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Problematic Words

There are certain key buzz words among evangelicals, particualrly emergey-types that literally make me want to perpetrate extreme violence on anyone I hear saying them.  And sadly, every now and then I find some of them escaping my own lips.  So, if you find me too harsh, just realize that much of what I am about to say is as much self-loathing as others-loathing.

So, here are quintessential evangelical phrases that if you say around me may very well result me suddenly unleashing all my wrath upon your kneecaps:

“I’m just looking for someone to ‘do life’ with me.”

“I’m searching for something real, you know, something raw, authentic, you know?”

“What we really need is authentic community.”

“We need to strive to be more intentionally missional.”

“We’re not Christians, we’re Jesus-followers!”

“Jesus was Green!”

“Everything must change.”

“We totally need to hear each other’s stories…like I need to hear your story and you need to hear my story.  We need to just hear, you know?  Each other’s stories.”

“We’re all about radical discipleship.”

“Our home communities are where the church really happens.”

What else is there?  Come on folks, lets do life and be authentic together as we think of more annoying emergentisms!


  1. aande28 wrote:

    i do not have a religion, i have a relationship
    we’re beginning a paradigm shift
    let’s focus on what the Early Church did

    i can sit here all day long… i was raised conservative baptist and served at an Assemblies of God church, and one that decided to “transition.” Now at a PC(USA) seminary where we have Presbymergents all over the place, frustrated and disenfranchised evangelicals and stubborn fundies, along with pentacostal Baptists, all competing for the monopoly on buzzwords and phrases; i could write a book. lucky for me I am a haughty and detached academic :)

    you gave the caveat that these phrases are ‘particularly’ emergent, but also widely used among other neo-conservative, evangelicals, which was laudable, because I know plenty of people who talk about their rejection of emergentism, but who have adopted the set of vocabulary just the same. our whole religious milieu in America reminds me of an Adam Sandler movie.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 10:49 am | Permalink
  2. BLDavis wrote:

    Great post, Halden!

    I’m surprised you didn’t mention the most holiest words from the emergent dictionary: conversation and post-[fill in the blank with the most recent theological, philosophical, or political position that you are emerging from].

    And, if you’ll allow me to do a little critique from within, here are a few phrases that have come to rub me the wrong way lately from my own Lutheran context: “confessional Lutheran(ism)” and “proper distinction between Law and Gospel”.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 11:07 am | Permalink
  3. Andrew wrote:

    i love the way evangemergents pray:
    ‘dear Jesus, i just, *chsk* (the sound of sucking air through closed teeth, between the roof of the mouth and the tongue, as in ’tisk’ but holier), just pray right now, *chsk* , that you would just move in a powerful way right now, *chsk*, …and on and on…

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:22 pm | Permalink
  4. IndieFaith wrote:

    Hmmmm . . .
    How about
    “hoping to be found in Christ”
    “living with people in shalom”
    being the “Church of the Servant King”

    I lifted these from this lame site I came across.

    Okay ha ha. Some phrases do grate but it depends how they actually engage such language. Posts like this are starting to grate (self-loathing or otherwise) because across disciplines people are always trying to create enough critical distance so that they are can appear far enough ‘ahead’.
    So watch out for your kneecaps!

    It needed to be a little more funny to be a rant or little more substantive to be a critique.

    I never had anyone ask to ‘do life’ with me . . . I wonder what it is like, must be wonderful.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:27 pm | Permalink
  5. IndieFaith wrote:

    I should clarify a little. My church is just learning what means to be ‘missional’ in the sense of having particular way of living as opposed to ‘doing missions’. This has been healthy process uninhibited by the promotional maelstrom that surrounds such a term.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  6. Ben George wrote:

    Andrew! Hahaha… the Great and Holy CHSK of Holy Earnestness has been a peeve of mine for a long time, especially as a Catholic who is looked down upon for our “rote” and thus probably inauthentic prayer style.

    Also I like how you got the “just” peppered throughout, very authentic!

    Mash up!:
    “Just, Hail Mary, just *chsk* full of, you know, just grace, and *chsk* just the Lord be with you, *chsk*…”

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:39 pm | Permalink
  7. nick wrote:

    is the tongue clucking particular to evangemergents? i thought it applied to evangelicals as a whole :)

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 12:41 pm | Permalink
  8. kim fabricius wrote:

    Kneecapping is too merciful. How about waterboarding? Except that it isn’t torture, is it?

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  9. Rachel wrote:

    Aww…I don’t really mind the “life together” bit (I love that book, after all), but yeah, I could definitely do without the “Christ follower” and “Jesus was Green” business.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 3:01 pm | Permalink
  10. Jon wrote:

    “Do life with me”, sounds hot.

    “Hey baby, wanna do life with me?” I’ll try that line next time I’m at a really sleezy bar.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 7:33 pm | Permalink
  11. Jon wrote:

    My cousin and I were talking a while back and used the “I’m not a Christian, I’m a Christ-follower.” line, I wasn’t aware that this was emergent-ese, I just thought it was a tacky Evangelical-ism.

    Pretty much any sort of “I’m not a Christian, I’m a _______” tends to just sound annoying to me. Pretty much any attempt to place a wedge between one’s faith identity and the historic identity of the Church tends to make me cringe.

    It sounds just like more anti-traditionalism to me, which, quite frankly, is kind of passe’…don’tcha think?

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 7:38 pm | Permalink
  12. Hill wrote:

    Well played, IndieFaith. I definitely got a kick out of that. Is talking about what we’re about an emergentism? All in good fun.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 8:32 pm | Permalink
  13. Halden. I don´t get it, maybe I´m too emerging? What are you criticizing? That language is born out of history, specific times and relationships, and that this shows even in the emerging movement? If so, maybe we should develop a private language (contra Wittgenstein), or maybe we should all use academic theological language when we are interpreting the word? :)

    Or is it just these phrases and if so, why these in particular?

    Some of these statements make me mad too (like “authentic” or “missional” – statements and “radical discipleship” , but I like others, like “we´re not christians”.

    Sunday, May 11, 2008 at 11:59 pm | Permalink
  14. IndieFaith wrote:

    Oh snap! The stars aligned. Check out Mark Driscoll’s rant against ‘emergent’ language. Is this in-fighting Halden?

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 8:51 am | Permalink
  15. Hill wrote:

    I think there is a fascinating duality at work in the Evangelical consciousness between this whole “emergent” phenomenon (which I don’t claim to understand, primarily because I find it so hokey and lame) and the neo-fundamentalists represented by Mark Driscoll and others. I haven’t given this any serious thought, but I have a hunch there is likely a single epicenter of compromised theological precepts that spawned both of these movements. This would be a fascinating cultural study to turn someone like Milbank loose on.

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink
  16. Ben George wrote:

    Hill, I think that perhaps simple personality types might have something to do with it. In any large group, take our own Catholic Church, you’ll have the liberals, the gadflys, the cranky radtrads, the touchyfeely types.

    I think the “single epicenter” you might be looking for is the overall cultural milieu from which we all come, with its demands for personally-customized everything. I suspect that many conversions aren’t due to being doctrinally convinced so much as simple personal preference.

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 9:55 am | Permalink
  17. Hill wrote:

    I definitely agree with what you are saying, but in a country like America, we have to remember that there is a kind of feedback loop between religious (typically protestant and now primarily evangelical) doctrine and the cultural milieu from which we all come. The “American Spirit” which is now more or less the spirit of the western capitalist world is very much a product of Protestantism. That spirit, cut loose from its religious tether, now informs the Protestantism that begat it. The cycle may well flip around again at some point. That’s all a rather crude way of phrasing it, and I am in no way demonizing Protestantism generally–just trying to make sense of some of these co-incidences.

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 10:36 am | Permalink
  18. blackhaw wrote:

    “We’re not Christians, we’re Jesus-followers!”- I hate this one.

    “Everything must change.”- I do not like this one also. Not all change is good.

    “I’m just looking for someone to ‘do life’ with me.”- this one is just weird and kind of creepy.

    I am not emergent. I know about these people but do not hang out with this kind of crowd. But some of the lines above I think are right on but i can see how they can get annoying.

    ““I’m searching for something real, you know, something raw, authentic, you know?”- this is problem with many of our churches and Christian stuff. So much of what we do is a show. But I see much of the emregent church movement as being cooler yet just as inauthentic as the traditional stuff.

    “What we really need is authentic community.”- This is completely true. The U.S. as a whole is crying out for this.

    “We’re all about radical discipleship.”- I am not sure what makes some forms of discipleship radical but we need much more discipleship.

    ““Our home communities (Sunday School classes) are where the church really happens.”- my pastor says the same line except we have SS classes. I do not mind although it is a line.

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink
  19. WTM wrote:

    To offer an countervailing aphorism, I heard this one recently:

    “There is nothing I value more than my institutional relationship with Jesus Christ.”

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 2:30 pm | Permalink
  20. Ben Myers wrote:

    That’s terrific, WTM — I’m gonna use that one myself!

    Monday, May 12, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

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