Olympic diving and obnoxious Christians

My friend Nicole posted about a week ago on Christian culture and speaking “Christianese.” As the slightly derogatory term “Christianese” infers, she’s not in favor of loudly exclaiming, “Hallelujah!!  Praise Jesus!” in the produce department when you discover that, to your joy, peaches are less than a dollar a pound.

Similarly, a couple of months ago, my husband and I watched (in my case, re-watched) a DVD of the testimony* of the dear and departed John Wimber, entitled I’m a Fool for Christ.  Whose Fool are You?.  In it, he hilariously tells of early encounters with other Christians, who would speak to him in conversation peppered with stock Christian phrases like, “How are you brother?  Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?” and John’s confused reaction was something like, “What??  That’s gross! And YOU’RE NOT MY BROTHER!!”

I do totally understand what Nicole and Pastor Wimber were communicating.  I think the speech of those immersed in the Christian culture can be confusing and off-putting to those who aren’t.  And, it’s not like I disagree with their stances.  Well, not totally.

I was reminded, though, of a revelation I had during the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, which were held in Athens.  I was watching platform diving, and I don’t recall who the color-commentator was, but he was REALLY, REALLY into it.  Invariably, his remarks were emotional, whether something favorable happened to a diver, or whether tragedy occurred:  Every syllable was high-pitched, high-decibel, and of apparent great consequence.  You could imagine every phrase transcribed in ALL CAPS with multiple exclamation points!!!!! He spoke — loudly squeaked, rather — with knowledge of each diver’s strengths, weaknesses, and habits, using terms I’d never heard before, drawing the watcher’s attention to minute happenings in each dive that were, to me, entirely indiscernible.

It dawned on me, as I listened and watched, that even though the summer Olympics high platform diving occurs only every four years, and to which I rarely — if ever — give thought to, outside of the Olympics, it had an ongoing culture that existed 24/7/365, and that the commentator obviously lived it.  So immersed was he within diving culture, that he was oblivious to the reality that the TV viewers were highly unlikely to understand the significance, say, of the left foot of the third Chinese diver, which was angled just so, and that girl’s relationship to the second Chinese diver, and how the jump we just saw compared to last May’s event in Brussels, where she jumped thus.

I enjoy all Olympic events;  I’m GLUED to the TV when they come on, and every Olympic event, no matter how obscure, takes precedence over all other programs (even sports) which I or my children may have otherwise watched during that time.  However, I just had to shake my head and laugh at the diving commentator;  he was SO over-the-top;  it was comically too much.

AND… (hang with me, here!)

I’m attending a weekly women’s Bible study at my church.  There are 50+ of us, going through Beth Moore’s study of the book (and person) of Esther.  I am really gaining a great deal from the study.  There are always a few things about Beth Moore’s approach, though, that I just have to… inhale deeply, and not let it stumble me, so I don’t miss the reality of what she’s teaching.  For example, this past week, she mentioned 15-step** morning beauty regimens, stated with the assumption that everyone does similarly.  Um, I don’t.  My “regimen” is usually a quick swipe of a homemade cleansing solution on a cotton pad, and if I really have my act together, some powder, mascara, and lip gloss.

Also, she made reference to the reality show The Bachelor, making the astute comparison between it and the harem environment of Xerxes’ beauty-contest search for a new queen.  She didn’t refer to the show by name, but the way she mentioned it made it clear that she assumed we women all watch it.

I think Beth primarily addresses the sort of girly-girl woman who oozes estrogen from her pores.  Um, that’s not me.  So, for parts of the study — both the video portion, and the homework — I have to just forgive her generalizations and oversight, and glean the truth of the true, deep insight that she brings to the Word of God, and have that be that, rather than get offended.  Still, it’s a bit of a task, sometimes.

BUT, of significance to the whole “culture” thing, this week’s study also included this gem from Beth, which I found absolutely amazing:

I believe one of God’s purposes in this journey is to help us recapture both our identity and identification as His children — not so we can be obnoxious but so we can be influential.  (emphasis mine)

I put a note in the margin:

I shy from being purposefully influential.  It seems presumptive or arrogant.  But, in many ways, I see that now as plan of the enemy to silence me, [meaning, His message THROUGH me] and I see the Father, in many ways, bringing me out of that.

Like the diving commentator illustrates, there are all sorts of different cultures into which one can, sometimes unwittingly, become immersed.  Every culture has language that is unique to its experience and function.  That’s not bad.  However, I do agree that we do need to be careful not to assume too much when we’re speaking with the “uninitiated”, whether you’re discussing the finer points of Olympic events, or the “daily walk” of the Christian.

On the other hand, though, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!!  I don’t think that as Christians, we should be so reticent to say things that might

  • “blow our cover”
  • or be obnoxious
  • or be presumptive
  • or appear holier-than-thou
  • or bring offense

that we allow the enemy to silence us altogether, or to have us believe that Christian culture is not only worthless, but detrimental.  That’s a lie!!

Or, should I say (imagine my high-pitched, emotion-filled, insistent voice here), “THAT’S A LIE!!!


* ~ahem~ should that be “story of how he became a Christian,” rather than “testimony“??

** I counted.


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on June 28, 2010, in Blogging, Books I'm Reading, Character Development, Christian Living, Christianity, God/Christianity/Church, Introspective Musings, Vineyard Phoenix. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Thanks for the insight – you helped me to think through (again) something that’s been on my mind for a while.

  2. Hey Karen, I agree about the whole 15 step regimen thing, I too do not watch the batchelor either. but you as I have just scanned through that and found the nuggets of what I need to hang on to. Love you Sista and Friend, in all sense of the words. hehe..

  3. Karen, this post made me smile, for all kinds of reasons. I will say that despite how my Christianese post came off, I agree with you that we should never be silent.

    In your description of the diving commentator one word came to my mind: passionate. My goal/mission/intention is to speak to people about Christ minus the “church talk” but plus a whole bunch of the passion. My love for Jesus can come through in my enthusiasm and knowledge, in my joy and expression.

    I would of course never hesitate to quote scripture to someone either, knowing that God’s Word does not return void. I think there is a balance to be struck between using language that can be confusing or misinterpreted versus using language that can be affirming and life-changing.

    side note: I found the diving commentator analogy to be a great one.

    Glad you are liking the Esther study. I love me some Beth Moore.

  4. Great post!

    I think that one of the major differences between the Christianese of many church-goers and the passion of the commentator is that one is put on–unintentionally–as a show and the other wells up from within.

    I’m okay with people going all “Jesus Freak” because they love Christ and just can’t contain that. It may be a tad over the top, but it’s genuine. The trouble with so much of church culture is that we aren’t so genuine. There are tons of reasons for this, but that’s not what we’re talking about here [smile].

    Cultural sensitivity and relevance are important tools. Overflowing exuberance in Christ’s love is wonderful.

    “Fakin’ it” to appear more holy is not.

    …hmm… sorry, I think I got off on a tangent from your original post. Sorry. Just means you got me thinking… thanks! [smile]


    • No, not a tangent at all, Luke, and I’m glad you chimed in. I was hoping you would, actually.

      I *TOTALLY* agree with you. In fact, I was thinking about this very thing this morning, before I even read your comment. The “put on” vs. the genuine overflow.

      Ditto your comment.

  5. you know I think part of the issue is with people speaking the speak INSTEAD of walking the walk. My father is a director of a men’s home for people recovering from drug and alcohol abuse and and you know the very first thing the guys learn? to speak christainese! “how ya doing brother!?” “praise God for such a beautiful day!” but they are still so new… they don’t even know what they mean by it half of the time and it’s clear. but like children learning words, they just repeat what they hear and hope that will make them just like the adults. butit doesn’t. and so often a person saying “praise jesus for He is king!” is out drinking and sleeping around the very next day. I think this is true with more than just people who are in drug rehabs too… I think this si true with many in the church.

    lingo is a fine – christainity does have a culture. and it’s not wrong to have a culture. But it is wrong to lay it on so thick that you words and lingo become a masque you hide behind.

    The other issue is speaking to non-christians in this way as if all people agree with you. it’s a nasty invasive and rude tendency of Christians (btdt!) to assume everyone agrees with them.walking up to someone and saying “are you washed in the blood of the lamb, brother!?” is just SO in your face personal that it borders on rude if not ignorant. it makes christainity seem like soul-catching crazies! lol like really to an outsider it feels si if they don’t matter to the church, just their soul. as if the church is wracking up points for every soul they capture in the hunt.

    I agree, a culture of things is totally ok. We all have our lingo between friends. But, it becomes obnoxious to others when it’s ALL a person will let you see of them.

    • Oooh, great comment. I agree: the lingo can become a substitute for the reality of what’s in the heart, which adds to the list of why “Christianese” is so distasteful to most — Christian and non-Christian alike.

      I agree, also, about speaking to non-Christians as if they completely agree with the basis of Christianity. Sort of like Nicole’s original post, where she was overflowing with the fervor of Jesus’ love and had a jolt when her co-worker, to whom she was witnessing, said, simply, “I don’t believe the Bible is true” which shut down the conversation; they obviously weren’t on the same page.

      HOWEVER, like Luke said, there is something also wonderful and compelling — EVEN WHEN IT’S OFF-PUTTING — about someone being a genuine Jesus-freak. I know that’s a contradiction. But, when someone is speaking the “lingo” but it comes from a sincere heart, I think it leaves the impression on unbelievers of, “I don’t want that. I DO want that.”

      But, again, it has to be genuine. Sincere. From an overflowing heart, full of the love of Jesus, which MUST be shared.

  6. I miss the days of Christians calling each other brother and sister. No one (at least in my stream) uses that terminology anymore and I kind of miss it. It’s in my roots.

    (btw, I agree with your whole post.)

  7. Lots of food for thought! I’m thinking about how that translates into my life here in a 99% non-Christian country. I think I’ll go chew on this for a while. :o)

  8. Aaahhh…nice, Karen. A blog that has some depth! I appreciate that. On Beth: I believe you would say I am a “girly-girl”, but I don’t have a beauty routine, and I don’t watch the Bachelor. I never thought about the distinctions of “femininity” that you bring up – hmmm…I understand now why some women have a problem with Beth. She is indeed very feminine. But, I believe that make-up and preferences for pink are cultural, not Biblical. Whatever our interests/leanings in taste are…we are women. I have NEVER thought of you as “less feminine” than anyone else. I HAVE thought of you as a fabulous mother, sweet woman, and kind…thoughtful, smart, and hardworking. It never entered my noggin that you don’t qualify as a feminine beauty because you like baseball and not pink! LOL On “Christianese” – anything that comes across as a person focusing more on self, and not those around him/her, comes across as “off”, no? Whether it is how we speak, write, or act, if we are only thinking of self, and what “I” think, and what “my” opinions are, and what “I” like to do or say, that will leak out profusely – no matter what we claim to be. Hopefully, when we speak sincerely and with the benefit of those who hear in mind and motive, the “hearer” will sense the love and give us grace. Sometimes, it is snobbery to thoughtlessly speak “Christianese” – sometimes it is snobbery to judge those who do. It’s all a matter of the heart. Love you Karen – as a woman’s whose heart sincerely seeks God’s. Kathy

  9. hey there i haven’t read your blog in awhile. and i don’t read long blog entries 😉 but i did this one… really really good. the key i think is listening to the Holy Spirit. what does he want of us in THIS or THAT situation. There is a time to be a crazy Christian..and a time to be more stand-offish. And God puts people in our paths that meet what we have for them… and when we listen to Him, we need not be concerned about our response.

    i do ‘heart’ Beth 🙂 but i am not a girly girl. I often feel just a tad under dressed when I listen to her. LOL

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