Code Language

Growing up in the hardline Churches of Christ I heard many slogans that bolstered our faith in our way of interpreting the Bible. But most of those slogans were unconscious lies:

1. “We love the Bible”: We love the Bible when it proves us right and them wrong. We hate the Bible when it proves us wrong.

2. “Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent”: Speak where the Bible speaks and be obnoxiously loud where the Bible is silent.

3. “That congregation is sound” / “stands for the truth” : They agree with us and do it like we do.

4. “That congregation is liberal” / “soft on the truth”: They don’t agree with us and they don’t do it like we do.

5. “Sound gospel teaching” : Organizing the congregation the way we do it.

6. “We are holding a gospel meeting” : We hope middle class white strangers will come in the door and be converted to our group by listening to sermons that congratulate us on how we do it right and the others don’t. But that almost never happens, so we are inviting you, hoping you will come back.

7. “Young people just don’t want to hear sound teaching anymore” : Our forefathers who started the Churches of Christ settled on land that was stolen from Native American tribes and Mexico because we had bigger guns; our forefathers had an average of three books in each house: the Bible, the Sears, Roebuck catalog, and Paradise Lost; they had a faith system that justified slavery and settling on stolen land, and they were right, and anyone who questions my ancestors doesn’t want to hear sound teaching anymore.

8. “College will corrupt our young people” : Control the supply of information or people will discover we don’t have all the answers.

9. “All the sound colleges go liberal eventually” : Anyone who reads enough facts and opinions realizes the hardline Churches of Christ have had their heads in the sand. I was told that during the sixties and seventies every student who received the annual Bible award at the college I attended eventually left the hardline Churches of Christ. Students who love to read and dig cannot stay in the mainstream of the hardline Churches of Christ.

10. “They were the last ones I would have expected to depart from the truth” : They were honest, dedicated and attended regularly. When they discovered their church was not honest, they left, and it shocked all those who did not want to discover any dishonesty in their church.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
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4 Responses to Code Language

  1. Mary Ann says:

    Not sure if there is any such thing as “an unconscious lie.” A lie is- by definition- an attempt to deceive. We can, of course, become proficient at deceiving ourselves by seeking a place of comfort for our own desires to be validated as “right.”

  2. michaelbhall says:

    Spot on. You should read Todd Deaver’s recent book on the Church of Christ. He makes many similar points. Two things on the list that really stand out are your points on gospel meetings and how the church views youth. Gospel meetings have pretty much always struck me as absurd, for they often combine self-congratulation with direct condemnation of denominationalism. Weirdly, members of the church fail to see why people might not be interested in attending these sorts of things.

    As for the church’s view of youth, most of the older members tend to be condescending and ignorant. They have no idea what young people are interested in (despite having been young at one point), and often try to tell young people what they should want. When all is said and done, the church ostracizes the youth by insulting them and ostracizing them for failing to conform to older members’ visions. Weirdly, members of the church fail to see why young people are leaving.

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