I slipped. My husband and I were asked to take on another church commitment. I was trying to decline graciously. In my e-mail response, I wrote, "We cannot help now, but hopefully in another season." I copied my husband on the e-mail and instantly received a one-word reply:


You see, season is one of many words long ago banned from our vocabulary. But my lapse reminded me how hard it is to resist the lure of the handy cliché.

The trouble with prefabricated words is that they don't require or encourage much thinking. Yes, clichés contain truth; that's why they are used so much. But familiarity can turn even truthful words into vain repetitions.

Church-based clichés are nothing new. In 1719, satirist Jonathan Swift warned in "A Letter to a Young Clergyman Lately Entered Into Holy Orders," against "the folly of using old threadbare phrases."

So I did some brainstorming with many Her.meneutics writers to find some of the worst clichés in vogue among Christians. (In fairness, the cliché problem isn't limited to Christians.) The terms here are my personal peeves. If you happen to be fond of any of them, please know I'm not judging you—just your vocabulary, and mine.

Cliche Category #1: "Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice"

I drink my coffee black, prefer more potatoes to dessert, can't abide chick flicks, and have a low tolerance for sweetness (puppies excepted). Sicky-sweet terms that certain Christians seem to love include

-precious (road trip to the Precious Moments Chapel, anyone?)

-come alongside (I can just see the strong arm of a big, burly come-alongsider draping across the shoulders ...

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