what i've learned along the way
. . . Have I become intolerant of my former self?
Published on July 26, 2008 By lobsterhunter In Religion

The following definition of Christianese can be found on Wikipedia.

 

“The related term Christianese (or Bible-speak) refers to the contained terms and jargon used within many of the branches and denominations of Christianity as a functional system of religious terminology. It is characterized by the use in everyday conversation of certain words, theological terms, and catchphrases, in ways that may be only comprehensible within the context of Christian belief.”

 

Now before I go bashing on this religious dialect, I would like to set the record straight. I am a recovering Pharisee, and as distasteful as I find the term Christian, I still align myself with this faith system. Without employing too much of the theological jargon I now despise, I simply choose to call my higher power God. I believe that Jesus personified mercy and grace, and today I know that I am broken, but loved.

 

A little background . . .

 

My grandmother raised my siblings and I in a small town Southern Baptist Church. Growing up in a dysfunctional family left me feeling lost and confused. The black and white nature of the Christian faith felt safe and inviting, and for as long as I can remember I loved going to Sunday school and “Big Church”, which was the term I used to define that sanctified eleven o’clock hour. I embraced the dogmatic traditions whole heartedly, and the rules were life saving devices in a world where I was tossed on the waves of instability. A defined sense of right and wrong made me feel superior, and each time my Sunday school teacher put one of those little gold stars on the memory verse chart, I would smile with pride and affirmation.

 

It didn’t take long before I became the president of the “holier than thou” club. As a teenager I mastered the art of condemnation, and I became fluent in Christianese. I acted all high and mighty, judging anyone and everyone who did not live up to my standard of perfection. When I got to college, I purposefully surrounded myself with other believers, and I guarded against the evil influences of the world. I refused to see rated R movies, and I waved my virginity around like a flag. The driving force behind every moral decision was this insane desire to remain “pure” and “holy”. I wanted to “glorify God”, and I this could only be achieved through a sinless life. Of course, I wanted others to be perfect too, so I could feel better about myself.

 

As a naïve sixteen year old kid, I vividly remember thinking about my future children. If they were ever faced with a moral dilemma, and they came to me for advice, I wanted to be able to stand before them and proudly say, “I avoided all the “big sins” like drinking and smoking and sex outside of marriage.” I was hell bent on eliminating regret from my life, which ended up reaping fruitless results. Today I am more ashamed of my pharisaical ways than anything I’ve ever done. I carry a deep sense of remorse for all the times I failed to truly love others.

 

Having emerged from this haze of self righteousness, I now judge those who remain stuck in the place I formerly lived. Perhaps I’ve made no progress at all. I read blogs and commentaries of right wing conservative Christians and I get pissed off. I know they are sincere in their presentation of truth, and I understand that their intentions are pure. However, when I hear the Christianese bullshit that claims our lives will be perfect if we simply follow a set of hard and fast rules, I literately want to vomit. Jesus is not the magic bullet.

 

Christianese divides. The language of the church separates. It makes seekers feel like outsiders, and it feeds the gods of pride and self centeredness. When I hear phrases like, “radiant bride of Christ” or “born-again believer” I cringe. Well meaning folks who spout off theological terms like “propitiation of sin” and “transfiguration” get on my last nerve. I have no tolerance for anyone who emphatically states Christians must act and look a certain way. No one has the right to judge my insides based on outside observations.

 

So, here I am. Still annoyed with my current inability to just let people be who they are. I wish I understood the concept of balance, but I’ve come to accept the reality that I am a pendulum swinger. I desperately want to embrace the ambiguous “grey”, but I am bent towards polarized thinking. Somebody has to be right, and somebody has to be wrong. For now, I’ll bitch about the conservative zealots whose Christianese gets under my skin. Who knows what tomorrow may bring?

 

 


Comments (Page 1)
on Jul 26, 2008

Excellent article.  I am in the same club as you.  One of my biggest complaints about church was the whole, we're right, they're wrong, we're going to heaven, they're going to hell philosophy.  I also had a problem with the attitude that you had to "prove" that you were really Christian at your new church.  The fact that you said you were a Christian wasnt' enough.  They needed a tearful run up the aisle or a baptism or you were suspect. 

I am so happy that I found a church that is not judgemental of others.  There are a lot of people who have these same thoughts and now there is a movement of people who call themselves "Christ-followers" instead of "Christians".  They want to be removed from that sanctimonious, judgemental impression people have of Christians. 

I try not to judge but I will admit there is sometimes some (hopefully discreet) eye rolling going on. 

on Jul 26, 2008

However, when I hear the Christianese bullshit that claims our lives will be perfect if we simply follow a set of hard and fast rules, I literately want to vomit.

Who says this? Avoid 'em. Life will never get perfect. It's merely the possibility to have one aspect totally covered, the most important one, the afterlife, that gives us any safety.

on Jul 26, 2008

Good article.   Interesting self-evaluation.  It is a shame that so many who consider themselves "Christians" maintain such un-Christian attitudes.  But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because the people aren't perfect doesn't mean the Gospel isn't true.

on Jul 26, 2008
There are people of faith and there are religious zealots. It helps to understand the difference. The latter tend to be egotistical and more often as not quite stupid.
on Jul 27, 2008

 

I also had a problem with the attitude that you had to "prove" that you were really Christian at your new church.

I know exactly what you mean. The sad part is there are a lot of obnoxious Christians who expect everyone to pass the "I know Jesus" test. I have an amazing friend whose life is a beautiful testimony of faith, and one of my former bosses actually made the statement, "I hope God gets a hold of your heart someday", simply because she is unchurched. She has a healthy, vibrant relationship with God, but he questions her faith because it doesn't look a certain way. He thinks he is "Mister Christianity", but in my book his a big jerk!

It is a shame that so many who consider themselves "Christians" maintain such un-Christian attitudes. But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, just because the people aren't perfect doesn't mean the Gospel isn't true.
 

Yes, it is a shame. Of course, most of the folks with "un-Christian" attitudes are probably unaware of the damage they cause. Their hearts are usually in the right place, but their presentation of truth sucks. My grandma used to say, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." It definitely seems applicable here!

There are people of faith and there are religious zealots. It helps to understand the difference.
 

I like the term, "people of faith". Perhaps I will use that simple title in the future. Egotistical is a great word to describe religious zealots. Pride is a dangerous thing!

on Jul 27, 2008

I too grew up in a Southern Baptist Church (in Canada, they decided us canucks needed to be evangelized properly by some Texans... go figure!)

As far as the congregation went, nicest people you'd ever meet. Most of the layfolk were average people just wanting to live a good life, mill workers and checkout counter clerks and the like. What was most telling though was looking at the example set by the church leadership. With the exception of one family, with whom I am still good friends, they mostly followed this formula:

1) Lived in the biggest houses in town free of charge or at very little cost to themselves. These were paid for by the church or the seminary or some such workaround.

2) Hob-knobbed with the who's who of town. You would never see them in a social situation with normal folk, other than perhaps at a church function. Don't wanna mix it up with the locals, you know? Of course every now and then they'd have no choice but to be seen in public rubbing shoulders with locals but it always seemed like they were doing a photo-op to prove to everyone they didn't mind rolling up their sleeves and "getting real". Once out of the spotlight, they would never associate with you! If you were the owner of the mill or the mayor, different story.

3) The rules applied to everyone else but them. As tends to happen with human beings, all sorts of domestic issues occured that the church liked to stick it's nose into, but when it happened to a member of the chosen leadership it was taboo to bring up the subject. Never happened. If however you had the temerity to be a regular church member (aka part of the peasant class) your private life suddenly became church business. Kinda like how when my parents divorced, the church decided that it was within their rights to judge my folks as "adulterers" and expel our family. But if Mr. So and so happened to have a drinking or gambling problem (apparently God doesn't mind if you use his money on vice, heck, a guy's gotta blow off steam once and a while if he's saving souls right?) or if he cheated on his wife, it was one of those things that just got swept under the carpet.

4) Spoke the very same christianese you talk about in your article. I think that christianese is actually a very well thought out approach to any conversation. Essentially, it's pre-packaged language that you can craft to form any response, to any question or topic, without having to invest any critical or analytical thought. Hence we get the "radiant bride" and "born again" hyperbole. And of course, the petition that God would "touch our hearts today, with this sermon, that you would heal us deep down and guide us in our path to salvation" (aka, you'd better put money in the offering plate as I'm gonna deliver this hella-awesome sermon that's gonna open a can of whoop-ass on your immortal soul!!)

I'm not bitter toward the church, just trying to illustrate that I saw a definite double standard growing up. Nothing sticks in my mind more than remembering the pastors who wore expensive suits, living in nice big houses with good salaries who convinced single moms working at a grocery store checkout line that they needed to do their christian duty and tithe away a portion of their much-too-meager income. That's God's money, you know?
on Jul 28, 2008

Too often you see this happening.  It can happen in the big, corporation-like churchs and it can happen in the small, "so far back in the holler they gotta pump in sunshine" churchs.  This attitude is something distresses both my wife and I.  This distress has driven us out of several churchs lately. 

Funny that I sign into JoeUser on Monday after watching the Mandy Moore movie  "Saved" (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0332375/) which is about the hypocrisy found in people with just this attitude.  Decent enough movie, manages to nail the hypocritical attitude.  Mandy Moore's character is typical of the over-the-top, holier-than-though person who spouts this attitude.  If seeing this attitude in person makes you want to spew (or throttle the person), then avoiding the movie might be better.  She does THAT good a job on it.

on Jul 28, 2008
I am so with you. And I totally used to be one of those Christianese people, until I figured out that if I'm supposed to "recruit new Christians," (and hopefully that isn't Christianese), I have to cut the crap. People don't know what that Christianese crap means, and frankly, they don't care. You have to show people you're a Christian by how you live, and it's that simple.
on Jul 28, 2008

Be careful not to replace pride in your faith with a pride for not being "blinded" by it anymore.

I don't know if you actually intend it, but this article comes across as prideful...you judged others when you were a "Christian" and now you are judging Christians, all the way down to the way they choose to communicate.

If Christanese gives someone peace, contentment, well-being, who are we to vomit all over their way?

Why can't you be happy where you are without putting down where you came from?  Would someone putting you down while you were into that way of life have helped you at all?  Or would it have made you more certain it was the right way to be?

 

 

 

 

on Jul 28, 2008
Today I am more ashamed of my pharisaical ways than anything I’ve ever done.


Good.

Jesus is not the magic bullet.


Depends on what kind of 'magic' we're looking for. If we want to go to heaven, He is! If we want to be perfect, He's more of a gradual always-working kind of God.

If we have Jesus, there's nothing at all to brag about, even when we have conquered our own sins, because we didn't do squat - Jesus did it for us. Jesus gives us the ability to conquer our sins, not ourselves. It doesn't matter who we are judging, because you're not sinning against people - we're sinning against God's rules.

I thought the same thing as you - when my kids are older, I can tell them I didn't smoke, drink, do drugs, get their Mom pregant before marriage, etc. But all that's going to say to them is that I don't understand what they're going through, and they would be right. I set a good example but I need to make sure I'm not judgemental of them if they have different struggles than I did. Which is all it ever is - everyone has struggles, but one can't see the log in one's own eye nearly as well as the mite in another's. I can see you have a life-long struggle with judgementalism, it's right there in the article. But I struggle with plenty of things too, so who am I to say I'm 'better' than you because I don't necessarily have that particular struggle? I'm nobody, that's who. So I won't say it, because it isn't true anyway!

How do you prove you're a Christian to anyone, by the way? I can fake a tearful walk down the aisle... I could probably fake speaking in tongues. If you say you believe Jesus died for your sins, and that's the only way anyone will get into heaven, that's good enough for me.
on Jul 28, 2008

Liberal:  Perhaps its this way, but it could be that way.

Conservative:  I like things the way they are and really don't want things to change very much.

Fundamentalist:  Its this way, not that way, and anyone who thinks otherwise is in error!

 

The problem with the Christianese talkers is that they tend to fall into the last category above and won't stop evangilizing to the rest of us. The minute we object, they tell us it is we who have the problem.   I guess we just supposed to shut up and take it.

See ya.

on Jul 28, 2008
I was born baptized and raised as a Catholic but as a young child I found church to be very boring and I stopped going because I kept falling asleep. I also felt weird there because I could not stand the idea that all my life problems would be solved by going to church according to the way people believed religion worked. As if somehow all I had to do was pray for a plate of food and one would fall out of the sky. Well I am sad to say that no amount of prayer would get me out of any dilemma I was in. My mom would always tell me this phrase "Help yourself and God will help you". Well that could not be any more true.

I live my life based on doing the best that I can do to be a good person and hope that I can be worthy. But I won't deny that I am human, prone to mistakes, exempt from perfection and therefor, as Jesus once said "he who is free of sin cast the first stone", I do not judge people, I simply disagree with their actions.

To this date I have yet to find my way back to church because I just can't deal with the idea that I have to change my way of life just because someone says this is what God wants. To me life is a test and the reason the bible is open to interpretation is to use it as a guide not an absolute set of standards because God, who created us, created us all different and gave us freedom of will so that we could find our own path, not one set by a guy in a church who preaches to us what "he" thinks the bible is about.
on Jul 28, 2008

Why can't you be happy where you are without putting down where you came from? Would someone putting you down while you were into that way of life have helped you at all? Or would it have made you more certain it was the right way to be?

These are very insightful questions. Thank you for prompting me to look inward and reflect.

If Christanese gives someone peace, contentment, well-being, who are we to vomit all over their way?

I have no right to judge their path. You are correct. I simply felt the need to express a current annoyance. Perhaps in the future, I should consider keeping my thoughts to myself.

I don't know if you actually intend it, but this article comes across as prideful...you judged others when you were a "Christian" and now you are judging Christians, all the way down to the way they choose to communicate.
 

As I stated in my blog, "Perhaps I've made no progress at all." The log of pride seems to be permantely lodged in my eye. I hope someday I can learn to accept all people exactly as they are. If it's any consoldation, I get on my own damn nerves!

 

on Jul 28, 2008
These are very insightful questions. Thank you for prompting me to look inward and reflect.


Thank you for not being offended. If they are good questions it is only because they are ones I have had to ask myself.

I have no right to judge their path. You are correct. I simply felt the need to express a current annoyance. Perhaps in the future, I should consider keeping my thoughts to myself.


Nah, don't do that. I'm sorry if you think I was implying it. Most of the things you mentioned annoyed me for a long time until I realized this....most of the people who believe this way are speaking from an assurance that they are right. I don't know if I can explain what I mean, but when you were walking your faith that way....didn't you feel certain you were right?

For example, when Mormons come to my door. They are evangelizing me because they believe they are right. I think they have some fundamental errors in the faith. They approach me as if I have errors in mine. We both believe we are right, and the other is in error.

There are a couple ways to handle it. I can be proud of my rightness and quote scripture to them and let them know with body language that I am right and they are wrong. Or I can discuss it, visit with them, and at the end leave it at that.

I don't think I can explain what I mean. I guess the short version is this...being a Pharisee is about the condition of the heart. Changing the name of a group you associate with does nothing for the heart.

Christians aren't perfect. Never will be. We have to work with what we have.

You aren't on my nerves. I like the way you are stretching and growing and sharing all of it with us (me). I enjoy reading your blog and especially your insights.

The problem with the Christianese talkers is that they tend to fall into the last category above and won't stop evangilizing to the rest of us. The minute we object, they tell us it is we who have the problem. I guess we just supposed to shut up and take it.


Well I dunno. We are commanded by our God to Go Forth and Share the Gospel. If you meet someone who claims Christ and doesn't do this (even occasionally) then what is the point of following Him? Talking about Jesus is our biggest job on earth and the main reason he left us here. If we can't be bothered, then why bother with this particular faith?

I do think we should be ready with an answer when asked, and if it comes up and someone says, "Thanks but no thanks," that should be it though if that's what you mean.
on Jul 29, 2008
Does a peaceful, restful Sunday involve going outside and playing catch with your Dad? Some people say yes, some people say no. It's an individual choice, and it doesn't really clarify it in the Bible. It just says to keep the Sabbath set apart. Denominations form when people want to put more into the Bible than what the Bible says, so they form a denomination holding additional beliefs. The problem comes in when the people of that denomination try to force these additional beliefs into the definition of a "true Christian." A true Christian does nothing at all on Sunday, except go to church! Yeah, whatever. If that's what you need to do to rest, that's fine, but other people rest differently from you. As Charles said, we're all made differently, and the Bible doesn't command us to do nothing for a day.
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