A Progressive Christian Blog

20 Cliches Christians Shouldn’t Use

My buddy Christian Piatt, who blogs over at Patheos.com, compiled last week a list of Ten Cliches Christians Shouldn’t Use. He followed up today with another list of Ten, after his first list prompted his readers to send in more cliches.

You should follow the links above, because he fleshes out each one a bit, and explains why he is against these cliches.

Here is his original Top 10 (in no particular order):

  1. Everything happens for a reason.
  2. If you died today, do you know where you’d spend eternity?
  3. He/She is in a better place.
  4. Can I share a little bit about my faith with you?
  5. You should come to church with me on Sunday
  6. Have you asked Jesus in to your heart?
  7. Do you accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?
  8. This could be the End of Days!
  9. Jesus died for your sins.
  10. Will all the visitors this morning please stand up?

    And here’s the second, suplemental list:

  11. Love the sinner, hate the sin.
  12. The Bible clearly says…
  13. God must’ve needed another angel in Heaven, so he called him/her home.
  14. Are you saved?
  15. The Lord never gives someone more than they can handle.
  16. America was founded as a Christian nation.
  17. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it.
  18. It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
  19. Jesus was a Democrat/Republican.
  20. (insert sin here) is an abomination in the eyes of God.

Most of these 20 cliches I whole-heartedly agree that followers of Jesus should simply eradicate from their vocabulary.

My personal favs (or should I say, unfavs?): 1, 6, 8, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18.

Those, I think, if never said again by another human, would almost instantly create a better society.

Others have, well, better intentions behind them, but can still be used in such poor taste that again, it might be better to leave them behind.

Here’s the ones that I think don’t necessarily have to be eradicated, as much as they have to be used sparingly, with great caution, and in the right context: 4, 5, 19.

What about you?

How does this list strike you?

15 Responses to “20 Cliches Christians Shouldn’t Use”

  1. Tom

    I definitely agree. It’s interesting that these are “gut” reflexes when critical thinking is really what we should be doing (but then again, critical thinking is difficult and might make us uncomfortable.)

    For example, one will say “Everything happens for a reason” when someone is diagnosed with a terminal illness — because it hurts, it’s uncomfortable, and that one-liner is far too easy to say.

    One will say, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it,” because they are unconsciously uncomfortable with the idea that their whole perspective could be…different (meaning that they might be wrong — also uncomfortable).

    When I’ve heard these, it’s almost like a kick in the gut — I want to plead with the person, “Please, please, reconsider. Just take a moment, and think about how what you’re saying comes across.”

    • colbymartin

      Good thoughts, Tom.
      I definitely seems like a lot of these are a result of, well, laziness. I don’t want to have to think through issues all that much, because it’s hard, so I’ll stick with a pat answer. It’s easier, as you say.

      Also, some of these seem to reflect to me the pervasive misconception that we HAVE to have answer for everything! We take a Bible verse like, “always be prepared in season and out to give account for the hope in you” (my weak attempt to paraphrase by memory) and assume that we must now have answers for every situation in life. Rather than just sitting with people, and listening, and keeping our cliche’d mouths shut.

      • Tom

        I definitely think a portion of it can be attributed to laziness!

      • Tom

        Yes, I also agree with the “HAVE-to have an answer.” I think while it’s good that we hold tight to certain truths (who Christ is, etc.), there are a lot of things that we don’t know the definite answer to. And that’s okay! But as humans, it’s scary to not have the answer to something. The Christian college I went to definitely skewed toward the “have” to have the answers end. Even now, when I meet another Christian, I feel compelled to get out their “theological profile” in order to see where they line up compared to my background — even though I know it doesn’t matter!

  2. Montague

    Do you mean to say they oughtn’t be used because they are cliche or because they are cliche AND false? Certainly there are ones in there that are untrue, misleading, somewhat idiotic, etc. like 13, 6, 8, 7,4…

    17 is also bad because of a little thing called exegesis.
    19, by the way, may never be used. For I will have you know, Jesus is obviously a Constitutional Monarch. Well, covenant Monarch. You get the idea.

    15 is a possibly misleading simplification, so not necessarily false.
    16… A sic et non situation.
    3 – If they went to heaven :P
    5 – Depends on your church…

    Now, ones like 2, 11, 18, 20 are truisms, even if they are cliche, they are pretty much true and in fact very important concepts which should remain in out minds in a less cliche form:

    2 – Pascal’s Wager
    11- It gets really bad when we forget this. Think Westborough Baptist
    18 – No, seriously, God made this thing called sex and gender and it was good. Even if making it into a slogan makes it sound dumb.
    20 – … like every other sin more or less.

    • colbymartin

      I would only support the careful use of 19 because I think sometimes it can help contextualize Jesus’ principles/teachings/ethic in to our current reality. Now, of course people will disagree, but nonetheless it can be helpful at times to say such things as: the Democratic Party’s value on taking care of the least of these is similar to Jesus’ Kingdom vision as it relates to the least of these. Or, the Republican Party’s value on… hmmm… have to think about that for a moment… oh, how about taxation? That could be similar to Jesus’ kingdom vision. Anyways…

      For #3, how can we know?

      5 – Ha! Fair enough…

      2 – Do ANY of us KNOW the answer to this? I mean, sure, we can have pretty decent guesses.. but it just seems like a really odd question to ask. And slightly arrogant (Do YOU know where you’ll go if you die? If not, then I can certainly tell you… you’re welcome!)

      11 – I’ve argued against this ad nauseum elsewhere. I just don’t support it, even IF there is some possible scenario by which this could be lived out. It’s still a terrible, awful saying.

      18 – We agree! Yes, it WAS (and IS) good! And the slogan is dumb. AND untrue… cause theoretically, if you believe God made Adam as well as Eve, then he also made Steve. Steve didn’t drop in to the world outside of God’s awares.

      20 – Did you read the original poster’s thoughts on this? I thought it was well said.

  3. KLZ

    Do you have input on different ways to word some of these numbers? Like 9 and 15. I do especially agree with number 1 (I admit I’ve said it to people before, but that’s part of growing in your faith and maturing – learning). I do believe that God works all things together for his good 8:28-39 – but to say that everything happens for a reason doesn’t make complete sense. It’s like someone is saying that the really horrific things God made happen (I think we can all outline those examples).
    #9 – John 14:6 Jesus does say He is the way to the Father. He did die on the cross with the sin of the world. So I do believe this number is correct, but maybe there’s a different way to word it? Colby, your more on the “how to approach theologically and with love.” Ideas?
    Thanks for the post!

    • colbymartin

      For 9, I think part of the problem is that this overly-simplistic phrase does NOT do justice to the full spectrum of the Atonement. It limits the cross to just an exchange for sin, but the Biblical portrait of the death and resurrection is so much fuller and complex and beautiful. Also, this cliche is in the context of a “believer” talking to an “un/believer,” and it assumes that the un/believer even AGREES with the fact that they are a “sinner” and have sin that needs “died” for. So I would rather just not say such a cliche thing, and instead invest the time/energy into painting a fuller more accurate picture of Jesus’ life/death/resurrection.

      15 is usually used to help encourage someone who is going through something extremely difficult, trying, stressful, challenging, etc… So perhaps, if we NEED something quick and easy to say to a person in that situation, we could say, “I believe that Jesus is in tune with how incredibly difficult your life is right now. And he would probably agree with what you’re feeling right now, that this is WAY more than you can handle. You’re right. It is. I’d like to encourage you to consider inviting God to help lift this burden. There is a peace available to you, right now, even in the midst of all this. And though it may not affect how hard this situation is, perhaps you’ll discover an inner strength, joy, and peace that will assist you in navigating it. Yes, it’s more than you can handle, and those are the exact times when God invites you to lean in to him.” But then again, even that sounds trite… so I dunno…

      I’m curious about how and why you relate John 14:6 with the phrase “Jesus Died for your sins.” In my reading, the two have almost nothing to do with one another. Do you read it differently?

  4. KLZ

    Clarity – I agree with number 1 as in People shouldn’t say it

  5. KLZ

    You’re right that John 14:6 has nothing to do with “Jesus died for your sins.” I suppose in my brain it was – Jesus saying that He alone is the way to the Father and that is partly why He died. Maybe I’m reaching? Yeah I probably am :)

    I just LOVE John chapters 14-16 because it’s pretty much entirely the words of Jesus, equaling beautiful truth. I wonder how Jesus would be treated today? Some of the things he said would be hard for any of us to want to swallow and agree with. Sometimes He said the things none of us want to hear or say, HOWEVER He appeared to say it with Love and Grace and many times was still hated for it.

    I guess there’s no “right way” to talk to a person going through something difficult. But I do think the words you said were compassionate. It’s more about the actions and being there (as I have personally seen you provide for your friends) and sometimes it’s just being silent and there and listening for the Holy Spirit to guide (Bible answere I know, but AGAIN John 16:5-16). Okay okay I’m done with the John quotes.

    Thanks for the input Colby and letting me be in the discussion for a bit.

    • colbymartin

      You’re welcome, and you’re always welcome! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      I don’t know if Jesus would be treated much differently today than he already IS being treated today, and than he WAS treated back in the day. Some love him and follow him. Some are confused by him. Some are indifferent towards him. Some are mistrusting of him. Some misunderstand him. Some hate him. Some do things in his name that have nothing to do with him.

  6. Andy Cashion

    How about adding “Jesus is the Reason for the season” to the list? It’s simply historically incorrect. It was already a season of holidays and pagan celebrations then Christians joined in on the party.

    That one always bothers me.

  7. Claire

    Nice. These canned words never felt right in my mouth and I’m never quite able to spit them out anyway. Sometimes, I feel like a reject from the Good Christian factory because of it. I like Christian, especially his funny church signs, always good for a laugh. Hope you are well, Pastor.

  8. Anonymous

    I think blithely quoting verses such as “you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength” can do more harm than good.
    Especially when you say it to someone who is disabled or dealing with a lot. It can be invalidating. It is spiritual truth, but often, the “Christ who gives you strength” is living inside of the person who cares only enough to say the words but not enough to practically help the person in need.

    If we are the body of Christ, and He gives us strength, then shouldn’t it be our job to seek to serve others and be a strength for them when they are weak? Newsflash – merrily quoting a verse out of context won’t do that job very well.

    Source: I have multiple disabilities and every time I get discouraged, some well-meaning and ignorant person comes along and throws that verse in my face. It’s the least compassionate thing a Christian can do.


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