Thursday, August 2, 2012

My Stupid Commute: Stupid Church Signs and Christianese

On my commute every day, I pass this church which apparently has a pastor that only speaks Christianese. If you're unfamiliar with the dialect, Christianese is a language spoken exclusively by lifelong churchgoers.

Some of the common phrases in Christianese are taken from Bible verses or old hymns, and they require that you know the verse or idea that is being referenced in order to understand the phrase you're hearing. But if you weren't raised in a church and you don't know the phrases, you're bound to think that anyone speaking Christianese is a part of a weird, freaky cult. 

I'm pretty sure the Bible says that the purpose of church is to reach out to the world for God. But time and time again, I come across churches that are completely ineffective in this, because of their Christianese.

Listen, if I were to start a secret club with its own language, and if I wanted to recruit members of the community to join my club, I wouldn't do all my advertising in my secret language, would I? Of course not. Because until you're a part of my club, you'd have no idea what I was saying. So why do these churches feel the need to speak in a dialect that is completely unfamiliar and perplexing to people outside the church?

If I were at a church and they started talking about being "washed in the blood of the lamb," I would leave, because I'd be pretty sure those people were drinking the funny kool-aid at the end of the service. And then if they broke into an emotional rendition of a song that includes lyrics like "He touched me, and oh, the joy that floods my soul...," I would get my kids out of there, *fast*, because I'm pretty sure that song is about someone losing their virginity to an older man.

One time I was at my town's First Friday event and a church was handing out bread wrapped in paper that said, "Jesus is the Bread of Life." As a church kid, I know that Jesus referring to himself as the bread of life was originally a message to his people about how he is their provider, but I nearly walked up to those church people and asked them, "Is there some kind of human blood in this bread? I don't get it." just so that they could see that their phrase was not only ineffective to the general public, but it was also super, super creepy. 

 The church that I mentioned above has a history of posting their sign almost exclusively in Christianese. A few weeks ago, their message was "A dusty Bible leads to a dirty life." Their message to the world? "If you don't regularly read our church's literature, we find you to be dirty and repulsive." Of course that wasn't what they meant, but they certainly weren't considering how their words would be taken by the world.

This week, their sign reads, "Only Jesus Satisfies!" Insert sex joke here, because this phrase has absolutely no logical appeal to the non-Christian, and brings to mind some pretty offensive subtext.

My proposal is that every church hires a non-Christian to evaluate their marketing. It's going to be called "Hire-A-Heathen." I'll find a bunch of objective pagans who are very good at analyzing marketing campaigns. They'll tell the church whether the things they're saying and posting are terrifying to the general populace. And in most cases, it probably is weird and creepy.

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