Word Wrecks

I love reading cake wrecks blog. Here, if you don’t know it, be sure to give it a read. It’s a catalog of professional cakes gone “horribly, hilariously, wrong.” The author is also quite funny and introduced me to Love146, which is a charity about which I care deeply. Besides that, I think it has some spiritual implications. My favorite wrecks are the ones where the decorator writes the directions for the cake ON the cake itself.

 This, for example, is the cake that Jen (author of the website) said started her blog.

What are the Biblical connections to cake? Well, Jesus had a problem with the Pharisees because they were so intent on following the instructions to the letter, that they lost all compassion, their empathy. Their legalistic approach meant that they missed the forest for the trees. It’s like looking at the world through a microscope, you get pieces, but not the picture.

I think this might be how a Pharisee would decorate a cake. When I teach culture and communication, I talk about high and low context cultures. High context cultures are those that can rely on nonverbal, implicit messages, because the groups have a high level of context convergence. Low context cultures, like the USA, have to rely on verbal messages and very detailed ones at that, because we don’t all agree about the premises. In cultures like ours, we have to say what we mean, explicitly. What the cake wrecks example illustrates is that we take our literality to extremes in order to be understood.

I’ve recently been chosen to help moderate a political discussion board. Part of my volunteer requirements, so to speak, is to warn those who are nearing a violation of community guidelines to re-word, change or delete their comments so they are not kicked out of the posting community. There are rules we follow, rules to which we must adhere, but it’s all in the wording; it’s text-based. And, it’s full of loopholes. For instance, as a member of that community, I cannot say, “You’re a racist,” or I would be banned, but I can say “that post sounds like racial bigotry.” Do you see the difference? It’s subtle. I can get around the rule by saying that my sister knows someone who posted a racist diatribe on facebook, but not that I think the poster is a racist.

That’s where we encounter the problem with text-based understanding, without the converging meaning held simultaneously by all parties involved, there is room for both unintentional misunderstanding and willful misunderstanding. I’ve met enough modern Pharisees to know that they often pick apart small, legalistic issues, but while they are heaping on don’ts and shall nots, do nothing to alleviate those onto whom they impose their rules. That was Jesus’ beef in Matthew 23. “You strain out a gnat, but swallow a camel!” That might be my favorite Bible passage 🙂 Jesus chastises them for their phylacteries and whitewashing and decorating the tombs of the prophets – for show. The words of Scripture, the law, is just a facade. They make a public performance of their righteousness, but it comes across as a gross misunderstanding… just like the cake above.

Be sure to peruse the website for more examples of these types of cakes, trying to adhere to the letter of the law while abandoning good sense.

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