- or·neri·ness noun
see also Potter, Kyle: "We simply must kill any gods who are incapable of raising the dead."
see also Creech, Alan.
Now that we're on the same page, let's have a chat. I have been given the grace for the last eight years of my life to be apprenticed to Jesus in the fellowship of his Church. I love the way God sees us, and what he has made us. I am always learning to love us as we are, "warts and all." Note that I will not talk about Christ's Church as if it were somehow an institution or group of people who live separately either from me or from him. I have been baptized into him, together with everybody else who's been dipped or sprinkled or splashed in the name of the Trinitarian God. We're all bloody well stuck with each other. So understand this, if nothing else: any criticism I'm offering, I do so in the context of committment.*
I want to make a suggestion about Christian clichés, some of the unfortunate phrases we use when trying to offer spiritual counsel to one another. Many of our Christian communities fail to provide a safe place to be real and vulnerable because of the unhelpful language that fills the air. When folks are threatened by the doubts and struggles of others, they will sometimes say things like
"Just give it over to the Lord"For many of you who have been raised in faith communities, it can be hard to realize how vacuous, how literally empty of meaning that these phrases are. Eugene Peterson suggests stronger language still in a discussion about "fear-of-the-Lord":
"Just trust God"
"Surrender more of your life to Jesus"
"Let go and let God" [Josh W.]
... There is ... something about the sacred that makes us uneasy. We don't like being in the dark, not knowing what to do. And so we attempt to domesticate the mystery, explain it, probe it, name and use it. "Blasphemy" is the term we use for these verbal transgressions of the sacred, these violations of the holy: taking God's name in vain, dishonoring sacred time and place, reducing God to gossip and chatter. Uncomfortable with the mystery, we try to banish it with clichés.It may not be immediately obvious, but when people offer these phases, these stock answers, it sends a clear and demoralizing message: "I don't take your struggles seriously, and I'm not prepared to muster the theological depth to share them with you."
- Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A Conversation in Spiritual Theology, 42.
This might be a harsh assessment, but this is a great problem, and worthy of such consideration. If you use these Christian platitudes, these unholy clichés in your care for your brothers and sisters, I urge you to carefully consider dropping them. If you find your friends using them on you, forgive them, then challenge them. Muster some courage and tell them you find those words to be theologically empty and pastorally cold. It's the only way we're going to grow and learn to struggle together.
Let's respect each other enough to never be satisfied with platitudes.
Instead, let's struggle together, ask God the hard questions, and learn the peace that comes with honesty. Truly, for Christ's sake and for the care of his Church, let's be honest.
For my part, I will over the next little while share my thoughts on four common Christian platitudes, and offer ideas as to how we might replace them with more honest and clear attempts to tell the story of who we are in Christ Jesus.
Captain Sacrament's Antitheses
- "Jesus Christ Does Not Want to Come Into Your Heart and Live."
- "Jesus Christ Is Not My Personal Lord and Savior. Or Yours."
- "Nobody's Spending Eternity in Heaven."
- "You Are Not Called to the Ministry"
And don't forget to read the conclustion of the series, "And the Glory of the Lord Shall Be Revealed," in which I seek to clarify just what this has to do with Advent, and making space for our coming King.
*Which, incidentally, is why my complaint about ECUSA is quite out-of-bounds at this point in my life. I'm committed to those folks in theory because of their baptism, but there is no longer an "on the ground" outworking of that nice platonic ideal.