An Evangelical Pilgrimage
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Keizer, OR :: I have spent the last five years of my organized spiritual experience in home groups and not inside structural and institutional churches. This reality has created a small language barrier that I need to work on. I will need to relearn Christianese.

In my experience a lot of Evangelical Christians have a vocabulary and way of speaking that I have distanced myself from on purpose. While I was in college I participated in a few campus outreach and evangelism projects. I realized I was not really speaking clearly to the people I wanted to share my story with. It was like me trying to evangelize to people who didn’t speak my language. After this realization I began to listen critically to the words coming from my mouth, those used in the prayers at church, the lyrics in the songs we all sang, and in the sermons I was being taught. Although I did not disagree with the heart of the message I started to see how powerful language can be and how specific words can influence entire doctrine, meaning and social structures, culture and people’s lives.

Now, as we enter back into churches and institutional Evangelical communities I will need to practice using this language to relate more effectively with others. Even though some of my word choices have changed (possibly forever) I find that with a little practice I can slip right back into my Christianese.


1 Brian Smitty Smith { 10.29.09 at 7:13 pm }

Kate, first off, how are you and the “happy wandering family” all doing? Second, can you give me a couple of concrete examples of “Christianese” and how it differs from, say, your experience during your last 5 years? God Bless!

2 Dustin Pattison { 10.30.09 at 12:22 pm }

Hey Kate, this is from an article I just read by one of my favorite authors, Michael Perry. I connected with it strongly and thought it seemed relevant to your post – maybe not completely, but oh well:

“When as a young child you are called by the Lord to rise from your metal folding chair in the basement of the Moose Hall and commit your life to Christ upon the commencement of the final chorus of ‘Close Thy Heart No More’, you remain forever susceptible to the lexicon of faith.

All subsequent straying will not alter this fact.

You are hooked on the thee and thou, and always will be. You will toddle along into a life of scuffing and sinning and just keep on a-wandering, and one day you will hear someone railing on those scary fundamentalist Christians and you will pick up your bumbling agnostical head from its existential dreamland, and you will say, Hey – those are my people you’re talking about.

And you will look back down the path you have trodden, and you will not be able to feature the circumstances under which you would return to faith and fold, but likewise you cannot imagine where you would stand lacking the reckoning points set by both.

Having wrassled this contradiction every day since the Moose Hall, you will remain peeved with those who think you left the flock because you are a silly little sheep, but you will be grateful for the foundation the church provided, even as you stack your bricks in the sand.”

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