8.04.2009

christianglish

...trying to do something different than "Christianese..."

Let's start talking about getting rid of some of the common phrases in the Christian world. Here's a few that bug me.

1. Heavenly Father

OK, maybe it's not that bad of a phrase, but let me do what I do and pick it apart. Heavenly - not of this world, not earthly... not present, not near, separated, etc. Father - male, dad, patriarch, ruler, etc. Father is a good word, but not for everyone. So do we want to associate all those things with God? Do we really think about all those things when we say "Heavenly Father?" Or are we just saying it because other people have said it? Could using the phrase make people think God is distant and not present? Could some associate the negative feelings they have of their own fathers with God? Maybe...

Sure, I'm being a little over the top here, but come on! There are better phrases to use. How about "Loving God," or "Gracious God," or anything else that isn't androcentric and outdated.

2. Man

As in "God's ways are better than man's," and "Mankind," and "With man, this is impossible, but not with God." Can we finally get away from this androcentric, patriarchal stuff? Could it be that women would like to be included in the whole mix? I mean, haven't we tried to keep them oppressed for long enough? I know what you're saying - "When I say 'Mankind', I'm referring to men and women." OK, so why not say, "Humankind?" Maybe women don't want to be lumped in to a category that bears the name of the all-powerful (tongue ripping through my cheek), all-fallible "man."

Same thing goes for "Brothers." Paul used that word like crazy, and I'm sure he meant "brothers and sisters..." but that's the culture in which he lived. His culture revolved around the man, so saying "brothers" to refer to men and women was what he did. We don't live then. We live now. Let's try to be a little more gender inclusive. I know we can do it!

3. Just

Whenever someone says the phrase, "Let's say a word of prayer," I always think that the most common "word of prayer" is probably the word "just." Think about it. "Dear God, we just come to you today ask you to just..." and the "justs" keep coming. What's up with that? Are we trying to seem humble in our prayers? Are we trying to minimize our requests? "God, I'm just asking for this..." Or has it become a filler word, like "um" 2.0?

Maybe we could really become a little more "just" as Christians. That would be a good thing. Instead of saying "just" all the time, we could practice a little justice in this world.

4. Relationship

As in, "I don't believe in religion. I believe in a relationship with Jesus." Great concept, and I'm sure it was really profound when it was first uttered. But I think the time has come to retire that phrase. We do believe in religion. It's what we do. It's the particular way we have decided to have relationship with God. It's the structure that we choose to use to respond to God's revelation. Yeah, religion can and often is a really bad thing, but not always. It's necessary.

5. Personal Relationship

Taking it one step further - the notion of a "personal relationship" with Jesus Christ. What does that mean? Is that even biblical? God works in communities. Jesus saves the world. The Bible is a book written to and meant to be read in community. This personal stuff seems to be more of a product of American Christianity than anything else. Yes, there are personal aspects to our relationship with Jesus, but there are also corporate/communal aspects, global aspects, etc.

6. What does the Bible have to say about _____?

If you read my previous posts, you probably know where I'm going here. Why have we turned the Bible into the answer key/owner's manual for everything with which we come in conctact? "Abortion? What does the Bible have to say about that?" "Republican or Democrat? What does the Bible have to say about that?" "Speeding on the freeway? What does the Bible have to say about that?" Are we really OK with stripping the Bible of all it's beauty to turn it into some kind of how-to on life? Should we just consider it normal to treat the Bible like we do the US Constitution? Pastors have become Judges who interpret biblical law instead of shepherds who help people experience the kingdom of God here and now. There's a lot more here, but I won't get into it.

That's a good start. Have any others you'd like to share?

2 comments:

Justin said...

Nope, I think you have it covered pretty well. (And, as usual, I agree with you.)

ben wideman said...

what about the phrases "on my heart" or "gave me the burden of..."

Maybe it's just that I didn't grow up in an evangelical setting but find these phrases incredibly overused and abused.