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Aha & Amen: Do You Speak Christianese?

Here I go, messing with the Christian status quo…

Legalese, the language of lawyers, makes everything sound so complicated.  It’s a trick, to make you think you need them, even for the simplest of tasks.

I’m pretty good at understanding legal documents, so over the years various friends and family have asked me to translate for them.  The first step is to eliminate 75% of the words – the “heretofore”s, the “to wit”s, the “aforementioned”s and the redundant phrases.

Fortunately, while looking something up today, I discovered that there is a movement to simplify the language of legal documents, so regular folks can understand them.

Christianese

My face breaks out into a wry smile whenever I get into a discussion/debate with a fellow Christian (it’s almost always with a man) and, upon being challenged, he breaks out words like hermeneutics and dispensationalism and eschatology.  To intimidate me, to let me know that he is out of my league.  Except he’s not.  I know what all those words mean and I can use them with the best of ‘em.  But I don’t.

Because Jesus didn’t.

Jesus used language his hearers could understand.  He talked fishing to fishermen, farming to farmers, legalese to Pharisees.  Granted, sometimes He spoke in parables, to weed out those who had no ears to hear, but to those who did have ears, He spoke plainly and simply.

My daughter has remarked that all she has to do is sprinkle some Christian phrases into her tumblr posts and she instantly gets a ton of “notes” (likes and reblogs).  She’s tried it a few times.  I resist that temptation.

But I think it might be fun to do a little experiment:  Write a post with easily recognizable Christian phrases and then write a post that has EXACTLY THE SAME MEANING, but without the phrases.  See which one does better.  I’m guessing the former would win by a landslide.

Too often we Christians “like” anything that sounds Christian, and we are suspicious of anything that lacks the proper Christianese.

I wonder what would happen if we took it one step further:  Write a post that sounds really Christian, but is actually theological gibberish.  And then write a post that hits the theological nail squarely and brilliantly on the head, but includes absolutely no Christian jargon.

I’d be willing to bet the first post would win again.  Except that Christians don’t bet.

When you know God well – His character, His purposes, His love – you can use Him in a sentence.  You can apply your knowledge of His character, purposes and love to various situations and to the mindset and experience of a variety of people.  Because you know that it’s the concepts, character, purpose and Love that matter, not a specific set of words.

It takes more effort to really communicate who God is than it does to throw out familiar phrases.

It’s the difference between taking an essay exam versus multiple choice.  One shows that you can apply the concepts you’ve learned, the other shows that you have memorized, or at least can recognize, some phraseology.

So, my dear fellow Christian bloggers, I’m going to throw down a challenge:  Write a post that nails one of Jesus’s teachings (not Paul’s, Jesus’s) without using ANY Christian jargon.  Just explain it the way He would – straightforward and simple.

That way EVERYONE on the internet can understand it.  And perhaps say, “Aha!” or “Amen.”

P.S.  You have my permission to post a link to said post in the comments.  I’d love to read it.

Copyright 2015, Light & life

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26 thoughts on “Aha & Amen: Do You Speak Christianese?

  1. Pingback: Speaking without Christianese | imanikingblog

  2. I don’t know if I will take you u on your challenge, at least not this week, but I really enjoyed this post. “Because you know that it’s the concepts, character, purpose and Love that matter, not a specific set of words.” Amen sister!

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  3. Since I write something biblical four days out of every week, you’ve got me thinking about whether or not I mess it up with jargon. So I’m going to pick a random post from the list of my posts and give it the test. I’ll let you know 🙂 Not right away–have to leave for work soon.

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  4. It’s a tough challenge! I may give it a try soon. I’ve been thinking about this very thing with regards to words like “sin” and “salvation” and “repentance.” Trying to teach someone “salvation” is impossible when they don’t feel like they need to be “saved” from anything. We need to use terms that connect to people so they can truly achieve that right standing with God.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Christianese makes me crazy. How do we think we can communicate who God is and what Jesus has done for us if we don’t speak clearly, in words that can be understood by anyone listening?! Still, your thoughts here give me pause to go back and look at some of my posts and rewrite if necessary!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is awesome Julie. I love how you coined the jargon “Christianese”. And no, I didn’t know what those three words meant! Christianese man extraordinaire would have thrown me off but I’d probably just ask him to explain in layman’s terms. And then discuss!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are really good at discussing, pixie. As I scrolled through my reader a few minutes ago, I was very happy to see that you had posted – was just on my way over to read it… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • I get the sense that you’re putting these apparently self-righteous men in their place; and I really like that. AND you can read and decipher legal docs and help others. Hail hail!

        I hope you find the article interesting and I’d be interested to hear your perspective. Maybe your daughter has thoughts too as it may pertain to her 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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