Saturday, November 11, 2006

Hey, hypocrite!

The other day I came across a picture of a UConn student with several of her friends--smiling with drinks in their hands and arms around each other captioned "me and my bitches." That got me to thinking about the use of derogatory terms within groups. In a similar manner, racial or ethnic minorities can use racial slurs, and gays use homophobic language.

Why does this happen? This use of derogatory terms serves a purpose. It brings group members together by reminding them of external hostility. It also weakens these terms, and the concepts they represent, ironically overusing them. Note, however, this doesn't work for members of majority or powerful groups. Rich white males calling each other "oppressors of the masses" or "whitey" would be awkward.

Christians are a minority in academia, and so perhaps we too would benefit from the use of such labels. Here are some possibilities:

Hey, you mindless dogmatist. This gets at the heart of stereotypes about Christians, thoughtless and judgmental, but it is clunky sounding--like a slogan from the Cultural Revolution.

Hey, apostate. This may be my favorite, being a good old-fashioned religious term with dark, judgmental connotations. (Think Inquisition). But, it is not a widely known term, so it may be too much of an inside joke.

Hey, hypocrite. This is a winner! Alliteration, and it works on multiple levels. It is a matter of faith (Fe) among many that Christians are hypocrites (especially Christians who in any way take their faith seriously). In addition, this is a theologically accurate label. We all fall short of the mark which is why many of us turn to Jesus--for grace. The stereotype, as such, has things backwards. It's not that we're hypocrites because we're Christians, rather we're Christians because we're hypocrites.


Anonymous said...

'Sup my pharisee?

How's it genuflecting, false prophet?

Yo! Moneychanger!

Meh, got nothin'.

Everything I come up makes me feel like one of the Christian Rock boy bands, trying too hard to be cool.

- JW

brewright said...

I kind of like 'sup pharisee... gets at what we all have to potential to become.


Mike W. said...

To some degree religious-based epithets have been co-opted in the same way as race, gender, and sexuality terms have. "Jesus Freak" comes to mind.

Now, I doubt we'll have the same circumstance with "Islamofascist" or something of that nature, but it's something.

The terms I see typically are rooted in having their symbolic power reversed: That is, the "yeah, I'm a f*g/bitch/ni**er/Jesus Freak, and I'm proud of it! What do you wanna do about it?" It tends to take the steam out of any categorically-charged verbal assaults someone may have planned for them. A preemptive defense that frequenly catches people off-guard.

I'm not capturing it perfectly (and I ought to be getting a good night's sleep right now, to be honest), but there may be some religious phrases that are used in that symbolic manner that aren't so...jargony?

brewright said...

Very well put. I think that the stereotypes of Christians today focus on moral failings more than general weirdness. Perhaps songs like Jesus Freak (of which I have two versions on my IPod) had their intended effect!