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Christianese (kirs’ch nez’) is a form of jargon sometimes used by members of the Christian church, especially within, though not limited to, contemporary Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism. Christianese is characterised by the use of certain words, theological terms, and catchphrases in everyday conversation in ways that are only comprehensible within the context of Christian belief.
In its basic form, Christianese uses Biblical and theological terms to describe matters of faith and everyday experiences as interpreted through the filter of that faith. Though the words and phrases are known to the speaker of the wider language (e. g. English), without an understanding of the Bible, theology or (sometimes) specific doctrine the listener has no context to understand what is being said. For example, a phrase like,”Washed in the blood” in Christianese means “My sins are forgiven because I believe in the terms of salvation as defined by Jesus.” However, without an understanding of Jesus, what he did, or what his actions mean in Christian theology, this statement will not be understood and might even sound disgusting.
Lexicon Below are a few examples of Christianese terms and what they mean.
a.. Blessed: A feeling of personal well-being, especially as connected with a casual religious experience or a religious interpretation of everyday experiences.
b.. Born Again (can be used as a noun or an adjective): A Christian, especially one who has come to a belief in Christianity as an adult and has experienced a spiritual rebirth.
c.. Saved: Spared from the consequences of sin (i. e. Hell after death) by a belief in Christianity.
d.. On fire for God: Excited about Christianity, especially “outreach” (see below).
e.. Fellowship: A sense of belonging to a community, either within a specific church or within Christianity as a widespread religion. This can also refer to socializing exclusively with other Christians. Some individuals or groups feel this exclusivity is an important factor in spiritual growth.
f.. Sanctified:The common dictionary definition is “to make holy or purify”; in Christianese this is usually applied to individuals rather than objects. Often a synonym for born again or saved.
g.. Redeemed: The verb redeem is used in the sense of “free, rescue, ransom”. The speaker believes that his or her faith in Christianity has “rescued” them from the spiritual consequences of their actions or previous lack of belief.
h.. Backsliding: The actions of a Christian who seems to be losing their faith or behaving in an “un-Christian” manner. (Backslider.)
i.. Made right with God: Refers to the “reconciliation” of the believer with God. Can refer to an individual’s initial religious conversion or to a backslider’s recovery of faith or principles.
j.. Slain in the Spirit. An experience in which belief in the physical power of God causes people to fall to the ground. See laying on of hands. This is an important part of Pentecostal beliefs, but it is not included in the doctrine of many other Protestant denominations.
k.. Walk with God: The practise of applying Christian principles and beliefs to everyday life.
l.. Signs of the times: Current world events correlated with certain passages of the Bible, which are interpreted as prophecies indicating the second coming of Christ. See millenialism.
m.. Mission: Christian activities which serve the church or the community. This can include “outreach”, “servant-evangelism” or any other activity which seeks to interest non-believers in Christianity.
n.. Servant-Evangelism: Random demonstrations of charity, either (1) organized, such as a free car-wash, or (2) individual, such as paying for a stranger’s meal) in order to demonstrate Christian principles through actions, attempting to arouse spiritual curiosity.
o.. The Good News: Can refer to the Bible, the New Testament or the Gospels. Can also refer to the general Christian doctrine of personal salvation through belief in Jesus Christ’s divinity and teachings.
p.. Outreach: The process of taking the Christian message to people who are not Christians, usually with the connotation of doing so through servant-evangelism-like activities.
q.. Non-Christian or pre-Christian: People who are not Christians. (pre-Christian is extremely rare, and almost never used).
r.. Witness or Witnessing: Telling someone how and why you are a Christian, generally on a one-to-one basis.
Criticism among Christians
Some Christians view some or all of these terms as cliches. The belief that Christianese has hindered the communication of the Christian message to the rest of the world has led some Christian writers to advocate the conscious removal of Christianese from believers’ conversations and writing. Many have also come up with alternative terms and phrases that are theoretically more “religion-neutral”. While the effectiveness of this strategy is undetermined, there is a feeling among some Christian communicators that this may be simply creating a condensed form of Christianese but failing to address the underlying issue of contextual understanding.
Christianese in popular culture
The appearance of Christianese in popular culture generally occurs in two forms: when it is actually used by writers to communicate (whether they are aware of it or not), or in parodical or satirical contexts.
Probably the most noticeable use of Christianese as satire is in The Simpsons character of Ned Flanders and his sons Rod and Tod. Though Ned’s speaking style is littered with nonsensical phrases (like hi-diddly-ho) which are not related to Christianese, Ned also employs Christianese terms. For example, in the episode where Homer Simpson floods Springfield as a conceptual art project, Ned looks out his window and exclaims: “It’s a miracle. The Lord has drowned the wicked and spared the righteous!”. Rod and Tod show a quality of Christianese in the games that they play, such as The Good Samaritan, Clothe the Leper and Build the Mission.
Books and movies which engage Christianese as a literary style are commonly found in the Christian market. Arguably the most notable of these (and, indeed, most popular) are the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. This book series (currently made up of thirteen installments) is deeply rooted in dispensationalist theology and could be said to be written in Christianese (books eleven and twelve perhaps more so than the rest of the series). When the first three installments were adapted into motion pictures by the Christian film company Cloud Ten Pictures, the Christianese style of writing was folded into the dialogue, offering a clear example of Christianese in speech.
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