A Word from Your Sponsor

May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)

This is a tough one. I’m already suspect in the words department—well, maybe suspect is too mild a term for it. Screwed may be more accurate. Why, just the other evening, while speaking at a college age church group, I dropped the F-bomb on them—twice. One guy privately pulled me aside afterward and gently urged me to cut out my tongue and gargle with lemon juice. However, one of the lead pastors of that church, a guy about my age but not as good looking, fired me an email high-five, saying something like “Way to shake things up.” Though I rarely use that word in religious discourse, I seem to employ an inordinate number of other words that rarely find a place in sermons, devotionals, or at Tupperware parties.

Oh, I have my rationale. I claim poetic license, prophetic sanction, and not a little gall. I count myself among a venerable parade of satirists and humorists who wielded the language with power and precision: Jonathan Swift, Samuel Johnson, Mark Twain, George Carlin, and a guy named Hang Dog who lives under a bridge near downtown. These are my soul-mates, my artistic heroes. They’re most likely all in hell now. These inductees into my personal hall of defamation may be models of artistic nerve, but they may also be my tour guides in perdition.

My problem is that I can’t quite figure out if what I’m doing is bleeding edge God stuff or just well-wrought blasphemy. People I trust come down on both sides. Some tell me to cool my jets with the irreverent and coarse stuff; others tell me they appreciate the raw, honest, unchurchy approach to faith. Some are convinced that I’m crossing the line, and at least one person has concluded that I am not a Christian at all. Others have recommended this stuff to their friends—well, I think they were friends anyway. It’s a split decision—without a decision.

I try to clarify things by appealing to my intent. Recently I was asked to explain myself (through a third party) to a detractor. As requested, I offered a short overview of my impeccable spiritual credentials, my unflagging Christian service, and my many professional accolades. I concluded with this: “I feature religious satire that often pokes fun at questionable Christian attitudes and assumptions; however, I do not, in my opinion, make light of God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, or the Gospel.” So apparently I believe that no matter how crass or profane I am, the sincerity of my heart and the hipness of my presentation make it all okay. Uh huh.

I have nothing against being pious and sober and all Jesussy. Some of the nicest people I know are sincere, painfully boring Christians. But I figure that the world has enough Max Lucados, Joel Osteens, Rick Warrens, and James Dobsons. I want to be a lethal word-weapon in the hands of an insane deity. I’d kind of like to get into heaven too. But no matter what, I do not want to be all that safe to have around.

So what’s a spiritually sensitive guy like me to do? Do I press on, take the heat, burn my bridges, and hope that I haven’t totally missed the boat? Or do I clean up my act and find a whole new gig? I’d pray about it, but I don’t trust God’s opinion either.

Note: Since writing this post I have come to the conclusion that I was indeed unnecessarily and inexcusably crass and offensive in my public speaking. I have now cleaned up my act, avoiding profanities and other coarse language. Since my reformation, invitations to speak have pretty much dried up.


2 Responses

  1. Prophets can say surprising things, Fred. They tend to shock people into re-examining their religious ass -umptions, and that’s a good thing.

    Though it’s sometimes hard to know when you’re sarcastic, and others to know if you’ve just argued yourself out of the faith, in the end, “by their fruits shall ye know them,” and you pass that standard with flying colors. Or flying fruit.

  2. Fred,

    I thought you were the spiritual George Carlin! The F bomb, like any bomb, is only as effective as it’s proximity to the target. If set off in a Baptist committe meeting the devastation would be of Biblical proportions. In a Christian college Eng. Lit. (English Lite?) it may cause a flutter. As in all cases, context is everything. After all, it just describes a normal human activity in one word instead of the ephunistic “making love.” One young female student refered to the Algebra II text as “this f-ing book” very out loud and I couldn’t help but ask her if that was how we got papaerbacks or children’ books. “Do you leave it alone in your locker with the history text?” Didn’t happen again. What are ajectives for except to make verbs out of them – or vice versa. OMG may be even worse, but that’s just misusing the Big Guy’s name, and eyebrows nary twitch at that one. Well placed artillery can be most effective. Battle on, Fred.

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