Christianese

This is the first time in my life that I've really stood outside of the church and found myself looking in. What I see is what appears to be a fairly exclusionary club where the members have their own coded language and peculiar way of doing things (yes, I said "peculiar" and not "particular"). It's certainly not inviting.

To be around church people one must be conversant in "Christianese." Christianese is a language, yes, but it's also a way of being. I wonder how many people would continue to speak Christianese if they realized how off-putting it is to non-believers and the unchurched or people like me who have stepped outside the church. Assuming, of course, that Christians don't wish to be exclusionary.

I ran into an old friend, a former friend, really. No, that's not right either, it was someone I knew in the context of church. She told me about a hard thing that was happening in her life and I could feel tears welling up in my eyes. I felt such compassion for her. When I told her how sorry I was, she said that she wasn't sorry, that she was unworthy of God's goodness and would willingly suffer whatever came her way, that she wouldn't stop praising the Lord! Her smile was so brittle I wouldn't have been surprised to see her face break into a million tiny pieces.

There was a pause. She said, "He bled for me, Katy. He bled for me." (a Christianese reference to Jesus on the cross)

My eyebrows went up.

I said, "Well, I can certainly see that you're doing your best to be strong." She responded, "It's God in me. Praise God that he's working in me. Everything is owed to Jesus. I'm just going to keep praising Him, Katy. Don't admire me, admire Jesus!"

I blinked.

I mean, I wasn't admiring her at all. I was simply stating what I perceived to be true that she was trying to be strong.

There was nothing in that exchange that felt authentic to me. Instead of seeing active faith, I saw desperate adherence to Christianese. It felt for all the world like she was striving to be admirable, like she was putting her faith on display for me. All I can say is that I perceived nothing of God in it. She struck me as being desperately and willfully lonely.

Before I could walk away she said, "Are you spending time in the word, Katy? How's your walk?" I felt my mouth gape open then shut again. How many times have I heard those words coming from Christian church leaders? How many times have I uttered them myself in my past church life? What do they even MEAN?! I was struck by how condescending those questions sounded, how insincere, how very distant and off-putting.

Not too long ago, I tried to explain my new faith to someone I once considered a dear friend. I barely got out two sentences before he leaped to his feet and left abruptly.

I watched him go and felt sad for a moment. He was someone whose kindness I'd once felt drawn to but it suddenly seemed terribly inauthentic, which is funny because authenticity is something I've heard him speak about numerous times. Well, I guess in a way he was being authentic. He was authenticity disinterested in knowing me outside of the church it seems.

I asked myself WWJD (for those of you who aren't conversant in Christianese, that's an acronym for "What would Jesus do?") and the answer that came to me was simply NOT THAT. He would not have jumped up and nearly upset the table with the quickness of his leaving. He would not have shut the metaphorical door, leaving a "members only" sign wagging on the doorknob in front of me.

More and more lately I am meeting people like me who have stepped away from the church, people who are deeply spiritual but don't feel comfortable in the church (again, for those not conversant in Christianese, "the church" is synonymous with Christians who define themselves as "God's people" and not a reference to a building). Instead, they feel like they want no part in an exclusionary club where everyone begins to look and speak the same. They want no part of the judgment. They don't want to be asked rote questions like, "Are you spending time in the word?" (Ah, "word" means "bible" and the bible is a book that is the literal, infallible word of God, in Christianese.)

I once wrote a blog called The Empty Church and that's really what I see when I close my eyes and envision the church. I envision a place full of lonely echoes, a people who have become inbred and weak.

I think it's time to lay down the Christianese, to shake it off and take a walk out in the wide world, learn to speak the language of the unchurched. Follow the advice of Saint Francis of Assisi who said, "Preach Christ at all times, if necessary use words." I'm absolutely certain that he was not admonishing us to speak in Christianese. He was admonishing us to love authentically.

©Just Kate, April 2010

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    About Me

    I love laughter, wickedness, fearlessness, irreverence, and kindness. I love road trips where I can prop my bare feet up on the dashboard. I love the feel of sunshine warm against my bare skin, the smell of the mountains and the roar of the ocean. I love to read. I love to challenge conventional thinking. I'm a huge fan of spirituality but have little tolerance for religion. I love to talk faith and philosophy. I love children. I get bored far too easily. I love debate and people who don't try too hard. I love it when people aren't afraid to disagree with me and know why they believe what they believe.

    Music

    Things that sound like music to me: rain on a tin roof, the trill of birds first thing in the morning, the coo and gurgle of happy babies, the beat of African drums, the roar of the ocean as the tide ebbs and flows, the sound of a rushing river, unrestrained laughter, the wind moving through leaves, the tick-tock of my grandma's old clock, the crash of thunder, a quiet whisper in my ear, the contented purr of a cat, the musical ting ting of wind chimes, children laughing, the sizzle sizzle sound of something yummy cooking, and the rustle of dry leaves under my feet.

    I also enjoy many musicians and bands including: Ray LaMontagne, Jason Mraz, The Black Eyed Peas, John Mayer, James Carrington, CCR, REM. My favorite genre is acoustic folk/rock.

    Favorite Quotes

    "We are what we repeatedly do; excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." —Aristotle

    "The most authentic thing about us is our capacity to create, to overcome, to endure, to transform, to love and to be greater than our suffering." - Ben Okri

    "What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do."—John Ruskin