Stuff Christians like: Sign language.

21 Nov

If there’s one thing that Christians, especially evangelicals, LOVE, it’s other languages.  No one laps up African children’s choirs or a missionary on furlough opening his guest sermon in his missional language quite like Christians do.  Sometimes Christians even like to wear traditional clothing of other nations during Missions Week to show their solidarity with countries they went to once on a missions trip back in the ’90s.

However, there is one language that Christians love above nearly all others, probably because you don’t even have to be able to hear to enjoy it.  That language is SIGN LANGUAGE.

Despite the fact that I have never attended a service where a plural number of people was both hearing impaired and sign-language literate, Christians just LOVE LOVE LOVE singing with their hands.  “Jesus Loves Me”?  SIGNED.  “Awesome God”?  SIGNED.  Anything by Hillsong?  SIGNED.  And if you’ve grown up in church, chances are you performed at least one signed song with the kiddie choir.  Even my church got into the act not that long ago, with a small choir busting out the S.L. and the worship leader exhorting everyone to sing to God in “another language.”

I think the popularity of sign language stems from a couple of different places.  For conservative, non-charismatic Christians, this gives them the opportunity to raise their arms above their heads and not feel like a threatening Pentecostal.  Think of it as the White Christian’s Gospel Hands, or the White Christian’s Dancing From The Waist Up.  For more liberal Christians, sign language gives them the satisfaction of “reaching out” while placating lack-of-diversity guilt at the same time.  Basically, it’s all win from whatever angle you’re coming at it from.

So if you know signing, or even just one song that you learned at another church, don’t be shy.  Let your worship leader know.  Ten bucks says you’ll be doing a solo on Sunday morning in no time flat, or even teaching the choir to sign, and then just watch the hearts be blessed by your rare and special talent.


P.S.  It is not very easy to find videos of men signing while singing.

16 Responses to “Stuff Christians like: Sign language.”

  1. DW November 21, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    This post is dead-on, Haley. At the youth church I help out at a dozen or so of the teens will sign the praise and worship songs, they’ll volunteer to sign at church, they’ll sign at performances; it doesn’t even matter if no one’s deaf, there’s the chance that someone might be, and they leap at the opportunity. It’s an awesome way for them to praise and worship with more than just raising their hands and singing.

  2. Artie November 22, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    If I were deaf, I’d be offended by this. But then again, I grew up when my church still knew who Charles Wesley was, and so I’d probably mistakenly think the condescension was cheating me out of a hearing of actual sacred music, rather than just some tripe that wasn’t good enough to crack the adult-contemporary Top 40.

  3. Chris November 23, 2011 at 12:29 am #

    Erk. It has spread. We now have people signing the national anthem.

    It just happened… the ick factor at public events is increasing by the second.

  4. Will S. November 23, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Really, Chris? Ick, indeed. We have close-captioning for a reason… And that’s also useful for public places where the volume is off on TVs, like airports, gyms, pubs, etc.

    At least that silly fad from back in the 70s / 80s, where news broadcasts had a small window with someone signing the news, in a corner of the screen, while the anchors read it, has long ceased. SNL had a hilarious send-up of that, with “News for the hard of hearing”, with Garrett Morris repeating what the anchors said at the top of his lungs…

  5. Will S. November 23, 2011 at 7:09 am #

    @ Chris: I just had a hilarious thought: imagine someone trying to sign the ‘Haka’…

  6. Will S. November 23, 2011 at 11:59 am #

    I forgot: legislative broadcasts still do employ sign-language interpreters, to simultaneously translate what is being said; I was reminded when I came across this funny clip earlier:

  7. van Rooinek November 23, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    They always choose a hot chick to do the signing. Never a dude, never a plain jane.

    That’s because the body motions of a hot chick doing signing, are exceptionally beautiful.

    It’s all sexually driven. Probably subconsciously, but it’s all sexual.

  8. Aunt Haley November 23, 2011 at 12:46 pm #

    They always choose a hot chick to do the signing. Never a dude, never a plain jane.

    Well….except for the video posted above by Will S.

  9. Jennifer November 23, 2011 at 6:56 pm #

    I don’t see a big deal about this. It just irritates me when people get TOO into it.

  10. pukeko60 November 23, 2011 at 11:23 pm #

    Closed captioning works nicely and you can switch it off. The current fashion is to have a man and a woman alternate verses in a box in the corner of the screen…

    And the haka is what sign language should be like.

  11. Chris November 23, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

    Ach, had wordpress ID not me up.

  12. Will S. November 24, 2011 at 6:13 am #

    “And the haka is what sign language should be like.”

    Ha! Just so; the most manly, fearsome sign language of all; a Maori war dance!

  13. Anthony November 24, 2011 at 11:15 am #

    If a woman is signing over her head, it will lift up her breasts nicely.

  14. Will S. November 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

    True, but why would she sign over her head? So she can be ‘heard’ above the crowd?

  15. Jennifer November 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm #

    Oh shaddup, Anthony. Signing over the head is silly; that’s what I call getting too into it. It’s the silent version of people singing themselves into a frenzy (which they tend to do anyway in groups like this) and a good way to knock elbows and smack faces.

  16. Little pikachu June 6, 2014 at 1:08 am #

    Honestly, it’s always best to ask what Deaf people think about when using their language. American Sign Language or any language is THEIR language, not for hearing people to use just because it looks “cool”. That’s the problem that’s been happening in recent years. More than likely half the time hearing people have 0 idea of what they are actually signing when they sign these songs.

    As for you that said sign language is “spreading” or that you can caress an interpreter if she signs over her head, or that sign language is for sex appeal on tv, you’d think differently if you actually went and met real Deaf people and learn about their culture. For the record, John Maucere, a Deaf actor signed the national anthem 2 years ago at the Super Bowl. This year it was Amber Zion.

    I myself signed the national anthem at my graduation with the lead signer being my teacher Shoshannah Stern, a Deaf actress.

    There are plenty of things to learn about Deaf people in order for us to reach mutual respect. If you’re wondering what kind of person I am telling you all this information? Just a person with a B.A. in Deaf Studies.

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