Editor's note: Kirby Ferguson is a New York-based writer, filmmaker and speaker who created the web video series Everything is a Remix. His videos, like the one above, can be found on Vimeo, an online community where artists share their films.
By John Blake, CNN
(CNN) - Can you speak Christian?
Have you told anyone “I’m born again?” Have you “walked the aisle” to “pray the prayer?”
Did you ever “name and claim” something and, after getting it, announce, “I’m highly blessed and favored?”
Many Americans are bilingual. They speak a secular language of sports talk, celebrity gossip and current events. But mention religion and some become armchair preachers who pepper their conversations with popular Christian words and trendy theological phrases.
If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about. They say that many contemporary Christians have become pious parrots. They constantly repeat Christian phrases that they don’t understand or distort.
Marcus Borg, an Episcopal theologian, calls this practice “speaking Christian.” He says he heard so many people misusing terms such as “born again” and “salvation” that he wrote a book about the practice.
People who speak Christian aren’t just mangling religious terminology, he says. They’re also inventing counterfeit Christian terms such as “the rapture” as if they were a part of essential church teaching.
The rapture, a phrase used to describe the sudden transport of true Christians to heaven while the rest of humanity is left behind to suffer, actually contradicts historic Christian teaching, Borg says.
“The rapture is a recent invention. Nobody had thought of what is now known as the rapture until about 1850,” says Borg, canon theologian at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Portland, Oregon.
How politicians speak Christian
Speaking Christian isn’t confined to religion. It’s infiltrated politics.
Political candidates have to learn how to speak Christian to win elections, says Bill Leonard, a professor of church history at Wake Forest University’s School of Divinity in North Carolina.
One of our greatest presidents learned this early in his career. Abraham Lincoln was running for Congress when his opponent accused him of not being a Christian. Lincoln often referred to the Bible in his speeches, but he never joined a church or said he was born again like his congressional opponent, Leonard says.
"Lincoln was less specific about his own experience and, while he used biblical language, it was less distinctively Christian or conversionistic than many of the evangelical preachers thought it should be,” Leonard says.
Lincoln won that congressional election, but the accusation stuck with him until his death, Leonard says.
One recent president, though, knew how to speak Christian fluently.
During his 2003 State of the Union address, George W. Bush baffled some listeners when he declared that there was “wonder-working power” in the goodness of American people.
Evangelical ears, though, perked up at that phrase. It was an evangelical favorite, drawn from a popular 19th century revival hymn about the wonder-working power of Christ called “In the Precious Blood of the Lamb.”
Leonard says Bush was sending a coded message to evangelical voters: I’m one of you.
“The code says that one: I’m inside the community. And two: These are the linguistic ways that I show I believe what is required of me,” Leonard says.
Have you ‘named it and claimed it'?
Ordinary Christians do what Bush did all the time, Leonard says. They use coded Christian terms like verbal passports - flashing them gains you admittance to certain Christian communities.
Say you’ve met someone who is Pentecostal or charismatic, a group whose members believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, such as healing and speaking in tongues. If you want to signal to that person that you share their belief, you start talking about “receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost” or getting the “second blessings,” Leonard says.
Translation: Getting a baptism by water or sprinkling isn’t enough for some Pentecostals and charismatics. A person needs a baptism “in the spirit” to validate their Christian credentials.
Or say you’ve been invited to a megachurch that proclaims the prosperity theology (God will bless the faithful with wealth and health). You may hear what sounds like a new language.
Prosperity Christians don’t say “I want that new Mercedes.” They say they are going to “believe for a new Mercedes.” They don’t say “I want a promotion.” They say I “name and claim” a promotion.
The rationale behind both phrases is that what one speaks aloud in faith will come to pass. The prosperity dialect has become so popular that Leonard has added his own wrinkle.
“I call it ‘name it, claim it, grab it and have it,’ ’’ he says with a chuckle.
Some forms of speaking Christian, though, can become obsolete through lack of use.
Few contemporary pastors use the language of damnation - “turn or burn,” converting “the pagans” or warning people they’re going to hit “hell wide open” - because it’s considered too polarizing, Leonard says. The language of “walking the aisle” is also fading, Leonard says.
Appalachian and Southern Christians often told stories about staggering into church and walking forward during the altar call to say the “sinner’s prayer” during revival services that would often last for several weeks.
“People ‘testified’ to holding on to the pew until their knuckles turned white, fighting salvation all the way,” Leonard says. “You were in the back of the church, and you fought being saved.”
Contemporary churchgoers, though, no longer have time to take that walk, Leonard says. They consider their lives too busy for long revival services and extended altar calls. Many churches are either jettisoning or streamlining the altar call, Leonard says.
“You got soccer, you got PTA, you got family responsibilities - the culture just won’t sustain it as it once did,” Leonard says.
Even some of the most basic religious words are in jeopardy because of overuse.
Calling yourself a Christian, for example, is no longer cool among evangelicals on college campuses, says Robert Crosby, a theology professor at Southeastern University in Florida.
“Fewer believers are referring to themselves these days as ‘Christian,’ ” Crosby says. “More are using terms such as ‘Christ follower.’ This is due to the fact that the more generic term, Christian, has come to be used within religious and even political ways to refer to a voting bloc.”
What’s at stake
Speaking Christian correctly may seem like it’s just a fuss over semantics, but it’s ultimately about something bigger: defining Christianity, says Borg, author of “Speaking Christian.”
Christians use common words and phrases in hymns, prayers and sermons “to connect their religion to their life in the world,” Borg says.
“Speaking Christian is an umbrella term for not only knowing the words, but understanding them,” Borg says. “It’s knowing the basic vocabulary, knowing the basic stories.”
When Christians forget what their words mean, they forget what their faith means, Borg says.
Consider the word “salvation.” Most Christians use the words "salvation" or "saved" to talk about being rescued from sin or going to heaven, Borg says.
Yet salvation in the Bible is seldom confined to an afterlife. Those characters in the Bible who invoked the word salvation used it to describe the passage from injustice to justice, like the Israelites’ liberation from Egyptian bondage, Borg says.
“The Bible knows that powerful and wealthy elites commonly structure the world in their own self-interest. Pharaoh and Herod and Caesar are still with us. From them we need to be saved,” Borg writes.
And when Christians forget what their faith means, they get duped by trendy terms such as the rapture that have little to do with historical Christianity, he says.
The rapture has become an accepted part of the Christian vocabulary with the publication of the megaselling “Left Behind” novels and a heavily publicized prediction earlier this year by a Christian radio broadcaster that the rapture would occur in May.
But the notion that Christians will abandon the Earth to meet Jesus in the clouds while others are left behind to suffer is not traditional Christian teaching, Borg says.
He says it was first proclaimed by John Nelson Darby, a 19th century British evangelist, who thought of it after reading a New Testament passage in the first book of Thessalonians that described true believers being “caught up in the clouds together” with Jesus.
Christianity’s focus has long been about ushering in God’s kingdom “on Earth, not just in heaven,” Borg says.
“Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.
For now, though, Borg and others are also focusing on changing how Christians talk about their faith.
If you don’t want to speak Christian, they say, pay attention to how Christianity’s founder spoke. Jesus spoke in a way that drew people in, says Leonard, the Wake Forest professor.
“He used stories, parables and metaphors,” Leonard says. “He communicated in images that both the religious folks and nonreligious folks of his day understand.”
When Christians develop their own private language for one another, they forget how Jesus made faith accessible to ordinary people, he says.
“Speaking Christian can become a way of suggesting a kind of spiritual status that others don’t have,” he says. “It communicates a kind of spiritual elitism that holds the spiritually ‘unwashed’ at arm’s length."
By that time, they’ve reached the final stage of speaking Christian - they've become spiritual snobs.
THE BIBLE SAYS,Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
John 1:1-5 SAYS–1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend[a] it.
It is really simple dont allaw man to complicate what God says throu His word, just pray and read your Bible and allow the living Spirit of God to reveil it to you personaly. Lets face it in the end that is the only thing that will matter when your knee bows before Him is the dission you made for or aginst Him, Its not about you and anyone except Him. brother in Christ
and your point ? me live my life based on some old book ? I chose to evolve.
THE BIBLE SAYS,Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:6
If we pay attention to the insight of what Jesus said, it may have different meaning from what in which the religious people have believed. He said ‘I ’ or ‘Me’. If he were enlightened, these terms must not pointing to any particular individual even Jesus himself for it sounds somewhat from the mouth of an arrogant, but Jesus, I have trust in him, was not arrogant. So what has been said by Jesus might mean anyone of us is ‘I’ or ‘me’ i.e. we could achieve the ‘Way’ and the ‘Truth’ within and we do not need anything without to attain enlightenment.
CHURCH AND ORGANIZED RELIGION ARE BOTH A PSYCHOLOGICAL DISEASE
Then take your medicine.
Damn right. It's cancer of the mind.
All religion is – they are all delusions. Organised delusions are just more profitable.
It is not a building, it is a group of people. The apostles refer to it repeatedly in the Bible as the membership of faith at different locations throughout the Mediterranean and asia minor. Not claiming your brothers and sisters in Christ is the same as dismissing Christ. You're just speaking Christian, Nicholas, if you want to be one.. learn the content of the Bible.
One who has psychological disease does not know he has one.
Christian "speak" used to be Latin for centuries. The author's conclusion that modern Christian speak is therefore "exclusive" and snobbish is simply complete nonsense. Christianity itself is total nonsense and was never ever meant to be understood by anyone – that is the whole point of it. All the idiots calling themselves "Christians" run around pretending that they have something deep that they understand – but its' just a form of "Emperor's New Clothes". Latin was a great way to propagate it – just like Muslims learn the Koran today in Arabic even when they don't understand a single word. There is no hope ever for America with such an inherently dumb population that they still have to follow this 2000 year old rubbish.
Wow, you don't even make any real sense, so I can't respond other than saying look outside of yourself instead of basing your whole experience on your own religious experience. THe search for god is in all of us, if it is'nt then you've given up.
JESUS CHRIST RESIDES IN A PERSONS HEART & SOUL NOT A PHYSICAL BUILDING
How do you know that?
From the tone of your post, why do you even ask?
@PTL –Because you know it!
YUR ALL A-GUNNA BURN FOREVER IN JESUS'S LAKE OF FIRE HOT TUB ! ! ! ! I'M NOT BUT YOU ARE ! ! ! GOD HATES FAGS AND LEZBYANZ AND ATHEEESTS AND MUSLIMS AND JEWS AND HINDOOS AND BUDDHA PEOPLE AND ZORA . . . ZOAR . . . THEM OTHER GUYS, CUZ GOD IZ LOVE ! ! ! THAT'S WHY EVERYONE BUT ME AND JUSTINA ARE GOING TO BURN BURN BURN ! ! !
JESUS ONOLY LOVES THEMS OF US WOO CANNT SPELL NOR GRAMER NOR PUNKTOOWATE UR MAKE SENSE. LOOKIT ALL THEM ATHEESTSTS WHO RITE GOOD, NOT LIKE US – THE DEVEL IZ BETTER AT TEACHIN RITING AND REEDING AND THINKIN THAN JESUS, CUZ ITS ALL JESUS'S BIG TRAPP! ! !
Well, that's enough of speaking Christian for a while. It's really not much fun.
Marcus Borg does not speak for most, or even very many, Christians. He is a member of the Jesus Seminar. One of their purposes is to determine which words in the Bible were actually spoken by Jesus. The Seminar favors words that a nice guy would have said, and jettisons words the Son of God might have said. Borg also does not believe in the resurrection of Jesus, the basis for most orthodox (small o) theology. From this follows the idea that Jesus was a nice guy who had a bunch of crazy followers. CNN's implication that Borg is a mainstream believer is misleading. I am not saying that Borg or his ideas are not Christian. But his ideas are not definitive.
spot on. glad to read someone who was not assimilated by the borg... :)
So you know more than the 150 PhD's of the Seminar ?
Atheists, the bottom line is that not only do you not believe, you can't believe. Not even if you wanted to. No logic, no act of intellectual will is enough. When it comes to faith, there is no free will. You are condemned to be atheists. If I were you, I'd be upset, too. See you at the Big Showdown where we will continue this discussion by other means. Goodbye, munchkins.
"Big Showdown" – really? And how do you know this will take place?
Allow me to quote the holy scripture, Mr. Lard.
As to The Big Showdown, the best discussion is as follows:
"Yea, though the atheists maketh more sense and writeth better and have things such IQs that we do not, their time cometh, and cometh soon, just as it cometh soon for many thousands of years now. Should be here soon, really. And at the time when Jesus returneth, there shalt be The Big Showdown, where God shalt create a giant no-rules full-contact cage match between the atheists and the faithful. And cometh that match, Jesus shall laugh in glee as the faithful, filled with His love, gouge the eyes from the atheists and kicketh them where men should not be kicked, and smash them over the head with conveniently available folding chairs, just like in Professional Wrestling, and others of the saved shall hoot and holler and watch NASCAR on giant Jesus flatscreens and the atheists do much wailing and gnashing of teeth and stubbing of toes and get nasty hangnails for their evil sins. Amen" Revulsions 13:53-987
Strange that you focus on 'Big Showdown' than the fact that you have no free will in matters of faith. Well, if you're not going to make it, have fun in the grave.
Wow, I'm not an atheist, but that's low. As Christians we are never to accept that anyone is incapable of believing. God blessed us with reason also and it is a life-long process to reach Him for all of us, not just those of us who struggle to mix faith and logic. Don't pretend that you know the capabilities God's creations. Your smugness does nothing to serve Christ and does nothing to help those who seek Him.
Blah blah blah blah blah! I'm tired of my Christian friends and relatives and their superior, know-it-all glances–full of fake pity for my so-called ignorance. Save it!
This is a funny article. Even funnier that it contradicts studies that say that atheists and agnostics know more about religion, especially Christianity, than professed believers.
Go ahead and be born again, and pray, and whatever. I don't want to hear about it any more than you want to hear how we enjoyed a Sunday morning hike with our family.
No, I don't speak christian. I am a nice person. I accept gays for who they are meant to be, I understand the importance of religious freedom and diversity, and I don't spout hate and rage from the pulpit in the name of a being that is not presently speaking for itself. Fred Phelps is a christian, I am not.
You may not be a Christian, but you are way closer to being one than Fred Phelps, the liar and charlatan who is in it for the money, nothing else.
I went to a Seventh Day Adventist bible study in Santa Monica California last year, and everyone in the group was talking about redemption. I asked what redemption meant, and my question stymied the dozen or so people there. No one, not even the leader of the group (who was not a minister I should add) could explain in simple language what it meant. "It's like when you take empty bottles back to the grocery store." That was not helpful, but it was the best answer I got. And by the way, Buddhists aren't that much better when they start talking about mindfulness and awareness and emptiness and no-self. Holy Moly.
I'm not 7th day.... but I'll tell you what redemption means to me. Humanity has fallen (just look at all the examples of "religious" pain on this blog & then add Hitler, Mao & Lenin) ..... God is Holy (which means set apart) .... so the two cannot be together in less the former is redeemed. Christians believe that Jesus's sacrifice was God's redemptive plan and those that choose to accept it vs. trying to do it on their own, will be redeemed.
"You are saved by grace, through faith, not of your ownself, for it is a gift of God, not of works, this is so no one may boast." (I know there is a lot of boasting going on, mostly out of ignorance & greed)
I'm very sorry that no one could answer your question. That's exactly what makes it so difficult for people to attend a church. It's like they get thrown into this world that is comprised of codes, but no one gives you the solution, so you can decode all the stuff. Having said that, redemption is the act of accepting the free gift of salvation offered by Jesus. Ok, so now you have another code-word...salvation. Christians believe that they are not perfect (sin), that God cannot accept them unless they are perfect (without sin). In order to get rid of the sin, a penalty has to be paid. The penalty is death. Jesus paid the penalty for you, so essentially, if you accept that he did this, you are "redeeming" the gift of salvation. In Christian speak, that's redemption, sometimes also referred to as "having been redeemed". I hope this helps.
Islam or Christianity by Birth are Not Religions but rather a political Nationality & National Ident-i-ty !!
Religion is not by Birth, Religion it is by Faith,therefore they are not as Equal or Alike.
Kindly refer to following Quran verses ;
"The blind and the seeing are not alike; (19) Nor are the depths of Darkness and the Light; (20) Nor are the (chilly) shade and the (genial) heat of the sun: (21) Nor are alike those that are living and those that are dead. Allah can make any that He wills to hear; but thou canst not make those to hear who are (buried) in graves. (22)".
"These two kinds (of men) may be compared to the blind and deaf, and those who can see and hear well. Are they equal when compared? Will ye not then take heed? (24)".
"Say: "Are the blind equal with those who see? Or the depths of darkness equal with Light?" (16)".
"Is one who worships devoutly during the hours of the night prostrating himself or standing (in adoration), who takes heed of the Hereafter, and who places his hope in the Mercy of his Lord― (like one who does not)? Say: "Are those equal, those who know and those who do not know? It is those who are endued with understanding that receive admonition." (9)".
"Not equal are the blind and those who (clearly) see: nor are (equal) those who believe and work deeds of righteousness, and those who do evil. Little do ye learn by admonition! (58)".
Example; Late Amy Winhouse was Nationally known to be of family of Jew but she personally was not a Religious Practising Jew....
Have came across termbe been used here to refer to people such as ;
– He was A Christian Atheist....or was A Jew Atheist...
Or other way of identifying some one they say;
– He was American White Christian Atheist.
– He was American White Christian Muslim.
Notice the use of nationalities given here;
– The Country's Nationality.
– The Race Color Nationality.
– The by birth Community Religion Nationality..
– The Actual or Converted to belief Nationality.
There are other Nationality terms such as the Religious Sectarians and the Regional family Area.
From every Religion you will find those who are committed (A) and those who are counted on the Religion but are not religious nor they believe (B);
Now we ought to find out who is generating the trouble ? Are they Group (A)or (B) from each By Birth Religion...!?
No... most of us have never said any of these so-called Christian words or phrases...have anything else to share with us that is a bit more interesting?
This article doesn't really even say anything...and it has 38 pages of comments.
The bible is lies. Jesus (if he ever really existed) was a fraud or crazy. People don't have "souls." There is no man in the clouds watching you. When you die, you're finished. Nobody has ever burned in hell, and nobody ever will.
Everyone doubts their faith sometimes. It's natural. There will be no punishment for it. And the reason you (yes you) don't fully understand the bible is because it doesn't make sense. The truth still sets you free. Christianity is designed to lock you in.
But no argument will persuade the man who thinks he's hanging by a thread over a lake of fire.
You speak like you know for a fact that there is no God or afterlife. Care to share with the rest of us how your opinion is superior to those who believe?
Ryan. Keep looking to the skies and you will see that there are many men watching your neigborhood through the googleearth.God is not a human been and, one day, I´m sure you will Know him. Everybody deserves this!!
By the way, the article is full of lies and it´s prejudiced.It does not please to the believers and nor the atheistics.CNN, please, go beyond borders!
Whoever said hell existed? See, this is one of the things that is messing up how people see the Bible. Hell doesn't exist, the Bible does not teach that. There is no "soul", that is a platonic idea that saint augustine introduce. It is false. Jesus does exist though, and God is very real.
All you have to do is ask questions. This is a world with questions, and I wouldn't rely and a "holy" book that was half completely wrong, and half totally unproven from thousands of years ago. Start with the Hubble telescope. Browse some darwinism. While you're at it, write me a book report on your bible. Google Krishna, Zarathustra, or Horus.
It's no coincidence atheism is on the rise during what will probably be known as the information age. Atheist isn't a dirty word anymore.
What Post-Modern heretic is runs CNN? This is the same ideology that has been pushed by CNN over and over and it's heresy.
sounds like you has is runs.
persecution complex gone wild again.
I can just imagine you all worked up your eyes rolling into your head convulsing and speaking gibberish hoping someone will be mistaking it for the nonsense referred to as speaking in tongues
Rapture is in the Bible, it's in the Latin Vulgate. For hundreds of years all Bibles were in Latin and during the protestant reformation they used the Vulgate to translate Bibles into other languages. That is where we got the word rapture. What I don't understand is why they wouldn't bring this up. Either they lied or they are incompetent. As far as a literal translation whether they are right or wrong in their beliefs early Christians and Jews before that did take a literal belief in the Bible. Early Christians were not martyred for metaphors and fictional stories. Whether the Bible is real or not the early Christians believed it was. As far as some of the crazy miracles and stories go, if you can get past Genesis Chapter 1 the rest is not that big of a miracle. If God created the universe out of nothing with just a word then having Jonah survive in the stomach of a large fish is not really a big deal. If God created the physical laws that we live by then manipulating them is not a tough challenge.
God didn't just create the physical laws. He created Pirates to break the laws, and He created pasta for the Pirates and their friends to eat. And best of all, He made us beer to drink. Praise Him.
No matter what the affiliation, organized religion is nothing more than a money-making scheme these days - seeking to make the church bigger and the preacher wealthier. I'm a believer in christ, but he said go into a closet to do your alms.
All the bragging about being so much better than everyone else is a turn-off. By the way - has the eye of that needle recently been replaced by something the size of the Grand Canyon? Just saying.................
what a stupid article.
CNN is really on a tear. One headline article after another about evil Republicans causing the dysfunction in DC, evil Newspeak spouting Christians...must sense an imminent overturning of the old order and are scared out of their wits....
Seriously. How is this even news?
I DO BELIEVE IN GOD AND I DO BELIEVE IN JESUS CHRIST. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN CHURCH OR ORGANIZED RELIGION BECAUSE CHURCH AND ORGANIZED RELIGION IS MAN MADE AND HAS BECOME PERVERTED FOR PEOPLE OR PEOPLES PERSONAL GAIN.
Good for you. But since from the start, Christianity only comes in "churches", (communities of believers), your wild west individualism isn't really Christianity.
Mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance at it's finest.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.