Sunday, November 4, 2007

Translating "Church Speak"

For no reason in particular, I was pondering the way people in churches try to avoid actually saying what they are feeling and thinking and decided to come up with a starter reference for some commong "Church Speak" phrases.

"Church Speak" is a particular dialect of Christian-ese, which in itself is a dialect of English. I'm using an East-coast varient of this language - if you are from another region feel free to come up with alternative statements.

"I don't think that honors God."
  • Translation, "I don't personally like what you're doing but I don't have a good reason for my dislike so I'll invoke the name of God in order to distract you from figuring out I have no actually point to make other than I have a different taste than you."
"I'm just not being fed."
  • Translation, "There are some issues I'm having with a person or persons at the Church that I'm not comfortable dealing with. As I know that running away from problems is wrong, I need to make my running look like spiritual hunger."
"I just don't feel you're Bible-based enough for me."
  • Translation, "Your interpretation of the Bible isn't the one I'm used to so I'll claim the high ground to ease my discomfort."
"I just don't feel called to do that."
  • Translation, "Just leave me be! I'm happy sitting in the pew and being a 'worker bee' when something not too intrusive comes up - but you're stepping over the line!"
"I want to bring up something to pray about, but don't tell anyone I brought it up."
  • Translation 1, "I've got an issue in my life that I'm kind of embarrassed about because it violates the mask of 'ok-ism' in the Church. I trust you so pray for me."
  • Translation 2, "Did you hear about so-and-so? I know gossip is wrong so I'll say we're just praying for them."
"We're not following the by-laws"
  • Translation, "Other than the fact that I can use them to beat you over the head, I don't care about the by-laws either - but I can take the high ground and make you look bad, so I can."
Well, that's my starter-guide. Feel free to add some more or come up with alternative translations!


CoderForChrist said...

How about, "I'll pray about it and see if it's God's will."

Translation: I don't want to, but I'd feel bad saying "no," so I'll "pray" about it to put off having to give the answer, even though I already know it's "not God's will," anyway.

I know that one because I've used it, myself (in the end, I realized I was being an idiot and just did what I was asked to do).

I'm currently more interested in the relationship-oriented ones, like, "I really like you, but I don't think this relationship is God's will."

Translation: I just like you as a friend. ;-)

Granted, I've known people that have talked like that and been totally sincere, which probably just makes the deception situations more effective...

Finally, I can actually understand feeling a need to say "I just don't feel called to do that." At my former, Southern Baptist church, there seemed to be a lot of pressure (especially in the college-age groups) to fill up your schedule with ministries. This may be an exaggeration, but I could really imagine a conversation going like this:

"Hey, we're starting a ministry on Tuesday nights. You should join."
"That's cool. I would, but Tuesday nights are usually when I do chores around the house."
"Oh, so you're free on Tuesday, then? You should join!"
"No, I'm not free on Tuesday; I'm doing chores."
"Well, I think God is more important than chores."
"Look, I'm busy with ministry every evening except Tuesday. The chores need to get done, and that's the only time I have to do them."
"But, don't you want to serve God with everything?"

Like I said, an exaggeration, but I did kinda get that feeling sometimes. Granted, saying "I just don't feel called" wouldn't likely help, since it seems that they already knew God had called you...

wezlo said...

I like those. And that is the catch, all of these things can be used in totally legitimate and sincere ways. Actually, I think most times people really are sincere even if they aren't using them legitimately - it's what makes translating such a problem.

Oh, and just to clarify, at Central I've only really ever been hit with one of these statements - there was no particular situation where I felt the need to vent, I was just pondering what these things actually mean...

Mandy said...

I love how people use "God's will" as an excuse to do what they really want/don't want to do and/or avoid confrontation.

I.e. "I'm sorry, I just don't think it's God's will that I work with (fill in the blank) ministry anymore. I really believe he's called me to start a (fill in the blank) ministry."

Translation: I don't like how you do things and am too chicken to actually discuss my concerns with you, so I'm going to start my own program and do it my way.

wezlo said...

I like that one Mandy!