Last month, we talked about the importance of identifying and removing clichés from our writing. This month, let’s tackle Christianese.
What is Christianese?
Christianese phrases are Christian clichés. They form an insider language that is often overused, misused, and abused.
Have you ever asked readers if they are saved? Or perhaps encouraged them to “ask Jesus into your heart”? Maybe you told them they needed to be washed in the blood while they stay in the Word. Or admonished them to carry their cross to live an abundant life.
How many Christianese phrases and clichés did you find in the above paragraph?
Why is Christianese a problem?
During my corporate career, I had the privilege of travelling internationally. For most of those trips I was grateful for contacts who made my trips easier by translating the local language.
Today, if you are writing for the Christian community, don’t assume your readers speak your language. Your books may be purchased by a Christian grandmother for her family. Or by a Christian preschool whose enrollment may not include Christian families.
The last thing we want for our readers (children and adults!) is to feel as if they’ve entered a foreign country when they open our books. How do you think someone who was not raised in the church would respond to phrases such as:
- Are you saved?
- Ask Jesus into your heart
- Washed in the blood
Children can be especially confused by Christianese because they apply what they read and hear literally. If you tell children to ask Jesus into their heart, they will probably wonder how He will fit there!
How to Avoid Christianese
Once you’ve identified “insider” phrases, reword them to be understood by those without a Christian background. For example:
- Saved = no longer separated from God
- Ask Jesus into your heart = become God’s friend by believing and trusting that Jesus died for you
- Washed in the blood = knowing that Jesus’ sacrifice paid the price for my sin
Whether you are writing for believers or unbelievers, learn how to kick out Christianese for more effective communication. Your editors and readers will thank you!
For a humorous look at Christianese, check out this video: