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.