This post on Christianese is the 2nd of a 7-part series called “Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted?” I’ll be publishing every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday over the next two weeks, and each post will cover a new reason to use the words “gay” and “lesbian” as a Christian. Please feel free to share your thoughts. I love having dialogue and feedback!
To check out other posts in the series:
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Navigating the LGBT Language Police
- Christianese Like Same-Sex-Attracted Pushes Away the LGBT Community
- Gay Doesn’t Mean ‘Sin’ And Neither Does Same-Sex-Attracted Mean ‘Holy’
- Why Gay and Lesbian Identities Don’t Undermine Identity in Christ
- Why Homosexual Christians Are Called To Identify With Gays And Lesbians
- LGBT Words Are More Precise than the ‘Same-Sex-Attracted’ Umbrella
- Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Answering Some Lingering Questions
Or to read the full article:
Also, I feel the need to clarify that I am a celibate lesbian and fully committed to a traditional sexual ethic as outlined by Scripture. If you haven’t read my About page or previous posts, this could get lost in the conversation. I want to avoid misunderstandings as much as possible, so hopefully this information is clear!
Imagine you’re with a group of acquaintances. You’re getting along just fine, when suddenly the person next to you says something about celloflake. You’ve never heard of celloflake, but you decide to nod for the sake of pleasantry.
However, it appears that everyone else in the group knows exactly what celloflake means. And to your dismay, the conversation continues, flowing into something about nitrogen kickoffs, flanges, and DPUs. It doesn’t take long for you to realize that you don’t belong, and you graciously excuse yourself, hoping to find a better crowd.
The Power of Language
If you’re placed in a situation with unfamiliar vocabulary, you’re bound to feel uncomfortable. Or you might even find yourself in a situation where you do understand the words — it’s just that the language happens to be straight out of a Jane Austen novel, and you don’t talk like that. Sure, maybe you’d be friendly and try to connect. But it would be difficult.
Trust me, there’s nothing like a language barrier to make relationships a challenge. I’ve lived in South Korea for a year, and I know. Without language, we can’t understand or connect with people. And even with a shared language, relating is difficult when you don’t have the same dialect, vocabulary, or even accent.
For Christians, this means that the words we use either attract or repel. When unbelievers walk into a room full of Christians, the language they hear has a serious impact on whether they feel comfortable or out of place. And if all they hear is a constant stream of “holy” vocabulary, it’s unlikely that they’ll think of Christianity as accessible or relatable.
We’ve got a special term for this harmful dialect that Christians speak. It’s called Christianese, and it includes everything from “traveling mercies” to “putting out a fleece” and, yes, even “same-sex-attracted.”
Speaking Christianese When You Ought to Speak English
Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not talking about the doctrinal vocabulary of the Christian faith that communicates foundational biblical truth. I’m talking about the fluffy lingo that even Christians don’t fully understand — all the little “churchy words” that usually have much more understandable counterparts in the English language.
Take for example the Christianese phrase “washed in the blood.” If you were raised in evangelicalism, you’ve probably heard things like, “Are you washed in the blood of Jesus?” or, “I’m washed in the blood!” Or maybe you’ve even used the phrase — I definitely have.
I’ll never forget the first time I said “washed in the blood” outside of my Christian circles. The unbeliever who was listening looked perfectly disturbed. And rightly so. The phrase is completely nonsensical and downright disgusting, unless you’ve had the privilege of singing a very specific Christian hymn. (And/or gained some sort of conceptual understanding of ancient Israel’s sacrificial system and the symbolic connection to Jesus Christ.)
The truth is, we could say, “I”m washed in the blood,” in a multitude of ways that are ten times more accessible to people who speak the English language. “I’m a new person through Jesus Christ,” – “I’ve been given a clean slate,” – “I’ve had a fresh start” — any of these would be ten times better and would lead to an actual conversation about the gospel.
But if you start by telling a person, “I’m washed by the blood,” you’ll be digging yourself out of a hole. Instead of presenting the beauty of salvation through Jesus Christ, you’ll be attempting to overcome their confusion.
My point is this: the words we speak should never be an obstacle to the gospel. Christianese is an obstacle to the gospel because only Christians use it.
“Same-Sex-Attracted” Is a Classic Example of Christianese
Christianese is bad for both believer and unbeliever alike. It’s bad for the believer, because it allows the Christian to maintain a facade of righteousness without ever considering the substance of their speech. And it’s bad for the unbeliever, because it makes Christianity unrelatable at best and snobbish at worst.
Let’s imagine telling an unbeliever, “I’m not gay. I’m same-sex-attracted.”
The obvious question is, “What do you mean?”
Well, what do you mean? When translated, you literally just said, “I’m not attracted to the same sex. I’m attracted to the same sex.” That’s like me saying to a friend, “I’m not a woman. I’m just a mujer.”
I literally just said, “I’m not a woman. I’m just a woman.” Congratulations to me on successfully sounding both pretentious and crazy at the same time.
If I’m speaking English, I’d like to use English. Rather than going into a lengthy discussion about what it means to be “same-sex-attracted” and why this vocabulary is so much holier than “gay,” I’d much rather say that I’m gay. Plain and simple. And then I can use that common vocabulary as a springboard into God’s work in my life.
In the end, “same-sex-attracted” may be a part of the Christianese language, but no English-speaking person outside of the church really talks like that. It makes the Christian feel better about himself at the expense of connecting with everyday people, thereby undermining our ability to fulfill the Great Commission. Why would Christians willingly create such a barrier between themselves and the communities they’re called to serve?
In my next post, we’ll continue this discussion on “gay vs. same-sex-attracted” by talking about a common misconception. Many Christians automatically associate the word “gay” with “sin,” which ultimately leads to their distaste for using the term. We’ll talk about this troubling mindset and examine whether it’s fair for the church to associate the word “gay” so strongly with “sin.”
If you’d like to follow along, please subscribe!
In the meantime, what has been your experience with Christianese? Do you ever find yourself using it? Or…on the flipside, has it ever confused you? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!
Next Post in the Series: Gay Doesn’t Mean ‘Sin’ And Neither Does Same-Sex-Attracted Mean ‘Holy’