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Lingo (Part II)

As I said in "Lingo (Part I)", the phrase "felt needs" was my hint that I might be in for trouble. "Christian spirituality" was the trouble.

I'd noticed it on the cover of Blue Like Jazz, the subtitle "Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality." It sounded like hip/pseudo-radical marketing garbage, and I simply moved forward in hopes that it was. But then, right after "felt needs," came this passage:
For me, the beginning of sharing my faith with people began by throwing out Christianity and embracing Christian spirituality, a nonpolitical mysterious system that can be experienced but not explained. Christianity, unlike Christian spirituality, was not a term that excited me. And I could not in good conscious [sic] tell a friend about a faith that didn't excite me. I couldn't share something I wasn't experiencing. And I wasn't experiencing Christianity. It didn't do anything for me at all. It felt like math, like a system of rights and wrongs and political beliefs, but it wasn't God reaching out of heaven to do wonderful things in my life. And if I would have shared Christianity with somebody, it would have felt mostly like I was trying to get somebody to agree with me rather than meet God. I could no longer share anything about Christianity, but I loved talking about Jesus and the spirituality that goes along with a relationship with Him.

—Donald Miller, Blue Like Jazz
Hooey.

I could be more polite, I'm sure, and say things along the lines of, "Miller and I seem to be experiencing different truths" (and since politeness often passes for graciousness, it would almost certainly come off better if I were). But when I read a sentiment like that, the most diplomatic internal response I can honestly come up with is, "Hogwash."

Basically, Miller seems here to be making up jargon so he'll be invited to explain it, and so he can jettison any baggage associated with Christianity. He's not alone—this is just a great example of the epidemic, made even more pronounced by a simultaneous shedding of "religion" and "Christianity." And many will nod their heads because they want something fresh and hip and countercultural. By itself, it's still mostly harmless (like Earth), except that it panders to a pretty basic and selfish desire: "I want words and ideas I can be excited about." My fear is that, unknown to most, there's something darker under that desire, something we'd rather not face or admit about ourselves (that's all in "Lingo (Part III)").

Last time I wrote about jargon, I mentioned the "emerging church." Again, I'll readily say that I'm largely very much on board with this camp. The language play, however, is sliding toward meaninglessness in a post-modern search for meaning. At a recent emerging church conference, a participant suggested abandoning the phrase "Every knee shall bow" in connection with Christ's return, because it didn't have context and meaning for people today. This drew agreement from the other participants and (thankfully) shock from the facilitator. But when something like that can happen, we're far closer to the edge than I believe to be beneficial, all for the sake of tickling our eardrums. Trying to make the gospel less offensive is risky business.

Beyond that, it's often just stupid. It's still Christianity, which is still religion. I understand that people have mixed experiences with both terms. But look at it logically: we don't stop calling them "cars" because people have been killed in accidents by them, taken uncomfortable trips in them, paid unfair insurance rates or outrageous gasoline prices for them, had trouble finding parking for them, and so on. They're still cars, they've still done all the good they've done for us (past and present), and they're still part of our society today. If some schmoe came trying to sell me a car, but insisted on calling it a "mobility enhancer" because "car" wasn't a word he could get excited about and didn't capture the depth of the concept, I'd think he was an idiot. Regardless of what else it is, it's still a car. My faith and relationship with Jesus is much more than Christianity or religion. But it's still included in both constructs.

Comments

"Hogwash."

I concur.
I'm sick and tired of pc junk, and that's what Miller seems to be promoting. I'm probably wrong because I haven't read the book, but any time someone uses catch phrases or invents phrases intended to lure the lost into the Body or express "new" ideas, I am wary.

I'm old enough to remember several metamorphoses in the language of the church...and not all positive.

Another analogy along the lines of your car:

When Maureen lost her leg to cancer, she was asked if the term "handicapped" was offensive. She noted she felt more "maimed." So we've gone from "crippled" to "handicapped" to "physically challenged," but I bet each victim feels "maimed."
Honestly, it's been mostly a great book so far and I look forward to getting back to it. I just got hung up on the jargon in this one section and needed to wrestle with why it bothered me before I could continue.

Great thoughts from Mo. Jargon or no, things are not the way they are supposed to be.
How can you make the Gospel less offensive? Jesus was offensive! LOL. He liked to call people what they were, like 'hypocrite' and 'viper'. By today's standards, that's offensive. Of course, today's (incredibily irritating) little maxim is, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all". Imagine how depressing and ineffective Jesus would be as a Messiah if He had lived by that!
The funny thing is, these days, lots of people act along the lines of "Jesus is OK; it's His followers I can't stand." This is the root of much of the popular distancing from Christianity and religion.

Fact is, it's mostly bullshit—the actual Jesus would almost certainly offend these folks. Their unwillingness to accept His authority (including His grace) and to forgive His Church establishes this. But it's everso hip to hang onto an idea of Jesus that's just a projection of one's own values, one that never asks us to repent and certainly never says "No." Very fluffy, very wrong.
I knew I was doing something wrong. ;) My 'projection' of Jesus says 'No' all the time and gets quite stern if I've done something I shouldn't. We fight too, upon occasion.

I really must do more work on my 'projection'. ;) LOL!
Basically, Miller seems here to be making up jargon so he'll be invited to explain it, and so he can jettison any baggage associated with Christianity.

Sounds like re-packaged Jesus Movement stuff; how very 70s.
a participant suggested abandoning the phrase "Every knee shall bow" in connection with Christ's return, because it didn't have context and meaning for people today

No, it doesn't. Because people today don't bow the knee to anything or anyone. It's all about meeeeeeee. I can't even think of a contemporary analogy. "Every hand shall cover his heart, and every tongue recite the Pledge of Allegiance to Jesus"? Not only weak, but inaccurate. On the contrary: WE NEED TO LEARN what conquest by, and submission to, a King means.

Bible translators do have some hurdles to jump in translating Scriptural concepts into languages and cultures that lack some of the basic elements: e.g. how do you explain "the Good Shepherd" to a tribe that has never known sheep? But I expect that, human experience being pretty close to the same everywhere, you could find a point of contact (something comparable to sheep and shepherds) from which to educate your new audience. Now with our culture, which has been saturated with Christian imagery since the beginning, this is a relatively easy task. Pretending that the next generation are a bunch of space aliens and that we need to monkey around with the words of Scripture (and in so doing, of course, write our own cultural preconceptions in) to make them comprehensible is a grave error. Bottom line: we and our culture need to be informed and educated by Scripture; we don't need to conform Scripture to our and our culture's expectations. And this (among numerous other reasons) is why I can't support Pomo Church.
Good thoughts.
Yeah - well said. I look forward to reading Lingo II and III.

In my experience, re-labeling things doesn't help anyway. I used to say, Ï'm not religious, I just love Jesus" b/c religion meant to me a system of attaining righteousness - Christian or Buddhist or whatever. But that's not what it meant to everyone else, and so they'd just look at me with that "whatever" look.

It's like a theater geek calling himself a thespian. Whatever, dude.
I've been thinking of a few things lately - not voicing them yet, just thinking - and I am going back in the journals of those I like to read in an effort to catch up and see this! A voice to my thoughts, packaged up nicely. I don't need to reiterate all you've said - I'll just say YES! and nod my head furiously.

I'm SO ON BOARD with accessibility and methods that help people see Christ - but let them see Christ! Not just Jesus. Not just a neat guy. But God. To whom we bow before at every opportunity.

When did church become so .... popular and cool? And that's fine - I don't mean to say that church shouldn't be relevant..but it seems to me that we're trying SO HARD to be as much like those we want to reach out to, not understanding that even THEY don't want to be how they are!!

I hate that I can't see my curser.
I agree with you, of course, but the main reason I'm commenting is because I think I fixed the cursor thing. It didn't start doing that to me until recently, and I just ignored when Melanie mentioned it because I didn't know what she was talking about and she's...picky. ;)

Try it and let me know.
MUUUUUCH better.

Basically, Miller seems here to be making up jargon so he'll be invited to explain it, and so he can jettison any baggage associated with Christianity. He's not alone—this is just a great example of the epidemic, made even more pronounced by a simultaneous shedding of "religion" and "Christianity." And many will nod their heads because they want something fresh and hip and countercultural. By itself, it's still mostly harmless (like Earth), except that it panders to a pretty basic and selfish desire: "I want words and ideas I can be excited about."

I'm glad I read this!

It's all so very confusing sometimes.