August 6, 2006

The Letter Ended "Yours in Christ"

Flying Spaghetti Monster icon

In recent weeks at work, I received two letters in which the authors used "yours in Christ" before their signature in place of the commonly accepted "sincerely," "regards," etc. Let me clarify that these were both business-related letters and not personal correspondence. One of them, as it so happens, had even been notarized.

When I was learning professional correspondence in high school and college, I don't ever remember hearing that "yours in Christ" was an acceptable way to end a letter. I went back and checked some style manuals, and my memory appears to be correct. So, when did this become acceptable? I should probably mention at this point that both of the letters I received were written by college graduates. I note this because it is almost certain that both would have had at least some training in professional correspondence.

Is this yet another Southern thing? The quality of public education here in Mississippi is appalling in many respects, but something tells me that this cannot be the whole story. I'd guess this is something the authors were never instructed to do in their English courses. They must have picked it up elsewhere.

When I see this closing in a letter, my initial reaction is one of dismissing the author as an ignorant fanatic. In fact, I have difficulty taking the contents of the letter seriously when this is how it ends. Yep, I freely admit that this is my gut reaction. Is this fair? No, it isn't fair. I can't actually dismiss the contents of the letter based on these words. And yet, ending a letter this way would be a bit like me ending a letter with "yours in the flying spaghetti monster," "hail Satan," or some other absurdity. If I did that, I would expect the recipient to form a negative impression of me. I certainly wouldn't expect to be taken seriously.

Why do some Christians feel that they must push Jesus at every opportunity and in every context? Must every interaction be used to proselytize? Do they really think this is an effective strategy for converting others, or is this an impulse control problem? The Jesus fish affixed to their car, the homophobic t-shirts, and the prayer calendars are bad enough, but this seems different somehow. I'm still struggling to get my head around this one.