I received two responses to recent blogs where I used the term “kin*dom” in place of “kingdom.” Both responses were very helpful to me, causing me to consider why I like the term, use the term, and what I mean by it.
The first response was a cryptic email from someone I don’t believe I have ever met. It simply read, “Your justice is not my truth.” At the time I had no idea what it referred to, so I replied asking for a little more information so that I might better understand the comment. I assumed it was negative, but wanted to make sure. The response I got was “You may not like the term kingdom, but that does not change the truth. Jesus Christ is King of Kings, Lord or Lords, Prince of Peace. God’s kingdom is a kingdom, and you make a fool of yourself when you water down the truth with your little star.”
The other response challenged a common misunderstanding of the “-dom” portion of “kingdom,” equating it with “domination” or patriarchal power instead of its linguistic meaning of “a state or condition.” My choice to use “kin*dom” instead of “kingdom” is rooted in three choices that make perfect sense to me, but may not translate to others the same way.
First, most of the people I interact with on a regular basis have little or no experience with monarchy. We have never had a king (or queen), have not experienced familial power succession, and have not occupied space or position in any portion of a kingdom. It is a foreign term, well used and understood historically, that no longer holds cachet. While we may have no experience of “a state or condition under monarchy,” we can envision a healthy “state or condition of loving kinship or familial bond and responsibility.” Healthy kinship could be the solution to most of our modern day ills, and it certainly seems appropriate to the theological concept of beloved community.
Second, some of my favorite terms are “-dom” terms, “wisdom” and “freedom” among them. The state or condition of being wise, being free, are great pluses in my book. “Kin*dom” simply joins this list of positives.
And third, those who know me well know that I have been a lifelong advocate and champion of full inclusion and respect for the differently abled, challenged physically, emotionally, mentally, cognitively, or socially. Going back to the late 1970s I taught workshops where I used the term “selfdom” to connote the “state or condition of being a valid, valuable, and gifted individual worthy of respect.” I remember when I first used the word, some fully and broadly abled people scoffed at the term as unnecessary and silly. I felt embarrassed and decided not to use the word “selfdom” anymore. That changed when I began receiving expressions of thanks from people with all types of challenges, limitations, and restricted abilities who valued the term and the concept and loved the validation it provided. I began to see and hear other people use the term, and the sense of “selfdom” that recognizes the worth and value of every person sticks with me to this day. People may not like the term, but it is hard to argue that its meaning is not important.
Words have power, and once they leave our lips or fingertips they take on a life of their own. It really doesn’t matter what I intend my words to mean; they will inevitably pass through filters and layers and lenses and perspectives that will alter meaning and change impact. It is why conversation, inquiry, civil and respectful exchange is so important. Two people offered me feedback that raised my awareness that my meaning was not clearly communicated with my words. I wish we could come to a cultural norm where questioning and clarifying replaced reactivity and the ascribing of intent. The willingness to question, to listen, to explain, and to disagree well, is so vital, especially if true “kin*dom” is ever to be achieved.
I’m not writing to argue about “kin*dom/kindom” usage, only to point out that for many hurting persons in our world, kin may not be the friendliest of terms. Among “kin” many have experienced abuses – both physical and emotional. Because of this, I find that I have had excellent feedback – supportive and otherwise – using Brian McLaren’s preferred term: Commonwealth. For what it’s worth….
Hard to translate basileia that way, though.
Nothing is all that original with me. Along the line in recent years i’ve been using “kindom” (rather than your “kin*dom”) because at some point someone showed me/told me that “kin” is just friendlier and more inclusive than “king.” Or, as you write here, “’Kin*dom’” simply joins this list of positives” (like wisdom and freedom). It has a better feel for the speaker and the listener. The idea of playing with our English words may have entered my awareness through something like James Ashbrook’s book “Be/come community.” As i recall, Ashbrook introduced me to the left brain-right brain stuff, but i also enjoyed the way he could create thoughtpaths or something by changing words. So, “be/come community” gets me thinking about both being community and community as a process. i still like to talk about “commun/unity.” Later, a colleague answered my question of why he wrote “i” instead of “I” by reminding me that we don’t capitalize “You” so why do we capitalize the pronoun that refers to me? Now i recognize that there are various grammar rules and so on, but why not use “i” rather than “I” in everyday conversation (and written pieces too)? And so i have–for years now. It bugs some folks, but it points to something like Buber’s I-Thou thinking–at least for me. i’m in favor of kindom! Or “kin*dom.”
Dan, I have only recently started reading your blog. Thank you for your insights and pastoral heart. Sadly, there will always be those who miss the larger point and strain at gnats. I am sad for them and hope that, over time, they will enlarge their hearts and minds to at least consider other viewpoints. We don’t always have to fully agree. In the meantime, I am grateful for your writings. ~ Suzanne
Dan, I thoroughly enjoy your blog. It makes me sit & think…is my embedded “truth” really truth or is it what I’ve inherited. I find reading scripture like this now very helpful. Is what I was told & now believe congruent with what scripture says or is it smtg passed down by some well-meaning person WHO learned it from some well-meaning person…..too bad we all can’t agree to sit & talk peacefully…even if we do disagree as you said!
Ramblings from a fellow traveler on Abcad #37,