What Do the Words Mean?

My little Sally thinks quite a bit of herself. “I’m the smartest person ever,” she’ll tell me. And she’ll tell others, too. I tell you this as a prelude to a conversation I had with one of my teenage sisters.

Me: “There’s one thing I haven’t figured out how to teach Sally yet, and that’s modesty.”

Her: “I know, earlier she was sitting on that bench over there, and her legs were all sprawled out!”

Me: “Um . . . no. Actually, I meant modesty as in not being full of yourself.”

I’ve been out of that world long enough that the language no longer feels 100% natural to me. I mean obviously, I should have known where that was going, but then, I think I’ve finally managed to reclaim the word modesty. To me, modesty no longer means wearing clothes that cover the female body or keeping your legs together when you sit. To me, modesty means not flaunting your abilities in a way that causes others to feel lesser. And I think until that exchange I hadn’t realized just how fully I had made this transition.

But what this really made me think about is words—and more specifically, the way fundamentalists and evangelicals often define and use specific words differently from other individuals.

A few days ago I mentioned in the comments section that I grew up hearing that freedom meant following Jesus. In contrast, the people who spent their lives drinking and smoking and having sex and hanging out in bars—those people were living in slavery—as slaves to their lusts and desires—even though they didn’t realize it. True freedom was giving up the “lusts of the flesh,” denying yourself, and following the Bible. This is yet another example of how the way fundamentalists and evangelicals use words—freedom and slavery, in this case—differ from the way those outside of these groups use these words.

Samantha of Defeating the Dragons is doing a series on words that deals with just this. She has asked readers to write about words they have learned or reclaimed since leaving fundamentalism.

Having words. 

It seems like a foundational, simple concept that everyone should understand, but I know from experience that’s not true. In the environment I grew up in, I was deliberately forbidden access to all kinds of words and the concepts they represented. There are important words that everyone needs to have access to– and being denied access to those words is deliberate.  Many of the leaders in conservative Christianity, and fundamentalism in particular, will never use many of the words that could help us name what’s wrong with our theological and mental frameworks.

Her series has generated an impressive amount of interest. Here are the words that have been done so far:

What about you? What words have you seen used in a distinct way by evangelicals and fundamentalists? If you are a former evangelical or fundamentalist, what words have changed meaning for you?

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • NeaDods

    One of the things that strikes me hard is that in the fundamenalist worldview “modesty” and “purity” and even “godly” necessitate the sexualization of little children! Looking from the outside in, it’s so obvious and so creepy! Sally’s, what, 5 and your sister is worried about how she holds her legs. no Longer Quivering’s quoting series has equated kids stealing cookies to sexual license. I think it was you who discussed little boys being trained to call adult women immodest well before puberty.

    It’s like,trying to teach kids not to go there is telling the entire group to not think of a purple elephant. Well before kids are biologically programmed to consider elephants part of their lives.

    • Sally

      Good point! I’m very glad the evangelical world I came from (more mainline) was not hyper-focused on sexuality.

    • teglet

      Little boys being trained to call adult women immodest UGH MAN. I didn’t know Libby had dealt with that, I’d be interested in a link to it?

      • NeaDods

        I don’t remember which post it was, only a passing comment that a very small boy saw a grown woman jogging and asked why she was so immodest as to be wearing shorts.

  • Rebecca M

    Virtue

  • Turtle

    I keep noticing in the Debi Pearl series, the word “reverence” used as a verb instead of a noun. (You don’t “reverence” something, you “revere” it!) And the other word I remember a lot from my childhood was “prideful”. Not proud or arrogant, but prideful. It seems to be a word that only fundamentalists use.

    • AnonaMiss

      Speaking as a person for whom ‘prideful’ is a pet peeve, no, no, there are a ton of people who use it. I once even saw ‘pridefulness’ in a dead-tree edition Newsweek – pre-bankruptcy, even.

    • Sally

      “I keep noticing in the Debi Pearl series, the word “reverence” used as a verb instead of a noun. (You don’t “reverence” something, you “revere” it!)”
      I know, that drives me crazy, too. I actually looked it up, and Debi is using it correctly (it can be a verb), but it just sounds so dumb that way. My theory is that archaic words like “help meet” and “reverence” as a verb go even deeper than your regular fundamentalist-speak. By using archaic terms from the “only” trustworthy English translation (KJV), she’s creating secret spiritual language that you, the reader, are being let in on. By using these terms, you put yourself in a new, special place. The weird words help you remember the rules behind them, imo, too.

  • Truthspew

    Coming from the LGBT perspective the use of the word ‘natural’ comes into play an awful lot. Language is sort of slippery. And my educational background stressed a wide knowledge synonyms and antonyms. So when I’m particularly elated or stressed I tend to use what some would term as $1.95 words.

    • Olive Markus

      “Natural” is a trigger for me, too, when being used against LGBT rights and when used by Catholics to justify their anti-birth control/pro NFP-only stance.

      • Alice

        And I’ve heard Christians use it so many times to justify complementarianism, ignorant of all the creatures that break those man-made rules.

        It is amusing that one minute they say “How DARE you compare human beings to animals!! We are the crowning glory of God’s creation. We’re superior in so many ways.” Then the next minute…

      • Olive Markus

        I wasn’t even thinking about that, but that’s such a common use of “natural.” Never mind that the roles of men and women are entirely socially constructed. Drives me insane.

    • Nightshade

      Ha, don’t get me started on the whole ‘unnatural’ thing! When that word comes up in these discussions I want to ask ‘So unnatural is wrong? Do you wear eyeglasses? Take aspirin instead of chewing on tree bark? Wear polyester or dyed fabrics? Live in a house instead of a cave? Do you cook your food?’ Many of these conversations take place online…computers aren’t natural, are they? Or is there some computer tree growing out there that I haven’t heard of?…and no, Apple does NOT count! *g* Most of human existence is made of attempts to improve on nature, not just accept ‘natural’ as is. When these people start living completely natural lives then we can talk, until then I don’t want to hear them using the ‘natural’ argument.

      • Helix Luco

        how are they even defining ‘natural’ in this situation i wonder. we were created through natural processes, so wouldn’t every conceivable human behavior or creation be natural as well? humanity can be perfectly validly considered a chemical reaction that precipitates laptops and easy chairs, no different from photosynthesis or baking soda volcanoes.

    • LizBert

      I always want to say: Cheetos aren’t natural, but I don’t see you protesting them! Natural=good is not an especially logical stance.

      • Gillianren

        Heck, arsenic is natural!

      • smrnda

        I know. Poison ivy is natural, and many lotions are ‘unnatural’ and come from factories, but which should I be rubbing on my skin?

      • Christine

        Well if you listen to some of the anti-chemical people these days, it must be the poison ivy. After all, natural = safe. (A doctor friend of mine posted a good article about this to facebook, and started listing chemical names for the “safe” stuff)

      • Alice

        And marijauna.

    • Saraquill

      Hmph. Homosexuality, bisexuality and fluid gender is totally natural. Bonobos and dolphins for example do not stick to having sex with the opposite gender. Earthworms are hermaphrodites, and there are non vertebrate species that change gender as they age or mate.

      • rtanen

        More examples: Clownfish change sex, like you mentioned. Also, penguins of the same sex raise eggs together, and even have a picture book And Tango Makes Three.

      • Conuly

        Some penguins are in same sex couples, but penguins aren’t big on monogamy as a rule. If the coupling does not work out, they usually break up and try again next year with different partners. Not sure what this proves if you try to extrapolate from penguins to humans, though….

  • AnonaMiss

    The worst one, in my opinion, is ‘truth’. When you define away Truth to mean, axiomatically, Christianity/Jesus, e.g. ‘the Truth, the Way, the Light’, it’s like declawing a cat. You’re removing the tools a person needs to clamber, and teaching them to use Jesus as a trump card in any argument.

    • Mogg

      At the fundy church I went to, truth managed to morph into a verb. “Truthing in love” was shorthand for being rude and confrontational in a nice voice.

  • jemand2

    “forgiveness” and “forgive”

    Words I’m still partly allergic too, and I that the wider culture *also* has some issues with these words, and will just freely use these telling me to not forgive is “unhealthy” when the concept I learned to associate with “forgiveness” is INCREDIBLY unhealthy.

    • Sally

      Well, how was “forgiveness” unhealthy in your situation? (Not doubting you, just wondering how it was used in an unhealthy way.)

      • jemand2

        Associated with forgetting, protecting the status quo, i.e., ceasing to talk about the hurt while still leaving the perpetrator in the same situation of power or whatever as before. It was a way to shut up the hurt of victims in order not to deal with a situation. To try to get actual redress would be considered bitterness or anger and considered unhealthy.

      • onamission5

        Forgiveness as a weapon: a command to suffer in silence, the demand to stop talking about something which makes the listener uncomfortable, and the replacing of blame on the hurt person should they need to actually have their hurt addressed.

      • sylvia_rachel

        I’ve seen the imperative to forgive used to re-victimize people by making them feel guilty if they aren’t able/willing (often for VERY GOOD REASONS) to forgive someone who did something terrible to them. Like you’re committing a worse sin by not forgiving than they committed by, say, stealing your toy truck and whacking you on the head with it.

        I’ve seen this used as a really effective way of deflecting the guilt from the person who actually did the bad thing to the person who “refuses” to forgive them for it — not just with kids, I’m talking about adults here. As a non-Christian person with, therefore, no horse in that race, I find it incredibly frustrating to see friends hurt in this way by people who have already hurt them in the past :(

      • Sally

        Ah, yes, I get it. I have a Christian aunt who hasn’t spoken to me for years. She made a bizarre accusation of me and when my mother cleared up the misunderstanding, it became my job to contact this aunt, forgive her, and clear the air.

        I actually have forgiven her long ago (in my own mind) but I haven’t contacted her because it turns out this accusation is part of a pattern that under similar circumstances can be very serious. The irony is that I don’t have to worry about her contacting me to apologize or clear the air since it’s my job to contact her with my forgiveness.

        Oh brother!
        Having said all that, I realize some of you are talking about profoundly more serious situations, and I do see that it can be truly harmful- even criminal, actually.

      • Conuly

        I’ve seen people who were molested complain that their families want them to forgive and reconcile with their abusers, to the point sometimes of letting them have unsupervised visits with the grandkids! To which I always say that forgiveness is personal. It’s okay not to forgive somebody even if they think they’ve made amends and deserve it, and even if you do forgive them you don’t need to put your emotional well-being at risk (or that of your kids!) to prove it.

        The same principles can apply in much less serious situations. I was very much bullied as a child, especially in middle school. It wasn’t a big moment or anything, but yes, I forgave all those people years ago. I still don’t want to spend any time with them, though, just to pove that I’m not holding anything against them.

      • Jayn

        I get the impression that there’s some confusion of the ideas of forgiveness and trust. Even if you forgive someone, that doesn’t mean you can pretend that the past didn’t happen because you no longer trust the person enough to let them be in a position where they can hurt you again. (I was also bullied, and while I hold few personal grudges about it I still avoid contact with my old classmates, because the fact remains that they hurt me.)

      • Gillianren

        Yup. And even if you’ve forgiven someone, that doesn’t mean you have to like them. My feeling is that “forgive” and “forget” are two different steps for a reason. If you forgive someone, you let go of your anger, not your sense.

      • onamission5

        Adding on…
        ..and forgiveness is part of a process of healing, something that happens for the injured party when they arrive at a particular place emotionally. It is not something which can occur on demand. It is not something which can be forced out of the victim for the benefit of the offender or their cohorts, so edicts like “you should forgive them” are at the least very unhelpful and at the worst actively harmful because they attempt to force a hurting person to circumvent their own healthy healing process.

      • Ibis3

        I’d dispute that it is part of a healing process–at least not necessarily. If someone has injured you, there’s no requirement that you ever need to forgive them in order to go on with your life and find happiness.

      • onamission5

        Absolutely. Forgiveness is not a requisite part of healing by any means, but when it does come it *has* to come organically, as opposed to something forced.

      • Christine

        Various studies have shown that forgiveness is very good for your mental health. (Apart from religious affiliation, so it’s not just guilt over “forgiveness” being necessary to avoid sinning.) I don’t think that calling someone up and saying “I forgive you” was the standard they used, though, and I’ve never found a good writeup which gets into what was necessary for the study to consider it forgiveness.

      • onamission5

        It goes like this:

        When god forgives someone, he grants them a clean slate. None of their past transgressions are held against them, they are fresh and clean as a babe. Since we humans are supposed to aspire to be more like god, and since we cannot trust our own (sinful) judgment, we are commanded to A) turn the other cheek and B) forgive just like god would. Which means a clean slate for those who hurt us, every single time, and if you cannot or do not provide them that clean slate then you are rebelling against god’s will. Even if the person keeps hurting you, even if they keep hurting others.

        THIS is how congregations have known child molesters as pastors. THIS is how abusers find shelter within families and churches, while victims get shut out in the cold and blamed for making waves or called bitter, resentful, hard hearted, rebellious.

      • Conuly

        I thought that even God doesn’t forgive you unless you sincerely repent, including a desire to not do whatever it was again.

        If God won’t do it, and that’s his whole shtick, why should the rest of us? What, are you better than God?

        Besides, what sort of lousy forgiveness is it if you don’t help whoever it is shape up? Even God is asked not to “lead us into temptation”, so if you really forgave your molesting father, shouldn’t you inform people so they can do their utmost best to keep him from ever being in a situation where he is tempted to stray again?

      • onamission5

        Well yes, but that comes up against another issue that gimpi1 addresses in zir comment: that of parental/adult/hierarchical authority. To even question whether someone who is “above” you is worthy of forgiveness is a grave offense. OF COURSE they are, whether they have apologized or not, whether they continue to do harm or not, because we lowly humans cannot be questioning the will of god and the will of god is for us to be forgiving and also to be deferential toward our elders. If someone who has authority over you has harmed you and you do not forgive them then that is a character flaw on your part. After all, they have forgiven you for your wrong doing of questioning their character, and all sins are exactly the same. To think that I, a lowly woman and always my parents’ child, could ever seek to command my spiritual elders in what they must do to earn MY trust? That is an abomination of pride.

      • Hilary

        All I can say is W . . . T . . . F . . . that is messed up.

      • gimpi1

        Another thing I have noticed is that forgiveness is very much about the hierarchy. The one lower on the totem-pole is expected to forgive, forget, trust and not be bitter when wronged by someone higher up. The one higher up can demand justice, penance, and insist that the one lower down on the totem-pole be supervised, or outright expelled from fellowship. There’s a real tendency to bow down to power in many conservative Christian groups. That’s a dangerous trait, to my mind.

      • Hilary

        Conservative Christians, or conservative in general? I know there are Jewish scandals within our own Orthodoxy and fundamentalists where protecting the hierarchy is of the utmost importance. I’m sure you can find it in other groups too, not just the Abrahamic 3.

        How much is this the human tendency for the strong to control the weak by making the weak apologize for temping the strong to transgress, just because the weaker party exists? I’m not denying that conservative Christianity has its own unique spin on that process, but I think it is a broader human issue then just Evangelical American Christianity.

      • gimpi1

        You’re right, Hilary. I meant to use conservative Christianity as an example, but it does appear that people who tend to think in conservative ways are more comfortable with hierarchy and the injustice it can spawn. Witness the conservative reaction to the civil rights movement of the 1950-60s.

        I frankly don’t understand it. I’ve been having another conversation about marriage equity and how it’s a fairness issue, and the fellow I’ve been conversing with simply won’t address fairness. He brings up tradition, reproduction, religious belief, but he won’t even talk about justice. Fairness, to me, is central to what I expect of a government. Equality under the law. How much more simple can you get?

      • Karen

        I grew

      • Karen

        I grew up being taught to “turn the other cheek,” and that led me to the belief that I always had to take abuse from others. Even more insidious, I believe now, was the prayer, “Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do.” My mother (unknowingly) taught me to accept bullying and worse abuse by convincing me that the abuser was not aware of how much they were hurting me. Surely, had they known the negative effect of their actions on me, they would never have hurt me intentionally! I often invoked this prayer while my father was beating me.

      • Lorelei

        In my situation, I apparently have the ‘demon of bitterness’ because I turned my father in for sexual abuse. My Pentecostal ex also calls me evil because I don’t want the kids around my mother–she took my father back when he got out of jail, calls him a good man, and was plotting to have the kids meet him when they turned 18 (not knowing that would still be against his parole).
        “Forgiveness” is letting all that go and pretending the abuse didn’t happen.

    • Ahab

      All too often, fundamentalists use “forgiveness” as a manipulation tool, as a way of preventing people from feeling outrage or demanding accountability when they’ve been wrong. To this day, my blood boils when I heard calls to “forgive”.

      • Ahab

        When they’ve been wronged, not wrong. Typo.

      • Hilary

        That happens to the best of us.

    • TLC

      One of the best gifts I got from my evangelical church was their program on forgiveness. They taught us what it is, and what is NOT:

      –Forgiveness does NOT mean that what happened disappears. Both sides still need to deal with it.
      –Forgiveness does NOT mean that justice should not be served under the legal system. Rapists and molesters still need to be prosecuted.
      –Forgiveness does NOT mean trust, nor does it mean re-establishing a relationship, especially if it’s not safe. You can forgive someone and never speak to them again.
      –The only person who is capable of “forgiving and forgetting” is God. You should NEVER forget what was done to you — you need to learn from it so you can keep it from happening again, and so you can warn others if needed.
      –Forgiveness is a process that takes time. It’s not an instant “I forgive you” and it’s done.

      I hope this helps.

      • gimpi1

        Very much, TLC. I hope other evangelical churches take a page from your churches’ book.

  • Hilary

    For me, so far outside fundy/evangelical orbit I’m from another solar system, it was the worl ‘legalism’ that I had the hardest time figuring out. I thought it meant that you had to follow all of a church’s rules or get kicked out. That seemed to be the context when people spoke of leaving churches or groups that were heavy on legalism, that what they’d been dealing with was an insane amount of nit picky rules they could no longer keep.

    That’s not what they meant, though. I had to ask to learn that it meant trying to earn god’s love, or salvation, by you own works or effort instead of by faith alone. Of course you can never be good enoug for God with anything you try and do (insert eye roll icon here).

    What’s funny is that this is one off the biggest charges leveled against Judaism, that it’s nothing but the legalism of blindly following ‘The Law’ without any grace or faith, yet I’ve never heard this in a Jewish context, always in a Chirstian one.

    • luckyducky

      Okay, not a fundy/evangelical…. but I can’t say I am surprised to hear legalism in a Christian context because supposedly Christ came to free us from legalism. The scribes and Pharisees in particular were very interested in enforcing The Law both biblical and arising from tradition supposedly as a sign of piety — the problem being that that The Law as those in charge interpreted it privileged the already privileged and precluded true charity (hmmm… sound familiar?).

      I was taught that Jesus came in order to free us from that sort of legalistic thinking — fulfillment of The Law meant that such strict adherence to laws regarding diet, wardrobe, and even laws defining patriarchal social structure was not necessary because we had been given a better way — love. Identifying legalism is part-and-parcel of rejecting (a certain brand of) Judaism for Christianity in a certain way of Christian thinking.

      It is rather ironic, in retrospect, that I was taught this in an RCC context… because the RCC has an entire legal system distinct from civil and criminal law (it has its own phalanx of lawyers to deal with those issues) to adjudicate matters of canon law. IMHO, there are many rank-and-file clergy, religious, and lay people in the RCC who hold true to the rejection of legalism in favor love and charity… unfortunately, the hierarchy, is legalism incarnate, as legalism is arguably a inherent aspect of any hierarchy.

      • Hilary

        LD, this is a sincere question, TOV honest, no snark: would you like to know a little more about the Pharisee’s side of the story, regarding who was privaledged and what really was involved with charity? I’m asking because I’ve studied the Phariee’s on their own terms, from their own sources, and it is not the picture you get from the Gospels. Also, I don’t want to go off on a lecture that would be off topic and boring. I understand this view of the Pharisees is so embeded in our language and culture that it takes deliberate effort and research to see how it originated as political propaganda against religious rivals. However, it’s created a charge of ‘legalism’ that has echoed for 20 centuries.

      • luckyducky

        History is always written by the winners, no? I am sure that the Pharisees are far more sympathetic in their own writings and even in reality than in works written more or less explicitly to refute them. I honestly don’t know anything about the Pharisees apart from what I learned in the context of my Christian upbringing (that is far more Jewish-friendly than the above post would lead one to believe). I would be more inclined to approach the Pharisees as complex, sympathetic individuals embedded in a social structure they were both subject to and charged with protecting.

        However, I do appreciate their value as caricatured (?) villains for the teaching purposes. And I think legalism as I was taught it — being more concerned with rules than with the pain and suffering of those in front of us — is something we should all avoid (I say this as an agnostic). I also acknowledge that SOPs, rules, etc. exist for a reason, many times these are good reasons, that not only protect us (oxygen mask situation — can’t help others if you are incapacitated) but also those in need from being further victimized by those who might “help them” but are not as altruistic or trustworthy as we may think we are being. So, it is rarely simple.

      • Hilary

        I appreciate your reply, and I agree that ‘legalism’ meant as paying more attention to rules than to real pain they cause real people is a bad thing, and something that can be found outside of religion.

        I’m not sure I’d value using anything as caricatures to learn from, because life doesn’t fall into such simple patterns. There is a real and harmful fallout from the caricatures of those malevolent scheming Pharisees who just hate Jesus for their own nefarious greed and self-righteousness. Jewish history has paid a high price for it, but I’m learning that so have Christians sometimes. The way ‘legalism’ is used to shut people down hurts them and denies them the language to describe what really is abusive legalistic behavior.

      • luckyducky

        I didn’t so much mean approve of using the caricature but understand the teaching device being used here. I may be a bit too sympathetic here — I understand Jews have long suffered because they “killed Jesus” according to many Christians (technically it was the Romans anyway…). This is in part because I was taught with most of these examples to identify with or acknowledge the sin/downfall as a human failing not as particular to Jews/Pharisees/women/etc. And the other part is that I was never under the impression that the Bible was an history book (just like it isn’t a science book).

        ..

      • The_L1985

        I’d always figured that Jesus was condemning particular Pharisees in a certain area, not all of them. After all, today’s Jews are all spiritual (if not biological) descendants of the Pharisees.

      • luckyducky

        I was taught (and agree with) that Pharisees are only cautionary tales — we can all fall prey to legalism if not in general (any fundamentalist is essentially a legalist) at least with regard to specific issues/choices. It isn’t a function of a specific religion, status, or office but an attitude that we can use to hurt others (worse the higher status we are regarding said issue). And love and generosity of spirit are opposite of legalism.

      • Hilary

        You’re really accurate with this – there are Jewish records of some Pharisees being hypocrites, with a warning not to act like them, but act like the honest ones instead. Pretty much like any other group of human beings trying to do what they thought best under very difficult circumstances: some where honest, some where honorable as best they understood it, and some where out to game the system and look good.

      • Christine

        What I tended to find most ironic is that the people who were most upset about “legalism” in the RCC tended to have much broader rules that had to be followed. (Modesty rules, how to pray, etc).

      • smrnda

        I was going to add – I’m from a very nominally secular Jewish family, and I had a few Christians tell me (among other things) that Christianity isn’t about *legalism* the way Judaism and all other religions were.

        Then I realized that Christianity doesn’t just regulate actions; thoughts, emotions, motivations can be sinful. If you do good things with the wrong attitude it’s sinful. To me, Christianity seems like one of the most legalistic systems I’ve ever encountered. The legalism pairs naturally with the notion of innate sinfulness as in order to sell people on that one, you have to explain why ordinary human behaviors are sinful using the most convoluted reasoning possible.

      • sylvia_rachel

        “If you do good things with the wrong attitude it’s sinful.”

        Whereas in Judaism an attitude exists* that doing good things for the wrong reasons is less good than doing them for the right reasons, it’s a lot better than *not* doing good things, because at least the good things are getting done, plus you will (according to the rabbis, anyway) eventually grow into doing them for the right reasons.

        *Note that I am of course not saying this is the *only* attitude that exists in Judaism, which would be like saying that there’s only one recipe for chicken soup. Because also see Isaiah’s rant about people who fast in pride and arrogance, etc.

      • Hilary

        “like there is only one recipe for chicken soup.” snort. That made me laugh – can I use it? Because it is so true and such a good way of describing it. But yeah, it’s better to donate $10 of tzedakah willingly with a good heart, but even if you do it grudgingly at least you donated $10 to a food shelf, or whatever you’re donating. And the sheer repetition of making it habit to buy that extra box of tampons for the homeless shelter does make it easier to remember even when you’ve had a bad day and are in a crappy-ass mood. Because regardless of my mood, good or bad, the woman on the receiving end will still get some supplies to take care of herself, and free up the money that costs for other needs.

      • Christine

        I can’t remember the exact quote, but I’ve seen it on a bunch of shirts on church events, so it’s probably from some popular Christian mystic. It’s along the lines of “you can’t think yourself into a new way of acting, but you can act yourself into a new way of thinking”

    • Ahab

      Fundamentalists accuse people of “legalism” whenever others remind them of Biblical laws that they dislike or are out of sync with modern society. The term is used to shut down dissent from non-fundamentalists.

    • Brightie

      I think in some Christian circles it also means “people talking about their favorite rules so much that they never talk about God liking humans.”

    • Hilary

      What happened to the edit option? I know I get my fair share of spelling errors and typo’s, but for some reason I can’t go back and edit ‘word’ instead of ‘worl’ or ‘one of the biggest charges . . .’ I can read, write and speak English, honestly!

      • Alice

        It looks like you can’t edit it because you weren’t logged in when you made the original post. There your name is gray instead of blue, and blue means you’re logged in.

      • Hilary

        Thanks, that explains it.

  • Sally

    Here’s a Youtube video that is a real hoot: “Shoot Christians Say.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Dxo0Yjno3I

    My daughter is staying with our ultraconservative relatives this week and she and I were talking about what she can and can’t say when she’s with them. We were debating various modified expletives and narrowed it down to “stink,” “wow,” “Oh snap.” There are a few others she could say, but they’re just too dated for her- “Oh my word,” for example.

    This isn’t quite the same thing as vocabulary, but the whole Facebook thing is really bothering me right now. We taught our kids not to say “God” as an expletive because my husband is a Christian, and the kids are being raised in church (I haven’t been a Christian myself for over 10 years). My daughter posted a sentence with “god” in it used as an expletive on Facebook. She also posted that she snuck down to the basement at 2:00 a.m. recently and played video games. So I knew the relatives would see this and decide based on these few things that well, I’m not sure what. It could be anything from she’s going to hell because obviously she’s not saved (using the word “God” in vain) or she’s in rebellion (sneaking around the house and bragging about it) or she’s on the edge of these things maybe?

    Of course from my perspective, she’s just finding her independence and these things both mean nothing more than that. But I talked to my daughter about these things and the fact that she posted them on Facebook. I told her I feel like there’s a microphone in our house and I don’t like that aspect of it.

    I realize I shouldn’t care, but because of Facebook, there’s no longer a line between what we say and do in our private lives and what relatives a few states away might know about and judge us by. I do care. I’m going to have to get over it, and just be the parent with “rebellious” kids who say “god” and sneak around the house at 2:00 a.m.

    Anyway, this issue isn’t totally about words themselves. But it’s partly the words that tip people like my in-laws off to the fact that “something’s up.”

    • luckyducky

      That’s great! I was struck that they only put “I just…” in once and I don’t think it is was “I just pray that…” To me that is the quintessential sign of a evangelical praying and it is, unfortunately, like nails on the chalkboard for me. “I just pray that….” ten times in a simple prayer… enough to make me want to jump off a bridge.

      I say unfortunately because I would like to approach this with “they are trying hard even if I think they are going about it all wrong.”

      Of course, it is compounded by my RCC in the Bible Belt upbringing — if I was going to pray out loud, it was going to be a memorized prayer. But, because, I grew up among evangelicals/fundies, I was judged heavily for any sign of attending the Whore of Babylon or at least highly suspect church and was very self conscious about doing that. My sister fully embraced the opportunity to scandalize and when we prayed as a team before meets, etc. (yeah, public school teams — separation of church and state was more theory than fact), she gleefully took her turn and ticked off the Hail Mary, Hail Holy Queen, or Salve Regina (thank you, Daughters of Charity for our quality middle school education and for inculcating us with a full regimen of Marian prayers) — always a prayer to Mary for maximum effect.

      • alwr

        I always wanted to laugh at them when they went on about the evil of “repetitive” prayers because their “spontaneous” prayers were always just a bunch of stock prayer phrases strung together and repeated over and over for five minutes or so.

      • Sally

        Yes! Or the sermon in the prayer. Please, our food is getting cold. Quite telling us how to live our lives with passive-aggressive table-talk as if to God but really a message to the rest of us.
        My brother-in-law finally stopped doing that because his Mom would say, “Thanks for the sermon” every time he’d do it. He actually took the hint eventually.
        Bless her heart! ;)

      • Sally

        luckyducky wrote: ["I just pray that..." To me that is the quintessential sign of a evangelical praying and it is, unfortunately, like nails on the chalkboard for me. "I just pray that...." ten times in a simple prayer... enough to make me want to jump off a bridge. ]

        Meeeee tooooooo!
        Leading prayer in my circles was good, but you knew you were with a really spiritual person if they “justed!”

      • Hilary

        Is there something wrong with a memorized prayer? Don’t Christians have some prayers and liturgy that goes way, way back? Or is it an Evangelical/Fundy thing to dismiss them because it seem ‘too Catholic’ as if there was any other type of Christian Church for ~1500 years. Except for Eastern Orthodox.

      • luckyducky

        Oh yeah, too Catholic. You are supposed to be so open to the Spirit that and speak from the heart… but also humble so you “just pray that…” But as far as there being other kinds of Christians, they don’t think so. Something about a golden thread of Christians that persisted in spite of the papists.

      • CarysBirch

        My mother would get a very worried look on her face if we went to a church to visit where there were too many memorized responses (Pastor: “The Lord is risen!” Congregants: “He is risen indeed!”) or if they sang the doxology (Praise god from whom all blessing flow, etc.) because VAIN REPETITION THAT’S BAD!

        I had a brief Catholic spell during my exit period from Christianity and I took my mother to mass once and she cried all the way through it because “Catholics don’t believe anything, they just repeat words”.

        It’s ironic then, that her philosophy of education included a lot of rote memorization and repetitive drills… because you know, how will it sink in otherwise.

      • Olive Markus

        This is totally unrelated to the post, as well as your point :), but I’m so fascinated by the fact that Catholicism is often a part of a person’s exit from Christianity. This was Libby Anne’s experience, as well.
        I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, so I’m very interested by this.

      • CarysBirch

        Well in my case, Catholicism was sort of a midway point, I couldn’t remain a fundamentalist, I probably was already not a Christian in any meaningful sense, I just cognitively could not accept it and emotionally couldn’t admit to it. But as a Catholic, I could still claim the Christian label and mitigate the family devastation that came along with leaving fundamentalism — a little, nothing could mitigate it very much — but it also gave me a lot of intellectual freedom I’d never had before, and so broadening my vision just a tiny bit (I was a very conservative Catholic, as I think many converts are) was the catalyst that allowed me to really open my mind. I barely stayed in the Catholic church long enough to complete RCIA and be confirmed, it was as though once I had started changing my beliefs, I couldn’t stop it it snowballed from there. Which was wonderful.

      • Olive Markus

        Yes, it is wonderful :D.

        I guess I could see how Catholicism allows somebody the freedom to think the thoughts they’d already started. I suppose I continue to see the Church as suffocating and controlling, but compared to what fundamentalists go through? I haven’t fully put myself in those shoes yet, I think, so I’m still having a hard time imagining how stifled your desire to think through these really is.

      • Hilary

        Oy. I hate to think what your mother would think standing in the middle of a Jewish Shabbat service. Not only are we repeating memorized words from hundreds, sometimes thousands of years ago, we’re not even doing it in English! Just that heathen Hebrew and Aramaic, y’know, like Jesus spoke.

        It’s not like we speak Hebrew among ourselves, we speak English other then about a dozen Hebrew words that just get picked up as specific vocab, and in my liberal Reform egalitarian soooo not Orthodox temple some prayers are shortened, tinkered with, some of the theology in them gets changed to be less punitive and more gender inclusive, and there are variations in the translations from very literal to *very* interpretive. But the core structure is still Hebrew and most of it still traces way, way back.

        It’s just one of the fascinating differences that brings out the theology geek in me, looking at the different views of prayer and liturgy. There are modern, recent and spontaneous prayers, and prayers specifically in English (and Russian, Yiddish, Ladino/Spanish, and every other language Jews have used). You can probably chalk this up to how much early influences stay with us, but to me a prayer implies something formal, ritual, probably 500 – 2,500 years old, and chanted or sung. The melody to the prayer, however may be anywhere to 200 years old to just came out last summer.

      • CarysBirch

        I wanted to come back and add that my family and their church were SO afraid of ritual/repetition that they only had a communion service once a month and that at the evening service so only the truly devout would be there .The idea I think was to a) ensure that no undesirables would receive communion and b) do it rarely enough that the repetition wouldn’t cause the meaning of the act to get lost in ennui.

        One of the most powerful things about Catholicism for me was ritual whenever I wanted it. I went to weekday mass for a while to get it.

      • Hilary

        I would love to have you over for some holidays and take you to a Shabbat service. Not to convert you in any way, sense or form, but just to share some of the rituals for the sheer joy of sharing them.

      • Christine

        I believe that liturgy is one of the justifications given for why the reformation was necessary & good.

        One of the former pastors at my husband’s church was always trying to get the best of both worlds – using novel prayers each week, but having the level of congregational response (i.e. not sounding like you’re reading, coming in on cue, etc.) that you get in a liturgical tradition. I don’t know if he honestly thought it would work, or was just not able to get away with the amount of repetition that would be required to get the response he’d like.

    • Alice

      Yes about the modified expletives! There is virtually NOTHING you can say around some people. As a teenager, I finally resorted to syllables such as “GRRR”, “UHHH,” “AHHH,” or “FFFF” because I was so tired of bending over backwards not to offend people and still getting lectured for using mild words like “Darn!” and then my peers making fun of me for saying things like “Rats!”

      When in doubt, talk like a cave-woman.

      I really think the mile-long list of forbidden words goes along with the fundie idea that anger is a sin, and you’re always supposed to suppress it.

      • Liz

        Oh, that’s what I sound like at work! Usually when I either drop something on my foot and knock into something it just sounds like “FFFFuuuu……. that really hurt.” :-p

      • CarysBirch

        Allowing myself to be angry has been really hard and really rewarding.

      • Hilary

        I take it the fact that I learned to rhyme “Oh fuck a duck!” from my parents as a explicative phrase wouldn’t have gone over well? As a kid I thought it was ok to swear sometimes if you were really angry, surprised, and it rhymed.

        That and “Hot Fucking Damn! You did it – good for you!” is a high compliment in my family sometimes.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Teachable. Usually used like “Are you teachable?”

    Yes, I am capable of listening to someone who knows a subject better than I do and learning from them. But that’s not what that word means in Fundieland, or at least in the Fundieland I grew up in. There it meant “Will you submit to my orders because you think I have power, or am I going to have to shame you into line?”

    • smrnda

      Similar to the phrase ‘to humble one’s self’ which means ‘to shut up and accept arguments from authority.’

  • Sally

    A few more thoughts:
    Words are amazing. They do tell you who’s in and who’s out. For example, it can come down to whether you say “Forgive us our sins” or “Forgive us our trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer. “Sins” is much more evangelical to the point where you could say those who say “sins” ask Jesus into their hears and those who say “trespasses” considered him to always have been there. The “sins” group can then question the salvation of the “trespasses” group because the “trespasses” group never officially asked Jesus into their heart. Mind you, saying sins V trespasses doesn’t directly affect one’s salvation, it just indicates which group you’re part of. Yep.
    There are some words I don’t hear very often anymore because I no longer hang out with Christians in person (no longer go to Church and don’t have evangelical friends I see often). Here are some I don’t miss:
    spiritual warfare
    What is God doing in my life
    It’s a God thing (although I just heard this 2 days ago, darn it!)
    lift her up in prayer
    blessings
    sin
    There are two expressions I have heard around relatives that I never heard in all my evangelical years until hearing it from them.
    “Please cleanse this food to our bodies.”
    I thought this was something my relative had gotten mixed up: mixing up “cleanse our hearts” and “Please bless this food to our bodies” (both terms I heard countless times. This relative says this every time he prays aloud before a meal, but he’s the only person in my life I’ve heard say this. Well, yesterday I heard someone say, “Please take the scourge of the earth from this food so that we may be nourished by it.” I think he may be a 7th Day Adventist and maybe that’s something they say. I wondered how Atheists manage to be nourished by still-scourged food, let alone all the other Christians who don’t ask their food to be cleansed or descourged. Maybe that could be a new diet system.
    I have no idea if those words are meant literally or spiritually. The scourged one sounded literal to me. What the heck?
    That’s the thing. When you’re outside, you’re free to see the words for what they really are. Nonsense. In fact, other words and phrases that I finally let myself see for what they were include.
    Dying for our sins. That’s just made up. How does one person dying save us from our sins? It’s just a phrase you hear so much, but if you really listen to it, it’s a nonsense phrase
    Died but is alive
    going to heaven
    soul
    sinless / perfect
    (Jesus was perfect but he overturned tables in anger and as a youth let his parents search for him for 3 days. So “perfect” is just whatever Jesus does or doesn’t do.)

    • Conuly

      The dying for our sins thing doesn’t even make sense, made up or not.

      God made these rules to decide who gets to go to heaven or not. Then god decided that not enough folks were going to heaven, so he sent Jesus to have a couple of bad days so that some more people could go to heaven, because there was no other way to change the rules he made?

    • The_L1985

      Don’t forget this one:

      “Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors…”

      It’s not as common since the Republicanization of so many denominations.

    • Christine

      The argument I’ve heard for “sins vs trespasses” was that one of them (possibly sins) was a more inclusive term, because it covered everything wrong, whereas the other would only have been things you did, and skipped sins of omission.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    I was never fundamentalist, but one phrase that stuck out at me from a recent news item on Friendly Atheist was “a life of rebellion.” A social studies teacher gave a commencement address at a public Indiana school, and he said this:

    “Ladies, I challenge you to a life of rebellion. To recognize that your body is a temple that is deserving of honor, not indiscretion. I challenge you to be women of virtue, finding beauty not in how many unprincipled men you can attract, but rather finding beauty in modesty and self-respect. I challenge you to devote yourself to family, to your children.”

    To me, this is the very opposite of a “life of rebellion.” It’s antifeminist and antiwoman, and old-fashioned rather than rebellious. But I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn “rebellion” is a common fundamentalist term that tries to conceal an outdated way of thinking behind a cool-sounding label.

    • Sally

      Well, I think he was using the phrase “life of rebellion” as a speech-making device to get everyone’s attention. Then he redefined the normal meaning of “life of rebellion” (which would mean life of turning away from God) to mean turning away from the ways of the modern world. Clever.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      This isn’t a one-time thing! Check this out: http://therebelution.com/

      • Baby_Raptor

        That word play makes me want to punch whoever thought it was witty.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        I’ll have to look into this. “Do Hard Things” sounds like an admirable idea– the idea that teenagers should do more than society expects of them sounds very positive. And yet I’m suspicious of the word “rebel” specifically, and of the evangelical attitude toward women in general. I need to read that book and see what “hard things” it encourages girls to do.

      • Ibis3

        I guess “hard things” means “submit” and “give over your autonomy” and “don’t have an opinion or ambition of your own” etc.

      • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

        Can’t tell for sure till I read it. But yeah… probably.

      • Alice

        One of the stories is about a girl who was a campaign manager for a congressman…

        …then at the end of the story she says that the /sole/ reason God gave her the opportunity to learn so much about politics and management…was to prepare her to be a better wife and mother someday because that is the highest calling.

        Sole reason? Really? *Sigh* However, imagining a fundamentalist woman trying to “manage” her husband and be submissive at the same time is kind of amusing.

    • Liz

      just… ugh

    • onamission5

      It’s the same assbackwardsology that labels submission as empowerment and voting away other people’s rights as loving them and being more conservative than Reagan as socialism. A “life of rebellion” is supposed to appeal to those of us with such headstrong ladybrains who are always so contrary that we can’t accept anything humble or deferent, so let’s rebrand upholding the pre-suffragette status quo as rebellion against worldliness, that’ll rein ‘em in!

    • stacey

      They consider living a bible based life “rebellion” from the typical secular heathen way of living. Think of it like this- If “Leave it to Beaver” was the norm, and hippies were a rebellious movement, you wpould flip the roles. They think we live in such decadent times ( not hating gays, oh my!) that to be biblical is to be a rebel.
      It is ridiculous, and just one more marketing tactic to try to sell their outdated ideas.

      And the “Rebelution” blog/etc is based on the premise that our culture expects teens to be filthy, lazy, slutty, atheists, so they “rebel” against it by being picture perfect xtians (a very narrow idea of perfect too). While “doing hard things” is a good idea, it is really stretching to say that they are the only teens doing important stuff, and that our entire society demands nothing of any teen.
      They also think that just because not dating, no mixed sex relationships, and all the crap they go on and on about, are not mainstream, that they must be rebels to do them! HA Those things aren’t the norm because they are not healthy. MAybe they ought to move to Saudi Arabia, where they can not be bothered by women in tight clothes or mixed sex classes. I wish they could see how alike they are to those fundamentalists.

    • el

      I wonder how they’d respond to a sweet smile and “Oh (sigh) I guess I’m just too compliant and submissive to be a rebel.”

  • Brad C.

    “Moral” or “immoral”

    To a Christian, especially a fundamentalist, “immoral” literally means “doing something (anything) that displeases God”.

    In a secular context, though, most people use the term “immoral” to mean “an action that harms someone else”.

    This makes it quite difficult to have a conversation about the “immorality” of something like same-sex relationships or even something like masturbation. A Christian will argue that since God forbids it, that (by itself, regardless of its impact on others) makes it immoral.

    That’s why the common response “but it doesn’t hurt anyone else” seems to bounce right off, the Christian’s definition of morality has nothing to do with that, they wave it off as an irrelevant aside.

    Edit: Could we use two different words here? What would they be? “Sin” vs (actions that harm others)??

    • Jakeithus

      You are correct in that the differing opinions on morality cause difficulties in communication. I think in everyday conversation, it will be tough, if not impossible, to move beyond using the word “morality” to discuss the issues however.

    • Christine

      I don’t think that “immoral” is generally used to mean “something which harms others”. I would agree that “does this harm anyone?” is generally used as the test of if something is immoral, but it’s not quite the same thing.

      • Helix Luco

        the distinction i would use is that ‘morality’ is a set of cultural rules (mores?) while ‘ethics’ would be about whether or not something harms people. cannibalism is taboo and therefore eating a dead body would be ‘immoral’, but it wouldn’t be unethical unless it caused harm to other people. does that work?

      • Christine

        I haven’t taken an ethics class since high school, so I’m fuzzy (and it was probably simplified). I can remember that ethics is how we apply morality. I just can’t remember anything beyond that. I think that what you’re saying makes sense, but is probably as simplified as my definition.

        The problem with “if it causes harm it’s wrong” is that you have to get into “what is harm?” (remember, a lot of people who oppose same-sex marriage are opposing it because they think it’s harmful to yourself if you’re gay). We also think that some kinds of harm are justified. I don’t think that anyone would argue that it’s unethical of me to change my toddler’s diaper, even though it clearly causes her distress sometimes. But the same level of distress would be fairly roundly discounted as unethical if I was doing it just because I felt like it.

      • Helix Luco

        i’m not familiar with ethics classes at all, hm. i’m just operating with the context i happened to pick up. in general, people seem less likely to bandy about the word “ethical” like they do “moral”, so “immoral” picked up the definition of being ‘anything that kind of weirds us out’ by association if nothing else.
        changing a diaper? it’s necessary to the health of the change-ee and as far as we have any reason to believe they would like the consequences of not being changed even less than they like being changed, so between changing and not changing the ethical choice is quite clear. there’s no evidence that being gay in itself has a negative impact on the lives of gay people, or on the wellbeing of anyone else, so there’s no grounds to assume it’s unethical.

      • Christine

        Part of the problem with the “ethics vs morals” debate is that the words get used very loosely.

        I was deliberately picking cases where the greater harm and lack of harm were very obvious, to illustrate that it’s not a clear-cut thing. For an illustration of how people would disagree, we can, instead, go with the short-term harm of having a baby cry until they get to sleep (most of which happens in the first few weeks of adopting this regime), vs the long-term harm of a young child taking longer to learn how to get to sleep on their own (without being held). This argument causes incredible amounts of vitriol, and parents who do the “wrong” one are heartless. So even aside from cases where people’s evaluations of what does and doesn’t harm relies heavily on cognitive biases (not hitting your children being harmful) or verbal gymnastics (homosexuality being harmful), there isn’t going to be a clear-cut system. Part of this is different moral systems – is it harmful to someone if they don’t learn how to buckle down and follow the rules? Part of it is just uncertainty though.

      • Brad C.

        I agree, “morality” is quite a bit more complex than just “does it harm someone else”, and that’s probably worthy of some discussion, but at the very least I would expect that any non-religious definition of morality would still exclude “God wants me to do/not do this” as any consideration, where it is the primary or even sole consideration of Christians, especially fundamentalists.

  • Tanit-Isis

    I don’t come from a fundamentalist background, but the difference between “modesty” as I had always used it (not crowing about one’s achievements and abilities to the denigration of others) and “modesty” in the archaic, sexual-purity sense sure struck me when I first started reading ex-fundamentalist blogs. I eventually came up with using the word “humility” for my variety of modesty—it doesn’t seem like it has the purity connotations modesty does. But then, again, I’m not from that background, so it’s possible humility has all kinds of baggage I don’t know about, too.

    • onamission5

      Yeah, unfortunately in fundamentalist circles, humility all too often equals self loathing. Humility means knowing you’re a terrible, horrible sinner whose basest nature is always trying to lead you astray, so never trust your instincts, and never, ever take credit for something which is best attributed to god.

      • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

        YES! This is why I say modesty, not humility!

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I like Ben Franklin’s (probably apocryphal) take on humility. He had a list of virtues all people (well, he said men, but …) should aspire to, one of which was humility. He never could get it down, though: every time he thought he had it, he’d get proud of his humility, and then realize that was entirely against the spirit of humility!

    • Alice

      What really drives me crazy is that the Bible verse (1 Tim 2:9) that is inevitably trotted out by fundies in this discussion focuses primarily on women being humble about their family’s wealth (instead of showing off by wearing gaudy outfits), NOT how much skin the outfits showed. The Bible says a lot about humility and hardly anything about “modesty.”

      *I certainly don’t believe women should be shamed for wearing expensive clothes, but at least that would make more sense Biblically.

  • KristinC

    “Accountability” and “confrontation”

    Accountability meant that any Christian, even if they barely knew me, had the right to chastise me about any action, attitude or aspect of my life that did not meet their arbitrary standards of godliness. This was, of course, done in the spirit of Christ’s love, for my own edification, blah blah blah.

    Likewise Confrontation was the method by which any Christian could pry into the details of my life to help me see what an awful sinner I was.

    Both words were all about control.

    Hhhhhmmm, let’s see. “Pride”. Once, when I was a kid, my mother told me (after a poorly executed vacuuming job on my part) that I ought to clean in such a way that I could take pride in my work. I was flabbergasted. “But mom, pride is a sin!” I gasped. She tried to explain that the word has more than one meaning, but I wasn’t having any of it, such was the black-and-white world I was in.

    “Tolerance”. Tolerance was the devil’s buzzword–a term Satan was obviously using as a tool to convince Christians that we should embrace the sinful lifestyles of the “lost” and accept the lies of all the “false religions”. It was literally a word that struck fear in the hearts of those conservative evangelical leaders who felt they were losing their grip on the power they held within our nation. They had to twist the meaning of the word so that their sheep would also be afraid of it.

    “Faith”. Faith, in the particular religious context of my youth, was used in ways exactly opposite from it’s actual meaning. Faith mean absolute certainty. The tiniest smidge of doubt meant you didn’t have faith at all.

    “Love” If someone truly loves you, they’d send their son to die from you….but then if you didn’t do exactly as they say from then on out, they’d burn you alive for all eternity. Love was never a feeling, only a choice. Love was virtually meaningless.

  • Kevin Alexander

    If you think about it, the word modesty really has only one meaning. Don’t draw attention to yourself.
    You could be the smartest person in the room and still be modest if you don’t say anything that’s about you. You could have the hottest body in the room and still be modest if you don’t flaunt it.
    I saw a woman the other day dressed in full black burqua, very rich shimmering silk. I’m sure she thought that she was being modest but, ironically she was showing off her modesty since very few women outside of muslim countries dress that way.

    • Sally

      That’s how I feel about the headcoverings and dresses-only look, too. It’s not modest because it draws attention to yourself when you’re out in society – like at the grocery store. If they really wanted to be modest they would wear modern clothing styles and a variety of things on their heads such as hats and stylishly tied scarves. Instead, the men look normal and the women look religious, which says, “Here comes a religious group going to the grocery store. Try not to stare.” Quite frankly, I think they get a little juice from that.

      • Christine

        I had a very good discussion with a classmate (who I think was raised with Quakers) about what exactly “plain” clothes were. I completely agree with her that the point of plain was to NOT stand out. But these days, “plain” dress generally means the exact opposite.

    • Guest

      If you think about it, the word modesty really has only one meaning. Don’t draw attention to yourself.

      I agree. Though, of course, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with standing out and deliberately drawing attention to yourself sometimes, either. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with acknowledging areas where you are exceptional (including looks, even though they’re among the most subjective). Too often anytime anyone dares to even mention they are particularly attractive or smart or talented when discussing a situation where these things are relevant, they are accused of being full of themselves and told it can’t possibly be true.

  • Trollface McGee

    Defraud. As in “ladies, don’t make guys stumble (get a boner) by your slutty appearance.” It has always infuriated me that they use a word that has some pretty serious and slanderous connotations in it’s normal usage. So, that basically implies that a female, that makes a man think lusty thoughts has committed a serious offence against that man. As if anyone is responsible for the thoughts of another and as if something that’s built into our physiology as attraction is, can simply be controlled by someone being more “modest.” (which is also another terribly used word as others have noted)

  • onamission5

    The word awesome comes to mind.

    In fundie culture, awesome is a being who is unfathomable and of whom one must be afraid. Think, “My god is an awesome god.” (sorry for the earworm, everyone)

    In mainstream culture, awesome is something better then just merely interesting. An awesome dress, an awesome pun.

    • Gillianren

      That’s archaic language rising up again. Eddie Izzard did a funny bit on the subject; “awesome” literally means “to inspire awe.”

      • Conuly

        Historically, awful meant that as well. St. Paul’s Cathedral was supposedly described at the time of its completion as being “amusing, awful, and artificial” – that is, inspired, full of awe, and artful.

        But if you are interested in the etymology of words related to religion, you can do worse than to start with silly, maudlin, and tawdry.

        Edit: aggslanguage.wordpress.com/semantic-change

    • J-Rex

      That was always annoying when there was that one person who was especially holy that would point out your use of the word and say, “Really? That movie is awesome? God is awesome. Does that movie compare to God?” And the point was to make you feel like you were worshiping “idols” because you really liked something that wasn’t God.

      • Jayn

        Wondering if pointing out that there can be varying degrees of ‘awesome’ would get you anywhere. Somehow, I’m envisioning an exchange like the one between Sheldon and Stewart over being ‘more’ wrong.

        “Wrong is an absolute. You can’t be ‘more wrong’.”
        “Sure you can. It’s a little wrong to say a tomato is a vegetable, it’s very wrong to say it’s a suspension bridge.”

      • alwr

        That’s called a “Jesus Juke”.

    • Alice

      On the other side of the coin, there’s “evil.” Mainstream culture is split between whether “evil” is a serious word or more light-hearted. I usually hear it in a light-hearted sense: “You’re the one who played that ridiculous prank? Oh, you are so evil!” or “I can’t beat this level. This game is evil.” Maybe it became more of a light-hearted word after there were all the corny cartoon villains who were EEEEEVIL. However, for fundamentalists, the word is always serious as a heart attack.

  • CarysBirch

    I can’t believe nobody’s mentioned “joy”. Joy to non-fundies is a synonym for happiness. Back when I was a fundy, joy used to mean essentially dealing with it when I was unhappy for the sake of a greater plan, or more insidiously, believing that happiness was a lie and the trap I lived in was true contentment. Happiness, conversely, was suspect. Sin could make you happy, temporarily, but it would eventually kill you, therefore happiness was deceptive, not to be pursued.

    Peace had a similar meaning to joy. To be at peace in a situation meant you accepted whatever awful circumstance befell you as your just desserts, and also beneficial for you.

    Basically, peace and joy were the antithesis of happiness… Crazy.

    [Edited to correct inevitable smartphone typos.]

    • J-Rex

      There were times when I was depressed as a Christian and would acknowledge that no, I was not happy, but I had joy! …right? …I guess… Is this what joy’s supposed to feel like??
      Joy’s real meaning was: I’m really not happy right now, but I can’t admit to myself or the people I know that Christianity does not solve my problems.
      I think there was so much focus on how sin ruins people’s lives and how non-Christians are so incredibly unhappy and they feel like something is missing from their lives. So as a Christian who’s depressed, you feel like you’re doing something wrong because Jesus is supposed to make you really happy, but you feel just like all those non-believers probably do. So they come up with the word “joy” to say that no, they’re not happy, but yes, they have joy, so they’re still totally better off than non-believers.

    • Sally

      Good points. And “peace” can also be code for “God is giving me secret messages.”
      “I wasn’t sure what to do until I prayed about it, and now I just have a peace about XYZ.”

    • gimpi1

      Thanks for tis, Carys. That makes some things I have read make a bit more sense.

    • Saraquill

      I tend to think of their definition of “joy” to be equivalent of that episode of the Twilight Zone where all the adults had to pretend to be happy if they didn’t want the young boy to kill them.

  • Liz

    “Fear” is a big one for me. I was taught that fear was a sin, but also that we were supposed to both love and fear God. I was living with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder and the message I got was that I was sinning by being afraid and that if I couldn’t control the fear then not only was it a sin but I was in big trouble and could possibly go to hell for it (which produced even more fear). Now I use what I consider to be the proper term, “Anxiety.” The way I feel some days is largely outside of my control and has nothing to do with me. It’s a condition I live with and I try to deal with it the best way possible, but it is in no way my fault.

    • Ahab

      It makes me so angry when Christian fundamentalist shame people with mental health struggles such as anxiety or depression. Instead of offering compassion or concrete support, they condemn the sufferer.

      • J-Rex

        Because if they just had Jesus, all their anxiety and depression would go away! So if they have anxiety or depression, they’re obviously not as close to Jesus as they could be.

    • J-Rex

      Any sort of negative emotion always felt like a sin. Fear especially seemed to equate doubting God because you know God has everything under control, so what are you afraid of? Do you think God isn’t big enough for your problems? Sounds like you’re not trusting God enough…

      • Liz

        And if you’re not trusting God then you’re really doubting him, and if you doubt him you’re not actually believing in him, so even if you’ve said the sinner’s prayer you very well might end up in hell. And if your social anxiety keeps you from witnessing to random strangers on the street then you’re denying God and those that deny him will be sent to hell at the final judgment. Never mind my anxiety was so bad that I couldn’t talk to people even under the threat of hell. This makes me utterly furious to think about now.

      • J-Rex

        I was never so worried about hell because we were taught that as long as you believed, which I definitely did, you’d go to heaven. But I always felt like a lesser Christian for not wanting to hassle people on the street. I’ve read that it’s a problem for introverted Christians in Evangelical culture because there’s so much focus on spreading the word and being bold, but not everyone feels like they can do that. It’s like expecting everyone to be a good salesperson when it takes a certain kind of personality and talent…but you’re sinning if you can’t manage it.

      • alwr

        That isn’t confined to fundagelicalism or even religion. That is the core of the “positive thinking” movement that exists outside of religion entirely–that negative thoughts or emotions cause bad things to happen to you and it is becoming pervasive in self-help culture and even the corporate “motivational” culture.

      • Ahab

        Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Brightsided” offers a fascinating look at the positive thinking movement and its problems.

        http://www.amazon.com/Bright-Sided-Positive-Thinking-Undermining-America/dp/0312658850/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375120066&sr=8-1&keywords=Brightsided

      • alwr

        I own that book. It was incredibly helpful to me when I was in a dysfunctional workplace where “positive thinking” including the idea of it being magical was the order of the day. Example: when employees noted that the server could not accommodate a data system we were required to use and something needed to be done, we were told that the system was not working because we were saying it would not work and the negative energy of speaking those words was the real problem. Total dysfunction with “positive thinking” as the whipped cream gone bad on top. Ehrenreich really illuminated what was going on and why for me.

      • Composer 99

        All this talk of positive & negative energy… do the people promoting this “positive thinking” stuff think life is like a game of Dungeons & Dragons (3.X edition)?

      • John Alexander Harman

        Perhaps not, but they are using a pure woo definition of “energy,” completely divorced from its scientific meaning.

      • Composer 99

        True that.

      • Alice

        Yes, positive thinking is harmful when it is not based on reality and pushes people to suppress their emotions. Then it isn’t positive at all; it’s just flat-out lying and doesn’t fool anyone, especially ourselves. Sometimes the best positive thinking we can do is, “I feel x, and it is normal and healthy to feel x, especially in this situation.” or “Nope, there is no way to fix this (problem, relationship) except walking away or living with it.”

        The people I know who teach cognitive therapy put a major emphasis on not suppressing our emotions and always telling ourselves the truth. Both negative thoughts and positive thoughts can be big liars.

      • gimpi1

        Yes, Alwar, because server-architecture is so sensitive to “negative energy.” I get so annoyed by people who can’t grasp the basic physical nature of some problems. If your system is inadequate for the data system you are trying to run, no amount of “positive thinking” will change that, any more than “positive thinking” will let you fly if you flap your arms hard.

        That kind of thing often comes from a management that actually has no understanding of technology. The managers in question grasp so little that all technology seems a bit magical to them, anyway. And, if it’s magic, why not engage in magical thinking? Too silly for words.

  • JP

    Reading this post, the first thing I thought of was Kathleen Norris’ book “Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Faith”. (From the Amazon book description: “Struggling with her return to the Christian church after many years away, Kathleen Norris found it was the language of Christianity that most distanced her from faith. Words like “judgment,” “faith,” “dogma,” “salvation,” “sinner”—even “Christ”—formed what she called her “scary vocabulary,” words that had become so codified or abstract that their meanings were all but impenetrable. She found she had to wrestle with them and make them her own before they could confer their blessings and their grace.”) I can recommend it to anyone who is navigating the reclamation of language in the wake of negative experiences with the Church. I’m not a Christian anymore myself, but I still have a lot of respect for Norris as a writer and thinker, and there was a time when this particular book was extremely helpful to me in getting rid of the baggage that many of these words carried.

    • Alice

      I got a book today by Marcus Borg called “Speaking Christian: why Christian words have lost their meaning and power – and how they can be restored.

  • Ahab

    Well, I’ve noticed that fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists have radically different definitions of “justice” (= whatever God does, no matter how horrific or unfair), “love” (= intent to convert and mold), “morality” (= denying every ounce of human sexuality), “patriotism” (= making America a Christian nation), and so on.

  • Tony Debono

    Humility: When I was a Christian fundamentalist (in the Church of the Nazarene) and even after I’d transitioned to more liberal Nazarene theologies, humility meant being wholly dependent on God due to my inherent Fallen nature, while also believing that He loved us SO much that even if I was the only person on earth, He still would have sent Jesus to die for my sins. Upon transitioning out of Christianity, I saw that this was narcissism on a cosmic scale; it wasn’t humility at all.

    Now I use humility to mean a recognition of my cosmic insignificance and mortality, and being at peace with that.

  • sylvia_rachel

    One that’s puzzled me for a long time is the use of “convicted”, not as in “He was convicted of manslaughter” but as in “I was convicted that I should quit my job and homeschool my children”. It seems to mean “I became convinced … by JESUS!” And I often can’t tell whether the person saying it genuinely believes that they’ve been divinely inspired to decide whatever or do whatever, or whether they made the decision for practical, emotional, or other reasons and are trying to “sell” it by attributing it to divine inspiration … or maybe a bit of both.

    • Sally

      I think you nailed it. I’d add that it seems to be used when someone is trying to say they made a change they really didn’t want to make, at least not at first. But they had to because God straightened them out.

    • Alice

      Similar to “God told me” or “God put/laid this on my heart.” I highly doubt they heard an audible voice or…

      Ha, I just imagined God as the little girl in the Cheerios commercial who put a pile of Cheerios on top of her dad’s heart. :)

  • Gillianren

    It seems to me that words like “normal” tend to imply “Christian.” We were Catholic, which comes with a whole different vocabulary shift, but I have a lot of Facebook friends who are one variety of Evangelical or another, and they use a lot of terms to mean “exactly like me, including in religion.” I think they would be shocked if they learned that anyone they know and like isn’t Christian.

  • Alice

    “Persecution” = “You’re not allowed to disagree or laugh at my ideas.”

    “Family” = extremely narrow definition.

    “Biblical Worldview”

    “Inspirational” = fancy word for “fundamentalist Christian” and “safe for the whole family.” Inspiration from other sources need not apply.

    “Idol” = “Anything you feel remotely excited about. All emotion is supposed to be reserved for God. It is dangerous and sinful to have too much fun.” I can’t tell you how many times I beat myself up in middle school because I enjoyed playing computer games or watching TV or whatever more than praying and reading the Bible.

    “Train” = “Spanking, it’s the only way children learn.”

    “Walk” = Christian’s life or relationship with God. Example: “How’s your walk?”

    “Waiting” = No premarital sexy times and/or “I’m lounging on my couch patiently waiting for God to drive up in his Perfect Spouse delivery truck. *Sigh* I’ll never complain about snail mail again.”

    “Call” = “God wants me to do this. Yes, yes, I know emotions are deceitful, but I swear this is from God, not just a feeling. You wouldn’t want to argue with God now would you?”

    Social Justice = “Silly Christians rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. They’ve watered down the gospel and forgotten their true mission.” PLEASE!

    • Olive Markus

      Oh! Persecution!

      Can’t discriminate anymore? Persecution!
      Can’t be a bigot and have everyone agree with you automatically? Persecution!
      Can’t say hateful things, call it Love, and have the entire world go right along with you? Persecution!
      Can’t have control over all of society anymore? Persecution!

      This is a good list.

    • Ahab

      :: hits “like” button repeatedly ::

    • gimpi1

      More great lessons in cross-cultural language. I’ll ace that test! Thanks.

  • Conuly

    If its any consolation, kids that age are pretty universally like that. They grow out of it. Just keep emphasizing effort over natural attributes, and continue encouraging her to be a kind person and she’ll figure it out, same as they all do.

    • forgedimagination

      Anytime someone gave me a compliment when I was six, I flipped my hair and said “I know.” Every time.

      • onamission5

        That is so awesome.

  • oywiththepoodles

    Even something as simple as “thankful” or “blessed” are very loaded for me. Now I struggle when I want to say I am thankful for something- I don’t mean that I am thankful to god. There are lots of ways to be thankful, or to feel blessed, that I understand and identify with now. But when I use these words I always have to remind myself that I’m not using them with the old, god-referencing meanings.

    • J-Rex

      I once listened to a sermon about how Thanksgiving is definitely not a secular holiday because there has to be someone you’re giving thanks to. As if you can’t just feel thankful or blessed or good in general unless someone somewhere gave you those feelings.

    • Alice

      Me too. Also, I had an older relative who would always say “…but I have a lot to be thankful for” in a listless voice that really meant “I am feeling some sort of negative emotion but I have to suppress it so I don’t seem like an ungrateful brat.”

      The Christian culture sometimes uses gratefulness as a weapon: “Yeah, your husband’s anger gets a little out of control sometimes, but you should just be grateful he pays all the bills and mows the lawn.”

      Or “Why are you depressed? People in third-world countries would kill to be you.”

      Or “Why are you complaining about hell? God doesn’t owe anyone anything, so it’s wonderful that anyone is saved.”

      It’s still hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that I can be thankful AND have emotions like sadness, doubt, restlessness, anger, nostalgia, etc.

    • CarysBirch

      Blessed is super-duper loaded for me. I never say it.

  • J-Rex

    Lust!
    Sexual sins were always the worst things you could do, short of murder, and lust was always at the root of it. It’s crazy that they expected us not only to control our actions, but also our thoughts and feelings that are at times completely uncontrollable. I felt guilty enough for acting on my lust, but then I’d go to youth group and hear the youth pastor talk about lust (and how it’s totally something only guys do) and how these are thoughts we must immediately push from our minds and God knows what we’re thinking and all that. It drove me crazy. I couldn’t not think about sex!
    It took me a while to really free myself from the guilt I was taught to feel, but now I see lust as normal and fun.

  • John Alexander Harman

    I’ve never been a fundy myself, but I’ve been annoyed by enough of them to pick up on some of the oddities of their use of English. One small grammatical eccentricity that always grates on my nerves like fingernails scraping a chalkboard is that many of them claim to “believe ON the Lord Jesus Christ;” being a speaker of standard American English, I believe in things, not on them. (Being an atheist, I only believe in things for whose existence I have evidence, but that’s a separate issue.) The misuse of “convicted” to mean “convinced,” as noted by sylvia_rachel above, is similarly irritating to me.

    • sylvia_rachel

      Oh, I forgot “believe on”! Where does that come from?!

      • Alice

        The same place a ton of odd Christian words and phrases come from, the good ol’ archaic King James Version. I double-checked with http://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=%22believe+on%22&qs_version=KJV before posting this, but it’s usually a safe guess.

        I think the phrase has survived past its grammatically correct days because Christians want to emphasize the difference between actively trusting Jesus and intellectually believing in Jesus the way demons do. From what I understand, the Greek word for “believe” includes a strong connotation of “trust” and “having faith.” A Sunday School teacher once said it’s like the difference between believing a rock exists and stepping unto the rock because you believe you won’t fall.

        And of course, because people often learn cliches and repeat them without really thinking about them.

  • Charlotte

    I think this is the reason I like to distinguish between modesty (I prefer to leave that on the graveyard of words I left behind with religion) and humility (which I use for “not being full of yourself”).

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      I can’t. Humility has even more baggage than modesty.

  • gimpi1

    Thank you so much for this.

    I have only fairly recently learned that people often don’t mean the same thing when they use the same words. The definitions help. Perhaps, the next time I hear a Bible-belt politician talk, I will be able to make heads or tails out of them! (Maybe not.)

    Another couple of words with alternate-universe definitions:
    Defraud, which has nothing to do with engaging in fraud or running a con, but appears to mean a woman dressing in a way a man might find too attractive. If she’s not willing to put out on demand, that’s considered defrauding him, right?
    And Discernment, which does not mean to evaluate carefully, but means to evaluate only by what you already believe. To be discerning appears to mean being able to deny facts or logic, in support of already-held beliefs, correct?

    I’ll learn this language yet!

    • CarysBirch

      Defraud makes me want to swear, it’s such a rapey word. If I show too much skin, I might tempt some man into wanting sex he can’t have. If this DEFRAUDS him in some way, it means it’s cheated him out of something he’s due… ergo, I owe him sex.

      HELLO RAPEY.

    • Hilary

      Along the same lines, I thought ‘Don’t place a stumbling block before the blind” was about not taking advantage of people in dishonest business, ie if the other person was ‘blind’ to the consequences of certain choices, you shouldn’t pressure them into making those choices just to benefit yourself without any care for what their consequences would be. I never thought of it in a sexual sense until I read about women having to cover up to keep men from ‘stumbling’ in sexual temptation.

      • John Alexander Harman

        Fundies and evangelicals in the U.S. today are far too fond of unethical business practices to acknowledge all the biblical prohibitions against them; that’s why they have to pretend that morality is always and only about sex.

  • Ibis3

    I realise this is a tangent, but I’m wondering if it’s necessary to quash Sally’s vocal self appreciation at this stage. She’ll be given all kinds of messaging soon enough from the wider culture about how crap girls are, and to keep it quiet if they find that they’re actually not crap at stuff.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      That’s the route I’m taking, I just still cringe when I hear her it, perhaps because I’m worried that other kids will be annoyed and not like her? Anyway, she’s a big girl, she’s got it handled, and I’m there for support/comfort/encouragement/advice as needed, so she should be fine.

  • Ibis3

    “Religious Freedom”: the power to make other people follow the dictates of your religion

  • Katherine Hompes

    Pure/ purity. I use it them to describe the quality of water, not people

    • Hilary

      I use purity to describe the cytokines I purify at work, in a protein biochemistry lab. Like, my rhTenascinR/his has 95 percent purity to pass Quality Control after three rounds of column chromatography.

  • Gemma Mason

    ‘Modesty’ in the form of “not being full of yourself” is actually the concept that causes me the most pain. I love being good at things. I just get a real feeling of self-worth from doing things well. But the notion of modesty that I was given as a child suggests that, while of course it’s good to be good at things, it’s bad to know you’re good and worse to openly like it. This makes me sad.

    So: is Sally actually causing others to feel lesser? Is she treating them badly because she thinks she’s better than they are? If not, let it be. But if she is, then treat the real problem. Teach her to appreciate other people. Don’t teach her that she ought to think less of herself. The world will do that. Trust me.

    • Alice

      Yes, I’m not comfortable with the idea of encouraging people to feel like they have to make themselves invisible (Libby didn’t say this, but some other comments were leaning that way). That tends to be a coping mechanism for body-shaming, weight-shaming, abuse, neglect, or simply out of shyness. It also influences people to follow the herd instead of being themselves. There’s a difficult balance between confidence and arrogance, and a difficult balance between living as an well-integrated member of society and living as an individual.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        I have a hard time with modesty (in the sense of not being full of myself). I know what I’m good at, and I hate pretending I’m not good at it or that other people are just as good when, clearly, they’re not. It’s one reason I don’t make friends easily- I get accused of being arrogant. Well, that’s probably true, but dammit I can back up my arrogance! And I freely admit when I’m not good at something or need help. I’m not going to shy away from being good at stuff to coddle someone else’s ego, and that does not work very well in modern society.

      • John Alexander Harman

        This. False modesty should not be mistaken for a virtue, and earned self-respect is not the same thing as arrogance.

  • Saraquill

    Witness. When I hear it in a QF context, it sounds like “convert the heathen on the spot” or “gather data so in the future you can better convert heathens on the spot.”

    • Alice

      Yes, also when I’ve heard it used as a noun, “Be a good witness,” it tends to mean, “We must look perfect in every way so non-believers will think we are non-hypocritical and joyful, and then they will want to convert.”

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Do the QF’ers realize that no one is perfect, and everyone knows that, so the plastic perfection is more creepy than inviting?

      • Alice

        Sadly, I think the SSM series, CTBHHM, and countless other posts on this blog have well-established that the QF’ers have no creepdar.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        True that :-/

  • Christine

    Coming from outside the culture, but “Christian” = “someone who believes exactly what I believe”. Sometimes you get a looser definition where “Christian” = “Evangelical/fundamentalist Christian”.

    “Bible Believer” = “Bible Literalist” (All sorts of things along this line mean “we consider the Bible to be a completely accurate scientific, historic and sociological text, but don’t want to come out & say so, because we’d like to draw people who believe slightly differently into our group”).

    • Ahab

      Yep, that’s definitely how many fundamentalist Protestants define “Christian”. Catholics, Mormons, Quakers, and progressive Christians aren’t considered real Christians by many fundies.

  • Hilary

    I’d like to say – this is one of the more interesting conversations here. It really helps to have all this fundagelical Christian double-talk decoded.

  • lollardheretic

    I know this is aside from the topic, but hey, Libby, don’t teach your Sally false modesty. If she’s the smartest person in the world, let her be. So often the modern world encourages women to play down their gifts. (And I don’t just mean the Xian fundamentalist world, I mean the whole of Western Culture.) Teaching her not to brag, and not to lie is totally cool, but if she thinks she smart, totally back that up. “You are smart!” You’re right to fight against what could be the nasty “I’m smarter than you, you’re dumb!” that kids (and hey, who am I kidding, adults, too) can do, that can be hurtful, but she’ll learn enough modesty from the world. Teach her she’s fabulous. Teach her to be kind, gentle, compassionate, all those good things, but teach her she’s fabulous, too. :D

    • Christine

      In addition to learning tact (which I think is a lot of what you’re advocating for), it’s also really important that kids learn a realistic standard of evaluating themselves. If my daughter is really good at running, and claims that she’s the best runner in the world, there’s a decent chance she actually believes what she says. I really want to make sure she knows some sense of scale. I say this in part as someone who had all the typical smart kid problems back in elementary school, and really knows the price of trying to remain in denial of your own limitations.

  • Scott_In_OH

    One I haven’t seen mentioned here except in passing is “narcissism.” For conservative Christians it is used as an insult against progressives, and it implies the recipient of the insult is too focused on his or her own desires to do God’s will.

    The further you get from that culture, the more you realize it’s a whole lot less narcissistic (or selfish or self-centered or whatever) to do things you like, as long as they don’t hurt anyone else, than it is to think the Supreme Being knows the number of hairs on your head, cares about your every move, and sent his son to die in your place.

    • Ella Warnock

      Being “saved” is about the most narcissistic thing you can ever do. Everything is literally about what god wants ME to do, how god is going to change MY life, god’s plan for ME, what “I” heard from god the other day. Me, me, me, I, my, blah blaaahh – there’s a whole lot less of that “me” business since my deconversion. Now I’m free to enjoy my life and better enjoy the people in my life because I’m not filtering all their “transgressions” through my god-directed self-centeredness. Lack of a god in one’s life really drives home the point that it’s NOT really all about me, all the time.

    • gimpi1

      Well said, Scott. I hadn’t thought about it before, but the whole “I’m the center of the universe” thing is both a bit odd and quite unhealthy.

      At one point I asked a fundamentalist friend if, since he believed in the Rapture, if the rapture was relativistic. In other words, was it already happening elsewhere in the universe, and coming towards us at the speed of light.

      Because, of course, the whole universe, with billions and billions of stars, planets, galaxies, nebulas, dark matter and what-all all exists just for us, and it will all wink-out on Judgement Day. And, if that’s the case, interstellar distances being what they are, it must be already happening somewhere.

      Apparently, you’re not suppose to ask that. He hasn’t spoken to me about religion again.

  • Nancy Shrew

    The way fundies use “bitter” and “joy” make me uncomfortable.

  • Jolie

    In my liberal little corner of the world, I always thought “worldly” means something along the lines of “cosmopolitan”, “well-travelled”, “experienced with multiculturalism”- one who has experienced the world in many ways. Up until I started reading your blog and similar others, I had no idea it even had a religious conotation.

  • Nicola

    “Defraud”. In a non-fundamentalist context, the word means to deprive someone of what is his/hers BY RIGHT. In a fundamentalist context, it means a person (usually female) dressing in a way that causes a man to think sexual thoughts. This is rather troubling, as it suggests that by dressing “immodestly”, a woman is making a promise of sex and, by not giving it, she’s defrauding a man who has the right to it.

    • CarysBirch

      So very much this. I hate that word passionately. I am not the property of any man who looks at me, and I don’t incur any kind of contractual obligation by passively being observed. No. There is no fucking fraud involved. Except against the young women who are being cheated out of the lives they could have if they didn’t live under that abusive doctrine.

    • Ahab

      “This is rather troubling, as it suggests that by dressing “immodestly”, a
      woman is making a promise of sex and, by not giving it, she’s
      defrauding a man who has the right to it.”

      Good observation. Fundamentalist “modesty” messages are so saturated with rape culture that it makes me sick.

  • Realist

    The use of language to control thought is characteristic of cult control techniques. By supplying people with alternative or downright incorrect definitions of words you shape the way they think when they hear those words. Like the example of “modesty” above. Furthermore, such alternative or incorrect definitions can also isolate a person from others outside her circle by creating misunderstanding, confusion, or even conflict between individuals using alternative definitions and those using customary ones. Such shaping may not be a planned effort, but sometimes it may be.

  • galacticexplorer

    I know that “dishonor” is already on that list, but the word “honor” is definitely something I had to re-learn. I was taught that “honor” to your parents was synonymous with “obedience”. I felt it didn’t quite ring right, but under enough pressure from my family’s emotional abuse, I started to cave to the idea that ANY act that was not complete obedience to my parents was cursed by God, even if I was right and they were wrong. And this was when I was 23 years old.

    The other one is “faith.” It’s so fundamental to the Christian religion, and yet we get it completely wrong sometimes. Faith necessarily implies a lack of knowledge. We have faith in things that we cannot prove. Yet Christians seem to view “faith” and “knowledge” as interchangeable. Admitting that I do not know something for sure, that I could be wrong, that I have only FAITH and not proof is seen as a sign of a weak Christian, or perhaps not a Christian at all. I simply can’t understand how this word has gotten so twisted, and yet I used to believe the same.

  • Monika Jankun-Kelly

    harm – gay relationships are “harmfull”

    person – mindless embryos are “people”

    mind – what I call “mind”, some religious people seem to consider “soul”, and I’m always accused of wanting to kill the comatose or sleeping since some religious think they’re “mindless” when they’re actually just unconscious

    morality and ethics – I think right and wrong are based on compassion, fairness, reason, while some religious think they’re based on religion, so I’m accused of having no basis for right and wrong, of being dangerous and immoral


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