Thursday, June 16, 2011

Alienation of Non-Christians: Christians Ineffectively Using Words to Create Division in the World

I was cleaning out my computer this morning when I came across some of my old writings. Thought this one was something worth sharing. Enjoy.

Alienation of Non-Christians:
Christians Ineffectively Using Words to Create Division in the World

            The tongue is one of the most exercised muscles in the body.  In a typical week, an average person will verbalize enough words to fill a 500-page book[1], but are all of these words carefully chosen and are they completely necessary for our communication?  Is it possible that we use too many words to convey something that could be said in a simpler way?  John O’Hayre thinks that is the case.  In O’Hayre’s book, Gobbledygook Has Gotta Go, he looks at the effects of government writers trying to carry out complex business with difficult and unnecessary language.  In one of his earlier examples you find yourself face to face with a 217-word memo that O’Hayre systematically cuts all of the difficult language and unnecessary comments out of and then reiterates what the original memo said in only 70 words.  While O’Hayre’s example is specific and directed towards a business crowd, couldn’t it be applied to the terms and language that we as Christians use on a regular basis?  I believe that it not only could in the way that Christians use Christian jargon or “Christianese”[2] in their everyday language, but also should if Christians are to be seen as relevant and intelligible.  In 2008 Islam passed Catholicism as the number one world religion;[3] this is enough cause for the Christian church to start wondering what they are doing to cause this drastic movement away from Christ.
            Many Christians see their religious purpose in what is known as the great commission.  This is where Jesus tells his followers to go and make disciples of all nations.[4] These same people are using tactics that say to non-Christians “turn or burn” with other kinds of Christian doublespeak, words like “reconciliation,” “saved,” “accepting the Lord as your Savior,” and other various terms that are behind the times, which are foreign to many non-Christians, who can scarcely understand what language is being thrown in their faces.  William Lutz mentions in his book, The New Doublespeak, that people who use this kind of doublespeak or jargon are usually trying to get away with something, particularly having to do with their own agenda.  You find these same efforts used in politics, advertizing, and business.  In an article I found online[5] (which may have no scholarly qualifications, but still shows how people are feeling about the Christian faith) states that the church is not, in fact, doing what it claims to do, “It wasn’t doing anything to resolve poverty issues It didn’t transform politicians into servants It didn’t reduce arrogance It didn’t increase the numbers of people who volunteer in my hometown to help others It didn’t dynamically improve the gifts given to pantries It didn’t improve the divorce rate It didn’t spend energy on protecting the planet.  Where are we going wrong when Christ himself—who taught against these things—is no longer seen in the actions and words of His supposed followers?  unchristian, a book written by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, based upon groundbreaking research with 16-to-29-year-olds, is aimed towards helping the church to understand this same age group’s mindset, their skepticism and their experiences.  We shouldn’t be so surprised that there are so many people that have seen past the church’s hypocrisy.  After all, even our own word choice is littered with insincerity and falsification.
            Maybe we need to change our mega-church, Americanized, self-seeking theology by taking our own importance out of “Christ’s work” and placing more Christ into our selves.  Ed Cyzewski shares great ways of thinking about our lives in this same way in his book, Coffeehouse Theology, saying that “Theology determines the content of the gospel we believe, the way in which we share the gospel, and who we share this good news with our ability to faithfully form theology and then to put it into practice can either help or hinder our ability to carry out our mission to share the good news of Christ.[6]  It’s pretty clear that Christian’s theology of how they live out their lives and use their words is not being thought out in the context of the gospels or the man we have claimed to represent.
            Jesus, separately from the great commission, also calls us to be the salt and light of the world[7], which in plain English (and to get away from this Christianese that we’re discussing) is to have a lasting effect on others.   Franky Schaeffer says in his book, Addicted to Mediocrity that “any group that willingly or unconsciously sidesteps creativity and human expression gives up their effective role in the society in which they live.  In Christian terms, their ability to be the salt of that society is greatly diminished.[8]  Now here we find Christians, who are attempting to do what they believe to be right, using tactics that not only make them superfluous and at times inappropriate, but also proving to be counterproductive towards the goal they may be trying to accomplish in the first place; Christians should attract people by their life and actions, not the opposite.  We are meant to live for more than catching people in some spiritual net just to cast them out, after they fit into our perfect cookie cutters, and to go do the same to others. 
            When Christians think they know all of the right things to say and the right ways to say it, they look and act as though they are superior to those who don’t do the same things.  This mindset creates a division with the people whom Christians are really trying to get in touch with; if we are all just trying to impress each other with our Bible knowledge and thoughts on what we think about things like predestination or the qualities of God’s love, then we’re reaching the wrong crowd (especially if the basis being used is from the great commission).  Schaeffer puts it like this, “True spirituality is obeying the commands of the Scripture and effecting change in the real world, not hiding behind religious experience.[9]  These jargon words are a part of that religious experience that Christians are hiding behind.   O’Hayre also mentions that pompous words are “just plain phony, filigreed flapdoodle.  Defined this means not genuine, merely decorative oily talk that has a false look of genuineness.  Is that how Christian’s want to be seen in this world?
          Lutz’s words can stimulate us to fight this kind of doublespeak by remembering that the battle belongs to us as individuals.  “We can’t look to others or to organizations We can’t say that the fight is too big for us, that the fight should be waged by people who are in the position to do somethingJust keep reminding yourself, if you don’t do it, who else will?  And then begin.[10] So let’s stop alienating, misleading, manipulating, and (whatever else you could insert into these parenthesis) others with our fallacious language and really strive to live the way that God has called us to live as Christians, though our actions AND our words.

[6] Ed Cyzewski, Coffeehouse Theology, p. 31
[7] Matthew 5:13-16
[8] Franky Schaeffer, Addicted To Mediocrity, p.24
[9]  Franky Schaeffer, Addicted To Mediocrity, p. 57
[10] William Lutz, The New Doublespeak, p. 198

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