I tacked an apology onto the end of a recent post. I apologized for my use of “Christianese,” the language of the “Christian ghetto,” the words people within this community use so often that they become cliché, meaningful to those within the faith and meaningless, confusing, or offensive to those outside it.
I had a taste of this recently when I read comments on a blog by adherents of another religion. Apparently the verbage used made perfect sense to those familiar with that religious tradition, but it was like reading a riddle to me. This, I thought, must be how I sometimes come across to a non-Christian, or floundering Christian, reader.
Another recent read left me feeling slapped in the face with its judgy, sanctimonious tone. I realize that the author probably didn’t intend it to come across that way, but it’s paramount, I believe, to see our writing as it appears to others—or try to.
Years ago I lived in a little Christian cloister (figuratively and literally) where I honestly had no idea that the larger culture did not understand Christianity and particularly its clichés and special language. Once I awoke to the fact that not only some, but most of the “outside world” views Christian-speak as a curiosity, I began a conscious attempt to retrain myself in other ways of communication. In addition, when I began to grow away from a harsh, critical Christianity, my language, as well as my heart, needed an overhaul.
I wish to transfer meaningful thoughts about my faith without falling into the lazy habit of regurgitating stale religious phrases that cloud my intent to readers who may or may not be Christians, and without using words and phrases that leave people feeling as if I view them from some kind of lofty spiritual pedestal.
Further, I understand that some of my readers have been wounded by religion, and tired Christian verbage can trigger their emotions in ways that bring them pain. They are in special need of a healthy dose of graciousness alongside any truth I may attempt to communicate.
It’s helped me to read books by Christians like CS Lewis, Dallas Willard, The Message paraphrase of the Bible by Eugene Peterson, and—don’t laugh—The Jesus Storybook Bible. These writers manage to convey their wholehearted enthusiasm about Jesus and their very real friendships with him, without falling into worn-out Christianese.
I do better now, but old habits die very hard. This is the language I was raised with and speaking differently is as strange to me as learning a foreign tongue. My heart is to serve those I read something that is a gift to them, not something that brings confusion or anxiety. So I ask for your patience with me, friends. I know that at times my meaning will be lost in accidental religiosity, and perhaps I will fail to speak with grace. I hope that with practice, that will change. My goal is to be authentic (perhaps another over-used word?) and all I write, to write with love.