Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Mortal where are you? Mensch wo bist du?

So I got given my Kirchentag's scarf yesterday. It's long and pale blue and has two cloud like bubbles saying on one "Mensch wo bist bist du?" and on the other "Hier bin ich!" (I have a photo of it but cannot upload it - same old, same old banning problem!!)
"Mensch" is a really wonderful word but tricky to translate, sometimes I just think we should translate it by the Yiddish mensch but that is a bit of a cop out! So do you use people, person, human being, humanity, men and women - what do you do? In the case of the Kirchantag theme in English what was finally opted for was a return to the King James translation of the Bible - not one I usually recommend - and the word "mortal". In many ways "Adam" in Genesis also means Mensch.
You can see that this is an ongoing issue in German to English translation by comparing older and more recent translations of Bonhoeffer's poem "Christians and Unbelievers" which begins "Menschen ...". One well-known translation begin:

Men go to God when they are sore bestead,
Pray to him for succour, for his peace, for bread,
It scans very nicely but it's not right. If my memory serves me right there is a very good new translation of the poem by Alan Gaunt in Rejoice and Sing perhaps Dr B can add it to the comments. The French of course have no such quibbles and just settle straight away on "les hommes vont à Dieu ..."
Mortal where are? Still trying to work out whether God really did create them male and female?

Anyway, as my recent reading of Grace Jantzen has been encouraging me to think less in terms of being mortal and more in terms of being natal, I'm having to change tack again here at the Kirchentag. In many ways though the approach to mortal humanity being promoted here is much more Jantzenian (I admit I enjoyed writing that) than using the word mortal may show. Much of our discussion at the Global Network Congress is about trying to find creative ways through impasses at global and local levels, tapping into our energies and possibilities to give birth to a new future.

Christen und Heiden - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Menschen gehen zu Gott in ihrer Not,
flehen um Hilfe, bitten um Glück und Brot,
um Errettung aus Krankheit, Schuld und Tod.
So tun sie alle, alle, Christen und Heiden.

Menschen gehen zu Gott in Seiner Not,
finden ihn arm, geschmäht, ohne Obdach und Brot,
sehn ihn verschlungen von Sünde,
Schwachheit und Tod.

Gott geht zu allen Menschen in ihrer Not,
sättigt den Leib und die Seele mit Seinem Brot,
stirbt für Christen und Heiden den Kreuzestod
und vergibt ihnen beiden.