Ten (Again) Clichés Christians Should Avoid Saying

stop saying

If you’re a Christian and you’re ‘just sayin’ these…just don’t.

After writing up my first list of Ten Cliches Christians Should Never Use, some folks wrote me with other suggestions. After simmering on it for a while, I came up with a second list of ten to supplement the first.

And as there was some confusions from a handful of fellow Christians about the intent of the articles. These are not intended to tell you to believe or not believe a certain set of things. Christians have a Public Relations problem; that much is self-evident. So in as much as I can respond to that, I want to offer these as advice on how to change the way we approach people about our faith.

On to the next ten cliches for Christians to avoid…

  1. Love the sinner, hate the sin. This is a backhanded way to tell someone you love them, at best. It also ignores the command by Jesus not to focus on the splinter in our neighbors’ eyes while a plank remains in our own. Bottom line: we all screw up, and naming others’ sin as noteworthy while remaining silent about your own is arrogant.
  2. The Bible clearly says…Two points on this one. First, unless you’re a Biblical scholar who knows the historical and cultural contexts of the scriptures and can read them in their original languages, the Bible isn’t “clear” about much. Yes, we can pick and choose verses that say one thing or another, but by whom was it originally said, and to whom? Cherry-picking scripture to make a point is called proof-texting, and it’s a theological no-no. Second, the Bible can be used to make nearly any point we care to (anyone want to justify slavery?), so let’s not use it as a billy club against each other.
  3. God needed another angel in heaven, so He called him/her home. Another well-meaning but insensitive thing to say. This assumes a lot about what the person you’re speaking to believes, and it also ignores the grief they’re going through. The person who died is, well, dead. Focus on the needs of the living right in front of you.
  4. Are you saved? I’ve addressed the theological understandings of hell and judgment in other pieces, but regardless of whether you believe in hell, this is a very unattractive thing to say. First, it implies a power/privilege imbalance (ie, “I’m saved, but I’m guessing you’re not based on some assumptions I’m making about you), and it also leaps over the hurdle of personal investment and relationship, straight into the deep waters of personal faith. If you take the time to learn someone’s story, you’ll like learn plenty about what they think and believe in the process. And who knows? You might actually learn something too, rather than just telling others what they should believe.
  5. The Lord never gives someone more than they can handle. What about people with mental illness? What about people in war-torn countries who are tortured to death? What about the millions of Jews murdered in the Holocaust? And this also implies that, if really horrible things are happening to you, God “gave” it to you. Is this a test? Am I being punished? Is God just arbitrarily cruel? Just don’t say it.
  6. America was founded as a Christian nation. Honestly, I find it hard to believe we are still having this conversation, but here we are. Anyone with a cursory understanding of history understands that we were founded on the principle of religious liberty – not just the liberty to be a Christian – and that many of the founding fathers explicitly were not Christian. Thomas Jefferson, anyone?
  7. The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it. If ever there was a top-shelf conversation killer this is it. You’re not inviting any opinion, response, thought or the like. You’re simply making a claim and telling others to shut up. Also, I’ve yet to meet someone who takes EVERY WORD of the Bible literally. Everyone qualifies something in it, like the parts about keeping kosher, wearing blended fibers, stoning adulterers, tossing your virgin daughters into the hands of an angry mob…you get the point.
  8. It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. This is a little “joke” some Christians use to assert the superiority of opposite-sex unions over same-sex ones. But here’s the thing: if you really believe the first and only two people on the planet at one point were Adam and Eve, who did their kids marry and have babies with? This, my friends, is incest (happened again if you believe Noah’s family members were the only survivors of the great flood). This just demonstrates the selective moral blindness many of us Christian have and seriously compromises our credibility about anything else.
  9. Jesus was a Democrat/Republican. Seems to me that, when pressed, Jesus was happy to keep church and state separate. Remember the whole thing about giving to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and giving to God what is God’s? And if we choose to, we can pick and choose anecdotes to support Jesus being a liberal (care for the poor, anti death penalty) or a conservative (challenge government authority, practice sexual purity). Jesus was Jesus, and if it was as simple as pegging him to one of two seriously flawed contemporary forms of government, I can promise you I would not be a Christian.
  10. (Insert sin here) is an abomination in the eyes of God. Almost always, when this phrase is invoked, it has something to do with sex or sexuality. Seldom do folks care to mention that divorce and remarriage is in that list of so-called abominations. Also, there are several words translated in English Bibles as ‘abomination,’ many of which don’t imply the sort of exceptionalism that such a word makes us think of today. And while we’re on the thread of things scripture says God “hates,’ let’s consider this from Proverbs:

These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among  brethren.

I’m going to go out on a limb and propose that telling someone that who they are or what they are doing is an abomination to God is tantamount to sowing discord among your brothers and sisters. And this, according to the text above is itself an abomination.

Photo: Bobbie Vie / Creative Commons / Flickr

About Christian Piatt

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Christian Piatt (www.christianpiatt.com)
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  1. As a corollary to number 3, it is insensitive to say “He (or she) is in a better place.”

    No–presuming I cared for the recently deceased, the better place is HERE, with me.

  2. Just read this bit a few minutes ago, applies to #6:


  3. I’m not even a devout Christian and I find articles like this to be a MAJOR cliche! Ugh, enough already!

  4. 1. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” OUCH, this means I guess I have to love myself no matter the bad things I’ve done. Nice to know that we can do the same as others. Only time I see this being said is when Christians are being attacked and accused of hating gays. Gee, won’t get that response unless you challenge people and their faith.
    2. “The Bible clearly says” Yup, people do pick and choose. It’s called being a cafeteria Christian. Picking and choosing what best fits their personal needs, makes it convenient to go against what it says.
    3. “God needed another angel in heaven, so He called him/her home” I guess you’ve never been to a cemetery where children are laid to rest? Take a look at the head stones which commonly refer to these children as “angels.” Sorry it bothers you but to the grieving parents, the picture in their mind that their child is now an angel kinda helps the pain. (NOTE TO SELF – Google funeral etiquette books for idiots who say the wrong things at funerals.)
    4. “Are you saved?” Wow, what kind of conversations do ya’ll have with people? I’m gonna have to add this one to my question to the store clerk at Target. “Yo dude, you saved???”
    5. “The Lord never gives someone more than they can handle.” This has worked for me. Not sure why someone would say this to someone that’s not a believer. Of course we live in a disposable society, if it bothers us, get rid of it. Who needs those challenges in life? If that baby isn’t perfect, get rid of it. If that parent is too much to take care of, find a nursing home. Sad thing is that people who do rely on God, DO find comfort in what this says and many that I personally know have made it through rough times because of this. Also kinda sad that this is bothersome to people. I suppose the Jews gave up and ignored their faith through those times? More I think about it, this is really insulting to MANY people of MANY denominations and faiths.
    6. “America was founded as a Christian nation.” Being a Christian, I don’t hear or use this
    7. “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it” Personally, I’ve never heard this one but nonetheless, doesn’t sound like something out of the blue unless there is some discussion going on. Don’t have a lot of friends, do ya? As they say “never talk politics or religion with friends?”
    8. “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Duhhhh, it was Adam and Eve, wasn’t it? Are you saying it wasn’t? Too much to handle?
    9. “Jesus was a Democrat/Republican.” Personally, I’ve never ever heard this one.
    10. “(Having sex with my Golden Retriever) is an abomination in the eyes of God” Truth is many things are abominations in the eyes of God = the cafeteria Christian.
    And Finally this “I’m going to go out on a limb and propose that telling someone that who they are or what they are doing is an abomination to God is tantamount to sowing discord among your brothers and sisters. And this, according to the text above is itself an abomination.” May want to check the plank in your eye dude … these 20 things, in two articles will have caused plenty of discord. Before you set out as a self-proclaimed Christian and aim the piece not to denigrate faith or tell people to change what they believe I would suggest you look at what you yourself are doing. Are you helping or hindering? Are you bringing people together or feeding separation? What exactly did you see yourself doing in this article?

    • “1. “Love the sinner, hate the sin” OUCH, this means I guess I have to love myself no matter the bad things I’ve done. Nice to know that we can do the same as others. Only time I see this being said is when Christians are being attacked and accused of hating gays. Gee, won’t get that response unless you challenge people and their faith.”

      That is such bullshit…I don’t mean to get defensive…but for goodness sake, people do not use “hate the sin not the sinner,” in response to being attacked. The entire mentality of “hate the sin, not the sinner” is at the root of ex-gay ministries, for crying out loud. It’s what’s behind people forcing themselves into celibacy because they think that the way they love is somehow sinful. People put that phrase on signs when protesting Pride parades and same-sex marriages. It is not a response to being attacked.

      • WOW, how understanding you really are. Unless what we say fits what YOU want, then it’s bull shit. You’re not on the receiving end of this so stay out. PLEASE Heather, if you don’t like what I have to say, don’t read it or respond to it. You appear to me to be narrow minded in your thinking. You claim to be all compassionate, understanding and accepting people as long as it’s what you want or it fits into you way of thinking.

        Forced into celibacy? Are you kidding me? There are people who don’t think like you much less want to think like you. You’re gay, you have pointed that out countless times and that’s GRRREAT for you but don’t force who you are, who you have the right to be on others who don’t feel the same way. You don’t know me, you don’t know what my background is, you don’t know the people I associate with, so please stop judging me for what I believe. What I have the right to believe and at the very least, allow me to feel as I do, believe as I do based upon MY life.

    • Justin S says:

      8. “It was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.” Duhhhh, it was Adam and Eve, wasn’t it? Are you saying it wasn’t? Too much to handle?

      You’re being disingenuous. Yes, it was Adam and Eve in Genesis but people don’t say that cliche to give a Bible lesson. They say it to state that heterosexual relationships are superior to gay relationships. People still saying the Adam and Steve thing think it’s cute but it’s not. It’s just overused and really annoying.

      • There’s a great word for phrases that are overused and annoying: Cliche.

      • Yes, I was being disingenuous. Simply trying to add some levity on some things that pushed my buttons. Perhaps we can have a follow to these 10 clichés (now 20). Alternative statements to them that are acceptable. Any suggestions?

        • It won’t work. I once replied, and it did not help – the guy then told me that there was REAL FIRE in hell. I countered that it couldn’t be real fire or else you’d burn up & cease to exist pretty quickly. SO it must be some kind of magic fire. Woooooo. So then he ran down the store aisle pointing me out to other customers, telling them that I was going to hell, I was going to hell.

          • apparently too many christians don’t know the difference between the material and the spiritual. Too little people seem to have much of a grasp on the concept that what lives on when we die isn’t some material carbon copy of ourselves. that we will still exsist through our material 5 senses. People ACTUALLY think that they will be able to smell and see and hear and taste after death? those are material HUMAN traits, not spiritual ones.
            nothing seems to be standard when religion comes into play.

        • how about actual human connection instead of thoughtless cheap advice. It’s so much easier to throw out one of the comments you have stored inside your mind for future use than it is to actually Follow the christian faith by loving one another.
          Jesus commanded us to love one another, and leave the judging to him. Seems like too many christians today are trying to play God. I believe the bibilical terminology is Goat?

          Wanting alternative statements is still disingenuous.

  5. Having been on the receiving end of several of those cliches, I can attest to the ignorance, arrogance, and annoyance factor upon hearing them. Once or twice, I had to to talk myself out of smacking someone who uttered such inanities, because I could not fathom why someone would be so blindered and insensitive.

    Good advice for all, especially those who might say some of the above because they don’t know what else to say.

  6. Valter Viglietti says:

    Very good points, again, Christian.
    Thank you (if only half of believers were as reasonable as you…! 😉 )

    My question now is this: will they ever listen? :roll:

  7. #9 is really, really, really annoying. I once read an article, written by a priest of course, that claimed the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of Caesar. As such, we have to support Democrats because giving to Caesar supports the Kingdom of God.

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