Wash your Christian mouth out with soap?

Wash your Christian mouth out with soap? April 2, 2013

A few folk who have been reading my blog have recently complained that my language is offensive and one even accused me of using “offensive” language to affect an “edgy” or “trendy” veneer.  Some have called me out in public, a couple saved their scolding for private messages offered in “Christian love”.  I’ve been thinking about these critiques a little bit…

What y’all may find offensive in my use of coarse language is not a gimmick to make me seem edgy or trendy. As a middle age mamma of an inner-city teen, I can tell you for sure (just ask my kid) that I am about as far from trendy or edgy as can be. No f-bombs or ass-hats are gonna make me the least bit”trendy”, especially not to a Christian readership.

No, the language that seems to bother a few folk represents the raw, unfiltered thoughts and emotions that percolate up when I encounter what I find to be offensive –

such as the intolerable, inexcusable willful ignorance of some,

such as people calling themselves Christian and whipping up hate and fear in the name of Christ,

such as the blasphemy of claiming that a collection of books written by men somewhere around 2,000 years ago can be understood at the literal, factual and final word of God,

such as obsessing over SOME “biblical laws” while mindlessly discarding others,

such as holding a death grip on a handful of laws so that compassion is bruised and turning blue as she gasps for air,

such as fixation on church law that alienates anyone who looks, thinks, feels, prays or loves differntly than you.

These, my friends, are the some very things Jesus preached against and liberated us from when he submitted to the violent authority of this world in radical love.

If you are more offended by my faithfully raw language than the twisting of scripture to provide justification for oppression then I promise you that I find your way of talking and thinking as deeply offensive as you do mine.

When you use words like “love the sinner and hate the sin” or “biblical marriage is between one man and one woman” or, oh, I don’t know “you and your so-called partner are abominations straight from hell” – well sisters and brothers, it is your minds and mouths that need a good application of Dove.

And for the those who were most offended by the title of my “Washed in His blood my ass” post, I can promise you that I find penal substitutionary atonement to be about the most nauseatingly offensive theology of our twisted species so my words barely begin to convey my ongoing repulsion of hearing Christians claiming that our God would need or require such horrific violence to square the deal between us.

I am real, I am transparent to a fault, and in my little, fumbling way I am faithfully trying to holding up a light for the world to see. Sometimes when this little light of mine shines just so it reveals some down-right ugliness in the world. When I throw some careful theological reflections, passion and prayers into the salad bowl, once in a while I’m gonna come on out and say it just like I’m thinkin’ it.  As a writer, the only thing I know to do is write the truth as I understand it. If you find my language more offensive than evil perpetrated in the name of God then I think it’s you that has some thinkin’ and prayin’ to be about.


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198 responses to “Wash your Christian mouth out with soap?”

  1. Note also that getting all outraged about the language a person uses to make their argument is a classic hijacking technique — it serves to divert the discussion from the actual subject of the argument to whether or not the person making the argument is wrong to use “that kind of language”. People who don’t want the substance of your argument to be addressed will use anything they can to keep other people from discussing it.

  2. Amen. I love the dove/spirit connection. Penal substitution really is the dick head of all Christian theology (pun intended).

    Thank you for your passionate honesty.

    Keep pushing us to think.


  3. Kimberly I am really enjoying your blog. I was about to send in an agreement with your statements above and then I read you are also in Atlanta. I would love to have you as a guest on my on line radio show Open Minds Open Hearts which airs Monday nights at 8:00 PM. Just talking about your statements above would make a great show. Please contact me at my email so we can discuss it if you are interested.

  4. Amen.

    “It is curious to me why so many people are more offended by the anger resulting from abuse than by the abuse itself.” — David Hayward

  5. I stumbled across this post tonight and so needed to hear these words as I come to grips with my own identity and what this means for my ministry. Thanks for shining light into the darkness.

    • Amy,

      I am very glad you stumbled into the conversation and I hope you will hang around a while. Welcome to the table 🙂


  6. Okay, now THIS is your best. STOP IT!!! You just keep getting better. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and knowledge.

  7. Kimberly, I don’t use course language. I don’t swear, curse, cuss, or use profanity, vulgarity, or obscenity. That’s just me. I refrain out of politeness, courtesy, and respect. However, I do not object to others (even Christians!) using whatever vocabulary they feel comfortable using.

    What I find offensive is “people calling themselves Christian and whipping up hate and fear in the name of Christ.” We are very much on the same page. Using the Bible and the cross to beat up other people is just shameful. And when their weapon is considered to be the inerrant, authoritative word of God, it is even worse. Use whatever vocabulary you wish, but do no stop exposing the arrogance and hate that characterizes many Christians.

    • You know, in many, many areas of my life I am very careful with my language. I was raised to be and still am a “yes ma’am” “no sir” “thank you” and “please” person. I still say those words to most people, especially if they look a minute older than me. I appreciate very much you seeing the differnece in caually using “vulgar” language all the time and experiencing that moment once in a hiwle “enough to make a preacher cuss”.

  8. I could care less about the language you utilize to express your thoughts. What I did find disturbing is your apparent rejection of the orthodox concept of Christ’s blood sacrifice. Still mulling that one over.

    • Actually it’s not as “orthodox” as you think. Eastern Orthodoxy does not hold to PSA theology nor does some orthodox Catholic teachings. If by “orthodox” you mean how evangelicalism in the US has frames blood sacrifice in the last 100 years (out of over 2,000 of Christian history), yup, that is theology I totally reject.

  9. Years ago, a friend passed on to me a sheet of instructions from Bill Galbraith, her psychiatrist – crib notes, if you will, for the days between appointments. I taped it to my bathroom mirror until I realized that I had memorized them. I think your writing reflects these guidelines for hanging on to sanity. Here they are:

    Pay attention. Not to what you want to see happening or what others tell you is happening, but to what is actually happening,
    Tell the truth. You don’t have to tell everything you know, but let what you say be radical in truth.
    Live without complaint.
    Live without regret.
    Ask yourself “what’s the next thing to do?”

    Peace be with you. And thank you for using your words.

  10. What I find most interesting is that many who complain about language would be really upset if they understood the original Greek and Hebrew of their scriptures – like the fact that Isaiah wasactually referring to used menstrual rags when he compares our righteousness to filthy rags (Is. 64:6) or that Paul pretty much compared his righteous acts as a pile of crap (Phil. 3:8) or David’s wonderful oath to kill anyone in Nabal’s household who “pisseth on a wall” (I Sam. 25:22).

    These are just a few examples, there’s many more that demonstrate that the scriptures some use to justify their own puritanical belief systems are actually much more vibrant, interesting, and real than they’d be comfortable with. (yes, I just ended that sentence with a preposition, because that’s just the kind of rebel I am!)

  11. Kimberly: Now its morning, I have my coffee and I want to go back to your statement “such as the blasphemy of claiming that a collection of books…” I do make that claim and I disagree with your statement. While I make that claim and have “that belief” (my description of me), I believe I am sometimes guilty of being idolatrous but not blasphemous. I know you don’t use the word “sin” but someone else has said “sin is not only the bad things we do, sin is making good things into ultimate things, making good things into ultimate things is idolatry.” I want to explain why I disagree with you but want to preface that with a few remarks. I believe that it is possible, even probable, that the men who met in the early church councils and decided on the authoritative nature of scripture saw no disconnect between “following the Bible and following Jesus.” I believe it is probable that these men were in fact a bit like the new pope who obviously believes that and is already rocking the catholic church worldwide. I wish there was some evangelical christian leader in evangelical republican christian america, who had the balls to say the same thing. Now let me tell you why and how I disagree with you. If, while I have “that belief”, I also try to make the most important thing about me to be that I’m right and you’re wrong. Then I’m guilty of idolatry, not blasphemy. If I have “that belief” but then am only using the Bible to “take america back for God” then I am guilty of idolatry, not blasphemy. If I have “that belief”, which I think is a good belief, but only use the Bible to gain political leverage and control, (usually by wrapping the Bible in the republican flag) then I am guilty of idolatry, not blasphemy. If I have “that belief” but only use parts of verses here and there to club and clobber and condemn “them homosexuals out there who are trying to take over america”, then I’m guilty of several things including idolatry, but not blasphemy. That is why I disagree with your statement. I believe the entire evangelical christian church in america, myself included, stands judged, condemned and guilty before the “Word of God” it says it believes in. If you Kimberly, or any other gay people reading this, wish to pray for us then please pray that God would forgive us of the sin of idolatry which we have come to love and embrace, perhaps more than anything. And pray that we could learn to hold to “our beliefs” while loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and love our neighbor as ourselves.

    • Well said Ron, you are right to carefully parse my words and idolatry fits better with belief than does blasphemous. I can totally get behind that but since the belief transcends personal thoughts and becomes proclamations for all (and against) people around the world that is where my thinking to use the word blasphemous comes in. My point here in this post was to sharply lay out how differently I (and many Christians, not just gay Christians) see the Word and the world. To be able to speak definitively once and for all humanity as if there can be no mystery about God (“because it says so right in the bible”) that is the blasphemy of which I was thinking. And yes, if folks speak selective words from the Bible and think they are actually speaking on behalf of God, words that God actually spoke unfliterd directly onto the page they are reading in their NIV bible, well I would call that pert near to blasphemy eh?

      But see how hard it is to hear that another Christian sees your way of being Christian as the antithesis of Christian. That, in the end, is my point. SOmetimes a writer needs to go over the top a little to make a point really hit home.

  12. The very idea of “bad” words is absurd. Words aren’t bad just because society thinks they are, or because Mommy told you that you shouldn’t say them. Words are sounds used to communicate because humanity lacks the ability to psychically connect and just read each others’ thoughts.

    If you’re (collective you, not aimed at anyone here) going to get upset about something, get upset about the message the person is putting across. The words they use to do so are irrelevant.

    And people don’t use language policing as any sort of real goal…They use it to try and silence people, or to take the focus off the topic at hand. Or to insult them. I hear “Oh, you swear, I pity you for having such a low IQ that you can only use those kinds of words” a lot. My IQ is 131. I just don’t feel the need to pull out 5 dollar words in everyday conversation.

    The entire idea of bad words just needs to go. I tend to phrase it as “Society needs to collectively put their big girl panties on.”

    …Ahem. Sorry for going off on a long ramble on my first ever comment on your blog, Ms. Knight. This is a topic that I’ve been annoyed about a long time myself.

    • Right on BabyRaptor – I appreciate your post that was not at all a ramble but a welcome extension of my very thinking!

  13. Fuck yes!

    It is the content, not the vocabulary, which make writing obscene or not. The word that means what you mean to say is the right word to use!

  14. Well, I am thinking about the blasphemy thing and the collection of books thing, haven’t prayed about it yet though. (insert smile here) But what I think so far Kimberly, is that you and your language are alright with me.

    • Ron, I appreciate your presene here so much! Glad you are on this journey with us and (as some of my younger friends would say) totes stoked we are good 🙂

  15. Well, I am thinking about the blasphemy thing and the collection of books thing, haven’t prayed about it yet though. (insert smile here) But what I think so far Kimberly, is that you and your language are all right with me.

  16. I do try to avoid “God-swearing”, which is what I understand to be making profane use of God’s name.

    I’m less concerned about vulgar language. “Vulgar” just means common, plain, or of the people. It may not be the language my grandmother or Emily Post would have chosen, but that just means it violates certain social conventions, which is much different than tromping all over one of the Big Ten.

    The wife of one my late, lamented clergy colleagues often said, “My husband is never profane, but he is constantly obscene.” That’s a distinction I can live with.

  17. Two things, 1) I have used that kind of language myself in my writing. Because I know it offends some people, I try not to use it too much. But there are times when nothing expresses my feelings like a good f-bomb. My criteria is pretty much the same as yours. 2) I imagine God drops an f-bomb after looking down and seeing what a mess we’ve made of creation.

  18. hmmmm, language…”good” or “bad” I am guilty of it. My husband has said that I use language sometimes that would make a sailor blush. Am I proud of it? Hell no, but it is there and it is a part of me and sometimes to make a point I use it.

    I use to worry about it a whole lot more until I was in seminary and I started coming into a better understanding of the disciples who were fishermen, a lower class of folks who were undereducated and probably had some pretty course language that was used on a daily basis. And I started thinking hmmmm, if Peter was the Rock upon which Jesus built his church, and I am pretty certain that Peter in his day let out the equivalent of the modern F-bomb…well if God could accept Peter and his edgy, course language, then maybe I didn’t have to worry too much.
    And really people…Jesus was a Carpenter…ya don’t think he didn’t let out a hearty expletive when hitting his thumb with a hammer? And just read Mark….the gospel of the cranky Jesus…the man is downright rude sometimes and I swear I can hear an underlying “Stupid S-o-b’s” in the subtext .

    I am an educated woman…I have lots of words to choose from in my day to day vocabulary, I know what they mean and can even use them correctly in a sentence…every other word out of my mouth is not a swear word…but sometimes it has to be because it does.

    As ministers we are called to speak with a prophetic voice, God empowers us to reach the ears and the minds and the heart of God’s people in the language and in a way they will understand, and it that means I have to say ass-hat, well, I will.

    Having met Kimberly, I will attest to the fact that while she is a truly cool dudette, if you saw the two of us sitting and having coffee together talking , you would peg us for soccer moms and not edgy or trendy rabble-rousers. What we are are two women called by God to speak and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the effing incredible love that God reigns down on us all in amazing abundance. Kimberly, you were called to be exactly who you are, God has chosen to use you exactly as you are. PREACH

    • Right on Glennyce,

      Another thought – imagine how utterly offensive many of the things Jesus himself said and did were. Hanging out, eating and drinking with the fringes (I do recall the religious elite thought him a glutton and drunkard). And what about that totally gross story of the Samaritan? How could someone like that the filthy, dirty other, be the Godly example of how we are to be a neighbor?

      Thank you for your comment and thank you for your incredible support!


  19. Thanks for this post. I get so mad at the whole idea that Christians shouldn’t swear or that there’s anything immoral about swearing. There’s not the slightest justification for the idea in the Bible, or in common sense either, frankly.

    • Indeed Dana – language is a human construct and though we are called to choose our words carefully there is no sin in speaking truth to power with passion!