Are you born again? Have you been slain in the Spirit? Have you walked the aisle to receive the baptism of the Saints? Are you washed in the blood, blessed by grace, favored for your labors? Have you testified, been sanctified, and placed a hedge of protection around yourself? Do you covet prayers? Are you blessed with singleness? Do you know folks who are lost, caught up in the world, surrendering to the flesh, or backslidden?
Do you commit the unpardonable sin, as a writer, of (a) talking this way and (b) writing this way?
I spoke at a writers conference in Vancouver, BC the other week, and was fascinated by the makeup of those attending. There were those who believed in God and Christ, some who believed in God, some who believed in neither, and even someone, I was told, who hates God. And yes, this was a Christian writers’ conference. So you can imagine how interested I was to engage folks in conversation. And within an hour, I realized something was missing.
No, not God. He was there, shining out in the people I met and talked with. Yes, even through the one who hates Him. Funny how He can do that. No, what was missing was Christian-ese. Those phrases and words we hear so often in our Christian circles, and that, if I’d said them in this place with these folks, they would have been sure I was speaking in tongues! Oh, wait…not sure they’d know that one, either. <smile>
Seriously, it was fascinating to me listening to the group of writers the many ways they talked about God and faith, all without using the terms that too often pepper the speech of those in churches or Christian circles.
I’ve counseled writers for a lot of years that you don’t have to use explicit or graphic language or scenes to depict evil, darkness, or depravity. You can show the depths of human nature far more effectively by language that’s evocative, not explicit. It’s what is implied and hinted at that hold real power. Think about it. That monster in the close or under your bed was terrifying. You never saw it or heard it, but you knew it was in there and it was awful!
In the same way, when we seek to depict God and Christ and what it is to live an authentic life of faith, we need avoid those pet phrases and words that Christians too often love to use. Write about God, yes. But in terms your readers will connect with and relate to. Be clear, be honest, and please, please flee Christianese. For one thing, too many people won’t understand it. (It’s kind of like when I explained to a nonpublishing friend that the typesetter had to kill the widows and orphans on the page and be sure nothing bled into the gutter. His response: “Who knew publishing was so violent an endeavor.” He had no idea…<grin>) For another, it’s stereotypical and clichéd.
Being a good writer means you paint pictures with your words. So make sure, when you paint the picture of God and Christ and faith, that you do so with words that are emotive and clear and beautiful. Because, my friends, there is nothing more emotive, clear, and beautiful than God. And Christ. And a life of faith.
Do I hear an amen?