Less Christianese, please?

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?

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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.

  1. I felt a check in my spirit regarding…
  2. I have a burden for…
  3. This is a divine appointment!
  4. Don’t question the man of God and his vision for the house of God!
  5. The Lord laid it on my heart to tell you…
  6. We’re praying a hedge of protection around their family.
  7. They’re going to minister to us in song.
  8. FatherGod (punctuating every three or four words of a prayer)
  9. The Spirit told me to…
  10. I’m praying for safe travelling mercies for you!
  11. I received a fresh word in my spirit.
  12. He needs to crucify his flesh and feed his spirit man!  
  13. Oh, she’s gone back to Egypt!
  14. I received the second blessing!
  15. Is your church Spirit filled?

And yes, I’m guilty of having used some of them.  Well, almost all.   :-D

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?


Comments

  1. Now what does the back to Egypt one mean? The whole list was funny I am very familiar with most of the with slightly different wording such as asking for God to grant traveling mercies for road trips and flights.

    • It means “going back to the world”; in other words, backsliding and returning to one’s old habits and lifestyle, Kenya. LOL! Yes, granting travelling mercies is a big one. I almost say it on autopilot, but I’ve learned to reword it in “normal” language.

  2. ha! #5 is quite popular. funny how so many ppl think that God “told them” to tell you something…Yet God never told you!
    Michelle recently posted..Benefits of Facial Steaming and a Video Demo!My Profile

  3. Honestly, I’ve never used verbiage like that. However, I am Lutheran and we’re very conservative. Getting someone to speak with you in English can sometimes be a battle. LOL! I think if that’s the language in your church it’s okay to use as long as you explain to someone new (without prompting) or maybe if you see the person alone maybe explain what something that someone else said to them.
    Carla recently posted..MASHup Conditioning High Intensity Workout {#Giveaway}My Profile

    • Carla, you’re right: it IS a battle getting someone to speak in plain English with you sometimes. I’ve heard these terms used in several churches, but it doesn’t lessen the burden on the speakers and hearers to make their words plain.
      Alison recently posted..Less Christianese, please?My Profile

  4. #5 sounds to me like someone saying something to you that they think you should change, but I think God speaks directly the person, not through another mere mortal. Am I interpreting that right? How do you handle something like that?
    Michelle recently posted..Pie for Dinner! 14 Recipes to Please Your Comfort Food CravingsMy Profile

  5. I think it depends on the person speaking, Michelle. A total stranger saying #5 to me… Well, I might not pay it much heed. From someone I know and trust, I’d be more open to receive what they’re saying. I know God can use other people to get a message to me, but it calls for a lot of discernment as to whom I should listen to.
    Alison recently posted..Less Christianese, please?My Profile

  6. Very interesting list! I have heard of these phrases, but never used them myself. I’ve heard it from members in my family who are Methodist. Since my immediate family is Catholic, we didn’t use these phrases at all. I do agree with you, that we Christians should speak in terms that makes us understandable. I think that’s one of the powers of speaking in “tongues,” is being to talk to all people and to be understood. So I guess (such a long winded response right :-) ) that this is perfectly acceptable amongst people who are used to it, but for someone like me, you gotta break it down for me :-)
    KalleyC recently posted..Season of Lent BeginsMy Profile

    • Yes, Kalley, it all needs to be “broken down” into the simplest and clearest language possible. It can be done; we just need to want to do it!

  7. Oh I couldn’t help but laugh at this list Alison because I have heard most of them and said a few of them myself. However, I do believe the body of Christ as a whole can stand to use less of it. Although, I must say I haven’t heard number 14.
    Wanda recently posted..Latest ProjectsMy Profile

    • Wanda, number 14 is used by some Pentecostal/Charismatic believers to indicate “the infilling of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues.” I think we all need some “reprogramming” re: Christianese!

  8. I have heard all but #13!

    It’s true. As a believer I find it easier and more relatable to just be me. What we can’t do is be so heavenly bound that we are no earthly good.

    There’s my Christianese coming out there, I guess. LOL!
    Cam Bibs and Baubles recently posted..Lupita, Lupita, LupitaMy Profile

  9. LOL Yep, we can’t escape it, Cam. There’s a little bit of Christianese in each of us. The key is to keep it in check so we truly don’t sound like we are all heavenly minded but absolutely no earthly good.
    Alison recently posted..Less Christianese, please?My Profile

  10. Yes!!! People who are not brought up around Christianese or who want to become closer to God can feel intimidated if everyone is using language they don’t understand. I look at it like I do most things. I’m a visual learner and like things broken down for understanding. I try to exhibit this to others when I talk about my Christian journey. I’m still growing in my journey, so I haven’t picked up any Christianese yet, lol!
    Sherelle recently posted..On The Balance BeamMy Profile

  11. I am catholic and not familiar some of these terms, but have heard of some of them before.. i’m caribbean and “fathergod” is a favorite when praying LOL
    Cassandre recently posted..5 Days of SharingMy Profile

  12. These are funny when I think about it. When we were in Christianity, I remember using some but some of these I’ve never heard of but I can only imagine. I know that many understand this language within Christian circles (from looking at the other responses I guess it depends on the type of denomination or non-denomination you have been affiliated with), but the gripe that I started to have with it was that people would say things (most often it derived from a scripture), but they would be using it way out of context lol. And sometimes I would find if someone was having an issue, one of these catchy phrases were just that. Often times there was a scripture that truly did apply to one’s situation, but most of us weren’t seeking truth and understanding of scripture so we couldn’t really respond with the right one. We just used one of these cliches that we heard quite often instead.
    Brittnei recently posted..Wordless Wednesday: 3 Years Ago Tomorrow….My Profile

  13. That’s true, Brittnei; many of these stock phrases are used as generic answers to what could be meaningful discussions about faith and discipleship. I’m intrigued that you mentioned “when we were in Christianity.” Do you no longer consider yourselves Christians?
    Alison recently posted..Okay, now what?My Profile

  14. Do you know how HARD I try to NOT use the Christianese language on my blog??? I LOVE this post!!! Yes- I may use it with my close Christian friends, but I dare not separate others from His Love because of a language barrier!!! NEVER! There are too many Christians that do that…and it breaks my heart.
    Chris Carter recently posted..The Writer’s BreathMy Profile

    • I knew you of all people would get this, Chris! I see how you strive to make your words plain while using language that is attractive to all. It’s what Jesus would have us do, just as He did: make it plain.

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