This is a paper presented to a local ecumenical group,
the Eclectic Club of Baltimore, of which I am a member.
It’s a little long. You can decide if it’s worth your time!
unto the ends of the earth … or, at least, to Indonesia
I’ve fairly recently been told,
by someone who lived and worked in Indonesia,
that there’s no word for “missionary” in Indonesian,
and that our word “missionary” is translated in Indonesia
with the phrase “one who deceives”—
Indonesia being one of those countries
that does not allow people to enter
explicitly to proselytize.
Our word “mission”—our Christian “mission”
would thus presumably be translated as “deception”—
our Christian deception. Lovely.
They’re such significant words for us
as Christians (mission, missions,
missional’s a big one these days in some circles, missionary)
with, for the most part, positive connotations—
even acknowledging some awareness of and embarrassment about
the condescending, paternalistic, exploitative nature of so much mission
largely defined by colonial precedence—
exporting more of western culture and its expectations than anything else.
As Justo Gonzalez, addressing the western church
has critically noted, “You define church history
as the white faith tradition, and define everyone else
as the history of missions”
(quoted by Miguel De La Torre at the Annual Convocation
of the Alliance of Baptists, April 13-15, 2012, Austin, TX).
Unquestionably historically significant—“mission”—
part of the self-understanding of the church
as commissioned by Jesus.
And even if you have trouble with Pauline theology,
his missionary journeys make for compelling stories—
and the most interesting maps in the back of Bibles.
And with all that traditional significance in the tradition of our faith,
there’s even more in our culture
with its emphasis on corporate mission statements.
I googled “mission statement” and got 413,000,000 results!
Of course, when it comes to the corporate,
I embrace that alternative, outside, Indonesian perspective
as cynically insightful—
yes, I know! They’re people too!
But an odd, legally defined kind of people often not always
(as opposed to rarely if ever) deserving
that cynically insightful perspective
suggesting any mission statement
not only might be heard
but should be heard
as a paraphrase of the intent:
“We’ll say (or do) whatever we feel will create the desired effect.”
Too often that has been the native perception
of the church’s mission as well.
“They’ll say (or do) whatever they feel will create the desired effect—
in order to, be it profits or conversions—or both,
add ’em up.”
So we have, from Indonesia, this negative response,
with admitted validity,
to something we’ve traditionally embraced as positive and constitutive.
For the record, I would love to maintain
that the negative examples of Christian mission
have more to do with abuses and distortions of mission
than with a much more positive ideal,
but how much negative can a positive absorb
before it is inevitably and appropriately tainted as negative itself?
I don’t know the answer to that.
Grace would have me believe more than experience,
but it’s one thing to choose grace for oneself,
another completely, to expect it from others.
But back to the Indonesian perspective of “missionary.”
Given the internet—
and the consequent ease of access to so much information
(my blog, by no means a blog with the traffic
generated by those of many friends and colleagues,
has nonetheless been accessed this year from 54 countries—
including multiple hits from, yes, Indonesia),
we have to wonder, do we not,
is there still such a thing as local truth?
And so on our websites,
through which our particular expressions of truth are accessible world-wide,
are we responsible for the way our local language is perceived elsewhere?
Do we need to consider, as we detail our participation in missions—
as we locate ourselves within the Christian mission,
that there will be people in Indonesia taking offense at that?
We tend to resent such possibilities—
to resist any suggestion of such responsibility
(“Are we to blame if they take it in ways we don’t mean it?”
Or even, if we’re feeling particularly defensive,
“But isn’t the gospel supposed to be offensive to non-Christians?”
I would suggest, given the example of Jesus,
the gospel should offend the church more than it does,
but that’s a digression I’m not going to chase!).
We tend to resent such possibilities—
at least until we realize that it’s not just about
how they understand our language,
but also about how they perceive us
(as less than we would want to be perceived).
Then, maybe, we begin to want to consider change.
local truth: local perception
I remember a writer friend of mine in Texas
saying that if you speak with a southern accent,
your hearers lower their estimate of your IQ by 10 points,
and that if you say Jesus in that southern accent,
it’s an additional 10 points.
And newscasters deliberately lose their regional accents.
Some of this is about seeing a picture bigger than the regional
and acknowledging the perception (right or wrong)
that the regional fosters a more limited perspective
that often does not acknowledge—resists, in fact—
the greater whole and the larger truth.
The regional is identified with prejudice
because it does not (cannot?)
account for the more and the bigger.
Now that’s partly honest,
and partly arrogant
and our path to negotiate.
And the question remains, is there still such a thing as local truth
as other than that small, limited,
restricted, restricting, prejudiced perspective?
Education and compassion, the Church and business
all require and assume perspectives beyond the immediate.
And the smaller the world gets,
the more the regional, proportionally, shrinks as well
until anything with which you would want to identify yourself
is so much more than local.
Yet, on the other hand, is there anything but local truth—
anything but truth defined by perspective?
Because there’s no authority—
certainly no world-wide authority
acknowledged beyond the self—beyond the regional—
the partisan—the national—
And our news, our politics and our faiths
we acknowledge as biased perspectives on larger wholes,
and there is only point of view—
only, by definition, limited, point of view.
And schools have I.L.P.’s (individualized learning plans)
that acknowledge the particular needs of different students
and teachers plan and teach accordingly.
Nora Tubbs Tisdale in her book
Preaching As Local Theology and Folk Art,
suggests, in similar fashion, preachers have to know their congregations
and plan and preach accordingly—
not exactly I.W.P.’s (individualized worship plans)
but fully taking into account the peculiarities
A social worker in our church asked me what the single most influential
contributing factor to a person’s life expectancy and health was.
I didn’t know.
Their zip code.
Can’t get much more local than that.
Kirk Byron Jones in his book, The Jazz of Preaching
even urges preachers to particularize their preaching
not just to the congregation, but to the moment—
all the particularities of place and service and people
being ever attentive to the possibilities of the moment.
Yet as attentive as we can be to our local truths,
there is always the more particular local
beyond even our ability to know.
Fred Craddock once pointed out
how when preaching—using nice descriptive imagery,
you might never know—
when you mention fluffy white clouds, for example,
that you just completely lost the whole family
over there in that side pew
whose cat Fluffy died just this past week.
The most particular—the most local
is also the most personal—
often the most private
and the most real and relevant,
and however small the world gets,
the particularly local remains disproportionately large
at the most personal, often inaccessible (unshared) levels.
In all these cases, however, the focus is one way—
on knowing the particularity of the audience, the students, the market
the congregation to whom the story is told,
not so much on the story being told.
There’s a sense in teaching, for example,
that the information taught is universally relevant
(whether it’s math or history …
unless you’re in Texas, of course!)
and how it’s taught to whom is what’s particular.
And in preaching, it’s the particularity of a congregation
that has received the attention.
The particularity of the story preached
receives its attention in biblical studies,
and heaven forbid we be too academic in our preaching.
We don’t want too much detail about the context then,
we’re looking for relevance and application now.
The business world knows too,
that while they absolutely have to know their customers—
while their marketing and advertising folks
have to demonstrate an intimate knowledge of their target demographics,
just as much attention goes to the specifics of what is being sold—
and the sales methodology itself—
different approaches for different particulars.
What is sold and how it’s sold is acknowledged
just as targeted as to whom it’s sold.
Part of Steve Jobs acknowledged genius was his sense
of the right technology packaged the right way,
and at least as much, if not more, work went into design as sales
as he trusted his own particular sense
and created a world-wide empire.
What was the world like before iPods and iPhones?
But Jobs, his successors and Apple
all know (as do most successful businesses) the need
to protect the brand name—
beyond the particulars of any iPod, iPad, iPhone, Mac—
that Apple brand—its reputation, its integrity.
With what I’m thinking of as the Indonesian perspective,
Jane Wagner in her play “Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe”
sarcastically mocks this entire process
when Trudy suggests Nabisco promote snacks to the third world
where because they didn’t have enough to eat to begin with,
the thought of eating between meals hadn’t ever occurred to them.
What a market!
There needs to be an appropriateness
that characterizes all stages of this process—
the local and the global—
the product and producer,
the marketing and the market.
the art of scripture
At the same time—at the very same time,
preaching stands with art in marked contrast,
with a lesser focus on an audience/congregation—
and even less on marketing.
Now not art and preaching as business.
As business, they both focus on or cater to market appeal—
public taste—and marketing—strategic appeal.
But the pure arts (and pure preaching … am I too idealistic here?)—
poets, painters and the author of The Gospel of Thomas—
along with many of the Scripture writers,
Jesus and preachers, sometimes,
all know you have to narrow your focus on your details—
down to see what you see and know most intimately.
“Know what is in front of your face,
and what is hidden from you will be disclosed to you”
(Gospel of Thomas, saying 5).
So you start with the particular. You begin with your local,
and with utterly vulnerable honesty.
Because if we don’t have something particular to say,
we don’t have anything to say.
And yet, if it’s so particular, do we have anything meaningful
to say beyond our local?
Annie Dillard turns her eye to the details of Tinker Creek.
“Well, the ‘scandal of particularity’ is the only world that I,
in particular, know”
(Pilgrim at Tinker Creek [New York: Harper & Row, 1974] 80).
But it is the particulars encountered, right?
“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization.
Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes,
I simply won’t see it” (Dillard, 30).
And to see is to be transformed.
“I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it
until at that moment I was lifted and struck” (Dillard, 34).
Whether contemporary worship, emergent, Celtic,
highly liturgical, less so, blended,
any worship designed on the basis of its perceived appeal
to a target demographic
is more sales influenced than gospel.
Not sure we can get beyond sales,
but as I’ve yelled at politicians on TV on many an occasion,
“Stop with the threats and the blame and the fear mongering,
and let your ideology stand or fall on its own merit.”
But we don’t often risk the most real and relevant—the most local—
don’t risk sharing it—
exposing ourselves in such expression.
Easier, to think the story is generally true—
and doesn’t need to address what’s most real to me.
“This looking business is risky” (Dillard, 23).
A great part of Anne Lamott’s appeal
is her willingness to be honest in her vulnerability.
It’s then her vulnerable honesty
that gives her wide-spread appeal.
So when considering the universalizing of local truth
(or attempts to universalize local truth),
a question definitely worth considering:
when can local truth become universal,
and when does local truth trying to become universal
only distort the truth it was locally?
Often, I think, the distorted larger truth
comes from hoping to attain a wider relevance
and compromising the local truth to attain it.
So when considering whether or not there is
still such a reality as local truth in a post-google world,
the problem is setting local and universal truth up
as either/or alternatives.
There’s certainly no denying the googlification of the world.
But as the world has gotten smaller,
we need eyes that can see
that the local has also remained as big as it ever was—
until they’re virtually the same size.
Bruno Bettelheim, Walt Disney and the Gospel of Jesus Christ
We have a good word desperately needed in our world
by both those who know they need it,
and by those who don’t yet know.
But it’s not a word that’s necessarily wanted—
not by those who know they need it, let alone by those who don’t.
And it’s not our place (far from it)
to try and make it more palatable—more desirable—
easier, less brutal—
and sometimes precisely by making it less specific and more general.
And Disney makes millions on sweetified, prettified, undarked
versions of Grimm tales
and loses the dark depths children need
(Bruno Bettelheim, The Uses of Enchantment:
The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales).
And too many sanctuaries are full of sweetified, prettified, undarked gospel
without the dark depths and stringent expectations we need.
Even though we believe in the universality of our faith proclamation
(we have a good word desperately needed)—
even though we ask, “Who’s not our audience/
our congregation/our neighbor?”
And that’s equal parts the universality of our message
(we believe we have a word for all to hear)
and the universality of access (our words can be accessed by all).
We still need to be as particular and as local as we possibly can—
honoring the integrity of our local and particular.
It’s in claiming the local particulars
(our own experience, not some universal abstraction
we think makes our experience more relevant)
that a larger audience may be reached.
In and through great art
truth is always reached through the particular.
Consider the Trinity, for example.
In terms of sales, a lousy, losing idea—
confusing with a hard to identify relevance.
And any sense of local
gets lost in theological essence-of-God language.
But consider the Trinity as the experience of local truth
eventually made universal doctrine.
For a relatively small number of people
in a specific place at a particular time,
the Trinity (not named such, of course)
represented an experiential crisis of tremendous magnitude.
For those who had known and named God
(Holy Other, Transcendent God)
from within their history and tradition,
encountered in a person—a person!
qualities, priorities, teachings, actions—
a way of being and doing
they had come to identify as God.
So different. No difference.
“In you we see and know God,
and we’re fully aware of the problem here,
yet we cannot deny what we know!”
It was then some of those same people
who grew up in the Jewish tradition (and thus knew God)
who knew Jesus (and thus knew God, in person, as it were),
who then in their own experience of community
named God within that experience.
We are not those who experience God as Trinity,
not in sequence of crisis
and we just confuse people when we try and speak in those terms.
Instead we are those who claim insight into God
through the experience of those who did.
As fundamental as Trinity is to our concept of God,
it may have less to do with God
than the ongoing human attempt to speak of God
to speak experientially of God
to name God,
“I am that I am”—
not always the language of perfect consistency,
but of utterly particular, local honesty.
At the very least, we might suggest Trinity
constitutes not a mystery to explain,
but rather, description of mystery.
I’m certainly not suggesting we do away
with the language and the imagery.
In fact, I’m suggesting to my girls
that when we play that card game, War,
do you know the one?
You divvy up the whole deck,
then flip cards in your hand one at a time
with the higher value card taking the other.
I’m going to suggest we designate
the three of hearts the God card,
and when someone plays it,
the cards are reshuffled and evenly redistributed.
One of those astute girls will no doubt say,
“But then the game will go on forever
and no one will win.”
And I’ll say, “Verily, verily, the God-card is like unto God-truth:
there shall be no winners predicated on there being losers.
So enjoy the playing and the other players, not the winning.”
I don’t think they’ll go for that,
but maybe they’ll think about it,
and that may be the essential potential of Trinity.
Not sure who cares all that much about the purported
essential nature of God as Three in One … One in Three,
but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn important, essential things,
thinking about it.
And if we consider the movement from 0 to 1,
a qualitative change from nothing to something (creation),
and then the movement from 1 to 2,
another qualitative change (relationship),
and, finally, the movement from 2 to 3,
yet another qualitative change (community),
all subsequent numeric changes are but quantitative.
And if we look at the progression of the three experiences of God—
the sequence—and if we find development—
from God as distant, holy, transcendent Other (the Creator)
upon whom to look was to die,
to one everyone looked upon—imminence with us (in relationship),
to God within, among, beyond us (in community),
then that’s something profoundly important to consider.
Correspondingly, we move in our thinking
from Old Testament miracles of the first experience of God,
preponderously impressive, showy
manifesting power over the physical world
(and creating transformational possibility),
to Gospel miracles of the second experience of God—
in which such power (over the physical)
is balanced with more explicitly transformational possibility
(Mark 6:5 even suggesting a different understanding
to the apparently impressive kind of power—
“And he could do not deed of power there,
except that he laid his hands on a few sick people
and cured them.”)
to, in the third experience of God in the Acts and Epistles—
in church history and our own experience,
a greater preponderance of the kind of miracles
of which we can all be a part—transformational reality.
(And do note movement from universal (ie/ showy, impressive
justification of power to the more local, particular—the personal.)
Of course, as should be confessed as integral to all God-thought,
I could be way off,
standing before God at some point
saying, “Well, so nice to see the three of You.”
what about Jesus?
Jesus was a locally unfolding story
activity told it around the world.
It was and remains a story of the ancient Middle East.
And my how Jesus focused on his particular localities.
In parables, in teaching, in images and stories,
he could hardly have been more specific.
Sometimes more specifics
translate into less effective communication,
and sometimes more communication
translates into less honesty.
And as one who grew up with another language
and the literature of that language,
I am well aware of the ever appropriateness of the question:
how much is lost in translation—
with some sensitivity to the question:
how much is any retelling a completely different telling anyway?
The Jesus story we tell is not the Jesus story initially told
which is itself distinct from the Jesus living.
So what are we doing?
Does such wondering make Jesus any less the Christ?
No, for it is the story, in its particulars, that makes ours possible.
And Jesus is still God’s word made flesh—
God’s word made flesh living the story
we turn back into words—
instead of into our flesh—
or, more hopefully, the story we turn back into words
as part of our incarnation of it.
What then does it mean for Jesus to be savior?
but something actually transformational.
Jesus is the protagonist of the story we tell
that we might live as the protagonists of our own stories—
not reacting to the status quo,
but working, always, to transform it.
The story of Jesus, as lived, saves—
not the story as heard and told—
It’s a riff on Belden Lane’s comment:
“In a course I teach on storytelling and theological method,
the hardest task is to persuade students
that the story itself, with all of its intense and colorful imprecision,
is the truth”
(Belden C. Lane, Landscapes of the Sacred
[New York: Paulist Press, 1988] 41).
Sins are forgiven not by Jesus
but by my commitment to the story of Jesus as lived.
Thus forgive us as we forgive … (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4).
“I am the way, the truth and the life—
the way in which to live,
the truth by which to live
the life that truly is life—
the life that is abundant—
the life lived in such a way as to think,
this should go on forever—
this is eternal life.”
I believe in the universality of the Christ story,
but not as a story to tell,
but as one to live.
So trust your particulars—
not what you try and make universal.
The sermon you wrote for your people,
not the one you think could be preached anywhere …
even if that sermon might now be accessed from anywhere.
Trust the truth of the story as lived and told,
not as believed and told.
You justify the story you tell to your hearers.
The story does not justify itself.
And it’s not dismissing or diminishing the value of the story
to say so.
“The religious reader is a slow reader….
The consumerist shines a flashlight on the text
and says, ‘Tell me all you know.’
The religious reader allows the light of the text
to illumine his or her own life and that of the congregation”
(Richard Lischer, The End of Words: The Language
of Reconciliation in a Culture of Violence
[Grand Rapids: Wm.B.Eerdmans, 2005] 68).
Within much that I appreciate of Rob Bell’s, Love Wins,
it’s his attempt to make of Jesus the ultimate truth
in which all participate whether aware of that or not
that I wonder about an arrogance of particularity
What would it be like, to instead, in all humility,
affirm the story lived?
What would it be like to initiate conversation
not on the basis of what I know and have that you need,
but on the recognition of a story independent of the characters’ names?
“You are living the story that I know as the Christ story.
How is it that you have come to know and live it?
What do you call it?”
It’s not that any story goes.
It’s that stories of initiating, self-giving, transforming love
have more in common on which we could focus
rather than arguing that the names of the characters are not the same.
It does require humility.
And not just personal humility,
but a humility about our faith story as well!
Interesting that Micah,
identifying the three (the perfect) expectations of God,
included walking humbly with God (Micah 6:8).
what about us?
For the surprise is not the story.
It was, once, in a local setting long ago.
The surprise today though (the wonder)
is that there are still those who trust the story enough
to live it
though all too often all too many want the story to do the work
instead of us.
I don’t believe the story
(with the lie integral—be“lie”ve)
but be-live the story (removing the lie)!
Harvey Cox is the latest I’ve read (The Future of Faith)
to point out what he calls history’s misguided focus
on orthodoxy (the priority of believing)
over orthopraxy (the priority of be-living). I’d probably just call it the human tendency
to shy away from responsibility and work.
And I can get away with less, claiming to believe
than if it’s a matter of living
(whatever disservice such emphasis does to Scripture).
Too much church history
is the movement away from personal responsibility
(the local particular)
to assuming responsibility for more
than our own particulars—
assuming the responsibilities of others—
assuming the prerogative to claim responsibility for others—
and expecting God to ultimately
be particularly true for all of us
within the framework of the story we know.
Two of Robin Meyers’ Underground Church tenets:
“Membership in the Underground Church is not by ‘profession of faith’
but by the profession of trust in the redemptive power of unconditional love,
revealed to the community through the mystery of the incarnation
and sustained by that love, not by creeds and doctrines
demanding total agreement….
The Underground Church will seek to work together with all others
who share the conviction
that it is more important to be loving than to be right”
(Robin Meyers, Underground Church:
Reclaiming the Subversive Way of Jesus
[San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2012] 253-4).
Baptist tradition affirms the autonomy of the local church.
In larger Baptist gatherings and bodies,
said autonomy is not trusted more often than it is.
More than just a traditional denominational principle though,
the autonomy of the local church
points to the specificity of good news—the locality.
And the truth of the matter is
this configuration of people,
with its interpreters of Scripture and tradition
will not—cannot be welcoming and affirming, for example
or inclusive of women, integrated,
counter-culturally against the myth of redemptive violence ….
That’s their truth—presently.
Change any part of their configuration and that might change.
Now, this other configuration of believers,
with their interpreters of Scripture and their tradition,
are welcoming and affirming, are inclusive, integrated,
resistant to the manipulations of fear and the promises of violence ….
Both churches strive to be faithful
to their understanding of truth.
Their understandings are just different.
And there’s no authority to appeal to
before which both congregations can stand
Both already appeal to what they consider the ultimate authority.
We can’t dismiss the way in which good news
is made real in each place.
It’s just different good news for different people.
It’s local truth
maybe not ever.
Long ago, Paul claimed earthly distinctions
were no longer to define or constrain us….
More recently, Peter Rollins has claimed,
“We remain true to Paul’s message only by including the various identities
that define our place, role, and value in society today….
This means saying that, in the community founded on Christ,
there is neither black nor white, neither rich nor poor,
neither powerful nor powerless. More than this
we can add that there is neither Republican nor Democrat,
liberal nor conservative, orthodox nor heretic. Indeed,
in the spirit of the text, we must push further:
You are children of God through faith in Christ Jesus,
for all of you who were baptized into Christ
have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is neither high church nor low church,
Catholic nor Protestant, citizen nor alien, capitalist nor communist,
gay nor straight, beautiful nor ugly, East nor West,
theist nor atheist, Israel nor Palestine, American nor Iraqi,
married nor divorced, uptown nor downtown,
terrorist nor freedom fighter,
for all are made one in Christ Jesus.”
(Peter Rollins, Insurrection: to believe is human, to doubt divine
[New York: Howard Books, 2011] 166-7. Emphasis mine.)
That’s Peter Rollins particular, local truth.
But, of course, we are all differently
defined by our different places, roles, and values in society.
Now does this make truth relative?
What evidence do we have
of an acknowledged authority
that would allow it to be anything else?
Now, amidst local truth, is there yet absolute truth? Absolutely.
God is truth—absolute truth.
But all we—any of us—ever have of God
is local understanding, interpretation, perspective.
So God is always working through our humility
to lead us beyond ourselves,
and God is ever at work in all our locales.
That’s incarnational affirmation.
And part of my regular prayer
is for God’s ongoing work (as Jesus promised)
to keep “guiding us into all truth” (John 16:13).
Not that it’s ours to know or possess or adjudicate,
but ours to seek—to be ever guided into.
it’s up to you
How do you know if your particulars
have universal appeal?
Probably shouldn’t think they do.
You just trust them.
Trust them and focus on them.
If more people of faith
focused on themselves—
their loving relationships, their transformational experiences—
on the particulars they know,
rather than what they think/believe is universally applicable
what they think/believe they know for others,
we would have a message of greater integrity.
I have stories to tell.
A bunch, actually
from this book, the Bible.
But what’s most important—
more important even than that they come from the Bible,
is that I know them.
I live them.
Oh, I’m sure there are those who live these stories far better—
who be-live them with far more integrity and consistency than do I,
nonetheless, I find my orientation for living in them.
So, listen to this story, these words,
then look to my living, these words made flesh?
And judge the story by my living.
If I measure up, think about it some more.
If I don’t, well, then it’s probably not worth your time.
Further Questions for Consideration:
Is Indonesia (metaphorically speaking) important to me?
How do I claim/reject responsibility for my way of speaking
locally? and beyond my locale?
How honest am I about my own most particulars in my preaching?
How honest am I about my congregation’s most particulars?
Is the Trinity important to me as more than theological abstraction?
Is Jesus or Jesus’ story more important to me?
What is my particular local faith truth?
Do my ethics come from some sense of universal authority,
or from relationships on the ground, so to speak,
as I attempt to live the story?
Might some respect for the “relativity of truth”
lead to a more humble walk with God?
How do I live the story I tell?
Should my answer to that also lead to a more humble walk with God?!
How are the specifics of the local nature of my church
integral to who we are and what we do?
With the proviso that every Christian is a missionary,
in what local truth does a missionary live?
Does s/he live in the local of his or her upbringing?
Or does s/he live in the local
in which he or she finds him/herself as missionary?
Does the missionary impose a story or live one?
If humility is, in deed, one of the great expectations of God,
how does it need to be made more incarnate in missions?