The Epidemic of ‘Christianese’


We’ve all heard of ‘Christianese’ but do we ever think about the damage it does not only to ourselves but our community? One writer analyses the epidemic and offers some solutions.

I’ll admit it. There are people in my life who I just want to shake some sense into because they are so heavenly minded that they serve no earthly good.

You know them.

You: Hey, how are you doing?

Them: I’m blessed and highly favored of the Lord, waiting on King Jesus to crack the sky and living in the presence of the Almighty.

You: (Dramatic pause) Well alrighty then.

Many times I’d like to follow up with, “How so?” In other words, “how blessed and highly favored are you? Where’s the evidence? Where is your fruit? And why are you waiting on Jesus to crack the sky if He’s already cracked your heart? Isn’t the truth really that King Jesus is waiting on YOU?”

But I don’t say any that because, frankly, most people wouldn’t be able to receive it and I don’t want to offend anyone.

See, there’s nothing inherently wrong with these folk’s responses, except when it becomes a rote part of a larger language used by believers to avoid being authentic and telling the truth. Instead of saying “I’m not doing so well today, keep me in prayer” or, “Today is a good day. I’m looking forward to going to (fill in the blank)” we silence the true nature of our faith journeys and paint pretty religious pictures for the world to see.

Another example: In many historically Black churches, it’s mandatory that anyone who steps to the mic begin their presentation with “First giving honor to God who is the head of my life…” An awesome declaration, for sure, but is He really the head of your life? Or, did you put Him on the back burner that week so you could selfishly indulge your own proclivities? Do you really give honor to God first? Or does that come after you’ve gossiped about the newest member and her man?

Given this, I wonder how much more accountable we would all be if we chose to forgo the religious “language” of church and spoke from our hearts? How many non-believers would be open to meeting Jesus if we ditched the fakery and had real talk time with them about our struggles and doubt, our victories and triumphs–and the grace that threads all these together?

Just like Christ, there’s a duality in us that we must reconcile in order to free ourselves from using religious language as masks. Can we be transparent like our Savior and say “Please take this cup from me, Lord” AND “Nevertheless, not my will but yours be done”?

In a CNN Belief Blog article entitled, “Do You Speak Christian?”, Bill Leonard, a professor at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity, discussed how Christian speech has infiltrated political circles as a way to send coded messages to evangelical constituents. He highlighted the Christian speech of former president George W. Bush who was the most recent example of Christian speech in the political sphere. Of this he said, “Ordinary Christians do what Bush did all the time,” said Leonard. They use coded Christian terms like verbal passports – flashing them gains you admittance to certain Christian communities.”

I submit that these “verbal passports” are more like VIP passes into a special club. Speaking the language affords you all the rights and privileges of being a part of some uber-religious “cool kids” table in the cafeteria of Christianity. And yet scripture says, “Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:25 ESV).

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SOURCE: UrbanFaith
Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts

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