Christians: Please Stop Talking Like Weird People

So tell me, does this sentence sound normal to you?

“In our efforts to live intentionally as an authentic community of believers, we seek out the small-group dynamics of passionate discipleship.”

To speak effectively and realistically as Christians, we do well to take time and gather our thoughts. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting and signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

To speak effectively and realistically as Christians, we do well to take time and gather our thoughts. Gathering Thoughts, original oil painting and signed limited edition print at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

If you answered no, Thank God.

If you answered yes, it’s highly likely that you are a regular church attender, and your life, your vocabulary, and your walk as a Christian have been infiltrated by contemporary pulpit-speak, kind of along the lines of an Oregon wheat field being contaminated by genetically modified wheat.

I don’t know where the gurus at the top are getting this language — oh wait, maybe I do: 21st century corporate business, education, and government — but an increasing number of Christians are earnestly talking about “being authentic,” “intentionally living,” and “moving forward with passion.”

I am so, so, so glad that Jesus didn’t speak this way.

I would so, so, so appreciate it if Christians would stop doing so.

It’s so . . . obsequious somehow to abjectly emulate the abstruse speech of superintendent hegemony in the effort to convey simple truths. How ironic that, when we want to say, “I seek to be real, genuine, and approachable,” we express it with the term, “effective authenticity.”

If you want to be real, then be real -- not "authentic." Be Yourself poster by Steve Henderson, based upon the original painting Spirit of the Canyon

If you want to be real, then be real — not “authentic.” Be Yourself poster by Steve Henderson, based upon the original painting Spirit of the Canyon

Does anybody outside of the group — or even inside of it, actually — understand this term, whether they’re living intentionally or not?

(And as a side note, what does it look like to live unintentionally? Does that mean that you’re dead?)

I don’t know much about ancient Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke while He was on this earth, but judging by its translation into English, Jesus talked in a fairly straightforward manner, frequently conveying simple yet complex ideas by telling stories. Proper and improper group dynamics, something so vital in contemporary churches, meant little to a Savior who interacted with people one on one, looking deep into their souls and beyond externals like tattoos, rough language, or whether or not their bra strap was showing.

What does love look like? Gentle, kind, protective, unconditional. Dandelions, original painting available at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

What does love look like? Gentle, kind, protective, unconditional. Dandelions, original painting available at Steve Henderson Fine Art; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

It really didn’t matter to Jesus that he sounded erudite and smooth; He wasn’t concerned that followers would drop away if He didn’t use PowerPoint; He never wore a three-piece suit — and yes, I know that they didn’t exist then.

What did matter to Him was a strong, central, unwavering message: “God loves you. So much that you can’t possibly comprehend the magnitude of that love. Accept that love. It’s real.”

Now, how are we, as Christ’s followers, going to convey that message to the people around us? While words matter, actions matter more, and the first step is to bask in, believe, and soak up Christ’s love into our own souls, so that we can pass it on to others by being loving ourselves.

The second is to be real — not authentic, not intentional, not incomprehensible by relying upon weak, corporate-based vocabulary to essentially say nothing.

Be real real real -- your amazing, unique, one of a kind self. Aphrodite, original sold; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

Be real real real — your amazing, unique, one of a kind self. Aphrodite, original sold; licensed open edition fine art print at Great Big Canvas

But real. Ourselves. Using language that fits who and what we are, not copying pseudo-speak that gives the illusion of intelligence and perspicacity.

And lest you get me on the last word of the last paragraph, I really do talk that way, being one of the few people — actually the only people — I know who uses the word “obfuscate” in ordinary speech, but if it’s any help, I tend to mispronounce it.

It’s unintentional. Ah, at last, the word used sensibly.

As Christians, we will always seem weird to people who are not, but let it be for the right reasons: because we touch the untouchables, speak out and speak up for what is right and honest and good, make decisions based upon principle as opposed to monetary gain.

Not because we obfuscate.

If you want to learn to write — and speak, more clearly, check out my book Grammar Despair: Quick, simple solutions to problems like “Do I say him and me or he and I?” $8.99 paperback and $5.99 digital at Amazon.com.

Find Steve Henderson’s artwork at

Manufacturers and retailers — license Steve’s work through Art Licensing

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About This Woman Writes

Carolyn Henderson is the marketing manager of Steve Henderson Fine Art. In addition to her This Woman Writes blog, Carolyn writes a regular art column for FineArtNews, an online newsletter for artists and art collectors.
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6 Responses to Christians: Please Stop Talking Like Weird People

  1. Rabbi Bensel says:

    “It’s so . . . obsequious somehow to abjectly emulate the abstruse speech of superintendent hegemony in the effort to convey simple truths.” Carolyn, isn’t this oxymoronic? The simple truth got run over by the advanced grammer truck….a little obtuse, you and I understand but most of the folks out there today have trouble with anything over six letters! OMG my BFF will LOL, we are becoming museum pieces. Aside…you are point on! We have become trapped by our own Christianese these days and the simple truth of God’s love and sacrifice has been lost to most.

    • Rabbi Bensel — I am glad that you caught the irony. It was so irresistible, I couldn’t . . . resist. The good thing about it is that I actually learned how to pronounce “hegemony” by pressing the little sound button on the thesaurus. Otherwise, I would be saying, “Hedge – eh – MOAN – ee.”

      I don’t know how long Christianese has been around — years ago, “Name it Claim it,” “Following Jesus,” and “It’s a God Thing,” were all the verbal rage. I suppose the multi-syllabic utterances of today sound more intellectual, but they’re the same incomprehensible shorthand to people outside the group.

      When I first became a Christian, as a 19-year-old college student, I felt dumb because when I entered a church, everyone else knew all of the songs except me. They all knew when to stand and when to sit. They all knew what to say, when. And I thought, “I must not be much of a Christian because I don’t know all of these things.”

      Fortunately, that stage didn’t last long. But it left enough of an impression that I’ve never forgotten it: I felt stupid.

  2. Susan Gutting says:

    Amen, amen, amen.

    On 6/12/13, This Woman Writes (formerly Middle Aged Plague) by Carolyn Henders

  3. Hi Carolyn,
    You read my mind! Many of the Christian books that I’ve read lately have good ideas, but I can hardly stand to read them because of the idiotic jargon that the authors feel compelled to use (or maybe it’s forced upon them by the publishing people.)

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

    Larry & Sylvia

    • Thank you, Larry and Sylvia. It is unfortunate that the poor vocabulary habits are promoted through books as well, but not surprising. So many Christian “how-to” books, like many of their non-Christian counterparts, are either simply quick written rehashes of existing information, or yet another volume put out by an existing famous name.

      While it’s clear to see how the contemporary Christian establishment is in the world, it’s challenging to figure out how it’s not of the world as well. I guess, as always, it is up to us as individuals to look to God, listen to His words, and follow Him, not the crowd.

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