Saturday, February 8, 2014

Creepy Christian Talk: Is Casper in Church?

Attention Christians: This is CREEPY!

The Holy Spirit is kind of creepy. My Mom calls Him the Holy Ghost. Now, that is really scary. I mean no disrespect whatsover to the Third Person of the Trinity.(Look, I'm even capitalizing it.) What I mean is, as Christians, sometimes we use language that scares people. I believe Holy Spirit is one of those. It's different when you're in church or at a Christian retreat or sorrounded by Christians.You can say Holy Ghost without startling anyone.You can say blood of the lamb and no one gets grossed out. You can ask Jesus into your heart and not sound crazy. (Except to the Lutherans who will tell you Jesus invited himself in long ago and is sitting on the couch with his feet on your coffee table.) But outside Christian circles, our religious talk is creepy. Think about what Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit sounds like to someone who doesn't speak the language. Someone non-religious. Someone who is not a Christian or is unfamiliar with Christianity and all the code words.
Chris Christian walks down a busy city street with Judy Jesus after church: Wow, I really felt the power of the Holy Ghost in that service today!
Peter Pagan overhears and says to Will Withoutfaith: Did he say Holy Ghost?! What?! Who knew Casper was sacred? And he was in church? Someone call Ghostbusters!

Just think of what these phrases sound like to someone who does not speak "the language":
  1. Baptized by fire
  2. Partake in the body of Christ
  3. Drink the blood of Christ
  4. Your body is the temple of God
  5. Wash you of your sins
  6. Speaking in tongues
  7. Jesus died for your sins
These are just a few. You can probably think of others. Taken in the same order, here is probably what non-religious folks think when they hear the above:

1. Ouch!
2. Eew!
3. Eeeww!
4. What?
5. Huh? Do I have to get wet?
6. Cool.
7. No! Why?! I didn't ask him to!

I saw a blog entry that said Christians need to "earn the right" to share their faith or invite someone to church. In other words, stop saying hi and then immediately launching into a church invite or faith sharing session. Especially if you are going to use the above creepy language.You'll scare them. The blog went on to say that Christians should get to know people first before they launch into their faith story. I agree and want to take it a step further...
It is NOT my job to get someone to church or to get someone to come to God. God does that. My job is to LOVE them. If they ask me, "Why are you so loving/different/kind?" I will explain, elaborate. He loves you, therefore I love you. If they want to know more, I'll share. If they want to know more still, I'll invite.
I'll even take this concept one step bothers me when Christians use service ONLY as a way to try to "lead people to Christ" or get them to their church.
"Come have a hot dog at Saint Mark's!"
Of course, the hotdogs are inside the church (or at least Mrs. Johnson's secret recipe double fudge brownies are) and when you reach out to get one an elder slaps handcuffs on you and immediately asks if you would like to say the "Sinner's Prayer." Or you just spent two hours boxing food for the homeless when the CEO of the Christian charity closes in prayer and says, "And God you know we send this food to Africa not because we want to just feed people beans and rice, but because we want to feed them spiritually."  Hey fella, Jesus said if they ask for your windbreaker, give them your winter parka. He didn't say give them a earful of Christian dogma and a tract about the end times. (Matthew 5)
Imagine someone is loving toward you and then you find out they have an alterior motive? Doesn't feel so much like love now does it? You mean you were only loving me, helping me, spending time with me because you want to fill a church seat? Or because you want to convert me? That rings hollow to me. That is not love.
So if I don't lead people to God, God does, does that mean all missionary work should stop immediately? Quite the opposite. Missionaries don't spend their whole day speaking to the natives in Christian gobbely-gook in between long bouts of Kumbaya and Amazing Grace sung in four part harmony. They LIVE their faith by loving those they go to serve including building homes, churches, wells and health centers for those who need them, and educating, treating and feeding those they come in contact with. (If they don't, then I would say they are missing the mission.) Missionaries don't bring people to God; They bring God to people. God does the rest.

Even though I am not a big fan of "Christian lingo," I am also not advocating that we make Christianity more "cool" or "modern" sounding. There is no other word for Holy Spirit that sounds less spooky--just be careful using it around newbies. I am advocating we be cautious with our language, not change it to be more hip, more 2014, more relevant... dude. In other words the "creepy" list above does not need to become:

1. I'm a girl on fire like the Hunger Games!
2. Join me in a small snack while we have deep thoughts about Jesus.
3. Oh, and have a drink.
4. Man, your body is radical because God made it. 
5. Jesus said "Outie" to all your mistakes.
6. I speak many languages, not sure how, but it is totally amazing hombre!
7. See #5.

No, no, no. This is just as creepy and disturbing as the church language. What's the alternative?
Let's just be real.
Let's get rid of the Jesus jargon. Let's just share,when the time is appropriate with people who know we really love them, the impact that our faith has had on how we live, feel, think and act. Let's even share the bad days. The times when our faith seemed absent, when God seemed distant, when we pushed him away. Let's show our wounds and our doubts. Give until it hurts. Care for the helpless and inspire the hopeless. And reach out in love. In fact, let's love like crazy.
Just please don't talk like it.

-Hope A. Horner, 2014
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