I learned a new word this weekend—“crappyjack.” Catching up on some of my favorite podcasts while doing my Saturday errands, I heard “A Way with Words” host Grant Barrett report on the new words contest held at the recent meeting of the Dictionary Society of North America.
“Crappyjack” was introduced into the discussion by Erin McKean, chief consulting editor for American Dictionaries for Oxford University Press. Somebody had made up the word during a kind of parlor game at an event she had attended in New York City. The word is obviously modeled on “crap” and “Cracker Jack,” and the definitions she gave were “any kind of food you eat that is bad for you” and “anything you can buy in a crinkly package in a convenience store.”
Right after the session in which someone made up “crappyjack,” an 89-year-old Anglican nun spoke about spirituality. “She managed to use the word ‘crappyjack’ eight times in her talk,” said McKean, taking it from its new but literal meaning to a spiritual meaning. Spiritual crappyjack, she said, is stuff “you bought ... for a quick spiritual fix and then the experience left you hollow and queasy.”
McKean said that everyone listening to that 89-year-old nun knew immediately what she was talking about. That’s because there is a long history of spiritual crappyjack—stuff that promises a lot, is kind of showy, and even, perhaps, gives you a quick rush.
What are the warning signs of spiritual crappyjack? Besides the vacant feeling that follows the empty promise, section 5 of the Call for an Ancient Evangelical Future notes these marks of fraudulent spiritualities: “legalism, mere intellectual knowledge, overly therapeutic culture, New Age Gnosticism, ... dualistic rejection of this world, [or] narcissistic preoccupation with one’s own experience.” So when one of more of those start showing up, it’s time to turn back to the biblical story and the context of the church.
The Call for an Ancient Evangelical Future urges “catechetical spiritual formation of the people of God that is based firmly on a Trinitarian biblical narrative.” It continues, “We are concerned when spirituality is separated from the story of God and baptism into the life of Christ and his body. ... These false spiritualities are inadequate for the challenges we face in today’s world. Therefore, we call for a return to an historic spirituality like that taught and practiced in the ancient catechumenate.”
There’s some fancy language in there, but here are the key words: “based firmly on a Trinitarian biblical narrative” and tied to “the story of God and baptism into the life of Christ and his body.” What have you got there? A church context in which people are trained to understand the story of God’s work for the redemption of the world according to the theological consensus that developed in the first five centuries.