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Christianese is Death: Knock it off!

christianese smallPerhaps it’s not wise to write a blog post when one is a bit irritated and less than amused, but… what the hay!

In a recent Facebook exchange over a presently undisclosed topic of controversy, a non-Christian friend of mine, an intelligent person with a keen wit (both big plusses in my book) took to disagreeing with me, and I with him/her/it… well, okay, maybe the it is too much camouflage… though after spending a recent month on pain killers following major surgery it would not be as far of a stretch as you might imagine.

Anywaaaaayyyyy… So this friend begins to debate with me, and other Christian friends of mine begin to attack.

You might think that this is what has me bothered… and you would be partially correct. I don’t mind polite discourse (I have rather aggressive parameters around “polite”), but I think it highly rude to begin to demean and insult other people’s Facebook friends over a disagreement. They don’t know this friend of mine, no background, no sense of anything about this person save a disagreement over a point. Accusations of stupidity and the like just aren’t helpful. So, knock that off too! Leave my Facebook friends to me. I’ll call them stupid if I want to, but they’re my friends not yours. (P.s. If they are my friends on Facebook they are, most likely, not stupid.)

The issue… the thing that really irritates me, is watching as a bunch of Christians attack a non-Christian with Christianese.

Now, I love Christianese. I’ve been in the Church my whole life and have a head full of Biblical, theological, and Christian bingo phrases meant to save time encapsulating huge topics in simple phrases while simultaneously delighting us like little kids whispering secret passwords at our clubhouse doors. I even have a whole special vocabulary that I share with my PhD buddies, linguists, and a host of other scholarly types… terms that would leave even long standing Christians slack jawed with confusion… but I don’t use them in polite conversation because they are not helpful, serving only to alienate and dumbfound people with whom I wish to have a meaningful exchange.

So, let me ask the host of Christians who read my posts… Stop laughing… there might be a host of them someday.  …Do you really not know that our technical Christian talk is non-sense to the unchurched? Are you so ego-centric that you imagine that attacking non-Christians with Christianese accomplishes anything but making you look crazy and out of touch?Christianese 2 small

In a previous article, “A Tongue Lashing Over Tongues”[1] I explained the often misunderstood Pauline discussion in I Corinthians 14:1ff about the use of the gift of tongues in the presence of church visitors. Paul gives what seems to many a confused diatribe about scaring off the curious with our crazy and how much better it would be to speak a sensible word to them from God without all the whipped up Fruit Loops™ stew. He draws his chastisement from Isaiah 28:1-13 in which he shows that these Corinthian believers were inadvertently enacting a paradigm of death with their nutty behavior… a paradigm reserved for those whom God has determined to destroy for their rejection of his word.  God uses confusion to befuddle the minds of those He is driving over a metaphorical cliff, not those who may yet hear His word and may yet become His disciples through repentance and faith.

Now, can we sit back self-confidently, knowing that we have not ignored this Pauline warning simply because we have neither participated in the use of “tongues” nor, for those who believe they have participated, used them in the presence of non-believers? I don’t think we can.

Hmmmm… that was a complex question. Let me try it another way.

We are guilty of this even if we’ve never spoken in tongues. There is a wide variety of crazy that can, and has, done the trick.

Christianese, while a blessing to the church, can be as much non-sense to the unchurched as any diatribe in tongues could ever hope to be. So, knock it off.

If you wish to make a point, think about the person to whom you are talking, quit with all the spiritual sounding mumbo jumbo and just say it. Say it in terms and ways that even the most uninitiated can understand. Speak a clear word to them.

Who knows, perhaps someday, they will become Christians and then you can spend years teaching them all your favorite phrases.


[1] http://drandrewsargent.com/2013/10/a-tongue-lashing-over-tongues/

2 thoughts on “Christianese is Death: Knock it off!

  1. pastor jeff says:

    reaching the unchurched requires changing their mental picture of church…see the new book on this topic: “AMERICAN GOTHIC CHURCH: Changing the Way People See the Church.” Available at Amazon and other online book retailers in softcover and ebook formats.

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