I hate Christianese

Maybe hate is too strong of a word. Perhaps we can think of it in the sense that Biblical Hebrew uses hate: as a phrase that indicates turning away from instead of the harsh emotion associated with the word in English. In that sense, I turn away from Christianese.

What is Christianese? Any time you hear a phrase that doesn’t occur outside of Christian circles, you have encountered Christianese. For example:

  • Doing life together
  • Intentional/being intentional/intentionality (I hate this bunch most of all)
  • Digging into the Word
  • It’s just not God’s timing
  • Quiet time
  • Singleness is a gift
  • Anything involving discernment
  • Set on fire
  • Washed in the blood (in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb–you know)
  • Fellowship
  • God is sovereign
  • Living in community/anything about community
  • Get saved

And so on. You get the idea. The point is, Christians, especially in the evangelical realm, have their own language. And it’s really weird.

I have been a Christian for 20 years, since I was 7. I spent 16 of those 20 years in Baptist churches and attending a Southern Baptist university, so I really got an earful of the particular dialect occurring in American Christianity. So, in the interest of saying how I really feel… STOP IT.

Christianese is pretty ridiculous, if you think about it. On the one hand, it tries to distill disciplines and complex doctrines into pithy one-liners. On the other hand, it’s cliché and confusing to anyone outside the Church. Shoot, it’s confusing to people in the Church. The heck does “doing life together” even mean?

(This is inevitably the point where someone gets their feelings hurt and pushes up their glasses and goes “Well actually…”)

Here’s the thing about Christianese, though–my real point, not ragging on Baptists or evangelicals or whatever else: Christianese is an excuse not to talk about difficult things.

When you reduce complex topics to a one-liner, you’re basically saying “I don’t understand this enough to discuss or explain it, so I’m going to brush it under the rug and hope you don’t notice.”

It feels dismissive: “I don’t know how to respond. Here is a generic answer.”

It feels distant and uninvolved: “I don’t want to take the time to give a well-thought-out response, sorry.”

It feels cheap.

I don’t think people do this on purpose, though. I don’t think Christians are being purposefully rude or shallow when they use Christianese phrases. Many times, I think they don’t know any better. It is so ingrained in American Christian culture that getting away from it can feel next to impossible, like breaking any slang habit. But I propose that we re-learn how to speak with clarity. We need to try not to hide behind safe phrases. We need to speak with purpose.

Words are cheap because we as humans use so many in a given day, but words are also incredibly powerful. Christians of all people should exercise caution with their words. Christianity is already a foreign language to people who are unfamiliar or unexposed to the gospel, and Christianese is like using slang on someone who doesn’t speak the speaker’s language.

Let’s just go back to purity and clarity of language. Let’s not hide behind easy one-liners anymore.

Let’s all hate Christianese.

Per aspera ad astra,

Steph

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