Book Throwing and the Mission of God: Part 4

Tom Richards, Vanuatu, Tanna, 2014, Man with MegaVoice

Tanna man using a MegaVoice, a solar-powered audio device loaded with a vernacular New Testament – one way in which someone might ‘receive’ or take in the Bible.

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box, Chapter 3

If you want to get the main idea and avoid the detail, jump to ‘The Written Elephant in the Oral Room’ (Click ‘read more’ and then scroll down ).

I should say right from the outset that if there is one chapter in this book that I am inclined to disagree with, it is this one.  It’s a great book and no doubt beneficial for learning to better communicate with oral people, but perhaps the case gets overstated here.  The chapter is worth reading, and in fact, I think when we think through the way in which Jesus’ disciples interacted with both written and oral texts, we notice some very important (and encouraging) things about engaging oral people with the scriptures.

Continue reading

Book Throwing and the Mission of God: Part 3

Tom Richards, John Frum, Storytelling, Noah and ark

Tannese Noah and the ark story retold through song and dance at Jon celebrations (John Frum), Feb 2016

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box

Chapter 2

To live on Tanna is to live in the land of stories. Perhaps this is a familiar experience for other westerners living within oral societies. All people love stories; it seems we’re wired for them. But here, they carry out functions that are foreign to us. For example, stories can function somewhat like a title-deed for land ownership. Stories are also fundamental to all Tanna’s religious movements, conveying and reinforcing their ideals and values. When someone came to our closest village promoting a new movement, he came telling a story.

Box’s fundamental question in this chapter is: ‘Do oral societies have a system of communication that is adequate for receiving and passing on the Christian message?’ Box’s answer is, unsurprisingly an emphatic yes. I will summarize Box’s chapter and then add my own thoughts as to how we might answer Box’s question in relation to any particular oral culture with particular reference to oral communication on Tanna. Continue reading

Response to: Book Throwing and the Mission of God Part 2

Video

John Wilson was a resident missionary in Papua (Irian Jaya) from 1972 to 1991 and wrote his master’s dissertation on ‘Scripture in Oral Culture’ before orality was as trendy.  He was kind enough to add his thoughts to my application comments and I think they’re worth sharing.

Comments in italics by John D Wilson:

We must seek to understand the communication methods of our target culture; we need to have a good understanding of how the people communicate with each other and how their belief and plausibility systems are transferred. I think this point has been made clear by enough people in enough ways that we can no longer claim to be doing responsible mission if we don’t.

This does not mean that people are incapable of learning a different communication method. They may use it in a different way—in terms of logic and structure of thought.

Continue reading

Book Throwing and the Mission of God Part 2

Vanuatu, Tanna, Oral communication, Unity Movement, Tom Richards

Oral Communication: the Unity Movement, Tanna, Vanuatu

Interaction with Don’t Throw the Book at Them by Harry Box

Chapter 1

I was surprised the first time that I supervised ‘homework’ at college by a low and constant whispered murmur. What was it? Was everyone just chatting rather than getting on with their work? Where they collaborating? No, what they were doing was reading aloud to themselves.

Now, I could put that down to the students only just developing literacy skills, like children who have not yet learnt to read silently, and to an extent that may be true in the sense that they are not ‘literacy people.’ But on the other hand, it indicates a difference in the way that they think about ‘text’ and words, and it is this difference that Box discusses in this chapter.

Surely Box is right when he says that ‘…there are many possibilities for misunderstanding and miscommunication between oral and literacy-oriented people’ (p19), and this chapter is foundational to the book in that it seeks to help us to better understand oral (non-book) people. What I will do is summarise the chapter first, and then offer some of my own comments by way of opening a discussion. What I really want to question is the degree to which the difference between oral people and literacy-based people separates us and how we can best think about those differences and (perhaps) similarities. Continue reading

The Syncretistic Rabbit

 

wp-1458858091357.jpg

Credit: Revivals Cakes, via Wiki commons

There are no rabbits on Tanna.  There are also no chocolate eggs in the stores.  That’s cool with me, I don’t like chocolate much anyway.  For those who do, I have been able to get my hands on two packs of Tymos – much like the Australian Tim Tam but better because they come in coconut flavour.  Personally, I would prefer the rabbit itself, but as I said, none of them either.

Eggs aren’t a part of Easter here.  Why would they be?  Even if people did know what a rabbit was, I’m pretty sure they could take a fair guess and say that they don’t lay eggs.  An egg-delivering fur-ball just isn’t part of their past.  But it is part of ours of course. Continue reading