14 May 2018

Things People Say: Generational Christianese Edition

The last time I wrote about Christianese, I ran out of space before I could truly do justice to the topic of generation-specific dialects. (Not that I think I could ever truly do justice to this subject, mind you.)

We'll start with the millennial generation's favorites:

1. Vulnerable. Once upon a time, not so long ago, vulnerable was a word that carried purely negative connotations, as in "vulnerable to disease" or "vulnerable to a surprise military attack." However, these days -- in Christian circles, at least -- the associations are overwhelmingly positive. Ask almost anyone under 35 and they'll tell you that a Bible study or small group where you can go and be vulnerable is a great thing. You should be able to bare your soul on any topic, from existential anxieties to concupiscent fantasies, and not worry about anyone judging you for it. It's a place where you can be completely honest. Or, as my aunt used to say, "It's a place where they hold your hand and make you talk about your feelings." (She does have a point there.)

2. Authentic. We love this one. We desire anything and everything spiritual -- from marriage seminars to "worship experiences" -- to be authentic. Authentic means "of undisputed origin" or "genuine", so I'd say, why not? Everything in the Christian life should be authentic. What bothers me a little is: shouldn't this go without saying?

3. Relevant. Go to any church or parachurch ministry's web site that's aimed at millennials, and I practically guarantee you'll spot the word "relevant" within thirty seconds. We love relevant almost as much as we love authentic, maybe a little bit more. Again, I'm not sure why it can't go without saying. It's a sad commentary on the state of the church these days, that neither the relevance nor the authenticity of our expressions of Christianity can be taken for granted.

4. Intentional! Recently, one of those self-promotional emails of the type that Christian mommy bloggers send out regularly landed in my inbox. (How did I get on their mailing list? More importantly, how do I get off of it?) The sender of this one was clearly a fan of the I-word. The email offered "10 Tips for an Intentional Summer", informed me of an upcoming sale on "Intentional Holiday Planners", and invited me to join an "Intentional Blogging Community." There was even a link to "5 Steps to Hosting an Intentional Thanksgiving Dinner."

Well, I don't know about the other stuff. But I can tell you one thing for sure. I have never in my life pulled off Thanksgiving dinner (or any size dinner, for that matter) unintentionally. Unless I was sleepwalking and didn't know about it. And believe me, if they ever figure out a way to make dinner just happen without any thought or effort or extra money on my part, I'll be the first in line to sign up. Until then, I think I'm going to be hitting the delete button on these emails. Intentionally.

5. Community. "Community" has become a bit of a buzzword in the postmodern era, and not without good reason. We are slowly getting away from the idea that the Christian life happens only on Sundays, relegated to a small selection of religious activities. Of course, the way this word is often used ("community groups", etc.) belies that notion... but hey, progress is progress.

(Bonus points for using all five words at once, for example: "We are seeking an authentic, relevant  community where we can be intentional about our vulnerability.")

Baby Boomers -- as well as the generation before them -- particularly love:

1. The Lord's Day. No, it's not a huge crime to refer to the first day of the week as Sunday. However, calling it by its proper name -- "the Lord's Day" -- will aid in distinguishing you from the reprobate heathen who believe that the first day of the week is for sleeping in. Not that anyone would ever catch you doing that anyway, because Sunday mornings will find you at...

2. "God's house." Church-goers ages 50 and up are awfully possessive of their local church building as "God's house." This notion persists despite the fact that for the past 1,950 years, 1 Corinthians 3:16 and Hebrews 13:6 have been telling us that we, the people of God, are His house. Trust me, this is good news. The full implication of our musty, dusty (or, in some cases, overly commercialized) church building being the official dwelling place of God Almighty is too depressing to think about!

3. I was exercised about... I'll be honest, I really only hear this one among Plymouth Brethren septuagenarians. This odd usage of exercise in the passive voice is Brethren-speak for "I was convicted about" or "I struggled with." It's a way of saying that the Holy Spirit has been "working on you" about a certain issue, and as a result you've been pushed outside of your comfort zone spiritually (hence the "exercise" part). I get why they say it, but I don't know -- "I was exercised" sounds a little too much to me like something one might say about post-op physical therapy.

4. In the will of the Lord. This is generally used as a sort of "escape clause" in regard to scheduled events, for example: "We'll have a potluck this Wednesday night, in the will of the Lord." In reality, it can mean almost anything from "These plans are still tentative" to "It's anyone's guess if this will happen at all." As always, context is everything.

5. If the Lord tarries. Updated translation: "If the Rapture doesn't happen today." This phrase has the same meaning as, and may be used interchangeably with, "in the will of the Lord." There are two things that puzzle me about this one:
  • The use of tarry. We don't feel the need to speak King James English the rest of the time, so why now?
  • Why do we need to bother with saying this at all? It seems rather obvious to me that, no, of course we won't be doing such-and-such if the Lord actually returns today. This is not a cause for concern, so no need for a disclaimer. I can pretty much guarantee you that you're not going to hear any of the newly-raptured saints say, "Hey, but what about that potluck...?"

No comments:

Post a Comment