American Christians fear words. Beginning with Puritan colonists, Americans have been deeply concerned about being deceived by empty words and empty doctrines, and consequently by having their dearest ideas exposed as empty belief. American Christians have formed religious communities by decrying the beliefs of their competitors as empty words and presenting their own beliefs as true, although suspicion of the reliability of the words of one’s own group has been common as well. The construction of group identity in an American setting characterized by competition arising from disestablishment has been challenging for most Christian groups. Groups have utilized a method of building and maintaining identity by characterizing the words of their opponents as deceptions and in general relying upon definition via negativa to establish and police group boundaries.
Keywords: emptiness, empty words, disestablishment, via negativa, belief