Now, this reminds me of something I’ve noticed in other people. How people say “God” or “Jesus” when they are actually referring to God or Jesus (and not just uttering interjections) is often peculiar. Sometimes, it comes off hesitantly, as if they’re embarrassed to be talking about such a figure. Meanwhile, among some of my very religious friends, “God” or “Jesus” can come across very enthusiastically, but equally weird. (I have one friend who pronounces “God” as a three-syllable glide when preaching, with increased volume.) These people aren’t embarrassed, but they sound embarrassed. Obviously, the sacred Name is something a lot of people think either ought not be pronounced, or needs to be pronounced in a special way. Either way, it sounds very unnatural.
Nathan Pusey, former President of Harvard, once said that the least one should expect of a university graduate is that he or she be able to pronounce the name of God without embarrassment. My take on this is, I think we – and by we, I mean all of us, not just the non-religious or the overly-religious – have made of Christianity and its central figure something that is kept on a shelf, apart from our ordinary lives. We don’t know how to talk about it, except in certain special places at certain special times. This inhibits the sharing of the Gospel, I think. We religious people think we are really good at talking about God, but our discomfort shows through when we try to talk to the non-religious. We either talk round the subject, or we talk too loud at odd points. We come across as unnatural – probably because we feel unnatural, talking about God outside of church folk doing church things.
My goal as a preacher and teacher of the faith was to not only speak the truth, but to try to convey the naturalness of that truth in my speech and demeanor. When I had to broach the subject with a non-believer or an inquirer, I didn’t want to switch to some religious performance mode, which might not go over so well with them. In other words, I didn’t want to get in God’s way and turn them off by how I came across. And to do that required me to confront my own discomforts, my own prejudices, my own tendency to put God in a box to be taken out only when I wanted him. If I want to show others how natural it is to believe in God and follow Christ, then that must become natural to me.