Apr 26, 2006

I Can't Believe They Just Said That

I admit, I'm a cynic. I derive some kind of schadenfreude by observing others' failures. And lately, nothing makes me more freude at others schaden than by watching evangelical Christians make a mess of language.

My beloved writer-boyfriend Larry Wilson sent me a link to an upcoming Christian media conference, and the following caught both of our attention:

We’ve assembled a stellar team of luminaries in film, TV, radio and journalism to ask the hard questions and push for more than easy answers. We want to tap their collective, Christian wisdom, to figure out how to leverage, with humility and grace, our new standing in Hollywood.

First Of All: Why is the collective unconscious always tapped? You don’t really hear about nudging the collective unconscious, or even waking it up. Or else it would no longer be unconscious, now would it? But to tap the collective Christian wisdom? Do they mean "tap" as in "nudge," or as in "beer-on-tap?" In which case, they’ve mixed metaphors. But who am I to criticize? I’m barking up the wrong door.

Second: Is it grammatically correct to leverage your standing? You don’t leverage your own standing -- you use your standing to leverage something else. Further, can you really leverage ANYTHING with humility and grace?

And as long as they’re using “humility and grace” as a compound phrase, I’d feel better if they added “engaging the culture” and "relevant" in there somewhere. And "pagan." Then the clichés and insults would be complete.

Third:Our friend Anna enjoyed the conference's boast of a "stellar team of luminaries." Why not a stellar team of black holes or dark matter? Anyway Anna recalled her years as a proofreader/editor for a Christian non-profit: I found the best typo ever, and I almost let it go:"___'s mandate is to clothe and feel the naked.

Hey, Cut Them A Break I don't want to be a total Captain Bringdown. This media conference is trying to do something worthwhile. They get an A Plus for intention. They just need to fire their PR writer.

Moving On Larry and I were snickering about a possible coffee table book, along the lines of “A Field Guide to Evangelicals and Their Habitat” which was recently published. (I know what you're thinking: how did those two sick, dark minds ever find each other? Praise the Lord.)

Let's say we call it: I Can’t Believe They Just Said That:Malaprops and Other Embarrassing Moments In Christendom. (I'd stick to literary genocide since the Spanish Inquisition has already been covered.)

The book could have chapters on:

  • Mixed Metaphors and Malarpops
  • Bad Grammar and Syntax
  • Please, Don't Overuse the Formatting Keys!!!!
  • Us Vs. Them: referring to non-Christians in negative terms such as pagan, anti-Christian, Jesus-haters, the Non-Elect, Those Chosen For Destruction

Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons, does a yearly cartoon called “Forbidden Words," enumerating the overworn catch phrases that have got to go. His 2005 list included:

  • SWEET!
    and of course, it’s time to fire:

I think it would be funny to do such a coffee table book, and include a chapter on “Forbidden Words” for evangelicals. “Engaging the culture” would be at the top of my list. What does that mean, to engage the culture? Is the culture idling in neutral? Sorry, the culture has already von von von down the autobahn. It's the evangelicals who've had their foot on the clutch.

As my intellectually cogent writer-friend Mark Kellner wrote: "Tempted as I am to think outside the box and unpack the sublimity that is your writing, while pushing the envelope ... I think I'll stick to a quick "hi" ...

Thanks, Mark. I totally forgot about "unpack." Next time I hear a pastor say he's going to unpack something in a sermon, I am going to throw my Samsonite at the lectern.

Anyway, while engaging the culture and unpack are at the top of the forbidden words, “leverage with humility and compassion” could get the trophy for Beyond The Literary Pale.

More later ...

1 comment:

miguel said...


I am usually so underwhelmed by the mailing list announcements I receive, but I'm so glad I signed up for yours. Barking up the wrong door? I love your writing.

Oh, and I'm happy to hear about your new boyfriend! Your Rejected By eHarmony essay was so sardonic and self-effacing (in a good way, of course!), so it's nice to hear that area of your life is getting lots of sunshine.

Sincerely, Miguel
Sacramento, Ca

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