Tuesday, July 31, 2012

for fear of sounding christianeesy, part 1: the power of words.

picture via pinterest
i am a lover of words. i love using them. i love learning them. i love hearing them [from some people more than others ;)]. i love reading them. and i love studying them.

one of the best parts of this job for this word-lover has been the emphasis on how things are said. words are prioritized to convey very specific messages and tones.

last year in school we had a dreadful class that was all about metaphors. more specifically, metaphors we live by. while, yes, it was dreadful, it was also the class that i reluctantly took most away from. i mean, i'm writing about it here now, aren't i!?

i had to do an assignment on the chapter for new metaphors. basically what the chapter said was we can change our perspective and ideas on anything through metaphor. essentially, words can be used to manipulate reality.

take for example the saying, love is a collaborative work of art. when you think of love in this context you are emphasizing the collaboration and comparing love to art. in this sense, love is quite beautiful. it provokes thoughts of beauty, teamwork, romance, activity, work, struggle, and creation: all things that go into creating a lasting relationship.

there is also a flip-side to this however: if someone's foundational understanding of language, and in this example, love, is from a more negative view, they might interpret this metaphor as implying that love is all about the display, it's external, conspired, and contrived like a work of art is. depending on each individual's background they will either focus more on the love is collaborative or it's a work of art.

all of that is to say, that words are powerful. how things are said matters.

i am easily repulsed by "christianeese" - christian language, christian cliches, and elevated christian speech.

sayings like, "washed by the blood", "born again", "feeling led by the Spirit", "on fire for God", "the sovereignty of God", or "walking with God".

but in my repulsion i am often met with a conflict: i believe these cliches and this elevated language is true foundationally, but i think to "non-believers" it can sound so alientating, foreign, and potentially ridiculous.

why do i feel like i have to avoid the christian cheese? honestly... i feel like to drop christian-cliche bombs or comfortable church metaphors is to not fully do justice to Jesus to people who don't have the same level of study or interest in the topic. simple as that. when i really think about the scenarios i've faced lately, i think to have resorted to those things would have been to cop-out. to almost elevate myself in my fancy faith, with my fancy church lingo and sayings. to not use them makes the situation so much harder, so much more meaningful, so much more revealing. i become much more vulnerable when i am forced to explain these truths without using common church language. it pushes me to put these huge doctrines and realities into plain-jane words. and that's awkward. because in plain-jane words, some of these things can sound really ludicrous but yet i believe them with my whole life.

for example, if someone asks me, "what does 'washed by the blood of the Lamb' mean?" [well, first of all, thank you for walking straight into a conversation about the gospel!], then i am required to explain how i am "washed", why with "blood", and who is the Lamb. that's a doozy!

or, people always wonder how it's possible to not have sex. in a world so accepting of flippant sexual relations, it's just about the most outlandish thing you could not do. it's hard to wrap your mind around reasoning unfathomable to you:"if it feels good, why not do it? why is your God so selfish that He doesn't want you to feel good?!!" ahhh! [we can cover that another post...]

in the past two weeks i've had challenging conversations with three grown men [re: the question above was a real-life question with my old man crush over dinner... i think he got it in the end, but it was a wee bit awkward to say the least]. i revel in it, but it can also make me feel really self-conscious.

like, for example, the tech guy found out i went to a christian elementary school and comes over to my desk and starts asking me about job and dualism. it was totally over my head and a subject i myself have never fully reconciled. i understand why God allowed job to be handed over the satan, but i don't really understand how. in my lack of understanding, it's easy to see this God as unloving but i don't want to convey that and add to his case against Christ!

how do i then explain suffering from a biblical point-of-view without sounding ridiculous?! "God allows us to struggle so that we draw closer to Him"... well if someone's not drawing to Him at all, they aren't going to want to be even closer through pain! i don't know if what i communicated made sense, but the whole time i was just thinking and praying, "Lord use this moment; Lord us this moment!"

if christianeese elevates, then the omission of christianeese levels. i don't want to "talk down" to people when i'm discussing one of my favourite. subjects. ever! i want to share with them in real ways that show my deep love and passion for God without adding distracting metaphors!!

proverbs in general does, but proverbs 15 specifically talks about speaking and how we talk a lot:
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
but a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
A person finds joy in giving an apt reply
and how good is a timely word!
- proverbs 15: 1-2, 23
how good it is indeed! words matter. what and how we say something matters!

think about it: Jesus always met people where they were at. and while He did talk in metaphors, He was setting the standard. we are now explaining and further sharing the standard. the problem lots of people have is that they don't understand what Jesus said, so why would i turn further complicate things with my own metaphors!

what do you think? do you agree or disagree?
is there a time and a place for christian-eese?!


  1. I completely agree. I think too often Christians try and teach their faith with words no one quite understands. Words really do have some power, so as Christians it is especially important that we think through everything we say.

    I personally think the only time for Christian-eese is when a Christian is talking to another Christian. So, basically when everyone listening knows what the phrases mean.

    God Bless you, Lauren Anne

  2. If you only use words that everyone understands, how can anyone learn? How do you grow if your brain is not stretched. It should be a challenge to want to explore these concepts on a deeper level. However, if you do not understand the vocabulary and language you are using to describe your own faith, then you need to find different words.

  3. I totally get what you are talking about. I think "Christian-eese" should only be spoken with other Christians -it's like a different language, you don't go speaking Spanish to someone who only knows French. A person needs to speak the language of those around them (to an extent, and assuming you know the language).

    Great topic it has definitely given me somethings to think about!


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