Comment permalink

The Language of "Christ"iness

How the language of Christianity has become a CW-inspired status symbol.

I was sitting in a coffee-shop to avoid the inevitable housework and distractions of a morning at home, I grab a cup of Joe to get the synapses firing and sit down. I forgot my earphones, so my only soundtrack this morning is going to be the natural sounds of the shop, which is usually muffled conversation and the clink and drip of the baristas' work. However, this morning there's a new sound, the attention-dominating laughter of two young women that were making their particular conversation a public service announcement. Actually, more of a public missionary service. The two were involved in some kind of interview for a local church, with one asking questions regarding topics such as faith, loyalty, family, and Biblical "aptitude". Listening to the two talk, it was almost impossible not develop an opinion, and for a card-carrying skeptic like myself, I decided to write them down and post them in an equally public forum.

The language of the modern young Christian observer seems to be primarily focused with one's "relationship" with God, and to listen to the interviewer speak in that was was to listen to a twenty-something talk about their benevolent but absentee boyfriend. The language seems like a kind of hip (but politically-correct) mish-mash of Biblical jargon like "spiritual foundation" (which the interviewee needed clarification about) and the kind of gushy verbage one would hear on a CW TV program (the "pretty-white-kids-with-problems" variety). In fact, at one point on the discussion of prayer the interviewer asked the other young woman to describe "what prayer means to you". The interviewee said, simply, "talking to God'. The interviewer wanted to dish more, however, and launched into a story about sometimes when she sits down to pray, and "God doesn't say anything to her right away", she "kind of says bye and, like, hangs up the phone". On the topic of a "spiritual foundation", the interviewer made it very clear that it's like having an open and honest faith with God, making sure that he "understands how much you love him". In addition, she described Jesus as having many relationships that "are not that deep", whereas her "relationship is the deepest of her life". In other words, she's experiencing some unrequited love from her deity because he's playing the field?

Is the modern Christian outreach movement to grab youth really such a 1950's-style characterization of a woman's role in her relationship to boyfriend? There's a lot of "walking with Him", and allowing "Him to hold your hand", and when God "asks you to jump", you "find it in your heart to jump". Of course, there's still the conversation of apostles and disciples, and their teachings of Jesus, but they're still; referred to in a way that sounds like they're simply Jesus' buddies. Peter, Paul, Mark, and Luke are like your boyfriend's guy-friends. It's difficult, as someone that studies religion in an academic sense, to see the youth-centered Christian movement overtaken by such a simplistic, under-informed, and vapid view of religion is discouraging. Perhaps it speaks to a larger cultural cheapening of those social norms that were once much more strongly held, or perhaps this is the branding that Christianity has needed to adopt to speak to this age group. It's not fair to characterize an entire movement by a handful of eye-witness events, of course, but it does seem to be a growing trend among the "righteous" of my generation (and slightly after).