Monday, April 18, 2011

It’s all Glossolalia to me!: Speaking in tongues in plain English

I grew up in church. Or, more accurately, church was central and essential to my growing up. While I didn’t actually live in a church, I spent a lot of time in ours. Everyone who went there did.

There was church at least twice on Sunday, once on Wednesday night, and then various “meetings” other times through the week.

And then there were the revivals. Revivals were every night except Monday for at least two weeks, sometimes four or five or six weeks.

We were one of those families, when the church doors were open, we were there.

As a result, I grew up speaking “Christianese.” It’s the language we used when talking about the Bible, church, Jesus, God, and all things religious. In fact, anyone who has been a Christian for a few years tends to speak Christianese. It comes natural.

Much of Christianese is an adaptation of snippets from Scripture strung together as needed. If you don’t know the Bible or have never been to church, you most likely won’t understand Christianese.

In fact, much of Christianese can sound really bizarre to an “outsider,” also known as the lost, a sinner, or heathen.

Someone who is lost has never found Christ, aka Jesus, the Lord, my King, our Saviour. And that’s Saviour with a “u.” Leaving out the “u” is what those liberals do (aka, the really, really lost).

It can get really freaky when we start talking about “being washed in the blood” and “cleansed by the blood.” For the unenlightened, it can sound pretty darned creepy. I mean, who bathes in blood and how can that make you clean?

I know, it just doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, when you take these odd sounding phrases and mix it up with the King James version of the Bible, things can really get crazy. Suddenly sentences are laced with a lot of thee’s, thou’s, and words ending in –eth.

It’s no wonder I was never able to “lead someone to Christ;” no one who wasn’t already “in the way” had no clue what I was talking about!

Frankly, when I would really think about it, I wasn’t sure what I was talking about!

I mean, what does it really mean to be “filled with the Spirit” or “washed in the blood”?

In college (yes, I went to a Christian liberal arts college), one of our professors challenged us to try to talk about our faith without using any Christianese.

We couldn’t go more than half a sentence before hitting the wall and drawing a blank, if you get my meaning (I also speak fluent cliché).

Back then, besides the King James Bible, which provided the foundation for Christianese, we didn’t have a lot of other resources to turn to. The New English Bible and the Living Bible were just coming out.

Today, thank goodness, there are a wide variety of Bible translations and paraphrases that can help move Christianese from the obscure into the mainstream. Now, we can talk about our faith and be hip, contemporary, and a little more understandable.

Or can we?

After all, the blood of Christ is the blood of Christ in any Bible version, and is essential to a person’s salvation. Oh, and salvation means, uh, well – being saved! You know, born again; being saved from being lost! I mean, it’s like, we die to ourselves and are raised in Christ.

Get it? Think “Easter.”

Um, Jesus was nailed to a cross to take the punishment we deserved on himself so that we can accept the gift of salvation and have eternal life. Like it says in the Bible:

“That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God." (John 3:15-21, KJV)
You dig? Capiche? No?

Okay, let’s try the new, cool, with it Message version of these verses:
“…and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn't go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person's failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him. This is the crisis we're in: God-light streamed into the world, but men and women everywhere ran for the darkness. They went for the darkness because they were not really interested in pleasing God. Everyone who makes a practice of doing evil, addicted to denial and illusion, hates God-light and won't come near it, fearing a painful exposure. But anyone working and living in truth and reality welcomes God-light so the work can be seen for the God-work it is.”
Is that any clearer, or does it still sound like someone’s speaking in tongues?

Hmm, I guess unlearning Christianese isn’t all that easy. But I’ll keep trying because I really want you to get this.

After all, your very soul is at stake. Mine, too.

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Here's an excellent post on the same topic with great tips:
http://stickyjesus.com/2011/07/avoiding-christianese-how-to-connect-to-non-believers-online/

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