I learned a language by osmosis. Never opened a book or took a class! I speak Christianese. Do you? Do you know anyone who does?
Well, to be more accurate, I used to speak Christianese. I still do, to a certain extent, but I see myself as a recovering Christianese speaker. I’m not in a 12-step program, but I’m detoxing slowly.
I started thinking seriously about how insular Christians’ language tends to be when we are in our church circles and particularly when praying. Creating distance from some church settings has allowed me a certain objectivity on this topic that has helped me (I think!) put things in better perspective.
I’m sure many of you have heard or used at least one of the following phrases without giving them a second thought. They’ve been part of your spiritual vernacular, probably because it’s what you heard growing up or after you became a Christian.
- I felt a check in my spirit regarding…
- I have a burden for…
- This is a divine appointment!
- Don’t question the man of God and his vision for the house of God!
- The Lord laid it on my heart to tell you…
- We’re praying a hedge of protection around their family.
- They’re going to minister to us in song.
- FatherGod (punctuating every three or four words of a prayer)
- The Spirit told me to…
- I’m praying for safe travelling mercies for you!
- I received a fresh word in my spirit.
- He needs to crucify his flesh and feed his spirit man!
- Oh, she’s gone back to Egypt!
- I received the second blessing!
- Is your church Spirit filled?
And yes, I’m guilty of having used some of them. Well, almost all.
So, why do we do it? Why do we use phrases that average people, who might genuinely be interested in developing their spiritual lives, would never understand?
What made Jesus relatable, attractive, and appealing to people was, obviously, His love for them, but also the simplicity and clarity of His words. You had no doubt as to what He was talking about. He was the Son of God, but He was also the Great Communicator (sorry, President Reagan!). I mean, consider the simplicity of The Lord’s Prayer. What if we decided to do like Him and be clear and simple in our “spiritual” language?
I’m genuinely interested in your thoughts about moving beyond Christianese in a post-modern world. Few people will be attracted to Christianity, and then stay committed to it, through language that makes sense to Christians–but not to them. What say you?