Sunday, February 27, 2011

"Dude, God Has Given Me, Like, So Many Blessings..."

“I don’t know, man, like I have a lot of trouble sometimes, just trying to reach God, and keeping all of these temptations out of my head…”

“Oh, that’s great, man. Praise God, you know? He’s given us so much in this life…”

“Man, today was amazing. God was just helping me out, and it was so great, and He just gave me a great day….”

I think you’ve heard something like this before. Call me prejudiced, but after months of reading comments here, I have an idea of the sort of people who are reading my blog. A lot of you seem to be Christian. And I welcome that. It is with that background in mind that I put down those quotes. They're not verbatim. I put them down to get an idea of a certain style of speaking. Ever heard a teenager (or a youth minister) say something like that? I tried to replicate it, but you have to hear it. It’s as if the speaker wants to sound like a reformed Crip coming into Christ. Or something “gangsta”.

Don’t copy it. Please. I hear it everywhere, and I won’t hold it against the perpetrators, but I denounce it and hope I never slip into it myself.

It won’t be easy to explain why if you haven’t heard it. There’s a certain inflection that is used. I tried to pinpoint it with the italics. Speakers say those lines with a lot of emphasis. All the other words are more quiet, and slow, like they’re building up to those big phrases. What you wind up hearing is a lazy drawl.

It’s the drawling that disturbs me. It doesn’t sound motivated. Even with energy, it still comes off as someone trying to make Christ sound cool. Is that right? If you truly believe that everything in the world is ruled by a power that transcends your senses and your understanding… you don’t slur when you talk about it. If you do, you will sound like an idiot. People like me won’t believe you about your faith.

Religious faith is not compatible with a particular culture. If you want to make such a commitment, it must transform everything by definition. You cannot shift your worldview on such a fundamental scale without shifting yourself fundamentally. I haven’t done it yet, not fully. I use the lazy drawl in non-religious matters. Always I use it when I’m bored or apathetic. Or when I’m trying to blend in with other guys in my dorm.

When adults do speeches for teens, they use this tone. I have a stereotype of the 20-something who wants to be hip with the local youth group. Even up on a podium, those people try to talk like every uninspired sadsack in America. 

Have they forgotten that they’re on that podium for a reason? They have a job there, and that is to be the standard. People need someone to look perfect. They need that tangible sign that someone else has already been down the road they're walking, and can show them how to walk it. Religious speakers must be one of those tangible signs, especially for youth. They must show that they are free of culture. They cannot be bound by the evil in culture, and they must see through the neutral in culture, and appreciate the good in culture. They must show how they have been changed into something better by the truth, and look like they’re following the truth. They cannot sway with fashions any more than they can help it.

My apologies if this seems garbled to you. Essentially, if you mean to speak about a deity that is within, around, beyond, and over everything, and is absolutely undetectable by the senses, and speak about said deity like he is a reality… say it with respect. Make it clear in your voice. A sense of gravity is not a bad thing. I am pressed for time, and will say no more.


  1. The Catholic youth have spoken. Take heed.

  2. Excellent! That kind of language has always bothered me in the teen/20-something religious culture. Thanks for bringing it up here.

    BTW, say hi to Erin Martin!

  3. Charlotte, I will do my best to do so. And thanks for reading. How did you find this blog?

  4. A Catholic blogger linked to it today.

  5. Sean, I've been meaning to comment on this for a while.

    I understand your point and I don't think it's good or helpful when adults try to talk youth like that on purpose in hopes of helping them strengthen their faith, but I don't see a problem with people expressing their love for God in a "gangsta" way. Some people legitimately talk like that. It has to due with how and where they were raised and if we call ourselves Christians we shouldn't be judging people for how they talk. Yeah, these people are trying to make God and faith "cool" and I don't know about you, but I think it is cool! If people talk like that to show their love for God and encourage other people to do so as well they are doing no more harm than we do when we express our faith. People show their love for God in different ways and we are not the judges. God is not offended by anyone's honest praise and that's what I believe it is.

  6. @Archaeology cat: Glad you agree! Thanks for reading!

    @Catherine: I see your point, and I concede that I am being too harsh, perhaps. But I cannot accept people talking like that specifically to make Christ "cool". That is conforming Him to society's ways rather than conforming society's ways to Him. I don't like the idea of dumbing down Jesus. I DO accept that there are people who speak naturally like that, but for everyone who doesn't, they shouldn't do it to teach religion.

  7. I agree with Catherine, that people expressing their love "for" God in any form is welcomed "by" God. I do have a small issue with one point you make; that we must conform to Jesus, instead of Jesus conforming to us. I was disturbed by your comment that youth pastors and speakers are there to "be the standard. People need (them) to look perfect." Who are we to say that their lives are perfect, or even passable in the eyes of Christ? We are all sinners, no matter how we praise God, or how we speak about Him to others. If someone I am talking to needs me to use a different set of vocabulary in order for them to understand what I'm saying, then I will. If my talking about Christ and God's great love has influenced a persons life, whether I'm talking like a scholarly theologian or a "gangsta", that is God speaking through me.