What's the fuss?
"I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in..." Romans 11.25
'Gaelic in Scotland' is the latest tome to flow form the pen of Dr Wilson McLeod, lecturer in Celtic Studies at Edinburgh University. Described as "hard-hitting but creatively constructive", it surveys the policies, movements and ideologies that have guided Gaelic from the introduction of state education in 1872 until the present day. Why should any of this matter, especially as only 1.1% of Scottish people actually have Gaelic?
Listening to Dr McLeod being interviewed on BBC Alba's documentary programme 'Eòrpa', the picture emerges of a catalogue of missed opportunities and false promises, which have hastened the decline of what was once the closest Scotland has ever had to a national language. In contrast to the sorry tale, is the richness of a largely oral culture which has bound people to a harsh yet beautiful landscape and sustained us when we have, through necessity or opportunity, scattered around the globe.
Apart from the principle of being fair to that remaining 1.1%, itself, no longer confined to the northwestern fringe but increasingly present in our larger conurbations, as Scotland renegotiates our place in contemporary Britain, Europe and the world, there is increasing evidence that people with a strong self-identity are better able to rise to the challenges before them and more likely to be responsible global citizens. Language and culture are key factors in self-awareness. Generations of Scots have been brought up to despise one and ignore the other. No wonder we tend to be self-deprecating to the point of mockery.
People, might say that obsessing over national issues is a distraction when the crises we all face argue for cultivating more of an international identity. Christians, especially, pride ourselves in belonging to a family which is not only global but eternal. Yet from Genesis to Revelation there is a sense that God intends for us to flourish in our distinctiveness as well as in the gifts and privileges we share, as a fitting tribute to the endlessly innovative Creator whom we adore and in whose image we are made. At £95 not many of us are going to be rushing on to Amazon or into Waterstones for our own copy of 'Gaelic in Scotland' but we can surely joint the conversation about the kind of people we need to become in order to live faithfully before God and generously towards one another...