Christianese Like “Same-Sex-Attracted” Pushes Away the LGBT Community

Christianese Like “Same-Sex-Attracted” Pushes Away the LGBT Community

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:

  1. Gay or Same-Sex-Attracted? Navigating the LGBT Language Police
  2. Christianese Like Same-Sex-Attracted Pushes Away the LGBT Community
  3. Gay Doesn’t Mean ‘Sin’ And Neither Does Same-Sex-Attracted Mean ‘Holy’ 
  4. Why Gay and Lesbian Identities Don’t Undermine Identity in Christ
  5. Why Homosexual Christians Are Called To Identify With Gays And Lesbians
  6. LGBT Words Are More Precise than the ‘Same-Sex-Attracted’ Umbrella
  7. 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!

Same-sex-attracted is Christianese. Christians should use the word gay.


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?

Coming Up…

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’ 

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Sarah Ziegenhagen
Sarah Ziegenhagen
4 years ago

Hi Bridget,

I want to push back a little on your “I’m not attracted to the same sex. I’m attracted to the same sex,” argument.
I can’t speak for others, but I object to using the term gay for more philosophical reasons. When you say “I am a human” or “I am a woman” you are not merely saying that you feel like a human or you have the kind of desires that women have or that you can relate to womanhood. You are making an ontological statement about yourself. You are saying that you are essentially human, essentially woman. It’s not fluid; it’s irrelevant how you feel or think about being those things. You just ARE. Full stop.

The term gay has come to be used in the same way. Gayness is not merely an experience you have or a description of your fluid personal preferences. It is a description of what you are. You ARE gay. Of course, we could explore this further and talk about how the will and personal choice has come to define what it means to be human – I think we would end up in the same place. We would come round to the idea that when someone is attracted to the same sex that means they ARE gay. Full stop.

The first question that comes to my mind when someone self-identifies as gay is not whether they are living sexually promiscuous lives, but rather my question is (and this was the question that came to my mind when you self-identified as gay) “does this person believe that they are ESSENTAILLY gay? As a Christian I cannot accept the notion that someone ‘s desires are personally definitive in that way. I cannot accept that human desires give us personal meaning in the same way that our creation as human beings does. And I don’t want to ever suggest with my language that it does.

We don’t really have the power as individuals to use language in any way that seems right to us. Words have meaning apart from what we might intend. If the term gay didn’t carry with it notions of an essential quality, I wouldn’t object to its use. And unfortunately I don’t think that any good reason you have for preferring the term can undo this problem. The term comes to you, in my opinion, unfit for use. You can’t fix that. The best you can do is try to find a term that doesn’t carry with it that same baggage.

Same-sex attracted seems an obvious choice because it doesn’t suggest “essence.” Maybe there is some better term. I don’t know. (BTW, this same censure would fall also on terms like lesbian as well.)

To wrap up, I don’t believe that gay and same-sex-attracted mean the same thing (as you suggest), or that one is just a more snobby way of saying the same thing. If all these terms meant the same thing there wouldn’t be such a fuss about them.

I trust it doesn’t need to be said, but I trust you know I write all this in perfect good will.

Sarah Ziegenhagen.

Lauren Melissa
4 years ago

What on earth is “putting out a fleece”? I’d like to say that Christianese is a pet-peeve, but I’m sure I’ve felt guilty of it myself. I don’t think there is anything particular wrong with a Christian lingo, so long as believers can code switch and forgo any idea of superior language. Same-sex attracted and gay mean the same things; they’re both labels, categories, and identities. There really is no need to police who says what and how, especially when it harms our ability to reach out to different communities.

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