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Showing posts with the label #Christianese

The explosive power of God?

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DYNAMIS 'daɪ.nə.mɪs, 'di.na.mis or DUNAMIS 'du'nə.mɪs noun. The extra-mighty sort of power God possesses. [Dynamite power 'daɪ.nə.maɪt 'paʊ(.ə)r noun. ] Alexander Pope wrote the saying, “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” in his Essay on Criticism in 1711. It’s frequently misquoted “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” and constantly taken out of context: People assume Pope meant it’s better to have no knowledge at all. Knowledge is power, but power in the wrong hands is dangerous. Read his whole poem, and you learn what Pope actually meant: A little learning is a dang’rous thing; Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian Spring: There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, And drinking largely sobers us again. Yeah, for those who lack a little learning about what a Pierian Spring is, that’d be a fountain in ancient Macedonia (which is not the current country of Macedonia) dedicated to the Muses, the Greek goddesses o

Burdens which were put on one’s heart.

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HEART hɑrt noun. 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 adjective. ] I’ve already written on the heart —the blood-pumping muscle in our chests, how popular culture uses it as a metaphor for emotion, and how the ancients believed it did what we now know the brain does. And of course how Christians mix up the biblical idea with the pop culture idea, and therefore misinterpret the bible like crazy: To the ancients, you didn’t feel with your heart; you felt with your guts . You thought with your heart. Or, when your “heart was hard,” you didn’t: Your mind was made up. Today I’m gonna di

“The spirit of…”

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SPIRIT OF… 'spɪ.rɪt əv noun, genitive . A quality considered the defining or typical element in the character of a person, people, or institution. 2. A supernatural being creating or facilitating that element. Pagans don’t know what spirit is, and their best guess is emotion: Spirit is the feeling you get when a speaker talks about stuff you care about—or stuff that terrifies you. Spirit is the emotions stirred up by a great piece of music or a great work of art. Spirit is the mood in the room when you enter it, and it’ll either make you want to stick around or flee. Spirit is the vibes you feel from a really positive or really negative person. Spirit is the feels. No surprise, this false definition is all over Christianity. So much so, people think the way you detect the Holy Spirit, or some other evil spirit, is by our feelings . If the spirit of a room is all dark and creepy, it means there’s an evil spirit in there, trying to tempt or mislead you; your feelings

Redeemer: Somebody like Jesus who bails us out. Or not.

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REDEEM rə'dim verb . Compensate for the flaws, deficiencies, or evil of something or someone. 2. Save someone from sin, error, or evil. 3. Gain or regain something, in exchange for payment; repay, or clear a debt. 4. Fulfill a promise. [Redemption rə'dɛm(p).ʃən noun , redeemer rə'dim.ər noun , redeemable rə'di.mə.bəl adjective .] When people talk about redeeming or redemption, if they’re not Christian they’re usually talking about recycling cans and bottles. In California when you buy something in a recyclable container, you’re charged an extra fee (the California redemption value, or CRV ) which we’re meant to get back when we take the container to a recycling center. Although not everybody bothers to get their CRV back; they toss it in a recycling bin. Or even the trash—and then someone else will go digging through the trash looking for recyclables, hoping for that sweet, sweet CRV money. Christian redemption isn’t quite like that… although I h

The kairos moment.

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KAIROS MOMENT 'kaɪ.rɑs 'moʊ.mənt noun . Propitious time for decision or action. Every so often there’s a window of time when something profound happens. You make a life-changing decision. You don’t always realize it’s life-changing at the time; sometimes it occurs to you much later. But sometimes you’re in the moment and recognize this is a major turning point: You pick a university. Pick a job. Pick a spouse. Choose to follow Jesus. Choose to have kids. All sorts of things. Might’ve been a split-second decision. Might’ve been a long, well-thought-out decision. Or you might’ve agonized over it for weeks, racked with indecision; maybe procrastinating the actual decision; maybe giving up and leaving it in the hands of others. (Or worse, coin flips. Or even worse, your horoscope.) In any event you stopped weighing your options and chose one of ’em. For Christians, whenever we wanna Christianize the decision-making process—whenever we wanna make it sound like God’s h

Pagans and heathens and nonchristians; oh my!

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PAGAN 'peɪ.gən adjective. Holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions. A non-Christian. 2. A neopagan: Adherent of a recent religious movement which incorporates beliefs or rituals from pre-Christian Europe and North America. [Paganism 'peɪ.gən.ɪz.əm noun .]   HEATHEN 'hi.ðən adjective. Pagan. 2. Uncultured, inappropriate. Pagan is a Christian word, from the Latin paganus , meaning one who lives in the country, as opposed to one who lives in the city. Ancient Christians figured we live in the “city of God,” his kingdom … and pagans live outside, so let’s invite them in. It was their shorthand way of saying nonchristian. It’s mine too. I know; a number of people have appropriated the word to mean their religions. The neopagan movement started 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 mag

Courtship: Dating… but no sex.

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Years ago I worked at a Christian camp. For the summer program we’d hire college students to be counselors. Some of them grew up Christian; some of them had only been Christian a short time; some of them had only claimed to be Christian on their applications, but didn’t know Jesus from Obi-Wan Kenobi. (Actually they may have known a lot more about Obi-Wan than Jesus.) Once, while hanging out, one of the longtime Christians mentioned her brother was “courting” a certain girl. The Christian newbie in our group got a confused look on her face—she wasn’t familiar with the term. “Courting,” I explained, “is dating. But no sex.” The newbie nodded, understandingly. Some of the group grinned. The girl who introduced the term “courting” objected. SHE. “That’s not what it means.” HE. “Does he bring chaperones to the dates?” SHE. “No…” HE. “No kissing? No hand-holding? No touching of any kind?” SHE. “No.” HE. “They go off and do things together, by themselves? But not s

Gentiles.

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GENTILE 'dʒɛn.taɪl adjective. Not Jewish. 2. Not of our religious community. Years ago a Mormon friend used the word “gentile” to describe non-Mormons. You know, like I use the word “pagan” to describe nonchristians. If you’re used to defining the word another way, it’s a little odd to hear it like that; and of course I had to ask him if he considered non-Mormon Jews to be “gentiles.” Apparently he does. That oughta be super weird for any Jews who hear that. ’Cause “gentile” originates from Jews trying to describe anyone who’s not a Jew. The Hebrew word is גּוֹי / goy , “people-group” or “nation”; and they translated this by the Greek word ἔθνος / éthnos , “ethnic.” It can refer to any people-group, including Israel. Ex 19.6 When St. Jerome translated it, he used the Latin word gentilis , “people-group,” and of course this evolved into the English “gentile.” (The Yiddish word, góyim , comes from the Hebrew plural for goy .) In the context of the scriptures, it re

You must be born again.

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What “born again” means to pagans and Christians. BORN AGAIN bɔrn ə'ɡɛn verb. Become Christian. 2. Convert to a stronger faith in, and a more personal relationship with, Christ Jesus. 3. Become a zealous [or overzealous] Christian. 4. noun: A Christian who underwent one of the above experiences. Certain Christians insist you’re not a real Christian unless you’ve been “born again.” These same Christians look at me funny whenever I talk about Christians who weren’t born again: “There’s no such thing,” they say. Actually there are: Some of us grew up Christian. From as far back as we can remember, we were raised to believe in Jesus and follow him, so we did. We went straight from childhood faith (where you trust Jesus because you’re told to) to personal faith (where you individually choose to trust Jesus) without any abrupt born-again experience at all. It was seamless… well, if there is a seam, Jesus knows where it is, but we don’t. For me there was a born-agai

“Pre-Christians” and religious bigotry.

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About 25 years ago, my pastor talked about how he was no longer gonna refer to pagans as “non-Christians.” (He never did refer to them as pagans. That’s a practice which varies from church to church. Anyway.) From now on he was gonna call them “pre-Christians.” Because, he explained, he was gonna hope in favor of them becoming Christian eventually. It’s based on optimism. It also addresses a rather common problem we find in Christendom, particularly in the Bible Belt. It’s a certain degree of negativity Christians can have towards pagans. Bluntly, it’s religious bigotry: The attitude that if you’ve not chosen Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must be sinful, stupid, or otherwise morally or mentally deficient. My pastor explained none of this thinking is proper, nor even correct. Pagans are simply people who’ve not chosen Jesus yet . He hopes they yet will. And Christians have no leg to stand on when it comes to religious bigotry. God loves the world, Jn 3.16 which includes a

On sexists. Sorry, “complementarians.”

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But really sexists with a nicer-sounding label. COMPLEMENTARIAN /kɑmp.lə.mən'tɛ.rɪ.ən/ adj. Sexist: Believes men and women are inherently unequal in authority (to lead, teach, or parent) and rights. 2. Believes men and women should adhere to [culturally defined] gender roles, and complement one another by fulfilling the unique duties of those roles. EGALITARIAN /ɪ.ɡæl.ə'tɛ.ri.ən/ adj. Believes all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunity. I really dislike the term “complementarian.” It’s what logicians call a weasel word: It’s one of those words people use instead of the proper word, ’cause they don’t care to tell you what they really mean. Or they’re in serious self-denial about what they really mean. Bluntly, “complementarian” is Christianese for “sexist.” Because that’s exactly what they mean: Women and men aren’t equal; there are things men can do which women mustn’t; if women dare do them, they’re violating the social order which has kept me

Dropping a little Hebrew on the fellow Christians.

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For some Christians, the only fellow Christians they ever encounter are a small, insulated bunch. Basically it’s just family members and their church, and the few books and podcasts they personally approve of. They’ve got narrow little boundaries and won’t travel outside. Often out of the dark Christian fear they might be led astray, but more often it’s just because they don’t care to stretch themselves. Either way it’s a shame. But I’m not gonna discuss that particular shame today. Me, I browse widely. And from time to time I run into Christians who insist on referring to Christ Jesus as Yeshúa ha- Mešiakh . They’ll spell it lots of different ways; I spell it the way it’s meant to sound, so if it looks a little unfamiliar they might not be pronouncing it properly. Basically it’s Hebrew for “Jesus the Messiah.” Because they learned some Hebrew. And they’re gonna use their Hebrew on everything . God’s gonna get called Adonái /“my Master” or ha- Šém /“the [L ORD ’s] Name.”

The “Proverbs 31 woman.”

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PROVERBS 31 WOMAN 'prɑ.vərbz 'θɜr.di 'wʌn 'wʊ.mən noun. 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.

“I just feel in my spirit…”

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MY SPIRIT maɪ 'spɪr.ɪt noun. 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. ENGLISH CHRISTIANESE “I think [but can’t articulate why]…” “I feel in my spirit…” “I don’t think so.” “I

The wicked, deceitful human heart.

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HEART hɑrt noun. 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 adjective. ] Jeremiah 17.9-10 KWL 9 “The heart is more twisted than every thing . It ’s human. Who knows it? 10 I, the L ORD , 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, o

What’s a soul?

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Soul soʊl noun. Lifeforce. 2. [ in popular culture ] The immaterial, spiritual essence of a human; considered immortal. Soulish 'soʊl.ɪʃ adjective. 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

When we remake Jesus in our image.

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PROJECTION prə'dʒɛk.ʃən, proʊ'dʒɛk.ʃən noun. Unconscious transfer of one’s ideas to another person. [Project prə'dʒɛkt, proʊ'dʒɛkt verb. ] 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: PAGAN WAY OF SAYING IT CHRISTIAN WAY OF SAYING IT “I think…” “I just think God’s telling me…” “I strongly th

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

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SEASON 'si.zən noun. 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

Word!

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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,