesus and Christianity. And any misunderstanding of the anti- Johannine language.
WWE. NFL, & Johannine Anti-tongue
Who doesn’t like Tim Tebow? Lots of people, actually, but forget about it now. Do you remember his face paint? –John 3:16, the most important Bible verse (?? !!) of all. Where would Vince McMahon and “Stone Cold” Steve Austin be without John 3:16, eh?
Longtime football fans may remember the Arthur S. DeMoss Foundation which released “The Power of Living” during Super Bowl XVII. All this program is based on an Americanized recontextualization of “Jean” with 3:16 as its “first law”. If you’ve been to a sporting event in the past fifty years in the United States, chances are you’ve seen a banner displaying John 3:16–
For God so loved the world,
that he gave his only begotten Son,
that anyone who believes in him
must not perish,
but have eternal life.
The problem is, what’s the context? Johannine anti-language. “The world” is not planet Earth, folks. “John” does not refer to Carl Sagan’s “pale blue dot”. He wrote several years before this conceptualization. Ultimately, there is nothing universalist (Catholic “C” or otherwise) in the literal sense of his document.
And yes, the ethnocentric god from Israel did he “love” (glue like glue to) “the world” (that is, the dominant society of first century Israel). But everything else in this gospel says that “the world” hated (rejected, detached from) their patron God so much!
By the way, first-century Israel does not (and cannot match) the modern State of Israel, an apartheid master race Zionist democracy. Plus he ain’t, can’t match jewish people. But suffering from sincere and guilty stupidity, the USCCB continues to relentlessly produce new editions of the poorly translated American Bible Youdaioi (still Judeans) like “the Jews. “When will this dangerous anachronism end?
CRU and the Americanized Gospel according to “John”
Once upon a time, I worked in Catholic campus ministry alongside many good people in a multi-faith council. One of these groups was Campus Crusade for Christ (now called “CRU”). What do you think was their main message? In perfect American individualism, Jesus is to be (vertically) the individual’s personal Lord and Savior. And where do they think the basis for this comes from? The anti-tongue gospel called “John” inspires him, except that it is not read correctly (ie as anti-Johannine tongue).
Many American feminists like what they imagine to be “John”. Sister Joan Chittister, of course. She thinks Jesus was the first feminist. Why? Because it’s right there in “John,” except it’s not. We do not read this correctly when we think of Jesus as an egalitarian. Neither the historical Jesus nor the interpretations of Jesus that we find in the Gospels present him as such.
But we don’t care. Regarding the Johannine Jesus, we don’t get the Johannine anti-tongue, and we don’t want to get it either. Jesus was not an American, and that is not good for a lot of people right and left. So what to do? Reinvent it in our idealized autobiography, a culturally sympathetic identity theft that tickles my ear. Screw honesty for relevance. To throw the real deal jesus in the trash, but let’s say we love it anyway.
Johannine anti-language reused to evangelize strangers
Consider how ministerial groups like CRU and various Catholic groups like to use “John” to evangelize people in their respective versions of Christianity. Go to “John 3:16” and “John 6”, They treat“ John ”as if it was written to convince outsiders to become initiates. And so, they treat “John” as if it was primarily a matter of conveying ideas about God and Jesus (eg, accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior or justifying Eucharistic devotions).
But being an anti-Johannine language text, “John” was never written to be understood by strangers. “To hell with those people in the dark! – this is the way of the Johannine anti-society. And his mode of communication was intended to be interpersonal (the personal qualities of communication partners), not a set of new theological ideas. “John” extremely minimizes ideation (what is said and described).
“John” VS the Synoptics
Can you honestly compare “John” (the whole Gospel as a written document excluding Chapter 21 in the appendix and the story of the adulterous woman) with the synoptic gospels? To try. If you do, you will find that the author is not conveying ideas about God and Christ. In the synoptic gospels you see, throughout the basic account, a progressive description of who Jesus is. You see enemies becoming more and more hostile towards Jesus from the beginning to the end of “Mark”, “Matthew” and “Luke”.
But that’s not how “John” is.
The only ideas “John” tells about God and Jesus are listed in John 1: 1-18, the prologue. Jesus is the word of God. He came to the Dominant Society Israel, but they rejected him (as did the fringe of the Johannine anti-society). But to all who received Jesus, he gave the power to join the Children of God (that is, the Johannine anti-society). All after verse 18 is just more of the same, repeated variations of the same musical theme.