By Jon Acuff
August 23, 2013
Jon Acuff is the New York Times best-selling author of five books, including his latest, Do Over: Rescue Monday, Reinvent Your Work & Never Get Stuck. Heâs worked with some of the wor... Read More
20 Christianese Phrases We Really Need to Stop Saying
I don’t want a hedge of protection around me.
If you’re praying for me, feel free to not install one of those on the landscape of my life.
Don’t get me wrong, I think hedges are adorable, but they’re highly ineffective. I mean, how hard is it to step over a hedge?
Have you ever seen a bush and thought, “If there’s only one thing standing between me and the devil, I hope it’s a bush of that girth.”
Of course not. Nobody is afraid of bushes.
And yet, every day, thousands of Christians ask for a hedge of protection with little or no regard to the implication that you’re leaving your life in the hands of shrubbery. I say it’s time to retire that phrase. In fact, it’s time to say farewell to a number of well-known Christianese words and phrases.
“I covet your prayers”
When did this become OK? Did we get a vote? I would like a recount, please. This one is kind of gross. Every time I hear someone say that, I feel like they are saying “I lust after your prayers.” Throughout the Bible we’re told not to covet and yet, here we are “redeeming” this phrase. Quit it. You might as well say, “I idolize your prayers.”
Christians use this phrase as a “Get out of jerk free” card. We write the most vile, bitter statement on Facebook and then punctuate it with “just sayin’,” as if that makes the rest of it invisible. It didn’t, we still saw what you wrote. You know who would have loved this phrase in the Bible? The Pharisees. Can’t you see them saying to Jesus, “Whoa, Jesus, you healed a guy. That’s great. Healing is awesome. It is the Sabbath though. Just sayin’.” If we only retire one phrase on this list, I hope it is this one.
“Blessed with the gift of singleness”
Don’t have a husband or wife? Not in a serious relationship with a Proverbs 31 woman? Not learning and living the love languages? Maybe you were given a special gift to remain alone forever. Maybe that one was dropped off on the doorstep of your heart this year. The next time someone says you got the gift of singleness, give them the gift of a leg sweep. Karate Kid style.
“Transparent” or “Authentic”
Oh, you’re just honest? Yikes. I’ll pray for you. Probably even lift you up in some fashion. I’m not only honest; I’m transparent, like an empty Ziploc bag. I’m authentic, like hipster jeans handmade in the U.S. of A. Honest is old news.
This one makes me want to “puke on.” Why we felt the need to add the word “on” to a perfectly good verb will forever confuse me. Love is enough. I dare say, “all we need is love.”
“Love offering,” “praise offering” or “clap offering”
Next time you’re at a restaurant, try to leave the waiter a “clap offering.” Let me know how that works out for you. And yet, we throw this phrase around at church. If I participate in any of these types of offerings, I feel it’s only appropriate I get a free pass on the actual offering later on in the service.
We don’t say “I enjoyed that.” We don’t say, “I liked that.” Instead, Christians are constantly getting “wrecked.”
“That sermon wrecked me.”
“That song wrecked me.”
“That dramatic skit to Michael Jackson’s ‘Man in the Mirror’ wrecked me.”
There’s a whole lot of wrecking going on in Christianity right now.
“The unspoken prayer request”
I won’t lie, in some situations, this can be honest. You have something you don’t want to tell a prayer circle about, so you throw out an “unspoken prayer request.” Maybe it’s a personal issue you are not ready to broadcast. Fair enough, but just know this: When you say this, everyone will assume some very dark things about you.
Putting Satan “on notice”
I’m assuming this is done via telegram or pony express, but the premise is simple. You pray about a cookout you’re having and as a bonus to the prayer, you say, “And Satan, we’re putting you on notice. You stay away from this cookout, devil!” Prior to that notice, I am almost positive he was going to show up and give someone food poisoning via the potato salad. Satan hates being put on notice.
“Bless her heart”
This phrase is mostly in the South, but so am I, so I hear it a lot. This is the phrase Christians use to gossip but still look holy. Here’s an example: “That girl is horrible. Very trampy. Very bad morals. Bless her heart!” I once heard this phrase called “vinegar pie.” It looks like pie on the outside, but inside it’s disgusting. You will often hear this in public prayer circles.
It's time to say farewell to a number of well-known Christianese words and phrases.
This is just the most commonly overused word in public prayer. And I have just ruined you. I apologize. The next time you hear someone pray, it will be impossible to not hear them say, “Lord just hear us, just know us, just, just, just, just, just!” This word is like salt we sprinkle on prayers.
“Doing life together”
Someone pointed out that this phrase sounds like you’re talking about your cellmate, but that’s not what it means. Technically, it means you went to dinner with someone. Or you talked with your neighbor at the mailbox. Or you waved at someone in traffic. This is “fellowshipping” on steroids, which is another word that could have made this list.
All the new names for Sunday School
At some point, we decided the phrase “Sunday school” was too old fashioned. It made people think of fire and brimstone and fundamentalism and the scene in Footloose when they weren’t allowed to dance. So we retired it, and instead, we tell our 4-year-olds that they are now in a “community group.” I don’t know that eating glue and bootleg Oreos and trying not to bite one another really counts as a “community group.”
“First world problems”
Nothing changes someone’s personal beliefs and issues like when you respond to them on Twitter with #FirstWorldProblems. The irony of someone on a Mac laptop in Starbucks taking notes in a Moleskine notebook while wearing an unnecessary scarf judging someone else for having a first world problem makes my teeth hurt.
Using “I’ll pray about it” as a synonym for “no”
If someone asks you to pick up bulletins at the end of church, you probably don’t need to say, “I’ll pray about it.” You can just pick up the bulletins. I’m not sure that’s something you have to approach the throne with.
“In Christian Love”
This is a cousin phrase of “Bless her heart.” This is the phrase you drop in right before you verbally punch someone in the face. Allow me to demonstrate: “Jon, I hope you can hear this in Christian love, because that’s how I mean it. Your books are horrible. They are really poorly written and I hope no one buys them. In Christian love.”
This is one we use to encourage young Christians not to become Christians. Instead of saying “new Christian” we say “baby” so your position is clearly noted. It means you’re probably not as smart, holy or wise as me. I’m not a baby Christian. I’m an adult Christian. I’m loving on people, which you probably wouldn’t even understand.
“Going through a season”
Fall, winter, spring and summer aren’t enough seasons for Christians. We demand more seasons out of our lives. We are constantly creating our own extra seasons to go through. Got a flat tire on the way to work? That’s a season. Got dumped after one awkward date at Olive Garden? That’s a season. Depressed because you blew through a whole season of TV on Netflix in one night? That’s a season. It’s all seasons, man.
“I love Jesus but not religion”
That’s a real shame because you know who was really religious? A guy named Jesus. You should see all the old-school laws he followed in his time here. I completely understand the need to separate yourself from some of the negativity associated with Christianity, but wordplay rarely changes someone’s life. I’ve never met a single person who said, “I started a lifelong relationship with Christ after your dissertation on why you love Jesus but not Christianity or religion. That had a huge impact in opening my eyes to my need for the forgiving blood of Christ.” (The one exception to this rule is the guy who did the spoken word video on this very topic. He’s a great guy and made a great video.)
You know who repeats things or seconds them? Sinners. Not us Christians. We echo. We have become one big echo chamber. We echo prayers. We echo hopes. We echo thoughts. We echo. Like a cave. Like a cave. Like a cave.
With a list this long, you’ll probably disagree with a few of my choices. Or you’ll feel that I left some out. I’ll pray a hedge of protection around you because I’m pretty sure you’re on a slippery slope. I might go as far as loving on you through this season. Just sayin’.
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