Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Say It Like You Mean It

This post may end up being the first in a series of church habits that particularly annoy me, or it may stand on its own. But suffice it to say there are a number of things about modern church practices that drive me crazy. This is going to be more of an evangelical thing, but may have application elsewhere.

There are all kinds of patterns people fall into whenever they do anything. And when you get them in a group, certain phrases and sayings just become rote and turn into an unwritten code. But it's developed so far now that if you walk into almost any evangelical church and says "God is good", half of the people will respond "all the time". This post is not about that, but boy does that annoy me. There are songs based around the phrase, and yet I have no idea who originated that. It's just annoying, like every time someone says "God is good" it has to be said. Like a game of Marco Polo. And to my immediate recollection, there is no scripture that uses that full statement. I can however point you to a scripture that says God is angry all the time. So chew on that.

But more innocuous than even that is the way church people have come to use "Amen". And I am so tired of it. They say it at the end of their prayers, many with no idea why they do it. Like they are just supposed to. As if it's like saying "the end" at the conclusion of your story; a signal that you've finished.

What amen means is "so be it" or "let it be" or I like to think of it in Captain Picard terms: "make it so". But let me tell you what "amen" does NOT mean.
It does NOT mean "I agree with that!"
It does NOT mean "You all heard me, right?"
It does NOT mean "I'm checking to make sure you are awake"
It is NOT a question. Ever.

It's a word that gets overused and I'm tired of it. Now, in some of these contexts it technically makes sense. For example if someone says "Let's keep the parking lot clean, amen?" and everyone responds, "Amen!" I guess that second one works, but why use it in such a way? But it's not a question, and it's not a way to lead people to respond. I think sometimes people use it just because it's a "churchy" word. Like if it were a similar situation outside the church someone might say, "You bet," but that implies gambling and that's not holy. So Christians fall back on "amen" because it makes them feel Christian. And I find it tremendously aggravating.

I just happen to think that words mean what they mean. If you don't really understand what a word means, don't go around saying it. And maybe it would be nice if I didn't have to sit through a church service where "amen" is used 5 different ways, 30 different times.

So please, if you're in the habit of using it to say "I agree! That's right!" then STOP it.
If you're in the habit of saying it after every sentence from the pulpit, STOP it.
If you think you're being holier by ending prayer with not just one amen but with "amen... and amen... and amen," STOP IT.
but if you mean it like it means, there are lots of areas in the church world and Christian life where we want God to "make it so". And you can say so.

Let's keep the word reserved for it's proper meaning; there's more power in it that way.


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