I isn't as smart as I think I were

I don't know about you, but I always wanted to be smart. Not that I had to be the smartest, but I don't want smarter people to have to talk slow so I can understand what they're saying. I rescheduled my day off last week so I could attend a thing called the Stone-Campbell Conference at my alma mater. The conference is for academics within the Restoration Movement Churches [the churches like CCM in which I minister and where I grew up in] to discuss deep theological papers about a variety of different topics. I knew going into it that it would be a little over my head because I'm just a hack theologian/Bible scholar but hey, I've read a few books. I thought I'd be able to hang. But apparently I overestimated my ability.

They're were only about seventy of us dorks . . . er, I mean intellectuals, at the conference. I went to about six different sessions on Friday. Now this is how these sessions would work: You'd find out what the person did their paper on, go to their seminar, listen to them read it for about half an hour and then ask questions afterward. To give you an idea, here were some of the titles of these papers:

-asymmetrical Continuity of Love and Law Between the Old and New Testaments
-Discovering a Christology from Praxis
-Narrative Theology and the Eclipse of the New Testament Kerygma

Yeah, how 'bout dem apples? I did understand a few things that were said and found out some fascinating Biblical tidbits, but mostly I had not idea what the crap they were saying. For instance, I had to ask someone what an "aphorism" is [by the way it's "a concise statement of a principle"] because this dude used the word thirty times in his speech and I had no freakin' idea what it meant. Here's one of the phrases from these papers: "According to the 'prophecy historicized theory of Crossan, the generative force for the Christological convictions of the text- such as the innocent sufferer interpretation of Mark- is the 'Sitz im Leben' of the early church." Yeah. That's just one sentence. It led me to spontaneously shout out "BOO-YAH SUCKAS! STEP BACK!!!"

There was one session that, even forty-eight hours later, I still have absolutely no idea what was said. All I know is at the end of the seminar, during the Q&A time, people kept saying "great paper" like you'd tell someone "good game" after a sporting event. So as I left the room I told the guy who delivered the paper, "good game, G-dawg," spit my sunflower seeds on the floor and wacked him on the butt. Oh he knew what I meant. I think I heard him utter as I left the room " . . . it feels good to be a gangsta".

OK so I was out of my league, but that's OK. It's not so much that you understand what's going on, but that you're able to fake people into thinking that you understand what's going on. I accomplished this through active listening skills- then people have no idea you're clueless. Here are some practical things you can do just in case you're ever in a situation like I was in:

1) Maintain good eye contact with the speaker
2) About every three minutes, nod your head in agreement
3) About every minute after the head nod, jot down a few notes on a sheet of paper.
4) Pretend you're entering valuable info on your PDA [while you're actually playing Solitare]
5) If possible ask a question about what the internet has to do with the speech [that's a shout out to my buddy Adam Tornberg who used this method successfully when we were in college].
6) Always say "Good job with that" to the presenter when you leave the room.

The good news is, you can't tell how smart someone is just by looking at them, so there's always room to fake it. To make myself feel a little better I'm off to play Bible trivia with the 1st grade Sunday School class this morning. At least I can smoke them.

" . . . it feels good to be a gangsta."