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July 31st, 2011
01:00 AM ET

Do you speak Christian?

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.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Baptist • Belief • Bible • Christianity • Church • Culture wars • Episcopal • Faith • Fundamentalism • Politics • Uncategorized

soundoff (3,878 Responses)
  1. GiGiGiGiGiGiGi

    Totally reminds me of my born-again ex-husband. Very reminiscent of NewsSpeak in Orwell's "1984". The key words and tricky phrases reminded me of a form of mind control. It's scary how these people can compartmentalize their thinking using phrases. I left him when: 1) he said I would stay home and home-school our future children, and 2) he started spouting nonsense about how the devil put dinosaur bones in the ground to fool us. This from a man with to advanced degrees in engineering and science. It frightened the poop out of me that an educated person could fall in for such controlled thought without questioning it or employing critical thinking. (Prior to marriage, he was conveniently not practicing born-again while living in sin; whipped out the reglion after it was easier for him to walk the walk.)

    August 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
  2. Zach

    In response to Mr. Ferguson's video: He is terribly misguided in the way he claims the "original meanings" of biblical words such as "salvation". Biblical salvation is referring to eternity, being saved in the eternal sense. He is wrong..any reading of the Bible would clearly point this out. "Believe" is NOT the same as "belove"...this is what the world would like us to revert to...the idea that loving and doing good things on this earth is what really counts when it comes to salvation. Belief is faith, a gift from God, not something I work towards as he claims. He is sadly mistaken and it frustrates me to see it. And if he's claiming this information from a survey of so-called Christians today, then I'm sad to say that they have been misguided as well. And this business about being misguided to believing things like parting the Red Sea, Jonah in the fish, etc...well, let's employ a little logic here. If one believes that a transcendent, all-powerful, eternal God exists, then it is the most logical, common sense, easiest thing in the world to believe that he can do miracles of all sorts, in all ways, shapes, and forms. No problem, no strain. And so to look on miracles in the Bible and think that we have to somehow NOT take them literally, or explain them away, or find excuses for them, is ridiculous and an afront to the power of God...clearly. Someone PLEASE try and refute this. It is perfect logic and I don't understand why people have such a problem with it. Now, if someone does NOT believe in the biblical God, that's a different issue...at that point, of course they wouldn't believe the Bible at all, or any of the miracles and stories in it. Why would they? SO, Mr.Ferguson is sorely mistaken. He does not understand true Christianity, but only looks at some semblance of an outer veneer from which to make and take opinions to inject into his cute little false video. By the way, as I'm saying this, I do intend to convey that much of American Christianity has gone astray and is NOT a good example of Christianity in many cases. On the other hand, I do know some amazing Christians and churches if you'd like to check one out. :) peace.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • eric calderone

      RE: Zach. Faith, in a salvation sense, when found in the bible, does not denote belief, per se, it denotes a type of living which combines belief with action founded in that belief. As the Apostle James says, if one has faith, but not good works, will that faith save him? James tells us the answer is, No. The bible, not being a textbook, also uses the term faith in a non-salvation context, to denote the sense of "belief."

      August 1, 2011 at 11:14 am |
  3. john

    Wow..what hatred for Christians out there...it just goes to show what will happen if God is permanently removed from our society.Those who believe in nothing fall for anything..and they fear no consequence for their actions..which in turn will result in violence,persecution and oppression of those who believe in God.It has already been foretold that these things will happen..and it has already begun.To you non-believers..this country was founded by people who believe in God and were escaping religious persecution..it's freedoms which you enjoy were established based upon the laws of God by God fearing people.It has been duly defended by people who believe in God who gave life and limb so that you can be free to attack the very faith that established this once great nation.This nation is now in decline because of the immoral and unethical practices of people who believe in nothing but themselves.You are the ones who are ignorant and blind to think that everything created and continuing to be created happens by accidents that themselves have specific functions assigned to them.When you die you will be in for the shock of your life as you will see the Creator you so vehemently deny exists.Your own soul will flee and throw itself into Hell because for you it will be too late to accept Him.I pray to God that you will come to know and believe before you die.As for you hatred and threats..it's so boring and cliched..we believers know what to expect..we do not fear..it is you who should fear if you knew better.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • chop

      this country was also founded by people who didn't let women vote and believed in slavery....doesn't make it right now does it.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Qi

      Blind faith is more destructive than no faith. Question everything and wake up....

      August 1, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • GiGiGiGiGiGiGi

      You really need to stop thinking in extremes. Most people don't hate Christians, they hate the warped interpretation of Christianity. Your whole post is riddled with extreme statements. Your illogical jumps concerning the foundation of this country are a prime example. Seriously, can you stop and think critically about your own statements? If not, your not thinking, just spouting an extreme ideology. I'm pretty sure Christ wants me to think for myself, not jtwist history, politics, and religion to fit an ideology. Your post deteriorates into evangelical ramblings, get a grip, Jesus wants you to THINK.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:55 am |
    • BrandonM

      What would happen is God were removed from society? Right now we're fighting in the Middle East over which religion is more peaceful. Soldiers might as well be saying "We are of peace you aren't!" while firing a bullet on each syllable.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Nonimus

      "Wow..what hatred for Christians out there...it just goes to show what will happen if God is permanently removed from our society."
      Perhaps you mean "religion is permanently removed", because God has always been permanently removed from our society, as far as anyone can tell.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Tevii

      "Wow..what hatred for Christians out there...it just goes to show what will happen if God is permanently removed from our society." There's bad and good to any group of people. (however, historically speaking more murder and violence has been committed by christians than any other group)
      Here's what you dont realize.. When an Atheist is a good person, they are because they are TRULY good people. They dont CLAIM they are good because they believe in a god or are only good because they have a fear of hell. Thats not good. Its putting up a facade to achieve your selfish goals. Thats not truly good at all. So if there truly is a god, does he want the truly good or the fake, self preservationists?

      August 1, 2011 at 11:29 am |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Nonimus wrote "religion is permanently removed", because God has always been permanently removed from our society, as far as anyone can tell."

      Where do you live? In the U.S. there are constant reminders that most of the population still cling to these ancient fairy tales... From having "In god we trust" on the currency, to the "updating" of the Pledge of Allegiance to include the "G" word, to the well-publicized "prayer breakfasts" held by political leaders, to the perpetual fight to post copies of the 10 commandments in public buildings, to the endless Christmas and Easter "festivities," etc.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:30 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @PraisetheLard

      I've known -Nonimus long enough over the last year and certainly read enough of his postings to recognize the context where he is coming from.

      I could be wrong here, and maybe -Nonimus will come back and confirm or correct me, here...

      However, I 'think' what -Nonimus was inferring was that God (he/she/it) is permanently removed from our society, as there just is -0- evidence for he/she/it's existence.

      Certainly the 'believers' do invoke and state God is here, etc...

      That was my take on his posting anyway.

      Hope that you are good -PraisetheLard

      Regards,

      Peace...

      August 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @PraiseTheLard,
      Guess I was unclear. You are correct about all the reminders in American society, I was trying say that, although religion (i.e. all those references) is prevalent in society, God has never been seen nor heard from in any demonstrable way.

      So, instead of showing "... what will happen if God is permanently removed from our society." It would only be possible to show "...what will happen if [religion] is permanently removed from our society," since God is already removed (i.e. most likely does not exist.)

      Hope that clarifies my earlier statements.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:52 pm |
    • Nonimus

      Yep, what @Peace2all said.

      Peace to you, Peace2all.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:54 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Actually, you may be wrong... Last time I was in Manhattan, I saw someone on 6th Avenue who claimed he was God...

      Who knows... perhaps he was telling the truth...

      All the best,

      PTL

      August 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm |
    • Nonimus

      @PraiseTheLard,
      Sounds about right, God hanging out on 6th Ave. : )

      You check his ID?

      August 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Actually I have my doubts...

      It was a sunny day, so no-one would say All Hail to Him...

      However, had he been a taxi driver, I suppose we could all have Hailed a Cab...

      (I need more sleep...)

      August 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm |
    • fred

      Nonimus

      God has never been removed from our society. You live in a western culture that has many attributes remaining of Christianityand the old testament God of the Bible. You can run but you cannot hide. In you are parts of that culture. We may even be related

      August 1, 2011 at 2:37 pm |
  4. lookmom

    CNN regularly (weekly perhaps) puts out an article like this and all these commenters fall for the bait. Commenting is what they want adn we give it to them. Let's stop reading and signing in on this junk they post just to stir up their readers. They love nothing more than a fight that brings up the numbers.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Richard S Kaiser

      Don't you know lookmom that Numerology is an old and tried system of Belief in the Crockeries of Crapola? Or should I say it is the Crayola of colors?

      August 1, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  5. Reality

    The 21st century Christian: based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of
    Jerusalem.

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A bodily resurrection and
    ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.
    -----------------------------------------–

    August 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Ian

      Citation?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      I could really laugh at your lines, if I would not know that people like you have brought a lot of sorrow upon the mankind in the course of history.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Xristos Logos

      You left out the old testament I guess all that was made up too, ever heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • Reality

      Ian,

      Citation? Yours truly and based on reviewing 200 years of conclusions by historians and theologians from these 200 years
      ==========================================================================================

      August 1, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • Reality

      origin: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F20E1EFE35540C7A8CDDAA0894DA404482 NY Times

      New Torah For Modern Minds

      Abraham, the Jewish patriarch, probably never existed. Nor did Moses. The entire Exodus story as recounted in the Bible probably never occurred. The same is true of the tumbling of the walls of Jericho. And David, far from being the fearless king who built Jerusalem into a mighty capital, was more likely a provincial leader whose reputation was later magnified to provide a rallying point for a fledgling nation.

      Such startling propositions - the product of findings by archaeologists digging in Israel and its environs over the last 25 years - have gained wide acceptance among non-Orthodox rabbis. But there has been no attempt to disseminate these ideas or to discuss them with the laity - until now.

      The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, which represents the 1.5 million Conservative Jews in the United States, has just issued a new Torah and commentary, the first for Conservatives in more than 60 years. Called "Etz Hayim" ("Tree of Life" in Hebrew), it offers an interpretation that incorporates the latest findings from archaeology, philology, anthropology and the study of ancient cultures. To the editors who worked on the book, it represents one of the boldest efforts ever to introduce into the religious mainstream a view of the Bible as a human rather than divine doc-ument.

      The notion that the Bible is not literally true "is more or less settled and understood among most Conservative rabbis," observed David Wolpe, a rabbi at Sinai Temple in Los Angeles and a contributor to "Etz Hayim." But some congregants, he said, "may not like the stark airing of it." Last Passover, in a sermon to 2,200 congregants at his synagogue, Rabbi Wolpe frankly said that "virtually every modern archaeologist" agrees "that the way the Bible describes the Exodus is not the way that it happened, if it happened at all." The rabbi offered what he called a "LITANY OF DISILLUSION”' about the narrative, including contradictions, improbabilities, chronological lapses and the absence of corroborating evidence. In fact, he said, archaeologists digging in the Sinai have "found no trace of the tribes of Israel - not one shard of pottery."

      August 1, 2011 at 1:00 pm |
  6. joe jones

    "If this is you, some Christian pastors and scholars have some bad news: You may not know what you’re talking about."
    --------
    No doubt. It's a case of the blind leading the blind. The Christians pastors and so called scholars are, for the most, part high school educated only with mental disorders. They attract the same.

    It's nearly impossible to find any college educate scientist who believe the religious drivel of Christianity.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      Could it be that secular education does the exact same thing Christian schools do? Indoctrination is the same whether you are indoctrinating someone on a particular interpretation of the Bible or on the presupposition that God does not exist and everything happened by accident.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Xristos Logos

      really here is a list of Ph. d scientists that reject evolution http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/bios/

      Some scientists are scared to say they don't believe in Evolution because they will lose their Job.. DONT QUESTION EVOLUTION its a theory err I mean fact....

      MY good friend is a Biologist for the Government and fully rejects evolution.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:47 am |
    • Laughing

      Joxer

      The main difference is, "secular schools" teach critical thinking and make you back up your argument with logical rebuttles and concrete evidence. You can't say something like " The sky is blue because it is and I believe it is" you have to give reasons why and in some cases use multiple sources to show how you arrived at an answer. A religious parochial school is a different matter where you sit in a classroom for a theology class and discuss the bible, if the question gets too hard then the invariable answer is either "because god says so" or "god did it" and you leave it at that.

      Most "secular" schools leave the area of religion alone because it's such a tricky subject, they don't teach on the premise that god doesn't exist, they also don't teach with the premise that god DOES exist.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:48 am |
    • Laughing

      @Xristos

      You won't lose your job if you reject the theory of evolution just because it's against your belief system, but you any scientist who does reject it automatically casts doubt on his credentials as a scientist, sorry if that's so unfair that a scientist will willingly reject evidence to support his own truth his found in a 2,000 year old book, that's life kid. Also you still don't understand what a scientific theory is I'm as.suming because of your snide remark. Let me help you, It is as.sumed and encouraged to challenge theories. The theory of evolution or gravity are widely accepted because there have been no other theories brought forth that can disprove the current ones. If you want to question evolution and provide a well thought out with peer and evidence backing then I'm all ears, I would reject our current theory of evolution if you have convincing enough authentic evidence.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:00 am |
    • Fred1

      Joxer: I’m a product of a Christian school and by the time I got out, they had completely convinced me that god did not exist

      August 6, 2011 at 7:39 pm |
  7. Xristos Logos

    This Video is nothing but a hit piece on Christians and the Validity of the Bible. Salvation – http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=4991 Right from the ancient Lexicons.
    Believe – is NOT BELOVED – it deals with ones past and trustworthiness, http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=4103
    Beloved – http://www.studylight.org/lex/grk/view.cgi?number=25

    August 1, 2011 at 10:33 am |
  8. Adam

    A somewhat ridiculous and anti-Christian article. ANY large group with long history and many members will inevitably generate its own lexicon. This is true of organizations from fraternities, to Universities, to the military, to GM, or Congress or even any other established religion on the planet. To single out a single one and criticize it for the terms used by its professed members is disingenuous to say the least...unless you have your own agenda to promote. My guess is that if you walked through the CNN offices in Atlanta, you would be a little left out of the conversations there as well. Do you speak CNN?

    August 1, 2011 at 10:29 am |
  9. smiley

    ...and CNN continues with its anti Christian themed articles.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
    • Xristos Logos

      No kidding huh... next thing you know we will be the new Al Qaida,

      August 1, 2011 at 10:35 am |
    • J

      CNN blogs are no more news than the wall of a bathroom stall. Less profanity, but no more intelligence.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • priam08

      This is an "anti-Christian" article? I thought the the editorial position is basically neutral, though there's certainly an element of mockery towards people toss around empty phrases just to demonstrate how pious they are, which is something "Christians" seem to do incessantly. So come to think of it, I stand corrected–based upon that reasoning, this IS an anti-Christian article.

      I believe there's a serious problem with whoever is printing bibles these days. As near as I can tell, Matthew 6:5 is missing from the versions being used by most "Christians".

      August 1, 2011 at 11:01 am |
  10. renee

    Let's see if you understand these words from Jesus, "....you say, 'I am rich and have become wealthy and have need of nothing,' and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked...."
    To my misquoted, misunderstood Brethren:
    ..."guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called 'knowledge' which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith."
    Oh oh....maybe 'astray' is a code word!!!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  11. palintwit

    Michele Bachmann's husband, Marcus Bachmann, has this very feminine, falsetto voice and he goes around bashing gays. Hmmmm....

    August 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • William Demuth

      I hear she has testes, so they are well met.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:26 am |
  12. Thomas Kent

    There is a sort of Christian "language" that uses words and phrases that signal a certain circle or sphere of belief. Some of these even change based on which other words surround them. For example, "saints" has one connotation when you hear it in conjunction with words like "intercessory" or "canonized" and is more typical of Catholic/Episcopal/Orthodox denominations, while it has a totally different meaning when you hear it alongside "priesthood of all believers" and "perseverance of the saints" within Protestant denominations. Multiply that type of difference within all the small denominations and you do have a lot of buzzwords and key phrases that evince a tenet of belief. That's one thing this article does a really good job of pointing out.

    However, Marcus J. Borg (and all of the other speakers quoted in this article seem to share his outlook) belongs to a segment of popular names within speakers about Christianity that have a radical stance on many issues of the faith. While he may be "canon" Episcopal, his beliefs characterize Christianity in a way that marginalizes the spiritual aspect and instead portrays it only as a practical and pragmatic application for fixing the wrongs of earthly life and the human condition. He denies most existence of the supernatural, the importance of an existence after death, and even the (true, not cleverly-defined) deity and person-hood of Jesus Christ.

    In terms of true Christianity, Borg would be classified as a heretic, and most probably a person who is not a Christian who has redefined the parameters of the faith to fit his beliefs in order to consider himself one. His teachings are disguised as the "true interpretation" of the Bible, but are in fact a radical departure, and it's only the willingness of people to follow him and believe the same things that lends any sort of temporary strength to his position when people cite him as a source–in Christian speak, a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

    Please don't portray Borg or any of his contemporaries (in thought) as mainstream Christians, or try to imply that their beliefs represent even in parody any semblance of what real Christianity, present and historical, teaches.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
    • renee

      Thank you, Brother, God's blessings on you.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:28 am |
    • Bill Peeler

      Kent,

      Well stated and on the mark. There are people who are apostates as Paul points out and spent so much time at the church of Corinth trying to dispell the false teachers. Borj is just another idiot used by Satan to bring confusion to the Christian faith. We true believers are able to reject these falsehoods when we see them. Sadly, those who have little knowledge of the Good News will fall prey to these wolves in sheep's clothing. Again, well stated and God Bless you brother! It is a shame CNN continues to support this attack on Christianity by left wing Anti-God zealots. That's why Foc News continues to rein as #1 cable news organization. God blesses those who honor His Word.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:52 am |
    • Fred1

      @Bill Peeler: Well god certainly blessed Howard Camping

      August 6, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
  13. Amit-Atlanta-USA

    Part – 1/2

    YES, AN ABSOLUTE YES!

    I AM HINDU, A RECENT IMMIGRANT TO THIS GREATEST OF NATIONS AND I ABSOLUTELY WANT MY CHRISTIAN NEIGHBORS TO SPEAK CHRISTIAN!!!!

    HERE ARE MY REASONS:

    What I can say POLITICAL CORRECTNESS with us CHRISTIANS, HINDUS, JEWS etc. have gone so far that mere mention of our religion is anathema to most people including many in our own communities (all in the name of RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS), while MUSLIMS worldwide however EDUCATED, LIBERATED, SECULAR (Self styled) LIVE & BREATH ISLAM even at WORK, PUBLIC PLACES (incl. airports, trains, on the streets etc.) most often at a HUGE COST TO NATION's SECURITY/UNITY, Not to talk of people's SENSIBILITIES ( as in the GROUND ZERO VICTORY MOSQUE, or a 55,000 Sq.ft. Mosque funded by the Islamist sources at MURFEESBORO to cater to a MERE 200 MUSLIM FAMILIES!).

    Unfortunately this a DANGEROUS & SUICIDAL TREND that’s ENGULFING much of the excessively politically correct educated elite in most of the free world incl. America, Europe, India, Australia etc. while the ISLAMIC NATIONS AS WELL AS MUSLIMS IN OUR OWN MIDST area ASSERTING THEMSELVES MORE & MORE IN THE NAME OF THEIR RELIGION!

    Unless this changes as events in Norway and much of Europe have shown things will eventually take a ghastly turn with some right wing religious monsters cashing on such injustices with innocent public paying a huge price!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • William Demuth

      Go home, we have plenty of nuts here already.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:27 am |
    • well said

      @Amit, well said Bro!

      August 1, 2011 at 10:56 am |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      @Well Said:

      Thanks!

      CNN would NOT let me post part 2 of 2 here. I have tried all means tor emove the caps etc. but nothing seems to work.

      Will try again

      August 1, 2011 at 11:03 am |
    • BJP

      William Demuth

      It is people like you who are unable to have an intellignet debate without hate mongering words. You must be a true left wing liberal as they are the only ones incapable of meaningful debate. To lower yourself to name calling and slander shows the depth of your intelligence and character. At least demonstrate to your own kind that there is a remote chance a liberal can have a decent debate. I'm still trying to find one. It must be exhausting always trying to prove what is up is down, right is left, and whats mine is yours. Take a break and get ovet it....

      August 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      The following is a part of it:

      Part 2 of 2

      SO, LET's FOR A CHANGE SAY WITH PRIDE I AM CHRISTIAN, I AM HINDU, I AM JEW etc., just the way the MUSLIMS DO!

      Being a recent Hindu immigrant who came to America OF MY OWN FREE WILL, I believe in ADAPTING to this great people/land and MELT INTO THE AMERICAN POT and NOT VICE VERSA! America will be a much better place if everyone does so IN ACTIONS & SPIRIT primarily by leaving their religion behind when they step out!

      August 1, 2011 at 11:04 am |
    • William Demuth

      BJP

      Don't be an idiot. I am so far to the right of you you would have to goose step for a month to get close.

      Don't think Christianity is conservative, It is a cult of men who bugger little boys and rip off little old ladies while cheating my country out of BILLIONS in tax revenue.

      It needs to be broken by any and all means.

      August 1, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  14. Luis Wu

    I speak Christian: "Blah blah blah, mumbo jumbo oogah boogah". It's all just a bunch of ignorant nonsense. Christians have to be the most gullible people on the planet.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • Xristos Logos

      Such an intelligent position, I love all the facts you have laid out for your belief system... oh thats right you didn't.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:37 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      You haven't experienced the things that I have so why do you insist on criticizing my beliefs?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:39 am |
    • Ashley

      I am Catholic and I am not a gullible person. I believe what I believe; I don't try forcing it on people. But please leave me faith alone. I am so tired to people with other religious including other protestant Christians bashing my faith. I understand that my religion isn't perfect but that is because the Church is rand by people and people are sinners.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • joe jones

      Here's the classic Christian modern belief system. "I was in such a bad place. I was a drunk or drug abuser or pick your fact pattern–and ready to commit suicide. And then I found Jesus and he changed my life."

      First, you completely ignore that your Jesus let you get to the point of suicide in the first place. Nice God there.

      Secondly, you are so completely self absorbed, you forget how many much better people than you that your Jesus didn't save.

      Thirdly, the reality is that no one was there to help you. You engaged in a mind game to help yourself by pretending some outside force was doing the work not you. It wasn't a miracle. It was just you disgusted with yourself for being such a low life loser and pulling yourself up out of the gutter. .

      August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • BJP

      Mr WU, Common Sense, and the rest of you anti christian fools: Your destruction is certain.

      2 Peter 2
      False Teachers and Their Destruction
      1 But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. 3 In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.

      4 For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell,[a] putting them in chains of darkness[b] to be held for judgment; 5 if he did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; 6 if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; 7 and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the depraved conduct of the lawless 8 (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)— 9 if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and to hold the unrighteous for punishment on the day of judgment. 10 This is especially true of those who follow the corrupt desire of the flesh[c] and despise authority.

      Bold and arrogant, they are not afraid to heap abuse on celestial beings; 11 yet even angels, although they are stronger and more powerful, do not heap abuse on such beings when bringing judgment on them from[d] the Lord. 12 But these people blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like unreasoning animals, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like animals they too will perish.

      13 They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you.[e] 14 With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood! 15 They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer,[f] who loved the wages of wickedness. 16 But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey—an animal without speech—who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet’s madness.

      17 These people are springs without water and mists driven by a storm. Blackest darkness is reserved for them. 18 For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of the flesh, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. 19 They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity—for “people are slaves to whatever has mastered them.” 20 If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and are overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. 21 It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. 22 Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,”[g] and, “A sow that is washed returns to her wallowing in the mud.”

      You are already judged because your filthy hearts will not allow you to repent and there is nothing you can do about it!

      August 1, 2011 at 11:20 am |
  15. Bruno

    Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
    My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
    Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends,
    So Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?

    Janis Joplin, Michael McClure, Bob Neuwirth, c.1970.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • William Demuth

      Dialing For Dollars never found me :(

      August 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  16. linguist

    in this case the proper term is not "bilingual" but "bi-dialectal"

    August 1, 2011 at 10:14 am |
  17. William Demuth

    I am gonna need more lions!

    August 1, 2011 at 10:10 am |
    • Patcher

      I wish the x-ians were sent to the lions!!

      August 1, 2011 at 10:16 am |
    • Joxer the Mighty

      We were. Then when they found they couldn't destroy us, they seized our beliefs and mutated them so much that they were practically unrecognizable.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:34 am |
  18. ArizonaUSA

    57 pages of comments. How ironic that so many atheists and agnostics feel compelled to comment on any article mentioning Christianity. Having said that, I don't agree with Marcus Borg about much but I do agree with him about this. There are a lot of phrases that have no Biblical basis, particularly in modern American Christian prosperity theology.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • William Demuth

      Rest assured we hate Muslims and Jews just as much, but we try not to pick on the slow kids.

      Besides I have NEVER had some creepy Muslim knock on my door to try and talk to my kids.

      It seems only the degenerate Christians do that.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:13 am |
    • Rarian Rakista

      I don't think that word means what you think it means.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:14 am |
    • Patcher

      Probably because we are sick and tired of hearing about you x-ians. We want Freedom from Religion in this country!

      August 1, 2011 at 10:17 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Could this be because.......dare I suggest it......because the church is EVOLVING?!!!!? My goodness, evolution is not real, so it can't happen to the church!

      August 1, 2011 at 10:20 am |
    • Luis Wu

      I post here because I'll take every opportunity to oppose ignorance and stupidity. But it's not just Christianity, ALL religions are just ancient mythology. Nothing more. Period. Get a brain and use logic and reason and you'll see that.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:21 am |
    • Xristos Logos

      As you have noticed none of the above comments every have any proof for their world view.. What came first in Evolution DNA or the Protien? both are needed by each other... Thats right When a christian says God did it you say Natural Selection did it... Natural selection always results in a loss of genetic information so go preach somewhere else about your belief system bashing. the definition of science is : Knowledge derived from observation and study. Too bad we have never witnessed a big bang or stars forming or non living material become living material..... I DON'T HAVE ENOUGH FAITH TO BE AN ATHEIST...

      August 1, 2011 at 10:42 am |
    • Christianise

      Luis What if someone made the same statement about the name Wu?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:43 am |
    • Amit-Atlanta-USA

      @William Demuth:

      I am Hindu, a proud one at that, a recent immigrant to this greatest of nations and I can say this. Yes, I do have many Christians come knock on my door with messages about the Gospel. Itake them, I tell them I will read them at liesure. I also tell them that while I have immense respect for Christianity and the Bible, I am fine being a Hindu.

      So,I am least perturbed by these people, at least they don't come in threatening to be-head me for being an infidel!

      August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • The Jackdaw

      Xristos Logos, its clear you only know enough about Science to be able to use its identifying words while you bash it. Pick up a scientific journal and put down your bible. You sound like an azz-hat.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:49 am |
    • numbnut

      That's because no matter what article it is, some blogger has to pump their Christian views down our throats. An article about food...somebody throws the bible at us. An article about the weather, same thing. An article about your IQ, same.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • Anchorite

      And why not? Many atheists I know have read the Bible and are better "Christ followers" by following their own moral compass than Christians who talk the talk but don't do anything to help their fellow man, ALL their fellow men, not just fellow atheists or Christians.

      August 1, 2011 at 11:16 am |
    • BJP

      Marcus Borg knows just enough to assist the naive in going to Hell. Just look at his followers on this blog.....

      August 1, 2011 at 11:36 am |
  19. billy

    The vid mentions Salvation can be "worked for and acheived"...hmmm, not what scripture says. It is only through Jesus Christ we are saved.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:04 am |
    • William Demuth

      I though you could save with Goldman Sachs?

      Plus what about old Moses. He never even heard of Jesus. Does that mean he burns? Mahatma Ghandi? Abraham? Budda?

      Do they all burn in your twisted world view?

      August 1, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • Luis Wu

      We need to be saved from stupid people like you.

      August 1, 2011 at 10:22 am |
  20. Tim

    “Christianity’s goal is not to escape from this world. It loves this world and seeks to change it for the better,” he writes.

    Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them.
    1John 2:15

    If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.
    John 15:19

    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.

    What's his motive, I wonder? Sounds like he's got an axe to grind and he's going to make some money while he's at it.

    August 1, 2011 at 10:03 am |
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About this blog

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.