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Saturday, 7 August 2010

Respect - an outmoded concept?!

The article was published last week but, somehow, I missed it. However, while reading today's (online version of) The Herald, I spotted a link, and followed it. The lead sentence had me hooked: "Look at Alia Gilani's mobile phone and the list of aunties and uncles will take your breath away."

The article went on to explain that these "... are not her blood relations, but a measure of the trust that she has built up in Glasgow's South Asian community. 'It's a mark of respect to call older people in our community 'auntie' or 'uncle' - it would be considered rude to refer to them by just their first name', explains Giani."

For many of my generation, in the U.K., the same was true. I had more non-related aunties and uncles - and even grannies! - than I had hot breakfasts in a month. Sadly, this simple mark of respect for those who were of an age with one's parents, or even older, seems to have died during the seventies - largely, I suspect, under the influence of those psychologists who advocated treating small children as young adults.

The same situation has been adopted by the church. So much for not conforming to the world (cf. Rom.12:2!). I cringe every time a child - often not yet at Primary School - refers to me by my personal name, alone. I am at a loss as to how to react when a parent introduces me to such a child by my personal name, alone.

I recall a situation from before I was married. With the young girl who was to become my wife, I attended a Sunday afternoon Bible Class for young people. However, although designed for those in their late teens and twenties, the father of two of the girls also attended. As he was of a similar age to my own father, I always spoke to him as Mr Hunter. Then, one afternoon as we were leaving the Bible Class, and he and I were descending the stairway together, he turned to me. "Brian," he said, "I think that we know each other well enough now for you to call me John." I floated down the rest of the stairway. What a privilege; what an honour! And I was already 26 years old!! Sadly, I am unable to give that privilege to the young people I know. They assume that it is their right to call me "Brian" without my permission or acquiescence.

But I believe that it goes much deeper than that. It must have been about a year ago that we had David Clarkson speaking at Liberty Community Church. During the course of his message he commented that he had been at a particular conference/convention. It was, if I remember correctly, a bit of a charismatic affair but, David assured us, he had no problem with the 'happy-clappy' (not a verbatim quote!) stuff. What did get to him was the way in which so many treated Almighty God like the pal next door. I understood completely. I have shared the same misgiving from many a pulpit. Yes, He is my Friend; my Saviour; my Helper; and so much more. But I must never forget that He is God!

Could it be that this attitude to the Creator and Sustainer of all that is, is merely an extension of that loss of respect for adults that has been in vogue for a couple of generations? I fear so. However, it is not merely a lack of respect, but a lack of reverence - and that, I believe, is much more serious.

Our 21st century 'multicultural society' has raised many problems. But wouldn't it be wonderful if that Southern Asian culture, described by Alia Gilani, were to take hold in the U.K today? It might even lead to the return of a deeper reverence for God - His Person and His character.


CannuckCol said...

Thankfully at our church we have the other end of the stick. Being the youngest member of my extended family, I STILL consider myself as a 'youngster'. However I was gobsmacked when some of the young married adults in the church I now attend referred to me as Mr. ..... I automatically looked to see where my father was; then preceded to tell them to call me by my Christian name. Now THEIR children I WILL accept the Mr. form from and to their credit I AM being made known to them by that title. So it DOES still happen, just depends on the upbringing.
However I have also had a nephew call me by my Christian name and he was aghast when I told him that I was still his 'uncle' - he thought he was too old to refer to me by that form. - as I said depends on their upbringing.
As for the many non- related 'aunties and uncles' in our family, the STRANGEST one was the aunt and uncle I had for whom YOU were their best man - and WE are of the same generation? Now THAT was WEIRD

Brian Ross said...

Perhaps the 15 or thereabouts years' difference between us helps to explain your last point! I was, in fact, referring more to the UK - and particularly the west of Scotland! For example, here in France, even the family who are being so wonderfully supportive continue to refer to us as Monsieur and Madame. I haven't yet met a French child, or teenager, who hasn't done the same.
One minor point from your comment. To the best of my knowledge, you don't have a "Christian" name. You still use the ones that you were given at birth!!!! That's why I prefer to refer to my forenames, or personal names. A "Christian" name was the one taken on when one accepted the Lordship of Christ in one's life and, like believers' baptism, was a clear sign that one had changed. Of course, like so much in the established religious groups, the "tradition of the elders" (and the baptism of infants) meant that the name(s) given by one's parents soon became known as one's "Christian" name(s). I note that my current passport, and even my European Health Insurance Card, provide my Surname/Name and my "Given Name" (identified as the French 'prénom').