In a fond article Alastair Campbell used the arresting phrase – he spoke fluent human – of Charles Kennedy. He was bidding farewell to a friend and political sparring partner who had died prematurely at 55.
Kennedy had a long parliamentary career as a Liberal and often spoke firstly from principle than pragmatism for which he was widely respected.
To speak fluent human is a gift. Charles Kennedy was a heavy drinker and had a full share of the griefs and burdens that come to us. But this does not qualify you to speak human. He spoke in this way long before the turmoil that afflicted his later years.
It is a gift born out of the realisation that we are no more than human. No matter what our background, status or achievement we come from dust and to dust we will return. To speak human is an act of humility.
It is also the recognition that there is only one Race – the human race. Nationality and Religion are simply social constructs with which we can cloak our common humanity. Culture and creed are words we use to dress up fashion and convention. The language of humanity is simple, straight, self-effacing and without hubris. To speak fluent human is to use such a language.
It is not possible to avoid speaking in the accent of our origins and contemporary experience. It is possible to discipline oneself in such a way that they are not the only way in which we are heard.
If Charles Kennedy did indeed speak in such a way, then anyone who aspires to be a preacher or communicator of the Gospel of Jesus should listen to recordings of him speaking. One such example is when he addressed the crowds in Trafalgar Square in 2003 who had gathered to object to the prospect of war against Iraq.
I can think of very few preachers that I consider spoke human. One was Bishop Jim Thompson and another, Bernard Green, a former General Secretary of the Baptist Union. In each I could hear an obvious depth of devotion to the Christ of all peoples. They also did not use the sort of language that left one feeling judged and insignificant.
To speak human is to accept that we may be a little less than the gods but we are never more than glorified dust and it is God who can do remarkable things with dust.