With Thanksgiving around the corner, the weather will soon be chilly (if it isn’t already in your part of the country). It’s the perfect season to think about God’s “frozen chosen.”
The Christianese term frozen chosen is one of those interesting expressions that has a lot of different meanings — four to be exact. Some slang terms are just so fun to say that they catch on in several quarters of the wide world that is the Christian church. Frozen chosen rhymes, it has a vivid mental image (frozen!), and it uses the Bible word “chosen” (think: God’s chosen people). There’s a lot to love in this slang term.
So, about those four meanings. Primarily, the term refers to those Christians who are more reserved in their religious life. “Holy Rollers” these frozen chosen Protestants most certainly ain’t. The stereotypical frozen chosen are the the folks in the Presbyterian and the Episcopalian denominations, though really the members of any church (in any denomination) can be labeled as “frozen.” It just has to do with how stiff and reserved they are. See the first 2006 citation in sense 1 below for a subtle reference to someone’s old Methodist congregation as a bunch of “frozen chosen.”
The other senses of the term are less common, but they’re still worth reporting. Sense 2 is very similar to the sense just described, except it focuses on a low amount of emotion or joy in life. Whereas in sense 1 the emphasis is on churches that have a more liturgical and formal style of worship, sense 2 is about Christians who seem glum and torpid, despite the fact that they presumably have “the joy of the Lord in their heart.” You might say that in sense 1 the frozen chosen are frozen with respect to their style of worship, whereas in sense 2 the frozen chosen are frozen with respect to their personality or demeanor.
A slightly more disparaging use of the term is when charismatic Christians use it to poke gentle fun at Christians who aren’t as enthusiastic about the use of the spiritual gifts. It’s easy to find charismatics who will climb over pews to lay hands on you for prayers for healing, or who will get down on their knees, sometimes in tears, to pray for the power of God to manifest itself in people’s lives. When you compare that kind of vigorous praying and worship, then I suppose by comparison some of the other denominations would seem a bit frozen. Probably some charismatics wish that Christians who aren’t as keen on the spiritual gifts would thaw out a little and get “on fire” for the Lord!
Lastly, there is a particularly tongue-in-cheek use of the term: some Christians actually use frozen chosen to refer to Christians who live in cold-weather parts of the world. The one good published citation I was able to find referred to Christians in Wisconsin (where it does, in fact, get very cold around this time of year), though the usage of the term isn’t restricted to Wisconsin, nor do only Lutherans use it. I also found some references to Jewish people using the term, but since this is a Dictionary of Christianese (not a Dictionary of Jewishese), I couldn’t very well include those references, could I?
Have you heard the term frozen chosen? If so, in which of these senses did you hear it?