Thursday, May 26, 2011

Kyle's not happy face

I've been thinking about words, more specifically what I think about Christianese. I've been reading (trying to keep up with Kyle in reading) the book "How Post-modernism Serves (my) Faith." It's a great book! Anyways the author, Crystal L. Downing, makes an interesting point of how people in the postmodern era have changed the way we use language. She says that we no longer use words for their meaning as much as we use them for our meaning. An example of that would be a person who murders an abortion doctor and calls them self "pro-life." Obviously you're not literally "pro"-"life" if you're killing someone, but society still calls that person "pro-life."

All this to say, Christianese is sometimes stupidifying to me! Bethel is in a class of its own when it comes to its own ubber-cool lingo. For instance look at the word "connection."


Connection: a relation of personal intimacy (as of family ties).

Bethelite definition: "to meet with someone using them as a means to an end. To get ahead"


While Kant had a lot to say about this and I could go on and on about how the "Jesus never promoted himself" sermon by Bill Johnson could be expounded, better practiced, and TAKEN SERIOUSLY--I won't, this sentence is long enough. I will assume most people with an Orthodox-Christian moral compass can see the error in this thinking.

Some could argue that it doesn't matter what word you use as long as it conveys a thought to the recipient. Perhaps I can agree with this in small doses. But I also believe that words shape the way we think. That our definitions aren't the same as the people around us and as such they will react differently to the words we use and therefore reshape our experience (definition) of that word.

This inconsistency is really obvious in the word "religious." Within most Christian circles "religious" the utmost of curses, the ultimate slam. You are being compared to the Pharisees, Jesus Christ, The Big JC, called brood of vipers! Someone calls you religious and you might as well be Jewish, or Spiritually dead.



[ri-lij-uh s]


1. of, pertaining to, or concerned with religion

2. imbued with or exhibiting religion; pious; devout; godly

3. scrupulously faithful; conscientious: religious care



See the difference? No burning in hell--quite the opposite. So you say, let the Christians have their bloody word. They need a term for the deserters on the quest to perfect Jesus-ness.

Unfortunately, the rest of the word still uses, and probably hundreds of other adaptations of definitions. The problem is we base our definitions on experience, not their literal meaning. Now a statement like "Mary was always very religious," can mean something positive to someone recounting their deeply spiritual sister, or something negative reliving the pain of a controlling hypocritical mother.

"spiritual" "controlling" "hypocritical"

See that?... I'm doing the same thing in writing this blog post.

It’s one thing when we do this with each other, we can eventually find words whose definitions we agree on. We can redefine and specify, eventually coming to a conclusion. With God it's not always so easy.

Take the word "promise." I think more strange theology has come out this, one, little, word then most any other...after the word 'woman' that is.... For some reason when we talk about "promises" between us and God humans start going a little crazy. How many instances have you heard of someone in a life and death situation promising their left foot to God for his help? Other times (as with William Branham and other revivalists) they claim their power came only after promising such and such a thing away to God.

Okay so "promise" really means “barter,” fine we are fickle creatures. But what happens when God “barters” with us?


Barter–verb (used with object)

--to exchange in trade as one commodity for another: trade



Genesis 17:1When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. 2 Then I will make my covenant-barter between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

Hebrews 11:8-9By faith-bartering Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith-bartering he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise-BARTERING.

Yes I added ‘faith’ to the list of desecrated words list. Fine. Do you get what I mean? God is no longer the rather quizzical, benevolent, big-guy-in-the-sky, who for no apparent reason, talks to Abraham. He’s now a trader, like everyone else here to “make connections” and use others to his own gain.

We promise Him everything so that he can give us something. Don’t you love it? I’m not saying that there is no sacrifice in the Christian life, but we owe it to God to make a few definitions clear. The basics of our religion, that God so loved the world that He GAVE His only Son and that we are justified by FAITH.

1 comment:

  1. Words are the most powerful thing God gave us. Communication is constantly the issue. Language evolves to the culture. That's why there's a new dictionary out every year. Christian culture is no different in that respect.

    Mom's not happy face: When we search for the right "translation" of scripture to suit our own meaning of the verse - to further our agenda... *:( Don't get me started!

    Very good, thought provoking post. Thanks!