Christianese 101: ‘Biblical’

Christianese 101: ‘Biblical’ September 11, 2020

Hi and welcome back! Recently, we started talking about a new Christian book that promises to rescue America. Joe Battaglia’s Make America Good Again offers up what he calls “12.5 Biblical Principles to Unite Our Nation, Restore True Greatness, and Reshape Our Political Rhetoric.” As we discovered, however, it’s just the usual mess of culture warring, nebulous non-solutions, and Christianese. Yesterday, we looked at his use of the word conviction. So today, we’ll check out another word he uses. Indeed, this is one of their favorites. It sounds so innocuous that it’s easy for outsiders to toxic-Christian culture to miss one of the most ominous words in the entire Christianese dictionary: biblical

biblical and its meanings
(Aaron Burden.)

(Note: A Christian invented the phrase “toxic Christian.” I’ve found references to it in Christian literature going back to at least 1994. It describes tribalistic, authoritarian, power-hungry Christians who seek to force their religion on others and subjugate and punish their enemies. This term includes Christians of all flavors, but they tend to hang out in hardline Catholic and evangelical groups. For more information, see this post and this one.)

Biblical: Normie Usage.

In normal usage, the word biblical functions as a modifier. It indicates that its subject relates to the actual Bible somehow.

As LiveScience tells usbiblical archaeology means:

A branch of archaeology dealing with the archaeology of biblical lands that informs our understanding of the bible and/or the historicity of biblical events.

It also indicates the area where that archaeology occurs, like Jerusalem and Jericho, and the timeframe in which those stories took place and were written.

So the exact nature of the word depends on context, but it will relate back to the actual Bible as a book: its writers, its stories, its history as a book, its topics of discussion, the people who lived during its stories and writing, and the places it describes.

But a lot of Christians turn that definition on its ear. In recent years, an alternate meaning of the word has irredeemably tainted it. The situation has gotten so bad that actual biblical archaeologists are trying to move away from the word “biblical.”

Biblical: And Now For the Christianese.

In Christianese, “biblical” also functions as a modifier. But its subject involves culture war talking points. Something that is biblical, to toxic Christians, is friendly to the talking point in question. Often, the Christian using this Christianese term can provide a number of shoehorned, quote-mined Bible verses that seem to support their implication that the Bible itself blesses their opinion. More than that, often the Christian using the term conveys that a careful reading of the Bible created and produced this opinion.

By using this word, they establish their opinion as the only correct and accurate one to hold on that issue.

The other person’s position becomes — by elimination — the unbiblical one. Uh oh! No Christian wants to be unbiblical. That’s the non-Bible-endorsed position!

If the competing opinion also comes from another Christian who also wields Bible verses, then that other Christian obviously read the verses wrong or misinterpreted them somehow. (Don’t worry. They’ll pray for those heretics.)

Naturally, it’s really hard to walk back a biblical opinion once the judging Christian has adopted it. But they can always say that Jesus convicted them into holding a new one.

Biblical: Usage in the Wild.

As you can imagine, almost any hot-button topic has Christians pulling weight by throwing around biblical as a modifier to their opinion on that topic. In that sense, it functions exactly like the modifier alternative.

  • Biblical Counseling. Just like real counseling, except Jesus-flavored and nowhere near as effective.
  • Biblical Dating. Nowhere near as fun as real dating. Abysmal at weeding out awful suitors. But Jesus likes it better so all Christians must practice it. However, the exact nature of biblical dating varies wildly by the judging Christian. For some, this will mean arranged marriages with underage girls. For others, it means very controlled, chaperoned group outings and no kissing till the wedding day. And still others utilize the cosmic loophole.
  • Biblical Climate Change. Context-specific. It can mean something totally innocuous if the speaker is using the definition normies use. But it usually means wingnuttery-on-parade and science denial.
  • Biblical Parenting. Break their little wills! Just do it in a Jesus-flavored way. For their own good.
  • Biblical Marriage. Straights-only complementarian marriage. Only. Ever. And this definition needs to be put forth in law in a secular country because Shut Up, That’s Why. (Interestingly, that whole domain is gone now. I wonder if comparing same-sex marriages to eugenics and Nazi Germany backfired?) Also, no more of that no-fault divorce stuff.
  • Biblical Law. Easily the most terrifying entry on this list. In normie-speak, the term indicates the study of Mosaic Law (the various rules put forth in the Old Testament). But for toxic Christians, it means the ultimate goal of their culture wars: a Republic of Gilead in America, ruled by them with iron fists. Biblical law looks exactly like Sharia law, just with a different flag. No wonder toxic Christians despise Sharia so much. They deeply admire and covet that level of power, but it’s all in the hands of the wrong people.

When you run across a Christian using this term, then, check it for normie usage. If it makes no sense that way, then it’s going to be the toxic-Christian sense of the word: a dogwhistle for their culture wars.

The Problem With Biblical-ness.

But there’s one big, major issue with the way toxic Christians use the word biblical.

The Bible is one big hopeless mess of a book. Nobody can really say for sure what the Bible says about literally any topic at all. It’s not even consistent about what it says about its god.

In fact, the Christians who are most certain of what it says about anything tend to be the most off-base in their interpretations. (See endnote.) Thus, it’s laughable to imagine that any of them dares to claim the Bible high ground on their opinions. Anybody who’s actually read the book, much less studied it from an objective and impartial standpoint, knows what a mess it really is.

So there isn’t really a biblical position about any topic, not in the sense toxic Christians use the word. They’re trying their best to shoehorn ancient opinions into modern life, and it’s working about as well as one might expect.

Jeez, even reconstructionist pagans, who try to adapt and re-create ancient rituals and prayers from various ancient polytheistic religions, know that you can’t one-for-one pull across millennia like that. They already know, and they don’t even think their gods even want an attempt to be made.

Gatekeeping.

The other big problem with biblical in toxic-Christian-speak is how it seeks to gatekeep toxic Christian opinions as the only correct ones to hold in Christianity.

I really hope more Christians cotton to the toxic-Christian sense of the word biblical. In a very real way, these bad actors are destroying the credibility of the entire religion — such as it is. By implying that their position is the Bible-endorsed position, by painting all other positions as non-Bible-endorsed, they’re trying their best to gatekeep what it means to be a Christian at all.

You’d think non-toxic Christians would object to that attempt to strong-arm them into agreeing with purely cruel and inhumane positions. But I could find not one example of any Christian discussing this problem, much less objecting to the way their very worst hypocrites are using the word.

Maybe it’s slipped under their radar. I mean, who wouldn’t want to hold biblical opinions? Every Christian thinks that their way of Jesus-ing is the right way. And as I said earlier, every fervent Christian can summon plenty of Bible verses to support their opinions, whatever they are.

Maybe they don’t realize the word’s been weaponized like it has.

Why Toxic Christians Love the Word “Biblical.”

The biblical opinion always beats the non-biblical one. Thus, the word functions as an authority grab, a borrowing of power from the source they claim is the ultimate power in their world. When toxic Christians want to force compliance from others and there’s no real reason for their audience to buy their idea, they go for broke with biblical.

It’s all they’ve got, all too obviously. And they deploy this big gun constantly. Biblical-ness becomes the ultimate authoritarian magic cloak of validation to borrow for any argument. A Christian can just claim that they hold the biblical viewpoint and suddenly they win everything forever — times infinity. It’s their ace of spades, the card that beats all others.

And the implications of the word are always clear: all Christians must comply with the opinion asserted as biblical.

If they don’t, then they’re wrong.

And there’s only one penalty for wrongness in toxic-Christian culture.

So: Joe Battaglia’s “Biblical Solutions.”

Now that you know all this, let’s return to Joe Battaglia’s awful book, Make America Good Again.

  • In his interview about the book with Christian Post, their title for that interview promises that he’ll offer “biblical solutions for unrest in the US.”
  • His book’s subtitle promises that his “12.5 Biblical Principles” will “unite our nation, restore true greatness, and reshape our political rhetoric.”
  • In the interview, he discusses the importance of holding a “biblical frame of reference.” The interviewer asks him to talk about “biblical truths to heal the cultural divide.”

Look again at those quotes, knowing what you know about the word “biblical.”

Suddenly, everything pops into focus, doesn’t it?

Joe Battaglia’s just another toxic-Christian culture warrior.

His Christianese exhorts them to stay the course, not to waver, not ever to doubt that they will win — soon and very soon — and get their dreamed-for Gilead.

After all, they must win.

The Bible can’t lose, in their minds. Thus, if they hold biblical opinions then obviously their opinion will beat all the others in the end.

The Company We Keep.

And all the Christians who heap glowing praise on this book only confirm its author’s true intentions.

Possibly the most potent indicator of Battaglia’s true meaning here can be found in his book’s foreword. None other than Todd Starnes wrote it. This journalistic-ethics nightmare got fired from Baptist Press for dishonesty and then quickly lost his next job with the fundagelical Union University for “personal reasons” they refuse to disclose. Faux Noise hired him in 2006, then fired him in 2019 for reasons they also won’t discuss. Eventually, it seems, he just got too downright malevolent, hypocritical, and wingnutty for even them. Since then, he’s slimed his way back to Christian talk radio.

In short, Todd Starnes is one of the very worst culture-warring media figures today. In every single way, he has helped create the exact “noisy” environment full of “hateful rhetoric” and “disingenuous rants” that he decries in his foreword.

That Todd Starnes claims in the book’s foreword that Joe Battaglia “shows us the path we must take in order to make America good again” (Amazon Preview, Foreword).

But he’s wrong.

In truth, Battaglia has only shown his tribe the path that he thinks they must continue in order to win their culture wars.

In summary, Battaglia’s use of Christianese tells toxic Christians that his book will be safe for them to read. It won’t challenge them, nor tell them to change anything they’re doing. At most, he just wants toxic Christians to be nicer culture warriors as they struggle to force their will upon everyone in America.

Hey. You’re registered to vote, right?

NEXT UP: Tomorrow, we’re checking out another Christian deploying this buzzword. (It’s just amazing to see how often current events coincide with our topics.) And this time, the usage is downright chilling. See you then!


Endnotes.

About false certainty: Back in our early days, a Christian drive-by showed up on the blog. He asserted that the Bible was completely clear and simple, in fact easy to understand. Straight up: I thought he was being sarcastic, so I thought this comment was just hilarious and played along! At the time, I thought nobody’d ever think something so ridiculous. It wasn’t till (much) later that I realized he was actually completely sincere. I don’t think he ever responded. Maybe my reaction made him realize that I wasn’t a good audience for his posturing. (Back to the post!)


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Final note: I hope I pronounced Battaglia’s name correctly on my audio record. I got the pronunciation off this radio interview. The interview itself also confirms my read on his Christianese. (We did a disk repair thingie on my PC and it let me do a record, so I gave it a whirl :))

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a sweet, squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. At any given time, she's running out of bookcase space. You can read more about the author here.
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