4 Reasons I Get Tongue Tied with the Name of Jesus


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Often I substitute other words in conversation, in place of ‘Jesus’, because I fear what comes with the territory. How about you?

  • God, Church, Faith? Easy. Rolls off the tongue. They keep the conversation going.

  • Jesus? Hard. Like Flappy Bird hard. When it’s time to fill in the blank with the word “Jesus”, I often take the chicken exit.

Think about it. How many times in the last week did you bring up the name of Jesus in conversation? Probably less than you could have. I certainly missed a chance or two.

In fact I’d suggest the average Catholic would rather drop an f-bomb than bring up the name of Jesus. Why is this? I’ll throw out four reasons. 

It’s not socially acceptable. In some situations an f-bomb (or a curse word in general) actually helps. A well placed swear word can take you from being super-dork to being one of the guys, just like that. If it worked for me as a 10 year old on the playground, it can work for you. The name of Jesus, on the other hand, often has the opposite effect. Who can stand the funny looks, the fidgeting, the labels, or even the rejection? I rarely can (but I need to, more).

Nobody else is doing it. Why stick out when you can fit in? Very few Catholics at your parish are talking that way, why should you? It’s just not a part of our everyday vocabulary. For better or worse, we absorb our surroundings. Like when you move to Minnesota and you start talking like Marge Gunderson. It just happens. If other Catholics you know are brave enough to talk about their ‘faith’ it’s often still in more generic than specific terms. Baby steps are good, but the world isn’t gonna be changed by doing what we’ve always done.

People don’t talk about what they don’t know about. When the conversation turns to managing a corrugated box factory I stop contributing. I know nothing about factories and even less about corrugated boxes. As soon as I open my mouth about nuances of such a product you’ll immediately see I’m in over my head. The same thing is true with the name of Jesus. You can be a dyed-in-the-wool Catholic and still know nothing about Jesus. Heck, even if you know a lot of facts about him, you may not say that you actually ‘know’ him. Like me and Peyton Manning. I know a lot about him, but don’t know him personally. 

The devil don’t like it. There is more power in the pinky finger of the name of Jesus than all the words in the English language combined, and the evil one knows it. Probably far better than I do. So he gets us talking about really really good things (God, faith, Church) so long as we don’t mention the absolute best thing there is (Jesus). I’m convinced he’d rather have us talk about faith generically than Jesus specifically. Why, you ask? Because Jesus is “the name above every other name” (Phil 2:9), the ”name by which we are saved“ (Acts 4:12), and ”the way, the truth, and the life.”(John 14:6) If your whole goal was to prevent people from connecting with God (as I’m sure is somewhere on Satan’s to-do list), keeping Jesus off the minds and lips of Catholics wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

So, here’s a thought.

For the next week take a leap and substitute ‘Jesus’ where you might otherwise default to a word like God, Faith, Church, etc.

For instance, when you might say to a friend: “My Catholic faith is important to me”, say “Jesus is important to me.”

or to your kids when you might say “let’s pray about it” say “let’s talk to Jesus about it.”

It’s one part new habit, another part courage, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You aren’t just substituting one word with equal value for another.  You are setting the stage for the person you are talking to to consider another person more important than you - a person who loves them and wants to lead them through life.

Don’t get me wrong. It doesn’t work like like Find & Replace in Microsoft Word.

As such, don’t substitute it if it’s not true. The first step for you, rather than bringing up a stranger’s name in conversation, might be in discovering better who Jesus is and how you can have a relationship with him.  Also, some instances do call for more generic terms. We can’t get away from the imperative to meet people where they are at (so long as we don’t forfeit our position along the way).

Most of the time we over think it, are scared, or are simply unaware of our speaking patterns. It’s time for a change.

So, be discerning and wise, but also bold and brave. 

Who’s with me?

How Protestants Saved Me From Leaving the Catholic Church

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When I went to college I didn’t know my faith very well.

I knew there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, but I was unaware that the distinctions were big enough to cause any real problems.

Pretty naive, I guess.

This all came into graphic relief during my last year at William Jewell College (a historically Baptist college). A communications major (a Catholic) was giving her senior presentation about Christian unity at Jewell. One negative example she gave was of overhearing a conversation where the Student Senate president, who was Catholic, was referred to as “Satan.” 

I was stunned.

That Catholic Student Senate president was me.

I was given this nasty moniker not because of the kind of person I was, but simply because I was Catholic.

In that moment I realized the Catholic-Protestant divide was no joke and there were a lot of people out there who had really big feelings about it all. Rather than being appalled, I wanted to jump in. While I didn’t understand exactly what all the fuss was about, I was put on notice.

Not to further divide, but unite.

A hope for healing, unity, and understanding between all Christians came alive in me.

Most all of my interactions with Protestants at William Jewell College were really strong. I never experienced personally the anti-Catholic bias that was referenced in this speech. Whether it was in small group settings or on retreats or serving at soup kitchens I only knew Christian unity, nothing else. Which is why it surprised me so much to hear Christian disunity expressed so blatantly.

In fact throughout my conversion experience in college I encountered three things from Protestant Christians at William Jewell that ultimately ensured I never left the Catholic Church, and as such, have become something of a template (of course alongside thisthis, and most recently this) for an approach to Christian unity these many years later.

No one spoke ill of the Catholic Church to me. It didn’t take me very long, while I was on campus, to realize that non-Catholic Christians had real questions about what Catholics believe, but I never encountered anyone going on the offensive. Sure, things came up regarding our beliefs about things like praying to saints or the authority of the Pope, but never was I made to feel ashamed of who I was as a Catholic.

No one encouraged me to leave the Catholic Church. This never came up. This hasn’t been every Catholic’s experience, but it was mine. I was in a number of strong men’s groups towards the end of college, regularly engaging other non-Catholic Christians in faith related discussions. Never once was I encouraged to “check out their Church” or reconsider mine. I’m really grateful for this because my experience as a Catholic who had awakened to Jesus, become his disciple, and desired to lead others to him would be a mission fulfilled within, rather than outside of, the Catholic Church.

The focus was on Jesus. More than anything I walked away from my relationships with other Christians at William Jewell with a greater love for Jesus. Jesus was the focus, the center, and the end-goal. This shaped the sort of Catholicism I would embrace beyond my time at William Jewell. Come to find out it was also the Christocentric Catholicism of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and our current Pope Francis.

This focus on Jesus prepared me to re-receive the gift of Jesus in the sacramental life of the Church.

  • Receiving Jesus in the Eucharist became meaningful and eagerly desired, rather than rote and impersonal.

  • Going to confession and knowing that my sins have been forgiven was no semi-annual afterthought, it was healing, sanity, and mercy.

This all kept me Catholic. 

People who loved Jesus were willing to share his love with me - no matter the crazy scary nicknames uttered about me behind my back.