We must practice authentic Christian rhetoric

Nari Mathis

Language, as many would argue, differentiates human beings from other animals. Our astounding ability to clearly articulate and defend our preferred type of coffee or our stance on immigration marks a higher intelligence. Within the greater grouping of homo sapiens, the hundreds of ethnicities populating the world establish relations to one another via vernacular, their local dialect that distinguishes them from other nearby regions. In just an American setting, the moment a Southerner says “y’all,” a mental explosion occurs in the minds of anyone not native to that region of the country.

Christians, too, have a vernacular complete with terms one might describe as “hitting it on the nose” — for example, community, authenticity, transparency, etc.  In the mouths of believers new and old to the kingdom and in daily devotions and sermons, everywhere. You have even heard the Christian rhetoric circulating among Westmont students and faculty. You have even heard the Christian rhetoric circulating among Westmont students and faculty, who reiterate a desire for a “safe space” in order to share “testimonies” and “walk” alongside each other. Stressing a community that practices accountability sounds great in practice, but with empty motivations and lack of real life application, their repetition becomes tired and loses a degree of resonance among believers.

Aspiring for these things is not inherently wrong. These words in and of themselves are not the problem. Christians should want the development of sacred spaces for the worship and honoring of God! Christians should want to model genuineness and full investment in one another! But in our flippant exchanges to placate other believers, these crucial parts of the faith lose their value. You can expertly wield a sword with deftness, or clumsily fumble about with a weapon you know nothing about. The increasingly hollow intentions behind these powerful words the lack of implementation in everyday life, the shallow depths which we allow our testimonies to reach creates an apathetic cynicism for not only each other but for Christianity itself. 

Is the solution graduating to a higher understanding of Christianity? Do we equip ourselves with educated perspectives on the nature of the Eucharist in society today? Or do we need to reevaluate ourselves, and not only speak of “community,” but practice it with a faithful reverence that speaks of the early church’s devotion to one another? The tension between our frustration at the empty words we mindlessly bark at one another, and continuous engagement in the language suggests an actual intrinsic desire for those very things. Perhaps we truly do yearn for a revival of authenticity in our relationships, a greater assurance in the collective commitment of our brothers and sisters to the body of Christ. 

Instead of unconsciously affirming the problematic, slapdash, “I’ll pray for you,” we should intentionally mobilize ourselves to practice the good news into another believer’s crisis. Therefore, a true resurgence back to dependable Christian terminology must consist of a successful integration of meaning and action, as words represent not only a definition but an actual application into reality. We as Christians were never meant to memorize Scripture in the comfort of a closed environment, but declare the truth against the shifting sands of the world.