I ranted a while back about Christian Clichés.
You can't really get away from clichés. Clichés arise because someone says something clever or smart, and it works. Or it's just a way to explain a complex idea in simple terms. Nothing wrong with that. But then the phrase gets overused, and eventually it gets said by a white guy on a commercial (i.e. fat white guy on Dominos Pizza says "that's what I'm talkin' about!"). Even "jump the shark" has er, jumped the shark.
I just don't like Christian cliches. Burnside Writers Collective editor Jordan Green and I think that a dictionary of Christian clichés would make a fun book. So we are compiling a list. This isn't a complete list because, well, we'd love to publish it as a book and for you to buy it! Or ask me for a free autographed copy to wow your friends.
If you'd like to contribute your idea, please send a comment below. here are some of our worst offenders...
Many Christian clichés originated from Bible verses, such as "born again" (John 3:7). But if you don't know the Bible, the phrase means nothing. Or worse: it conjures up scary images of blue haired ladies, or Debbie Boone. Some of the oldest Old School clichés go back as far as the Oakie Tent revivals, or as recent as, well, Debbie Boone.
- Blessed, or blesséd. (we're not sure if it needs the accent aigu) God-ordained luck?
- Fellowship: sometimes called "The Christian F-Word." (See Sugar's comment below)
- Brethren: Or Sistren, depending on the group. The friendship or community of believers. This is usually coupled with "do not forsake the brethren." Meaning, "get your butt in the pew!"
- Go before, come before: to get in front of. To address or approach. Often coupled with just ... as in
- "Lord we just…" meant to show humility, but ends up sounding wimpy and waffly. Lord we just wanna praise you. Lord we just wanna come before you. Lord I just want Paris Hilton to convert so I can date her."
- In the word: reading the Bible.
Same Poo, Different Day. In reaction to fundamentalism, many Chrisitians wanted to present Christianity as intellectually sound and uh, relevant to, um, the culture (i've already used two). These phrases below probably started out well, but now the user can appear like he's TRYING too hard to sound credible, relevant, or at least cool.
- Authentic: real
- Community: Group of friends
- Authentic community: Real group of friends, I guess
- Authentic lives: Living really? Really living? (Michael Corwin)
- Life-on-life: A creepy way to say real (Rebecca Corwin)
- Having an authentic life-on-life experience with someone: "a creepy way to say we're friends." (Rebecca Corwin)
- Engaging the culture: getting involved in secular society? I can't help but think that the culture is out there idling like an old VW and someone needs to pop the clutch and engage it.
- Unpack: Examining something to the Nth degree. At Redeemer Church in New York City, they can go overboard and unpack the announcements. "We are dismissing the kids for Sunday school. Dismiss is from the Greek "desmedoudas" which means to let go, or loosen … JUST SHUT UP AND LET THE KIDS LEAVE ALREADY!
- Faith-based: A euphemism for religious. Often used in fields where religion is suspect, ie entertainment. A faith-based music label. According to Entertainment Weekly's Chris Willman, faith-friendly is coming into use. Aren't we lucky.
- God showed up: Often used at charismatic hip churches.
- live that out: Um, to follow through. Replaced "walk the talk."
- Purpose filled, Purpose-driven. From Rick Warren's best seller. I wonder if there's a purpose driven coffee house as of yet? Or the Purpose Driven desk calendar.
- Redemption or redemptive: Often used in terms of creative ventures, such as filmmaking and storytelling. This can often be stretched to the point of incredulity. "Despite the gratuitous sex, violence, and profanity, The Sopranos is a redemptive story… (John Fox)
- Relational: Related; connected. In kinship with. The newest "Next Big Thing" church in LA recently held a seminar on small groups called "VELCRO: Creating Relational Stickiness." This is so bad I can't even talk about it yet.
- Relevant: Meaningful, pertinent to the time or issue at hand. Overused to make Christianity meaningful and valuable in the current culture.
- Transparent: Honest. I hope it's not the Christian version of Scientology's "Clear."
- Transparent on the pulpit: Pastor with a "past" spilling guts about all the sordid things ue used to do before he became a Christian. Either to look cool or to get free therapy (Tina Slenk's brother-in-law)
- salt and light: being a good example. This one is often used in entertainment industry, like, "it's great you're being salt and light in the industry." (Jeff Raycher).
I wonder if you can be "salt and light" doing a horror-torture movie? Or a soap?
The post-modern, emergent church has recently uh, emerged? Well, read the Wikipedia entry on the emergent church. I really love what the emergent church is doing. But like any new thing, the verbiage which springs up around it can get over-used. Here are some buzz words of the Emergent Conversation. (No, not a movement. They don't want to categorized or organized). Hey, I'm 'all about' the 'emergent conversation.' Just not the language.
- Creating a space
- Doing life together
- Organic and raw
- Witness worker: Takes the sting out of "evangelist," the way "Sex worker" takes the sting out of "hooker."
- The conversation: As opposed to teaching dogma, we're having a conversation about faith. Sometimes combined with "having a conversation around this." or "being in the conversation."
- Tribe: a Po-mo way to say community.
- Creation-Care: a pomo way to talk about environmentalism. Olivia Mather brought this one to my attention.
- See the Postmodern Essay Generator to really unpack the above
- "What can I say" a line from a worship song played at a new hip church. It went something like
You made a way, what can I say? or
You turned night into day, what can I say? or
These lyrics are gay, what can I say?
As I've said before: Dear Lyricist: If you have to write "What can I say?" Please, move way from the pen, ask yourself "what CAN I say?" When you have an answer, come back and write it. Until then, don't put it in a lyric. And don't make me sing it.
- European music has no place in a multicultural church." Quoted in the LA Times by the pastor of church above. But there is a place for "what can I say?"
- "Don't nobody do me like Jesus." Becca Bennett said that the worship leader in her college wrote this song, and they were forced to sing it at chapel.
- I'm coming into the heart of worship, and it's all about you, it's all about you, Jesus. This song tries to affirm that worship is about Jesus, not us. But it sounds oh so much about ME.
- "You see me and my insecurities." I heard this at a church recently. I don't remember what they rhymed with insecurities. Maybe Maimonides, or Euripides or heebee jeebees. Or maybe the song just gave me the heebee jeebees.
Taking intransitive verbs and making them transitive, coopting speak from other areas like business, technology, rock n roll... The first usage of such often induces a knowing chuckle from the audience. If the word is arcane or "inside," it invokes an exclusive, knowing chuckle. But like any good joke, when overtold, becomes its own cliché.
- Impact: don't they mean make an impact? What, is it a wisdom tooth? (Phil Oosterhouse)
- Grow the budget. I think you grow food and flowers.
- Bandwidth: The pastor doesn't have enough bandwidth to see everyone.
- Download: I just got this download from God ... Some tech head just have said this and caught on. I'm sorry but I can't help think of download as a euphemism for taking a dump. As in "downloading brownware." See also "unpack."
- VELCRO: Creating Relational Stickiness: the same hip church's title for a seminar on small groups. How can I express how bad this is? This from the church that disses the hymns as "irrelevant European music" but sings "You made a way, what can I say?"
- BTW: I have several friends who go to this church; I've heard the pastor's sermons. He's terrific. So are my friends. This church is doing a lot of good stuff.
- God told me that (Maria DeAngelus, Phil Oosterhouse) Brian Godawa points out they often add, " 'Not in an audible voice, but he spoke to my heart with a strong impression.' Summarily existentialized so you can’t challenge it."
- Hope: Christian hope. "Christians don't have a monopoly on hope. Plenty of people have hope: hope in success, money, fame, family. The only hope Christians really can claim is the hope of eternal life. (Michael Corwin).
- Let's see what God wants: not taking responsibility for human decision. (Maria DeAngelus). God wants me to marry you. /Really? I've never seen you before in my life.
- Rightfully His
- Consumed By the Call
- In His Grip
- In his Grasp (like In His Grip, but for girls?)
- Under The Mercy: This one is not yet under arrest of being a cliche, but it is a 'person of interest'
- Amazed by Grace: Pastor Joel Pelsue first used this, but then everyone else copied him. I've thought of a few others so you don't have to plagiarize Joel...
- Gobstopped by Glory
- Flummoxed by Faith
- Agitated by Adoration
- Joyfully Jargon-free (Mark Kellner)
- Jesus is my homeboy
- Body piercing saved my life (picture of Jesus on the cross)
- In case of rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned!
- Christians aren't perfect, just forgiven
- His pain, Your gain
- Honk if you ARE Jesus: Explains all those honking egomaniacs on the road
Things we know will become cliché because they're so good
- Life-on-life: Authentic. Rebecca Corwin brought this one up and it's ripe.
- Appreciate your ministry: My brother James' euphemism for "get out of my face"
- Stop dating Jesus: Pastor Tim Keller's exhortation to make a commitment to Christ
- I love you with the love of the Lord, ONLY: a diss I got from Matthew Corozine and used in a comedy sketch
- Post-church others: A PC way to say non-christians, coined by James Isaacs
If you'd like to contribute your idea, please send a comment below.