Even though we live in a digital age, where online identify theft and piracy is commonplace, passwords have become my new nemesis. I cannot remember them.
Yes, I record all of my passwords in a small black book that I store in a safe, but I forgot the combination to the safe recently and after receiving help from my 21-year-old son (who is a whiz at passwords), I discovered the little book had been misplaced.
I wanted to talk to my wife about this (and blame her), but she informed me I needed a password to schedule a conversation. I gave her a password, but it did not include at least one number and a symbol, and so she rejected me.
Because I forget passwords so easily, I have not yet taken the plunge to online banking. I also don’t use ATMs. I don’t even know what this acronym stands for and shy away from any exchange of information or commerce that requires me to set up an account that is “password protected.”
Naturally, when I am required to use a password, I attempt to supply a word that I use every day, such as “HamburgerHelper” or “Starbucks” or “IWishTheCatWouldDie” but these are always rejected, usually because they are “case sensitive” or do not contain a Latin cognate.
Living in this Password Age, however, has made me aware of how many passwords we tend to use in the church. Recently, another pastor told me about an announcement he had made regarding “The Lord’s Supper” and one young man asked him after worship if he needed to bring a covered dish.
I don’t find this commentary troubling, necessarily, but I have tried to be more aware of how our “insider” language can keep people at a distance from the church. I want to make certain that I am not speaking in a secret code when I talk about “The Prodigal” or “Baptism” or even “Jesus” but in fact, even the basics of the faith must now be explained even to those who have attended church for decades.
One of the earliest threats to the church was Gnosticism (silent G) – a system of belief, in a variety of manifestations, that taught there was a “secret knowledge” that provided salvation. Only those who knew the secrets and the proper words could obtain paradise.
In the church we need to strive for clarity. No passwords are allowed.
I am all for this “no passwords” rule, by the way. It would make my life so much simpler. I wouldn’t have to work so hard at creating passwords like “Rumpelstiltskin75” or “PinchMeB48” or “MyDogHasFleas.”
I could get an appointment with my wife without making a reservation and wouldn’t lose sleep trying to conjure up another 10-letter word with two symbols and a diphthong. I might even try online banking.
Todd Outcalt is a Luddite who still writes postcards and values face-to-face conversation over coffee. Although he uses passwords, he lobbies heavily for their expulsion. He uses lots of words every day as he writes regularly for Preaching, YouthWorker, and MidWest Outdoors, and his latest and upcoming books include Where in the World We Meet (poems), The Other Jesus, and Common Ground.