The Day I Dropped The F-Bomb in Church (A.K.A. Faith and Four-Letter Words)

A crazy thing happened a few nights ago.

I cursed in church. Out loud. And not just “Shoot” or “Dang” or “Hell.” Nope. The queen mother of naughty words. I dropped the F-bomb right there in the sanctuary. Want to know what’s worse?

I was standing in the pulpit.

In front of hundreds of people.

With the microphone on.

AM F Bomb2

I was there to give a presentation on the devastating effects of hunger.   I shared a freezer full of facts, complete with colorful charts and graphs. Like how one in four kids in America is food insecure and how nearly half of all deaths of kids five and under worldwide is caused by poor nutrition. I spoke of food waste in our country and the estimated 30% of our food supply that gets thrown away every year, amounting to 1200 calories per person per day.

Disgusting.

My speech became more impassioned with every new statistic I shared. By the time I was halfway through, I was truly on a roll. It was a powerful, moving talk that should have motivated even the most cold-hearted among us, yet when I looked out on the sea of faces, I saw pure apathy. Sure, there were a few receptive souls, but I might as well have been one of those late night TV commercials. Just background noise.

That’s when a hand rose in the congregation. Grateful for some interaction to distract my irritation, I acknowledged the familiar-looking gentleman sitting five rows back.

“Yes? You have a question?”

The man didn’t rise from his pew. He simply asked,

“Why do you think hunger is still a problem?”

Isn’t it obvious?!

My low simmer heated to a rolling boil. Scanning the faces once again, I offered a wake up call.

“You want to know why? Because you don’t give a F%#&.”

The words echoed through the chapel, ricocheting like a pinball off every God-loving, God-fearing man, woman and child in the congregation. I didn’t ask anyone to pardon my French. Or my English. I didn’t apologize at all.

I just let it hang in the air.

It didn’t take long for pandemonium to erupt. Women shrieked and covered the ears of their children. Elderly men, once gentle and kind, stood bolt upright and screamed “Blasphemer!” firing the words at me through stiffly pointed fingers. They didn’t really care much about hunger, but they sure looked like they wanted to cram lots of stuff down my throat. I lost control of the room. I stood there shouting more statistics as everyone bolted for the exits as if I had screamed that other F-word.

“Fire.”

It was horrible.

But it was just a dream.

I woke up pouring with sweat. Like I had gone to bed too soon after overindulging at Pancho’s All-You-Can-Eat Mexican Buffet. I looked to my left, and my wife was sleeping soundly beside me. There was no presentation. No F-Bomb. Just a scene played out in my mind.

But my body thought it was real.

Apparently, I’m very conflict-averse, even if the conflict is totally made up. My heart was racing. I peeled myself from the sheets and went to the bathroom for a drink of water and a reality check. I looked in the mirror, trying my best to discern whether it really was a dream, or was an actual event in my life. I checked my phone for angry posts to my Facebook page, and seeing none, I knew that it was all in my head.

The next morning I was scheduled to meet with a pastor to talk about an upcoming retreat. While we were chatting over a cup of coffee, I shared the story with her. Her immediate response was to fake-write in her day planner and mumble,

“Note to self: Do not let Scott do any substitute preaching.”

Fair enough.

But this begs an interesting question:

Was it a dream? Or reality?

The pastor and I discussed it for a while, wondering what might happen if someone did drop the F-Bomb in church. Not by accident like Pope Francis did earlier this year during a Papal Blessing at the Vatican, but an honest-to-goodness, Tony Soprano style, attention-getting F-Bomb.

It’s no stretch to think that the church would empty just as it did in my dream. People would be in a huge huff, demanding the preacher resign. And I can totally see why. He’s taking the name of the Lord in vain in church for crying out loud! Right there in the pulpit! How dare he!

Truth be told, there are certain words that are inappropriate in our culture. They generate a lot of negativity. And we definitely don’t want to teach them to our kids and have them spouting them off at play dates and birthday parties. Using those words influences how others perceive us.

Bad Language = Bad Person.

Right?

There are certain things we just don’t talk about in public.

Right?

Let’s forget for a moment that The Bible is chock-full of horrendous stories. Tales of rape. Incest. Infanticide. Genocide. Sexism. Slavery. And one of my personal favorites, the story of our beloved David sleeping with Bathsheba, another man’s wife, knocking her up, and then sending her husband to die in battle to wash his hands of the whole thing. These stories can all be read aloud on holy ground, but Heaven forbid we string together a few shorthand, four-letter words to describe any of it.

That would be truly abhorrent.

But that’s often what we do. We decry things we deem offensive while simultaneously ignoring genuine human tragedy. We take our personal relationship with God very personally, ignoring the fact that He’s also the God of billions of others. So we defend God at the expense of His children. As if the Lord of the Universe is just a friend on Facebook who happens to have the same exact beliefs, opinions, and political persuasions that we do.

Hypocrites covered by the cross.

And I’m saying “we” intentionally, because the familiar man in my dream who raised his hand to ask the question?

He had my face.

It was me.

I’m the apathetic one.

In real life, I’m the guy sitting through a passionate presentation on hunger, then quickly exiting church to have lunch with my family, leaving half a plate of food to be thrown out, and rushing home to tell everyone how someone in the pulpit said something that rubbed me the wrong way.

Turning faith into a four-letter word.

And here is when I realize that my dream has come true. And the truth is ugly. But it doesn’t have to be that way. As a Christian, I pray that I can live into these words from John. The ones that call us to step outside ourselves and be Christ for one another.

16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.
(1 John 3: 16-18)

Sounds like an impossible dream, doesn’t it? But dreams do come true. And if we can turn this dream into reality, we’ll realize faith as a four-letter word isn’t always a bad thing.

So long as that word is:

L-O-V-E.

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18 Comments

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18 responses to “The Day I Dropped The F-Bomb in Church (A.K.A. Faith and Four-Letter Words)

  1. Dave

    The legend goes of Rev. Dr. Eugene Scott one evening on Public Access television talking about conditions in America and telling his audience X number of people in America live in some sort of condition… “and you don’t give a s***”. I didn’t witness it, but a friend claims to have. I’ve heard of other friends using various such words from the pulpit to achieve effect.

  2. John Booth

    What a great post! I have often been tempted to us the “F” word from the pulpit (just to see if anyone was listening) – but, have thus far avoided doing so. However, your post inspired me to dig in the trash for the request from the Nashville Rescue Mission for a donation to their Thanksgiving Meal Fund and at least write them a check. Consequently, your post gave me both a laugh and kick in the conscience – thanks!

    John

    John R. Booth
    Director of Support Services
    Educational Services of America
    1321 Murfreesboro Pike, Suite 702
    Nashville, TN 37217
    Office: 615-577-5651
    Cell: 615-423-1062
    Fax: 615-577-5695
    jbooth@esa-education.com

  3. love this. we are apathetic. I know I am. But the Lord reminds me to stop it through posts like this. thank you!

  4. Rod

    Our much beloved preacher was preaching one Sunday and mentioned “fun suckers” in his sermon. Not just once, but several times. We all saw it coming. Everyone but him. And sure enough, it happened. And he went right on talking….until it hit him. After a moment of silence, the whole church just erupted….howls of laughter. Tears. And I have to say, if anything, it endeared him with us even more. After all, the preacher is human,. Just like the rest of us. And rumor has it that the youth minister still has the only recording of that days service.

  5. And my fear is that if our apathy does not heed “wake-up-calls” by the clergy and others, that God will issue a wake-up-call” and it will be much louder and more severe…

  6. Thanks for this post. It reminds me about how TV networks get in major trouble if they allow bad language, and yet violent and disturbing content is somehow okay. I appreciate your reminder and your social justice wakeup call.

  7. You made me think of this:

    And he happens to be one of the most authentic Christians I know. 🙂

    I personally think God has bigger things to deal with than whether we’re uttering (or writing) the occasional profanity – but it sure does bother other Christians! I know because I get emails from them.

  8. and that my friend will, as they say, “preach”! I get overwhelmed with the degree of need and can tend to tune out the statistics, not good. Each statistic is a person God loves. Thanks.

  9. It’s a truism that a kick in our collective complacency is overdue in many of our lives. Maybe other words are due. Like move. Act. Trust. Love. Words that call us to action in the love of God.

  10. First time commenter!

    I’m a youth pastor and I once told my youth that I didn’t care if they said “sh–, da–, or he– as long as they didn’t call anyone stupid, retarded, a loser, etc, etc, Luckily, no one told their parents. 🙂

  11. dale

    I was in the Navy for 6 years in the 70’s. I heard curse words flagrantly and even encountered new words that just sounded worse than standard curse words.

    I grew as a Christian, trying to avoid words that were not good. A Chief Petty Officer friend of mine became a Christian and one day at a fellowship let out a few big expletives. He turned red and was highly embarrassed at what came out. I explained to him that those words were engrained in him and did not reflect who he was, a slip of habbit. I takes time to change. —This is where we have to be patient with others and with ourselves.

    All during 6 years in the Navy, I hardly said a curse word.Two or three years later I found some words coming out that I though were long gone. What I learned is that it is like second hand smoke. If you get enough of it, it might affect you – bubble up.

    I do not condone cursing. It is at the least poor language and at the most very derogatory and denigrating of the person or others. Like cancer, it is no good. I realize that often rebellion and/or deep anger is tied to it and that every one has ways to vent frustration with words. If I slip I have got it down to sh** or da** at the worse. Mild!

    Is a person good because they don’t curse or use bywords? No! Is a person bad because they do? Just gets attention negatively but is not a flag of being bad. If you work at a bank, the protocol does not condone such language. If you work at a junk yard habit is to use expletives.

    When I talked to God about cursing He explained that we should always do our best to represent Christ and people look on the outward appearance while God looks inward. It is very hard to represent Jesus using curse words. Ha! Christians should emulate Jesus not the world. Are Christians perfect? By no means! We are no different than non-Christians except through what God did for us to save us through Jesus. When saved our real man/person is literally “born again” – re-structured/recreated. We are no longer separated from God by sin and the Holy Spirit indwells us to teach us all things. We are perfect and ready to go to Heaven. This is God’s work only and our cooperation.

    The next issue is that though we are recreated we still have our own physical mind with its programming and habits that conflicts with the spiritual mind. Since we are eternal beings you could say that the physical body is an imperfect image of our eternal spiritual body. —- This is why we war with ourselves. Satan merely tries to influence us by his words, through others, and through situations to change us or at least stop us. We are an anomaly of contradictions. Our old nature wars with our new nature.

    Recognizing these things, what is the challenge we have with our words? Words often reflect what is going on inside of us. Often if we curse with our words we have hate or are very frustrated.

    Let me distinguish between profanity and what we call curse words or expletives. God showed me that what is in the heart comes out. He also showed me that we can simply be sloppy with our words. Profanity is really cursing God or others or situations- it is a heart thing. If you hit your finger with a hammer and say a ‘bad’ word, does this mean that your heart is wrong? Absolutely not! You just used a poor word to use to express your pain.

    Real profanity and cursing vs poor language comes from the heart. Some of the best people may slip with a word or two but some of the worst people may NEVER use a bad word. An attitude, a thought full of hate, an action can be more profane than a few poor words. Some of the most evil people will smile at you and act like a friend then stab you in the back when you turn around – slander you to others, lie, cheat, steal, etc. Politicians can sound good yet be quite profane in what they do – cursing others for selfish gain – for example.

    We should speak right, think right, act right, and emulate Jesus as much as we can to influence the world to do and be better and find Jesus as their Savior. If we fall, get forgiveness, get up and give away the love of Jesus to others – He will fill the vessel to overflow and you won’t run out of love if you hang around God and study His Word.

  12. An eye-opener. Thanks a lot.

  13. Don

    As always you see beyond the surface to the core of the issues. Jesus’ actions were just as upsetting to the legalists of his time as any profanity from the pulpit would be today. So much they got him killed! The pious and righteous never want their tidy religion messed with.

  14. I love your blog man! I would love if you checked mine out too! We are missionaries that have just come back from living in the jungle and our blog is documenting our experiences with humor and authenticity!
    http://www.followtherainers.com

  15. Thanks, Jordan! And congrats on completing your musical mission. Sounds like it was quite the experience. Prayers that you keep hearing the call.

  16. Good post. Tony Campolo was speaking about poverty at a big Christian conference here in the UK back in the 80s. He said something along the lines of “the poor’s biggest problem is that most of you don’t give a —-.” Stunned silence. “Actually, most of you are more concerned about the fact that I just used that word than you are about the poor”. It got our attention, and I for one have never forgotten it.

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