Recently, I posted a status on Facebook, requesting friends to give me any well-worn Christianese sayings, sayings popular as bumper stickers, aphorisms, or catch-all encouragement expressions. I was looking, in short, for soundbites that seem, unfortunately, to form the ‘foundation’ of certain groups’ theology.
It was a fun thread, and a number of friends, of very diverse political and theological backgrounds—from the very liberal to the very conservative—participated in good humor and great memory.
But the fun was dampered quite suddenly when one friend wrote simply, “I feel attacked.” It wasn’t even an hour later and she had unfriended me. I was shocked and hurt, since this friend was a dear discovery, a found ally from decades ago, with whom I had many shared trials and victories, a friend I treasured. That a simple list of aphorisms, outside of any usage context, could make one feel attacked in one’s faith, pulled me up short. What is it that this portends?
My concern is that an increasing number of Christians rely not on scripture and its ambiguities, not on the ineffability and mystery of a God who is greater than we can think or imagine, but on the certainties such soundbites promise. And when these soundbites are merely listed together as a set of aphorisms, they somehow fail to stand up with such vigor as do other lists of aphorisms, like, for example, the Proverbs. The soundbites, when looked at for what they are as aphorisms, even before we consider content, seem paltry and trite. But such a subconscious suggestion challenges one’s faith, if one stands on these, and not on the complexities and paradoxes expressed in scripture and those faith traditions that have endured for centuries.