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- What did you say?
Recently I was reading about websites and came across the word ‘Christianese’. I wondered what this was and what is its relevance in today’s church.
Thinking on it, I have noticed that people of various Christian denominations, who attend church regularly, tend to use a ‘normal’ vocabulary throughout the week. However, when attending a church service or function, they resort to a specialised repertoire of words that are not easily understood by those outside the community of faith, or possibly a number of people in it, let alone any people new to church.
Christianese can mean any, or all, of these:
Christianese refers to words Christians use that the unsaved masses are not likely to understand. ie. Christian buzzwords. (‘Unsaved’ is an example of a term only Christians would understand).
Christianese – terms and jargon used within many branches and denominations of Christianity as a functional system of religious terminology. (see what I mean?)
Christianese – a language used in the Christian subculture and usually understood only by other members of that subculture.
A language developed by Christians, solely for the use of Christians.
It can also be referred to as ‘Church Speak’.
As Christian communicators, it’s important to avoid words and terms in our writing, our conversations and church services, that could be misunderstood, or fail to communicate in the desired way, because they only have meaning to those in the Christian subculture.
The point is that words really do matter. The New Testament was originally written in ‘Koine’ Greek, the everyday language of ordinary people, which indicates that ‘the greatest news in the world’ can be communicated without a complex specialised religious vocabulary.
But how many people feel like outsiders in Christian circles because they do not know the lingo? How many people are intimidated when walking through the doors of a church on a Sunday morning or at any time, (unless it is as a tourist looking at a Cathedral)? They already feel like an outsider, a stranger, without being confronted by a different ‘language’.
Is the use of Christianese an unintended, but quick way, to signal, ‘Yes, you are an outsider, and you do not fit in here’ or that ‘we use words here that you may find disturbing or mysterious’? Did Jesus say we had to use so much Christianese language?
Should we confuse or scare them with seemingly inappropriate words or ancient language?
Isn’t it our job as disciples to connect with others in the community and encourage them to find Jesus/God in their lives?
Some examples and interpretations from the references listed include:
Washed by the Blood / Saved by the Blood of the Lamb. Could anything sound more like a cult to an outsider than the mental image of people getting washed in sheep blood?
Body of Christ. Are you talking about Jesus’ physical body or an insider’s metaphor for the church?
Born again. How, ‘physically’ or?
It was the Lords will….when something fails. Is this an excuse for failure of ministry, personal irresponsibility, inaction or sin?
Behold the Blood, (Body) of Christ… What is this that is being served up?
To quote Paul Steinbrueck:
'To avoid Christianese does not mean to eliminate all talk of Christ. It means avoiding talking about Jesus in a way that people, including some current congregation members, would not understand. Christians tend to use ‘insider’ terms such as redemption, sanctification, salvation, liturgy and gospel. That’s fine if you are talking with believers but maybe too many people have been ‘switched off’ by these and similar terms.
- Importantly, if we want to share God’s love with unchurched people, and to our congregation, if we want them to feel like they are welcome at our church, then we have to speak about Jesus and the Gospels, in ways they can understand, and relate to, in today’s world.'
- 12 Christianese Words and Phrases We Need to Explain, Brandon Hilgemann, 23 Aug 2016 (www.propreacher.com)
- Paul Steinbrueck (www.ourchurch.com)
- Church Speak, Strange Things People Say. Msgr Charles Pope, 3 Feb, 2016
- 17 Phrases that Indicate Your’re Fluent in Christianese. Barry Howard, 22 Feb., 2018,
- (www. goodfaithmedia.org)
Why did God allow the Cornonavirus to happen?
COVID-19 has been compared to other pandemics throughout history, and when there is a deadly, or life threatening event of any kind, which affects one family, a community, or the global population, there are many who ask - Why did God let this happen?
Recently a lady I know was having a clean-up, (as so many of us have in a time of isolation!), and she found an article which is the focus of this week's reflection.
I hope you have also read last week’s Reflection, (below), which basically asks a similar question of you during this COVID-19 global pandemic. Any response is likely to go way beyond the fact that the virus is extremely contagious, that many people around the world have contracted the virus, and a large number of people have died.
What follows may offer some deeper thoughts. The words are from the daughter of a person with a name, that we as Christians, are familiar with. Whilst it is not about a pandemic, can we draw some comparisons?
What do you think? Please put your thoughts into our CHAT section on this website. It is inspiring and challenging to discuss our differing views. After all, politically, economically and socially around the world, there are different approaches and opinions on how to deal with – live with – this pandemic way of life.
“Why did God allow the September 11 crisis to happen? (2001)
Finally, the Truth - on National TV (USA). Billy Graham’s daughter was being interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her,
‘How could God let something like this happen?’ regarding 9-11-01...
Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response.
She said, ‘I believe that God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman that He is, I believe that He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leaves us alone?’
I know there has been a lot of e-mails going around in regard to 9/11/2001, but this really makes you think. If you don’t have time, at least skim through it, but the bottom line is something to think about. In light of recent events …..terrorist attack, school shooting etc.
Let’s see. I think it started when Madeline Murray O’Hare (she was murdered, her body was found recently) complained she didn’t want any prayer in our schools, and we said OK.
Then Dr. Benjamin Spock said we shouldn’t spank our children when they misbehave because their little personalities would be warped and we might damage their self-esteem (Dr. Spock’s son committed suicide). And we said, an expert should know what he’s talking about so we said, OK.
Then, we said teachers and principals better not discipline our children when they misbehave. And the school administrators said no faculty member in his school better touch a student when they misbehave because we don’t want any bad publicity, and we surely don’t want to be sued. (There’s a big difference between disciplining and touching, beating, smacking, humiliating, kicking etc.) and we said, OK.
Then some wise school board member said, since boys will be boys and they are going to do it anyway, let’s give our sons all the condoms they want, so they can have all the fun they desire, and we won’t have to tell their parents they got them at school. And we said, OK.
Then some of the top elected officials said it doesn’t matter what we do in private as long as we do our jobs. And agreeing with them, we said it doesn’t matter to me what anyone, including the President, does in private as long as I have a job and the economy is good.
And then someone said let’s print magazines with pictures of nude women and call it wholesome, down-to-earth appreciation of the female body. And we said, OK.
And then someone else took that appreciation a step further and published pictures of nude children and then stepped further still by making them available on the internet. And we said, OK, they are entitled to free speech.
And then the entertainment industry said lets make TV shows and movies that promote profanity, violence and illicit sex. And let’s record music that encourages rape, drugs, murder, suicide and satanic themes. And we said it’s just entertainment, it has no adverse effect and nobody takes it seriously anyway, so go right ahead.
Now we are asking ourselves why our children have no conscience, why they don’t know right from wrong, and why it doesn’t bother them to kill strangers, their classmates and themselves.
Probably, if we think about it long and hard enough, we can figure it out.
I think it has a great deal with ‘WE REAP WHAT WE SOW’.
‘Dear God, why didn’t you save the little girl killed in her classroom?’
Sincerely, Concerned Student.
AND THE REPLY
‘Dear student. I’m not allowed in schools’.
Funny how simple it is for people to trash God and then wonder why the world’s going to hell. Funny how we believe what the newspapers say, but question what the Bible says.
Funny how someone can say, ‘I believe in God’’ but still follow satan, who, by the way also ‘believes’ in God.
Funny how we are quick to judge but not be judged. Funny how you can send a thousand ‘jokes’ through email and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice about sharing.
Funny how the lewd, crude, vulgar and obscene pass free through cyberspace, but the public discussion of God is suppressed in the school’s and workplace.
Funny how someone can be fired up for Christ on Sunday, but be an invisible Christian the rest of the week. Are you laughing? Funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think of you for sending it to them. Funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me.
Are you thinking?
Pass it on if you think it has merit. If not then discard it.… no one will know that you did. But, if you discard this thought process, then don’t sit back and complain about what a bad shape the world is in!”
We see two views widely expressed in most of media:
One: The pandemic has brought people closer together. Yes, we are all in the same boat! And yes, people are bound together by feelings of love, compassion, admiration, justice and other positive feelings, but at the same time, there are feelings of hate, fear, blame, racism, aggression, injustice, jealousy, loathing –and the list goes on….. Hopefully we have learnt a lot, despite the negative aspects.
Hopefully God’s love and the Jesus story may reach people who otherwise may never have found ‘the Good News’, who may never have been into a church – when their doors were open. Apparently, visits to websites on prayer and meditation have increased greatly in COVID times.
The second thing I’ve noticed is the increase in ‘story telling’ during this time. With any sort of mental health problems, storytelling seems one way of working through the problem to improve one’s wellbeing. I have noticed that advertised access to storytelling sessions on offer, seem to have increased recently. Have you any storytelling experiences from a Christian perspective which could help in these times? We’d love to hear from you - so CHAT now!
- Is God in your Coronavirus world?
The last few months have been challenging, and we will all have our interpretations and personal stories, which we will tell in the years to come.
No doubt there will be a myriad of publications about this pandemic looking at a whole range of different perspectives.
In the recent Bible Society magazine, which I have been reading, there is mention of a new book by an Oxford mathematics professor, John Lennox, that is now available.
He writes how ‘the Christian worldview not only helps us make sense of it, but also offers us a sure and certain hope to cling to.’
The title of this book is: “Where is God in a Coronavirus World?”
Imagine you are having a discussion with friends about this, how would you answer the question?
Perhaps you would like to email, ‘Zoom’ or even meet with friends, if that is possible at this stage, and submit a summary to our Chat site of your shared ideas. Or you can write your own personal response to this question, on our Chat site.