Greek Churchspeak and the Flat Earth

I could have sworn that I recently wrote a post on this subject but I can’t find it, so here goes again.  It has to do with flat earth speak.
We just wrapped up our annual diocesan clergy conference at which it one person said that he thought when non believers hear our churchspeak language they hear “flat earth.”  It’s true.  We speak first century Greek using English words in phrases heavily influenced by the High Middle Ages, Renaissance, Reformation and Enlightenment.  I don’t think that is bad, but we need to face facts.  It’s a strange and mysterious language that does not seem to resonate well with the latest hit on MTV, anything in People Magazine, life on the street or the popular understanding of science.
The mainline churches in my community that have tried to do something about that have failed in two ways.  Some of them come off as a bunch of old people trying to be cool by using music and words at least a decade out of style.  Others have made a genuine offering to the young in their language only to become little more than concert venues under thin veneers of barely visible Christian formation.
Oddly enough, I believe that the best job of translating our Greek churchspeak into language intelligible to the modern non believer has come from the pastor of one of the local Roman Catholic parishes, and the young new rector of my former parish. When I think about it, neither of them is deliberate about trying to appeal to youth per se.  Instead, they are adept at using the ordinary language of the day to open up the depth of meaning hidden in churchspeak, and they are very clear about breaking down the artificial barriers between faith and science.   
What I would really like to hear is your take on all of this.

3 thoughts on “Greek Churchspeak and the Flat Earth”

  1. even language we don't realize is \”church speak\” is. for instance Good Shepherd Sunday. How many people today have actual experience with either sheep or shepherds. what other words would we use to convey the same image and lesson. I will never forget a student at Bucknell when I was still teaching chemistry tell me that as clear as I tried to make the subject, sometimes I was still \”speaking Chinese.\” the use of language, and the willingness to say that people don't always have to just learn our language is a problem not just for the Church of course – just think about English as the official language arguement.

  2. So many beautiful and useful words in our language have lost their apparent connection to their deep roots — I don't know why erotic, psychotic, and barbarian immediately come to mind, but you get the picture — and still derive essential power and meaning from their tradition.Likewise, churchspeak, difficult as it may (or may not) be, carries in its tradition and history not only an elusive beauty but more important, I believe, indispensable meaning having to do with the mystery of God, love, and the like. It may be \”cool,\” for instance, to say that Jesus is \”cool\” and most people will catch your drift, but I believe such locutions are woefully, sinfully inadequate.Vern

Leave a Reply