Thanking God for that smokin’ hot wife

Stop the presses. A pastor has prayed for his “smokin’ hot wife.” Truly this is a story made for YouTube, Twitter, blogs, Google+, Facebook, you name it.

Before a NASCAR race on Saturday, Pastor Joe Nelms delivered “quite a memorable invocation,” The Tennessean reports, naming very specific race cars.

Later in the prayer, Nelms channeled his inner Ricky Bobby when he delved into gratitude for his family.

“Lord, I want to thank you for my smokin’ hot wife tonight, Lisa, and my two childre, Eli and Emma, or as we like to call the, ‘The Little E’s.’ ”

Perhaps the most unforgettable line of the prayer came when Nelms quoted NASCAR Hall of Famer and Franklin resident Darrell Waltrip at the end of his prayer.

“In Jesus’ name, Boogity Boogity Boogity, amen,” Nelms said.

Over at the Orlando Sentinel sports blog, Shannon Owens writes, “It’s clear the prayer was meant to be taken as a joke, but it is unusual for a pastor to joke about prayer.” Then you’re invited to take a poll:

What do you think about Pastor Joe Nelms’ NASCAR prayer?

Outrageously funny. A pastor has a right to make jokes during prayer.

Out-of-bounds. A pastor should have more reverence for prayer.

You get to have two reactions, that’s it. I know it’s shocking, I tell you, that a pastor might have a little fun.

The Sentinel suggests that the prayer was inspired by Talladega Nights, starring Will Ferrell. Maybe that’s true. If you run in some Christian circles, however, you might already know that this smokin’ hot phrase has sort of been a cliche in recent years for some reason. For some perspective on Christian cliches, I invite you to head on over to this delightful post on Christianity Today‘s women’s blog (yes, for disclosure purposes, I am employed at CT). Karen Swallow Prior, who is the chair of the department of English and modern languages at Liberty University (Jerry Falwell anyone?) wrote the following about the smokin’ hot phrase just last week:

To me, calling one’s wife bride on any day after the honeymoon betrays a rather silly insistence that she is into perpetuity that sweet, young, virginal thing once greeted at the altar — or worse, a tacit acknowledgement that she’s not (wink, wink), so let’s just make like she is. Smokin’ hot, on the other hand, just sounds like someone trying a bit too hard to convince himself.

So there’s one reaction to the phrase.

Back to the coverage, my favorite line in the Reuters’ report is at the end: “Nelms was unavailable for comment Monday.” What were they planning to ask him? Pastor, what do you think about the reactions to your crazy prayer? If we’re going to dig a little deeper, why not include what kind of Baptist church is Family Baptist Church in Lebanon, Tennessee?

Boogity, boogity, boogity!

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  • Elijah

    Maybe they’d ask for pictures of the SHW?

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Elijah, good point! :)

    I forgot to mention that Tim Pawlenty talked about his “hot wife” on the campaign trail.

  • Jerry

    I’ll leave it to others to weigh in on how good a joke it was, but I was reminded of Rev. Susan Sparks “Laugh Your Way to Grace”, I book I found very important.

    To me, calling one’s wife bride on any day after the honeymoon betrays a rather silly insistence that she is into perpetuity that sweet, young, virginal thing once greeted at the altar

    I’m not sure that is necessarily so. I think it can be used to indicate that the bond of love between husband and wife is as strong as the day they got married, a real complement.

  • Bobby

    This is, boogity, boogity, boogity, one of my favorite GR posts of all time. :-)

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Jerry, that could be true. Perhaps women are more sensitive in this area. I wonder what the male equivalent would be: “my studly groom”? Maybe not, I don’t know.

    Thanks, Bobby. :)

  • kjs

    I’ll refrain from commenting on my personal opinion of Pr. Nelms’ “prayer.” The scare quotes should give enough of an idea. :P

    I haven’t myself noticed the phrase “smokin’ hot wife” being used much in Christian circles – maybe my circles are just too conservative. But Talladega Nights came out 5 years ago, so my bet is that, to the extent the phrase is a cliché in Christian circles, it’s filtered in from pop-cultural referrences to the movie.

  • Hector_St_Clare

    Re: To me, calling one’s wife bride on any day after the honeymoon betrays a rather silly insistence that she is into perpetuity that sweet, young, virginal thing once greeted at the altar

    Tell it to St. John, who called the church ‘The Bride of Christ’, not ‘The Wife of Christ.’

  • Jessica Brown

    Thankfully, I haven’t seen the negative and hurtful comments here that I saw on Yahoo (that prompted me to look elsewhere) regarding Pr. Nelms’s wife. Personally, I think if I were his wife, I’d be a bit embarrassed–after all, after years of marriage and real life and the toll kids and that real life take upon a woman’s body, I’m no longer “smoking hot”. I don’t think I ever was, honestly. However, if my hubby thanked God for me as such, I’d still be flattered. It isn’t the physical that makes the passion last: it’s the mind, the soul, the spirit. The attraction that two people have for each other and nurture, as Godly, passionate, amorous people, is wonderful. So what if I’ve put on some pounds and gained some inches and wrinkles? So has he! If he thinks I’m “smoking hot”, Hallelujah!!! If he took inspiration from Talladega Nights, which is a hilarious and very inappropriate movie, then who cares? If he was happy to be funny and irreverent and inspirational at that prayer, what harm does it do? Who are you to judge? And especially, for those people who were so mean on Yahoo, who cares if she’s a bit overweight? If he sees in her the same bride as he had on their wedding day, I think that’s awesome. Are you jealous?

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Thanks for weighing in, everyone. Just to clarify, we’re looking at the coverage of this pastor’s prayer, whether journalists did a good job of covering it.

  • Joel

    It certainly would have been fun to call the pastor up for comment. “Pastor, could you explain the word ‘boogity’ in your prayer yesterday? Was it a theological term, or were you perhaps praying in tongues? Also, as a Baptist congregation,doesn’t your church frown on smoking? If so, was mentioning it in connection with Mrs. Nelms a show of repentance on her behalf?”

  • Frankie

    My reaction can be covered apart from theology, family studies, or psychology: just plain crass. Christians, unfortunately, aren’t immune to tastelessness and vulgarity.

    No class.

  • bob

    Joel, the important fact is that “Boogity” was said three times. To have done so only once would have been Unitarian and unacceptable.

  • LB

    They might have asked him why he chose to pattern his public prayer after the dinner prayer in Talladega Nights. Was it an irresistible temptation? And they might have asked the question that gets at the root of peoples’ dismay over this prayer: Can such an utterance be simultaneously a possibly entertaining parody (with race attendees as the intended audience) and an earnest prayer (with God as the intended audience)?

    Off topic but to answer another comment, the biblical bride analogy doesn’t work here. The church is still the bride of Christ, because the marriage supper of the lamb hasn’t happened yet.

  • northcoast

    As reported the prayer included lighthearted appreciation for the providers of the racing equipment, but the ‘smoking hot’ line reminds me a little too much of diet plan commercials that I see on TV. I don’t really understand why the reference to his family should be included in the in the pastors prayer of invocation for the start of a NASCAR race.

  • Maureen

    Re: the Bride of Christ, the point is that although the Church is united with Christ in many ways, the Bridegroom and the Bride aren’t married yet. Eschatologically, that doesn’t happen fully until the end of time, the general resurrection and Judgment, and the coming of the new heaven and new earth.
    Jesus is the Bridegroom who is eager to run across the sky at the Second Coming and pitch his wedding tent in the Sun, as in the psalm most dear to the early Christians.

    So yeah, there’s no insult in “bride”, but it’s important not to overuse it.

  • Lori B.

    Since the story was little more than a recap of the race, I think the coverage was fine. I would, however, love to see a follow-up story. Maybe Bob Smietana is available? As a local who is married to a NASCAR fan, the race was on at my house Saturday night. When I walked through the living room and heard the pastor introduced, I grabbed the remote, paused it, and waited for my husband to come back in from outside. I was expecting a doozie, and in that respect I was not disappointed.

    For those that don’t know, the same pastor gave the invocation for the race that was held in Nashville in April. In that prayer he prayed that “We would get fired up and go three-wide into the turn for Your honor and glory.” He also referenced Dale and the boys waving the checkered flag in heaven. The prayer last April made him a minor Facebook/YouTube sensation. My personal opinion is that with the prayer Saturday, he was looking to boost himself into a major YouTube sensation.

    As a local, here’s what I would like to know, 1.) What if anything the Tennessee Baptist Association had to say about the prayer, and 2.) What if anything Darrell Waltrip, a NASCAR hero who is also a local and a noted Christian, thinks. The pastor used Darrell’s famous, “Boogety, boogety, boogety” line to close his prayer.

    I’d also like someone to ask him how much the coverage of the prayer from last April affected the way he composed his prayer for this race. Also, what were his intentions with this prayer? Entertainment, evangelism, notoriety, something else? Did his prayer from last April result in any visitors to his church or any new members? How does his wife feel about being referred to as “smokin’ hot” in his prayer? How does his congregation feel about his notoriety? I’d also like to hear from other Baptist ministers about whether or not they think the lack of reverence in his prayer was acceptable in that situation. From what I have heard around town, the pastor has been interviewed by news organizations from around the world, but I haven’t been keeping up with the coverage.

  • Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    Good questions, thanks Lori.

  • Kay Campbell

    I took his prayer at face value; I don’t think he meant any of it as a joke, but rather an expression of his joyous religious experience.

    What saddened me was not his inclusion of unusual things to thank God for, or the SHW comment (it’s de rigeour in many Christian circles to talk openly about being attracted to one’s spouse), but that he thanked God for millions and millions of dollars of equipment and an entire fleet of trucks worth of pollution in a venue that, I’ve heard, encourages a lot of over-drinking by fans. Shouldn’t there have been some sense in any real prayer that maybe God is not a NASCAR fan — or a fan of any of our over-the-top sports events? And isn’t it a twinge presumptuous to ask God’s protection for deliberate and needless life-threatening entertainment?

    That, to me, was the real blasphemy, not the joy.

  • Don Ibbitson

    I love this prayer and retweeted the story when I first saw it. No religious spirit here! Would love to attend his church (at least once!) to see if he’s the real deal as far as the whole gospel of Christ. Relating to the world without compromising the gospel is a narrow road and I think this pastor stayed between the lines.

  • Eric

    That was one of the best prayers I’ve ever heard! Could you pick a more relevant prayer and something from the heart for people to connect with? He didn’t somberly remind people of starvation in Somalia, although tomorrow it will be in their hearts. Instead, he boosted the night in every way and gave Jesus the glory in a way every fan and racer could enjoy and understand.

    I’m surprised Jesus didn’t shine down in his tuxedo t-shirt and give him a thumbs up!