What is the book “Mixed Blessings” about?

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(Estimated reading time: 3 minutes)

Mixed Blessings is a forthcoming dictionary of real words that people have been using to describe their “hybrid” or “mixed” or “complicated” religious or spiritual beliefs. I’m talking about words like bapticostal, episcolutheran, jubu, mennocostal, pentevangelicalquanglicansushi, and about 1,200 similar blended words that are all formed by combining bits and pieces from existing words for denominations and religions.

Most of these 1,200 words are combinations of two words like the examples shown above. But there are also triples (anapiscopanglicanepiscobapterian, hin-bu-jewmethobapterian), and even a handful of quadruples and beyond (episco-metho-bap-terian, metho-formed-presby-gational-bapto-palian). I want to stress that all these words that are defined in Mixed Blessings have really been used by actual people, and every entry in the dictionary also features at least two quotations that I have collected over the years from books, magazines, and the Internet to show where and when people have used these words.

You can get an idea of what the dictionary entries will look like from the banner graphic at the top of this web page. You can also click on the thumbnail image below to get a bigger screenshot of the current draft of the entry for “hinjew.”

image of the beginning of the entry for "hinjew"
beginning of the entry for “hinjew”

Mixed Blessings (or MB for short) is a helpful resource in multiple ways. For one thing, there are no other dictionaries that focus on this type of religious blend word. In fact, only about half a dozen of these religious blend words have ever been defined in dictionaries before, so for almost all these thousand-plus words, this will be their big debut in a dictionary!

So if you wanted to look up what a word like, for example, conservadox means in the context of Judaism and how old of a word it is, MB is the only reference work that you could feel confident going to and knowing that it will be able to answer your questions in a single convenient entry.

There are other ways MB is helpful too. Suppose that you are connected to two different faiths or traditions, and you want to know what terms could be used to describe that situation. For example, suppose your mother’s side of the family is Catholic, and your father’s side of the family is Lutheran. You can use the appendix in the back of MB to look up Catholic and Lutheran blends and see that there are words such as catheran and lutholic to describe the mixing of these two denominational traditions. This information could give you an idea of ways you may wish to describe or explain your own religious identity, or these terms could be a springboard to further research or even to finding communities of like-minded people.

Even if you don’t have any specific pairing or trio of religions or denominations in mind, MB is fun and horizon-broadening even just to flip through or dip into at random. In page after page there is unprecedented evidence of people’s spiritual and linguistic creativity on display. The quotations that feature in every entry let us travel back in time to see the reasons why people have been choosing these words to express their complex spiritual stories. The visual timelines in many of the entries impress upon us just how far back these terms have been in use. I think most of us will be surprised at how long people have been coining and using these blended words in an effort to be identified and described on their own terms.

For seven years (since the summer of 2011) I have been studying and collecting these blended terms, and it has become my own sort of spiritual journey too, as I have come to empathize and care for the many people who feel that they don’t fit neatly into the standard religious slots and spiritual shapes. People’s religious experiences are more diverse than I ever thought possible, and the paths that people are taking rarely if ever follow a preset pattern or template. Collecting and publishing the blended words in MB is one small but significant way I can affirm the courage and resilience of people who go through life carrying their “mixed blessings.”