Evangelicalese: the author reminisces

scribb1e enjoyed Valerie Tarico’s article on evangelicalese, and even watched the video Tarico linked to, of Susan Hutchison speaking at a prayer breakfast. If you’d like a shorter example of more of the same, here’s evangelical Christian Peter Vadala being interviewed on Fox News about how he was fired for telling a lesbian co-worker that homosexuality was “bad stuff” after the co-worker repeatedly provoked him by mentioning her fiancée. Intriguingly, Vadala once wrote a “Christian musical”: urbaniak has the full story, including a copy of the termination letter from Vadala’s former employer and links to MP3s of the musical.

Trigger Warning: watching the videos may provoke flashbacks for ex-evangelicals. To aid your understanding while watching them, here’s a brief glossary of terms I remembered from my misspent youth:

Prayer breakfast

An easy one to get you started: it’s a communal breakfast where you pray. My former church had “men’s prayer breakfasts”. I never found out what went on at them, as I regarded getting up before 9 am as an abomination before the LORD (“Woe to them that rise up early in the morning”, as Isaiah 5:11 says).

Speaking the truth in love

There’s a well known provision of the Highway Code which says you can park where you like as long as you leave your indicators on (well known, that is, to drivers of white vans). Likewise, in evangelical circles, the rule is that you can be as rude as you like as long as it’s done “in love”. A reference to Ephesians 4:15.


You’d think this might mean “the way someone lives their life”, but in fact it always refers to having sex in a way God disapproves of (such as outside marriage, which obviously includes gay sex, as gays can’t really get married).


What you feel when God tells you you’ve been doing something bad, like not telling off a so-called homosexual for brazenly flaunting their so-called engagement. Traditionally, one is convicted by the Holy Spirit, a reference to John 16:8.

Struggling with

Regularly enjoying something, and then feeling convicted (q.v.) about it afterwards. Always to do with sex, e.g. “struggling with pornography”. (I also liked revme‘s definition).

Bad stuff

That’s a new one on me, though it does follow in a long tradition of using understated words for things you really deeply disapprove of. When I was a lad, those things were “dodgy”, but that may be a Britishism.

Let’s not accuse of all Christians of being unreflective about this: Adrian Plass does a fine line in sending up this sort of jargon, as does Stuff Christians Like (Crafting the perfect Christian dating profile is particularly excellent) and Stuff Christian Culture Likes. Back in my misspent youth, I even had a go myself. Still, Vadala could do with a dose of Plass, I think.

6 Comments on "Evangelicalese: the author reminisces"

  1. I think “lifestyle” has at least one other use in evangelicalese, namely as part of the phrase “lifestyle evangelism”, which means “not doing anything to tell your nonchristianfriends about the infinitely good thing you supposedly know that they don’t, but hoping that they’ll see how vastly better your life is than theirs and come running to you begging to hear the Good News”.


    1. At the wedding of some friends of ours, the minister said something that amounted to: those of you who aren’t Christian should look at how great this couple’s marriage is, and be converted. No pressure, right?


        1. temptation or pressure

          Or possibly duty? It is their job, after all 🙂 I was just a little surprised at the form the evangelism took.

          He was basically saying to the couple, “You have to have a perfect marriage so that other people will be converted to Christianity.” Or possibly even, “If you’re real Christians, then God will make sure you have a perfect marriage.” Seemed a little unfair. And the kind of attitude which would make it hard for someone to ask for help if they needed it.


          1. duty

            For the couple getting married, I can see this: the couple chose to have a religious ceremony rather than a civil ceremony. But the guests? They are there for the couple, not for the church.


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