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Showing posts with label #Christianese. Show all posts
Showing posts with label #Christianese. Show all posts

05 June 2018

The “Proverbs 31 woman.”

It doesn’t just mean a devout homemaker.

PROVERBS 31 WOMAN /'prɑ.vərbz 'θɜr.di 'wʌn 'wʊ.mən/ n. A productive woman, like the ideal wife described in Proverbs 31.
2. A complement offered to a valued wife, whether or not she matches the woman of Proverbs 31.

Among many Christians, the ultimate compliment you can pay your wife is to call her a “Proverbs 31 woman.” Properly, it means she meets the bible’s standard (more precisely, Lemuel’s mother’s standard) for an ideal wife. But since people don’t bother to read their bibles, Christians included, they really just mean she’s a good Christian. Whether she’s actually productive is a whole other deal.

Yeah, I’ll quote the relative part. It’s not the whole of the chapter; just this bit.

Proverbs 31.10-31 KWL
10 A capable woman: Who’s found one? She’s worth far more than rubies.
11 Her husband’s heart trusts her, and he has no shortage of loot.
12 She pays him back with good, not evil, all her life’s days.
13 She asks for wool and flax. She’s happy to work with her hands.
14 She’s like a merchant ship: She imports food.
15 She rises when it’s still night. She provides meat for her house and her employees.
16 She organizes a field. She plants a vineyard with the fruit of her hands.
17 She belts herself with strength. She makes her arms strong.
18 She tastes her merchandise to make sure it’s good. Her lamp isn’t put out at night.
19 She puts her hands on the spindle. Her palms hold the distaff.
20 Her palms spread for the humble. Her hands reach out to the needy.
21 She doesn’t fear snow for her household: All her house are warmly clothed in red.
22 She knits herself tapestries. Her clothing is purple.
23 Her husband is recognized at the city gates. He sits with the land’s elders.
24 She makes and sells tunics. She gives belts to Canaanites.
25 Her clothing is strength and honor. She will relax in days to come.
26 Her mouth is opened in wisdom. The Law of kindness is on her tongue.
27 She watches the goings-on of her house. She doesn’t eat bread idly.
28 Her children rise and call her happy. Her husband praises her:
29 “Many daughters do well, but you surpass all of them!”
30 Grace can be false. Loveliness is useless. A woman who respects the LORD will be praised.
31 Give her back the fruit of her hands, and her deeds will praise her in the city gates.

Check it out. Only once does her devotion to God come up; in verse 30. And no doubt her good deeds are the result of loving God and wanting to excel for his sake. But the bulk of this passage is about the fact this woman works. Works hard. Gets stuff done, and does it well.

18 April 2018

“I just feel in my spirit…”

Yeah yeah yeah. Quit trying to sound more spiritual than you are.

MY SPIRIT /maɪ 'spɪr.ɪt/ n. Me. (Usually said to make one, or one’s opinion or issues, sound particularly spiritual.)

Certain Christianese terms don’t come from scripture, theology, or the ordinary practical course of religious behavior. They come from hypocrisy.

“My spirit” is a pretty common example. It does originate from the bible, ’cause various poets and psalmists refer to themselves as “my spirit” or “my soul.” It’s a poetic synonym for oneself.

It’s just certain Christians insist on using “my spirit” for everything. Instead of simply referring to themselves as “me” or “mine” or “myself,” they gotta keep referring to their spirit. Sometimes because they’re around fellow Christians, and figure we oughta speak in Christianese around one another. The rest of the time it’s because they’re deliberately trying to sound extra-spiritual, or super-Christian.

“I think [but can’t articulate why]…”“I feel in my spirit…”
“I don’t think so.”“I feel a check in my spirit.”
“I feel really strongly…”“I feel impressed in my spirit…”
“I feel certain…”“I feel convicted in my spirit…”
“I agree.”“I bear witness in my spirit.”
“I love that!”“I rejoice in my spirit.”
“I’m really sure…”“I know in my spirit…”
“I changed my mind.”“I feel a shift in my spirit.”
“I want to…”“It was put in my spirit that we should…”
“I don’t want to.”“I feel hesitation in my spirit.”
“I got the idea…”“I sensed in my spirit…”
“I got emotional.”“I felt moved in my spirit.”
“I was sad.”“I was grieved in my spirit.”
“I was happy.”“I rejoiced in my spirit.”
“I’m worked up.”“I feel oppressed in my spirit.”
“That excites me.”“I feel a quickening in my spirit.”
“I agree.”“That really speaks to my spirit.”
“I feel free.”“I feel freedom in my spirit.”
“I feel strong.”“I feel strong in my spirit.”

Pick any adjective you like, and you can totally feel it in your spirit. Pick any verb, and you can easily do it in your spirit. It’s just that easy.

29 December 2017

The wicked, deceitful human heart.

No, I don’t mean the blood-pumping organ in your chest.

HEART /hɑrt/ n. Hollow muscular organ which pumps blood through the circulatory system.
2. [in popular culture] Center of a person’s thoughts and emotions; one’s mood, feeling, enthusiasm, mood, or courage.
3. [in popular Christian culture] Center of a person’s lifeforce; one’s innermost being; the true self, particularly one’s true thoughts and feelings.
4. A conventional heart shape, as found on a deck of cards.
[Hearted /'hɑrt.ɛd/ adj.]
Jeremiah 17.9-10 KWL
9 “The heart is more twisted than everything.
It’s human. Who knows it?
10 I, the LORD, examine the heart and test the kidneys,
to give men according to their ways, the fruit of their deeds.”

The ancients didn’t know much about anatomy. So all the stuff we recognize are part of brain activity, the ancients believed were the function of other parts of the body. The heart, they imagined, did our thinking. The kidneys did the feeling.

Seriously. And why not? When we get excited, our hearts beat faster. When we’re sad or mournful, we feel it in the chest, and not so much the head. They saw a connection between mental activity and the heart. So they deduced it was the cardiac muscle behind our thoughts and feelings… not our thoughts and feelings behind our heart’s behavior. Yep, got it backwards.

What’d they imagine our brains did? Well, they didn’t. Seriously: The word “brain” isn’t in the bible. Y’might find it in various bible translations, but that’s because the translators know what the brain actually does, and decided to swap it for lev or kardía where appropriate. But in the scriptures, when we come across mental activity, the authors kept referring to one’s heart.

  • The thoughts Ge 6.5 or imagination Ge 8.21 of one’s heart: Of one’s mind, really.
  • Saying in one’s heart Ge 11.17, 24.45, Dt 9.4, 18.21 is saying to oneself, in one’s head, or at least privately.
  • One’s heart failed or fainted or was discouraged Ge 42.28, 45.26, Nu 32.7, Dt 1.28 means they lost their nerve.
  • One’s heart was hardened Ex 4.21, 7.13, Dt 2.30 means one’s mind is closed.
  • One’s heart was stirred Ex 35.21, 36.2 is what we’d call a brainstorm.

We still do this in our culture. When we remember, we “search our hearts.” When we rethink things, we “have a change of heart.” When we make up our minds, we “determine in our hearts.” And so forth.

Medical science didn’t realize the brain’s importance till Hippocrates in the fourth century BC, and Galen of Pergamon in our second century. For the longest time, more folks were familiar with Aristotle, who claimed the brain’s job is to cool down our blood. Considering all the bible’s talk about thinking and saying with our hearts, most people up until the Renaissance assumed the heart literally did as the bible describes.

But as I’ve said before, the bible’s not a science textbook. When its authors wrote about other subjects than God, they repeated what their culture had told them. They’d always been taught so, and God saw no reason to correct them: “No, guys, you think with your brains, not your hearts.” He had bigger fish to fry. He even used their terminology: He stated he thought in his heart. Ho 11.8 He was trying to relate to humanity, and it wasn’t the occasion for a biology lesson.

So if you’re worried about the scientific inaccuracy of the scriptures, don’t. Unlike young-earth creationists, we aren’t making anti-scientific claims about human biology based on our overly-literal interpretations of the scriptures. We’re simply reading the bible so we can understand God better. To a lesser degree, we’re also trying to understand the sin-damaged human mind better, and if the bible’s authors persisted in using “heart” to mean “mind”… well, let’s adapt.

08 December 2016

What’s a soul?

Because Christians don’t realize there’s a difference between a soul and a spirit.

Soul /soʊl/ n. Lifeforce.
2. [in popular culture] The immaterial, spiritual essence of a human; considered immortal.
Soulish /'soʊl.ɪʃ/ adj. Having to do with one’s lifeforce.
2. [in popular Christian culture] Fleshly.

One of the vexing problems of Christianity is we have certain words we use which nobody ever bothers to define. As a result, people guess—and guess wrong. Our word “soul” is probably the most obvious example.

Years ago, a newbie Christian asked his pastor what a “soul” was, to which the pastor replied, “Oh, you shouldn’t even try to define it.” The pastor figured a soul is a mystery, a concept way beyond human understanding. Best to leave mysteries alone, and not waste our time—or make ourselves nuts—trying to understand ’em.

I admit it’s kinda western of me, but I can’t agree: If you use a word and don’t know what it means, it’s foolish. If you don’t wanna know its meaning, you’re a fool. It might be a concept that’s too vast for our tiny little minds—but all the more reason we should tackle it. We learn a lot this way.

Christians don’t entirely understand the immaterial parts of ourselves. So we mix up the soul and spirit all the time. Popular culture is no help: It confounds spirit with emotion, and it confounds soul with sensitivity and creativity. If “you’ve got soul,” you’re either emotionally intense, or intellectually intense. Or you like Motown.

But some of the culture’s uses of “soul” give hints to its proper biblical meaning. The “soul” of a movement or endeavor is the person who inspires it, embodies it, gives it that spark of life. To “bare one’s soul” means to share every part of one’s life. A “soulmate” is someone you share your life with. And when a disaster happens and “souls were lost,” it means lives.

So what’s a soul then? It’s a lifeforce.

The bible’s words for soul are nefésh in Hebrew, psyhí in Greek. Both of them literally mean “breath.” ’Cause when we’re alive, we breathe, right? And when we no longer are, we don’t.

When God made the first human—

Genesis 2.7 KWL
The LORD God sculpted the human of dust from the ground.
God breathed into his nose the breath of life, giving the human a living soul.

The KJV says the human “became a living soul,” which is another valid way to translate it. Though most bibles nowadays simply translate nefésh and psyhí as “life.”

So yes, everything that’s alive has a soul. ’Cause it breathes. When it stops breathing, its soul has gone out. That’s right: Souls aren’t immortal. In humans they were meant to be; Adam and Eve were meant to live forever. But they lost access to the Tree of Life, so they died… ’cause now humans die.

15 September 2016

When we remake Jesus in our image.

No surprise, we’re gonna find Jesus agrees with us nearly all the time.

PROJECTION /prə'dʒɛk.ʃən, proʊ'dʒɛk.ʃən/ n. Unconscious transfer of one’s ideas to another person.
[Project /prə'dʒɛkt, proʊ'dʒɛkt/ v.]

When we’re talking popular Christian culture’s version of Christianity, i.e. Christianism, we’re not really talking about what Jesus teaches. We’re talking about what we’d like to think Jesus teaches. We’re talking about our own ideas, projected onto Jesus like he’s a screen and we’re a camera obscura. We’re progressive… and how about that, so is Jesus! Or we’re conservative… and how handy is it that Jesus feels precisely the same as we do?

Y’know, the evangelists told us when we come to Jesus, our whole life would have to change. But when we’re Christianist, we discover to our great pleasure and relief our lives really didn’t have to change much at all.

We had to learn a few new handy Christianese terms:

“I think…”“I just think God’s telling me…”
“I strongly think…”“God’s telling me…”
“I feel…”“I just feel in my spirit…”
“I don’t wanna do that.”“We should just take that to God in prayer.”
“That scares me.”“I just feel a check in my spirit.”
“That pisses me off.”“That just grieves my spirit.”
F--- you and the horse you rode in on.”“I’ll pray for you.”

and we learned a few handy ways to act more Christian. Like learning all the Christian-sounding justifications for our fruitless behavior. Like pointing to orthodox Christian beliefs as the evidence of our new life in Christ; it’s way easier to learn and repeat than to develop fruit of the Spirit. Like how to act like Christians when surrounded by Christians, but be your usual pagan self otherwise, and never once ask yourself whether this is hypocrisy.

As for what Jesus actually teaches, for actually following him: Christianists figure we do follow him. ’Cause we believe in him. Jn 6.40 That’s how you get eternal life, right? Jn 3.16 Just believe. Nothing more. So we do nothing more. We’ve got faith, God figures this faith makes us righteous, Ro 3.22 and being righteous means we’re right. God rewires our minds so everything we think is right and good and usually infallible.

Problem is, that’s not how we become right. That’s how we stay wrong. That’s how we wind up arrogantly assuming the way we think, is the way God thinks. That all our depraved, self-centered motives are spiritual insights into how God’s gonna bring glory to himself. How God’s sovereignty and God’s kingdom works. How God’s sense of justice and wrath is gonna affect all the people in the world who, coincidentally, are the objects of our ire, spite, and disgust.

God’s ways are not our ways. Is 55.8-9 All the more true if we never bother to study God’s ways. But when we’re Christianists we think we know his ways, ’cause we have his Spirit (whom we barely follow), learned a few memory verses (some even in context!), skimmed a bit of bible, heard Sunday sermons for the past several years… and all our Christianist friends believe the very same way we do. There’s no way we could all be leading one another astray.

18 January 2016

And now, a word of prayer.

Christianese which nearly always means, “And now, a really long prayer.”

Word of prayer /wərd ə preɪər/ n. Prayer, usually meant to invoke God before a function.
2. Small sermon, disguised as a prayer. Brace yourself.

From time to time, right before we do something important, like take a meeting, drive someplace, eat lunch, get a really large tattoo on our back, or whatever, Christians will often say, “Before we do that, let’s have a word of prayer.”

Nope, they don’t mean it literally: It won’t be one single word. At all. For darn sure it’s not gonna be short. Words of prayer tend to be awfully wordy.

Why “a word of prayer,” instead of simply “a prayer”? My guess is it originally meant a short prayer. Y’know, like when somebody stops you and says, “Can I have a word—just a word—with you?” They intend for it to be short. Or at least sound short, so you don’t respond, “Too busy,” and keep going. But depending on the person who wants “just a word with you,” the conversation might be mighty long. Some of them have no idea “just a word” means brevity. I once had a boss whose “just a word” could turn into hours-long meetings.

The same is true of a word of prayer. The petitioner might intend to be short, because the food’s getting cold. In the hands of certain people, who couldn’t be brief even if you strapped a time bomb to their genitals, a word of prayer is just gonna take time. Lots of time. Lots and lots of time.

True of most Christians.

30 December 2015

Yep, Christians have our own definition of “season.”

Are you ready for what God has planned for you? No? Then get ready.

Season /'si.zən/ n. An indeterminate period of time during which something happens.

Properly a season is a well-defined period of time. But people like to play fast and loose with how well-defined it actually is.

As soon as the weather switches to cold, whether that’s in November as usual, or freakishly earlier like September, people (Game of Thrones nerds included) start talking about winter: Winter’s coming. Some will go so far as to say winter’s here.

Winter’s not here till the winter solstice, which in the northern hemisphere is 21 December. Winter is defined by the time between the day of the year with the least daylight, and the next time we have equal day and night. Ends at the vernal equinox, 20 March. But that’s considered the scientific definition of winter, the too-literal definition. Winter means “the cold season,” however long that season lasts.

This sort of fudgery also happens with Christmastime. Again, Christmastime has a defined time: Starts on Advent, which begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas; ends at Epiphany, 6 January. And again, people figure “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” as soon as the stores start selling Christmas things—right after Halloween. Half of them object in rage: The Christmas season starts on Black Friday! Period! The rest of us actually like Christmas, and don’t mind it stretching back a little further. But it ends, as we all know, at midnight 26 December, when it’s time to take down the tree… then start debating whether Kwanzaa is a real holiday.

But as you notice, the human tendency is to take something which has limits and boundaries… then sand away at those edges till they’re nice and soft. Or till they break, and the contents spill over into whatever form we’ve invented.

So, “season.” As defined as ordinary seasons actually are, whenever we Christians start to talk about seasons, we don’t always talk about their boundaries. We don’t usually know them. We might know when a season began—we know it after the fact. But we don’t know when theyll end. We don’t know when the next one is coming. We don’t even know what the next one will consist of. We know what we hope it’ll consist of: We want it to be a season of prosperity, of joy, of blessing, of hope, of grace, of miracles, of anything positive. We’d like the next season to be better than our current one. Especially when the current one sucks, ’cause it could be a season of depression, of sorrow, of suffering, of hardship, of poverty—and we want it to end, and be replaced by something much better.

12 October 2015


Since Jesus is the word of God, Christians have produced a whole lot of weird theology around “word.”

John 1.1-5

John 1.1-5 KWL
1 The word’s in the beginning. The word’s with God. The word is God.
2 He’s in the beginning with God. 3 Everything came to be through him.
Nothing that exists came to be without him. 4 What came to be through him, was life.
Life’s the light of humanity. 5 Light shines in darkness, and darkness can’t get hold of it.

Many Christians are fascinated by the word “word.” Mostly ’cause of the passage above. The word existed in the very beginning, was with God, and is God… and became the man we know as Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

Why’d the author of John (whom, for tradition’s sake, we’ll call St. John) use “word” to describe the pre-incarnate Jesus? For centuries, the assumption was lógos/“word” came from Greek philosophy. Blame the gentiles: The early church’s writers didn’t know what the Pharisees taught, but they did know Greek philosophy, and insisted on interpreting bible through the lens of their own culture. Christians still do the very same thing today… but that’s a whole other rant. Let’s get back to criticizing ancient Christian gentiles.

Just our luck, the ancient Greeks had written a whole bunch of navel-gazing gibberish about the word lógos. ’Cause they were exploring the nature of truth: What is it, how do we find it, how do we prove it, how do we recognize logical fallacies, and what about words which can mean more than one thing? For that matter, what’s a “word” anyway? Is it just a label for a thing, or a substantial thing on its own? Maybe that’s why God can create things by merely saying a word. Ge 1.3 And so on. Follow their intellectual rabbit trails, and you’ll go all sorts of weird, gnostic directions. And the gentile Christians did.

Now let’s practice some actual logic, and look at John’s culture. What’d the Pharisees teach about what “word” means? Apparently they had their own interesting idea behind it.

06 October 2015

Pagans and heathens and nonchristians; oh my!

Believe it or don’t, it’s a Christian term for unbelievers.

Pagan /'peɪ.gən/ adj. Holds religious beliefs other than those of Christians (or other major religions).
2. Neo-Pagan: Practices nature religions, magical and occult traditions, or revived ancient polytheistic religions.
Heathen /'hið.ən/ n. (chiefly derogatory) A pagan.
2. An uncultured, inappropriate person.

I tend to use the word pagan to describe nonchristians.

Yeah, I know capital-p Pagans have appropriated the word to mean their religions. It’s just another one of neo-Pagans’ many historical inaccuracies. Ancient pagans never called themselves pagans.

“Pagan” is a Christian word, from the Latin paganus, meaning rustic or country-dweller. As opposed to Christians who live in the “City of God,” his kingdom. It’s not derogatory, nor is it meant to be. It’s just a way to indicate those inside Christendom, and those outside. (Whom we wanna invite inside.)

Heathen, on the other hand, has always meant “uncivilized.” As in “What have you little heathens done to my kitchen?” when the kids have left behind a giant mess. True, some pagans totally are heathens. But let’s be nice.

Anywho, the neo-Pagans began to call themselves “pagan” in the mid-1800s, when British and American mystics started to revive occult religion; and once again in the 1960s and ’70s, when nature religions did likewise. These would be the maguses, practitioners of magick (with a -k), Wiccans, druids, shamans, nonchristian faith healers, followers of various nature gods, and folks who brought back worship of the ancient Egyptian or Norse or Greco-Roman gods. They insist “pagan” refers to them. It does, ’cause they’re definitely not Christian. But some of ’em get annoyed when we Christians use the word “pagan” to describe any and every nonchristian—forgetting they swiped our word.

And properly “pagan” means people with no organized religion. Buddhists, properly, aren’t pagans. Neither are Muslims, Hindus… nor even neo-Pagans, even though they’re as disorganized as any religion can be. A pagan isn’t affiliated with any group: They’re not religious. They may believe in God; in fact most of ’em totally do. But they’re the people who insist, “I’m not religious” (and not in that Evangelical way which really means “I’m not legalistic”). Or “I don’t believe in organized religion.” Meaning they don’t want us to organize ’em, thank you very much.