Thinking Out Loud

December 18, 2010

When “OMG” and “WTF” Come to Church

Other than a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last 2-3 years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes in language.   So back a few years, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington encouraged the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!”   The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines.   Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them.   Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’   If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss.  It means something else.  (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude.  It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it.    You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place.   The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments?    If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude?  (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude? And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world?

So what about the title of this post?

I think it is only a matter a time before OMG and WTF arrive at church.   Maybe not from the pulpit though, unless Mark Driscoll has already.   But certainly as the Extreme Makeover program becomes more entrenched, and other broadcasters follow, it’s easy to see OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship.

And it’s just a matter of time before the language at church gets totally oxymoronic:   “So she’s like, ‘I got you a present,’ and I open it and it’s a brand new Bible and I’m like, ‘OMG! …'”

And we’re not talking about teenage girls in the San Fernando Valley.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

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2 Comments »

  1. I share your concern. Language was important in our British household. No short cuts, slang or nicknames for us. But equally unmoving was my parents attitude toward anything even hinting of a swear word or a disrespectful use of God’s Holy name. I still remember my mothers talk with me when she had over heard me saying “For Pete’s sake” when I was eleven!

    Comment by Cynthia — December 18, 2010 @ 2:25 pm

  2. Your post reflects my concerns, too. Another thing I find strange is the use, in the church, of the term “sexy”, meaning anything attractive and desirable. eg. That new i-Pad is sexy.
    The word “porn” is coming in, too -in church! I saw it referring to a wealth of children’s ministry resources!! Neither of these have sexual overtones in the way they are used today, but I flinch when I see them written, or hear them.

    Comment by Lin Pearson — December 18, 2010 @ 3:53 pm


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