I love Jesus, But I Swear a Little: An Open Invitation to Unfriend Me on Facebook, Stop Following Me on Twitter and Discontinue Reading My Blog if You Need To.

I love Jesus, But I Swear a Little: An Open Invitation to Unfriend Me on Facebook, Stop Following Me on Twitter and Discontinue Reading My Blog if You Need To. February 3, 2012

If you are a Christian who takes offense at swear words or believes for some reason that clergy should never be cranky or irritated, then I am not the person for you to follow.  It’s ok.  You don’t actually need me. The entire publishing arm of the Christian Industrial Complex (I believe my friend Shane Claiborne coined that term) has a great deal of material that is just for you! Countless Christian websites and books and blogs are your brand of Christian.  No need to leave me comments about how disappointed you are in my use of language because out there in cultural Christendom you will find niceness in abundance, super-duper positive thinking, and lots of inspiration with (best of all!) no swear words! The Christian world is your oyster.

You are not my audience.

But there are other folks out there who are comforted by ambiguity, who need a Word of grace which is not covered in strawberry syrup. Who need the stark truth of what it means to be broken and blessed at the same time.  Who are at home in the Biblical story; stories of anti-heroes and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen.  They tend to not really care that I use colorful language.  If anything, they are relieved that they don’t have to watch what they say around this particular member of the Christian clergy.

I’m not a role model. I’m not really that nice (but I hope that I am kind). I’m just trying to figure out what it looks like to confess the truth about being deeply faithful and deeply flawed at the same time – and how to have humility in all of it without being self-apologetic.

Because, I seriously love Jesus, but I DO swear a little.


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  • Wendy Tucker

    I probably am not what might be seen as your audience – I’m a middle aged, middlish class, white, British woman who attends and preaches in very mainstream Methodist churches. But I am currently ‘candidating’ for the ministry and I find your insights which I get from your Greenbelt talks and your blogs inspiring and thought provoking – long may they continue and long may you continue to be the person God is making you and using. (Oh & I swear occasionally too :))

  • Sometimes the right word is the one you’re not “supposed” to say.

  • Trish

    I am a seminary student with an 18 year old daughter and I too swear a little. My 18 year old thinks me a hypocrite because of it. I’ve tried to teach her that Christianity doesn’t equal morality and being Christian doesn’t mean that you are perfect and being Christian doesn’t make you a total saint and no longer a sinner. Her ears are closed to that message…but she hears the swearing.

    • Rose

      Trish, at 18 your daughter will look for anything she can find to throw at you; it’s just part of the hormonal/separation phase/finally growing up thing. My daughter was the same.

    • Sandra Orrick

      Where then is the space for grace, and for the exercise of compassion? She is so young. Life will enlighten her.

    • B

      Trish, please don’t underestimate how confusing it is to have your Mum at Theological College (Seminary) when you are that age. I was 21 and it took me a long time to get my head around the idea that she was turning life upside down at a point where I “needed” the stability at “home” to enable me to find my own version of which way was up.

      It sounds selfish, I know, but it also meant I got frustrated by the little things it was “safe” to get wound up by.

      Nadia, great post, thank you. One day, all the world will see that clergy are human too!

  • Wendy Curran

    Nadia – please contact me. I think we might be twin sisters. ;-). Appreciate your faith & flaws!! Peace

  • Chris

    I’m in the same boat. However, it’s been my experience that when some people find out they don’t have to watch what they say around this particular minister, they interpret that as their license to say the most offensive, racist, sexist, homophobioc things they can dream up.

    But, I don’t really have the option of not loving them.

    • This is the reason why pastors really should watch what they say. Either it is a sin to swear or it is not. If it is, pastors (and the rest of us) ought to do their best to avoid it. Everybody sins, but some sins are easier to give up than others.

      If it isn’t a sin, the pastors still have an obligation to their parishioners to set an example. As Chris points out, people are apt to misunderstand and to imitate poorly. So the pastor let’s an f-bomb slip and the parishioners think that they have a licence to say whatever they want. This inevitably leads to some people thinking that truly sinful thoughts (see Chris’s list of naughty things people say) are acceptable. Remember Chapter 8 of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Don’t let your knowledge and liberty act as a stumbling block for those who are weaker.

      • Pastor Cherie

        I think you may be one Nadia has excused from audienceship…

        • I am merely questioning whether Ms. Bolz-Weber is on firm scriptural ground here. I think that it is not unreasonable to consider the point. She claims that she is not a role-model, but she is whether she wants to be or not. She also acknowledges that using coarse language is a “flaw”, so what is wrong with it exactly and why shouldn’t she try to improve herself?

          • Russell Boulter

            I think her main point here is perhaps most beautifully expressed in the phrase
            “Strain out a gnat.swallow a camel.” I think you may be in danger of doing just that.You are putting so much effort into being scripturally correct you are missing the most important issue.By focusing on the outside and ignoring the inside you can decieve yourself into thinking that you are acceptable to God when actually you are just a dishonest controlling perfectionist.First clean the inside of the cup.In Galatians I believ Paul used some very powerful language that is translated .”Dung.”I am sure in the context of the original greek it had a little more impact.

          • Steve Horwatt

            She says she is deeply flawed; I don’t think she actually says that she thinks swearing is a flaw.

            I think most scripture that warns us to watch what we say pretty explicitly says not to say harsh and harmful things to other people…the question of whether it’s a sin to say, “Oh shit” when your car won’t start is a much grayer question, I think.

          • Hugh

            Jake, it is not unreasonable to ask her to consider the point. And she is a role-model whether she considers herself one or not.
            By the same token, Jesus called the Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” and Paul called the Galatians “stupid.” Not exactly curse words but still very strong language. Strength of language is completely a cultural construct. I remember an Ecuadoran woman getting upset because I used a different word for cheek. No one else in the group of native Spanish-speakers had a problem with the word. It is all about context.
            I don’ t get the sense that the writer is using swear words in her preaching. That would be culturally insensitive. But sinful? Equating word-choice with Paul’s comments about eating sacrificed meat or not, seems a bit of a stretch. When kids use swear words, they know that in some situations the words are inappropriate. They are likely 1) trying to figure out when they can use them or 2) trying to cause a stir. (When as a child I told my grandmother a dirty joke after Mass, I think that I was falling under the first group.) That’s quite different from thinking it is okay to worship a false god by eating meat sacrificed to it.

      • Steve Horwatt

        So…pastors should never take a drink, because people might think it’s okay to become a raging alcoholic? Pastors should never eat dessert, because people might think it doesn’t matter what you do with your body? Pastors should never lose their temper, because people might think it’s okay to fly into a homocidal rage?

        Maybe they should never go to the bathroom, either, since that’s kind of gross and it might give people the wrong idea. Of course, that would really cut down on how long they could serve, but it’s important not to set a bad example.

        • Ebags

          What is this? The NBW cool-aid committee? Pastor Cherie, your tone is condescending and smug and yes, it does matter, because you are transmitting pain to other human beings.

          Not one of the replies to Jake even attempted to address his scriptural and theological point. If you disagree with him then maybe try to have an adult dialogue but simply pigeon-holing anyone who might disagree with the great NBW as an externally focused fundamentalist doesn’t do anyone any favours.

          Besides, I suspect it is this kind of mindless devotion that NBW is trying to explode in this post in the first place. Pastor’s who swear aren’t any closer to Jesus than pastors who don’t…it’s all window dressing. But maybe Paul’s situation in Corinth could shed a little light. Thanks for trying Jake.

          • Steve Horwatt

            Well, I’m not “mindlessly devoted” to Ms. Bolz-Weber; I just read her blog post and thought she made some good points.

            I agree that pastors who swear aren’t necessarily closer to Jesus than pastors who don’t…I just think the reverse is also true.

            In all seriousness, I think pastors need to be conscious that many people see them as role models…but I also think that pastors trying to conceal their flaws rather than owning up to them is often more damaging than having those flaws to begin with. And I think that the intent of our words to other people is often more damaging than whether some of them happen to be on a list of words that some folks think are “bad.”

            I’ve been a lot more disappointed in the behavior of some of the pastors I have personally known (such as cheating on their spouse, threatening to ask for reassignment to another congregation if our church didn’t pay for them to have the NFL package for their cable tv, or changing denominations because another denomination had a better 401k match), than I ever have by whether they occasionally used a “bad” word.

            But even then, I think it’s important to recognize that pastors are still people. They struggle with things. And like all of us, sometimes they have to choose their battles. I think the blogger is saying that controlling her “potty mouth” because some people are offended isn’t one of the battles she is choosing. I think she’s also saying that, even if some people don’t like some of the words she uses, she thinks that sometimes those are the right words to use in a given situation (even if they are “bad”). If she’d posted something saying “Hey, I’ve decided that marital fidelity just isn’t worth it…sorry if you disagree,” or “You know, telling the truth is really overrated and I’m not going to bother anymore,” I think those would present much more serious problems.

            Of course, that’s just my opinion…I could be wrong.

  • I read Ashers poignant story of being ‘re-membered’ into the body of Christ’, and your words ‘honey, what can we do for you’, give you license to use whatever other words you choose in my book. Its the purety of love that matters to me.

  • Raymond Wells

    Right on Nadia. After 24 yrs in the military I retired to become a high school shop teacher. I was not always nice! Some students asked, “Why are you so rude sir? I replied that I went from highschool, to work, then university and teacher’s college then into teaching but most of their other teachers went from highschool to teachers college and back to highschool and nice was always required. But I did learn to substitute “fragelsnagit” in the most frustrating situations.

  • I am a seminary professor, pastor, and singer/songwriter. Some of my songs have two sets of lyrics, one for playing in churches and family-oriented venues, and one for playing in bars. The songs are the same, even the gospel songs, but the bar versions contain R-rated language. The folks in the bars love the songs and often sit down with me to chat about God. They seem to like a preacher who swears occasionally. Some Christian friends, however, ask me why I can’t just sing the G-rated lyrics everywhere. I don’t think they get it.

    • Rob

      Phil, We need the bar rated version in the church. Sorry, I stand corrected…perhaps you already are.

    • dontbesilly

      How I would love to be at that bar. We’re working on doing what you’re doing and that is taking the church to the place people are. Do you remember this from Glee? “What if God was one of us, just a slob like one of us, just a stranger on the bus trying to make his way home . . . ?” That may not be bar lyrics but it says love and I know your songs do too. Wherever we are, God is SO good.

    • Edward W

      It’s great that we can admit that we are sinners and aren’t perfect and yes swearing may happen as a result, but don’t you think that there is a difference between swearing as an accident (we can be honest about sin) and writing it into our lyrics – which is not a slip then…
      (thinking of “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” – Ephesians 4:29 – we all (me definitely included) have times we are unwholesome with what we say but let’s try to obey this as much as possible?)

      • Jim M

        What offends me here is that you only quote scripture in part. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…(it continues here) but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”-Ephesians 4:29

        Further the context in which this was written refers to “bitterness, rage, anger, and slander and every form of malice.”

        When it comes down to it we pick and choose what offends us. Some people choose to be blown over by racism or bullying gay kids, or the thousands of people whom we allow to die from hunger. Some people prefer to be upset by potty mouths. But by all accounts…

        Truth without context is simply bullshit.

        You can use scripture to correct what is misguided. It is THE guide. Don’t ever manipulate scripture to validate your own opinion. Blessings!

        • MC

          I too try to apply the Eph. “principle” to MY life, and try my best not to slander, or tell, what to me, are unwholesome stories or foul language, BUT to impose this personal conviction, based on this passage, to other’s lives, is not my place.

      • Pastor Cherie

        Edward, a better translation of the passage is ,”Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Among some people, and at some times, perky, G-rated euphemisms are, in fact, the corrupt communication, and the rougher language can be more edifying, more likely to minister grace unto the hearers.

  • Thank you for your frank assessment of your place in the Church and calling to an audience not stumbled by a vocabulary that includes the occasional emotional expletive. Other things can stumble me but not such words. Like you, I am mystified that many communities of Christians seems quick to condemn the honesty behind such words while accepting the dishonesty of good words without deeds. I also support expletives deliberately used as in Pastor Mike Sare’s (Scum of the Earth Church- Denver) wrestle with a congregant’s poem written for Christmas eve that used the f-word to make her point. So as emotionally honest (as an accidental outburst of the heart) or deliberate to shock or emphasize – I welcome both as useful tools to communicate. – So I think that I could might be one among your audience.

  • Amen. I warn my readers that my blog “sometimes gets all Jesus-y and shit.” Love finding common hearts out there.

    • Dwane Parsons

      Thanks Tamara. You made me spit soda all over my screen. Note to self: Never read this blog while drinking a beverage.

    • Beth Walters

      Reminds me of how, when describing my faith, I find the most accurate statement to be that I consider Jesus, “one sexy dude.”

  • michael asa

    Even Paul used “bad words.” In the verse where states that in comparison with the works of Jesus, all of his own he counts as rubbish. The particular Greek word that has been translated as “rubbish” was actually the crudest term in the time for excrement. Our closest equivalency in English based on intention should read “shit”

  • Michael Dudek

    Just found your blog through an FB friend and what a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

  • Amanda Roggow

    Sometimes the best thing in life is a well placed swear word. I am proud to call you my pastor.

  • Can I friend you twice 😉 – thank you for your raw and honest expression of love for God and others.

  • Mark Fischer

    My father was one of the most faithful, gracious Christians I’ve ever known. I also learned some of the greatest “phrases” from him, too: “______ is so dumb they couldn’t pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were on the heel.” And this about pietistic phoneys: “They wouldn’t say shit if they had a handful of it.”
    Being nice and being loving are NOT the same things. Preach it, Sister.

  • Callie Hagood

    Thanks for this. It’s easy at times to feel like I’m not being a “perfect Christian” but I know that God loves us all no matter what.

  • Max

    Swearing in and of itself doesn’t offend me, but so much of it is gratuitous, maybe especially with clergy. And it also can represent a lack of imagination in the use of language.

    • It’s only unimaginative if it’s unimaginative. 🙂 That is, one can swear quite imaginatively. Usually people find that more offensive.

    • Tim

      Having listened to Pastor Nadia’s preaching and read things she has written, unimaginative is the last thing that comes to mind about the way she communicates. I don’t imagine swearing that comes from her mouth is because she wants to shock. She gets what Luther meant when he said “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” As a pastor, I’d rather be honest than nice and I’d rather speak truth than speak pretty.

  • Pete

    Who gets to decide what the ‘bad’ words are anyway????

  • Amen! I’m a little rough and tumble around the edges sometimes myself. Probably more on the inside than what appears on the outside. One of my seminary professors told me than any good theologian needs to know how to curse, so I guess that brought some comfort =) Thanks for your voice and for being an encouragement to my own.

  • Hehe. I love this post. I enjoy cursing and swearing and cussing. I find it remarkably stress-relieving. When I worked at a church, the hardest part of my job was taking all the swears out of my vocabulary. And even there, I slipped a few times. Like when someone had to break a wall to get at some wiring and the wiring was such an unbelievable disaster I blurted, “Oh wow! That is a veritable clusterfuck”. I think I raised some eyebrows that day. And probably some noses were lifted. Oh well.

    I too have had some comments at my blog about how Christians don’t use language like mine. I just chuckle and say, “I believe my words are evidence to the contrary.” 😀

  • I was interviewing for a job as an associate pastor and the topic of my ‘colorful’ language was brought up. They were worried about my influence on the teens and such. They assured me this was a concern for many on the board. The senior pastor also had mentioned that if I worked with him that he would appreciate it if I did not swear.

    To the board and pastor I said that it is amazing how thin skinned we are as Christians. How easily offended we could be by the people around us.

    To the pastor I simply asked him to let me know why my language offended him. He has yet to get back to me on that.

    The people around me I am approachable and real. Of all the people in my life, the group I least worry about offending is the church folks. Give me sinners and tax collectors anytime.

    Thanks for the post! It made my day.

    Anyway, I found a blog post titled “WTFWJD”.

    • nick

      WTFWJD…..? that made me cry laughing…..

  • Glennyce

    Damn! Took the words right out of my mouth

  • Nadia, from one cranky minister with colourful language to another: YOU GO GIRL!


  • mountainguy

    Christian Industrial Complex (I believe my friend Shane Claiborne coined that term)
    Why didn’t Ike warn us about this one?

    Nice post. Swearing a lot is not the most christian way to express ourselves, but I prefer it over excesive niceness and decorum (especially when it’s time to swear)

  • I know it makes you uncomfortable to be admired and revered by strangers. But I can’t help it. Sorry!!!

  • Good stuff…. it’s really not the words that matter as much as the intention of the heart behind them, right? I try not to cuss too much, but I don’t feel as though I’ve sinned when I do.

    Actually, there is one exception to that rule — the very first thing that I felt convicted on when I came back to the faith during college was using the phrase G__ d___. It was almost as though the Holy Spirit slapped me and said — “No! Don’t say that!”, and the Spirit enabled me to stop. In my mind, the other cussing isn’t a big deal, but that one really offends God.

    If you notice too, among Christians that feel it’s ok to cuss, you see a lot of s-words and f-words, but I still don’t see much in the way of G__ d___. That’s probably says something about where God’s heart really is on the subject of cussing. Not that I’ll be legalistic towards someone that says it, but it will bug me more than the other stuff.

    • Shannon R

      I agree with you, I don’t have as much of a problem with ‘S’ or ‘F’ as I do with “GD”. That struck me as disrespectful, even before I became a Christian.

      And to be perfectly honest, I can think of some words that are a *lot* more offensive than any swear word we have out there…racial slurs, certain words referring to homosexuals, etc.

  • karenjmom

    I find your thoughts refreshing. I divide swear words into two categories: descriptions of bodily functions or excrement, and taking God’s name in vain. Occasionally an excrement word is what comes out of my mouth in a dramatic, emotionally charged moment. But not taking God’s name in vain.

    P.S. I hate strawberry syrup.

  • Greg Brown

    I find it comforting that in our denomination (ELCA), our presiding bishop and the author of the 7 dirty words (George Carlin, rest his soul) could pass for twins! And, being on internship as a seminarian, I sometimes really have to watch what i say, because folks would freak out. But, Nadia, I couldn’t have said it better myself! Preach on, sister! And I hope you’re enjoying the Nickeloffs!

  • Diane

    Nadia, what I love about you is you are human and at the same time a christian. That works for me because I am also human and I am very weary with some christians and churches setting standards that I cannot and will not follow. Thank you for your constant fresh air so I can breath! So go ahead and swear, you won’t hear any complaints from me!

  • Kathy M

    As a United Methodist pastor who is sick of the cotton candy Christ that some proclaim, I strongly identify! My Jesus is real, and deals with real life in all its pain and hope, ugliness and beauty.

  • Lee Humphrey

    Works for me!

    • TK

      And Robin Hood stole from the rich to give to the poor… it worked for him, but it was still stealing.

      So many of these comments are ‘what works for me’, and very self centered. Fascinating.

  • nick

    love it…I have been a Christian for 25 or so years…and I swear …alot !! Maybe something to do with my work with street homeless people or my ministry among the outlaw biker scene….or maybe i just like it….!!

  • nick

    oh yeah….and I also love Tattoos……..

  • Bill

    I’m a Christian clergy person who swears more than a little, has been known to drink excessively, smoke a little weed, and didn’t “wait” until marriage. I am neither apologetic for any of the above, nor will I bend over backwards to argue that there is no sin involved in any of it. I have come to accept that life is a jumble of saint and sinner, sin and grace, and that I am probably further along the road of theosis (participating in the divine nature that is ours in Christ) than I was when I tried to be “purer.” Politically speaking, I do have to be a bit discrete about some of these things, and the hypocrisy of that is perhaps the thing that tugs at my conscience the most, though it is a necessary hypocrisy. I do find myself wishing that I could be a bit more open about my “bad boy” side, and be able to offer that as ground for dialogue, evangelism, and sharing the Good News for people who never thought in a million years they’d be interested in hearing about it… oh, well… maybe when I’m retired, lol!

    • Connie


    • Liz

      Dude, good for you. I hope you can “come out”, so to speak, some day, where you don’t have to worry about the political side of things. Too bad you can’t just be who you are for now, but we all get where your coming from. I think everyone can relate to that as far as not being able to be who you are around some people, for whatever reasons. As far as being further down the road of theosis now compared to when you were trying to be perfect, that’s probably a LOT further down the road than many religious people who are Bible-thumpers trying to make you believe that they’re holier than thou whose crap doesn’t stink. Rock on! 🙂

  • I totally need to hug you right now, and I am NOT a huggy person. This is *it*:
    “I’m not really that nice (but I hope that I am kind).”
    And I love Jesus, too.
    I hope my heart is good, even if it says, “sh*t” on the packaging.

  • I remember one time my pastor came to pick me up to take me out for coffee. On the way to meet me she got a ticket for driving too fast in a school zone. When she was telling me this, she said, “I didn’t see the school. Where the fuck is the school?” I was shocked for about ten seconds, and then I had to remind myself that just because she is a pastor, that doesn’t mean she isn’t a human being!

    I don’t have a problem with you swearing.

    • It is always good for a good giggle when a pastor swears.

  • Samantha

    If you are a pastor, you are a role model. Sorry, but it’s true. You can say you aren’t, you can say you shouldn’t be, you can get mad and drop f bombs, but you are. I suggest you find a way to deal with that.

    • Pastor Cherie

      …and your point is…

      • Eduardo Elizardo

        “… and your point is?” HA!! Preach Pastor C.!

  • damn

  • Mezzopriest

    Um…I love Jesus, too, and I swear A LOT! Thanks, Nadia, for your honesty, integrity, and refusal to cover words of grace in strawberry syrup (chocolate, maybe!)

  • Mark Gruenberg

    If you are grammatically correct in using it then what is the problem. For example…the fucking Pharisees think they are so righteous that they can’t see the fucking truth because they have their collective heads buried in their assess.

    • Bam! and THAT is why you are the council president.

      • Mark Gruenberg

        I’m council president again because it was a calling even though you called me a sucker (which I am) Not all of us can be pastors and I respect that calling but some of us can make sure our ministries are supported in other ways. Remember…Paul was an asshole too 😉

    • Pharisees were actually open-minded progressives – and they became modern Judaism. They got a bad rep in the Bible because of the intermural squabble with the Christian Jews. But we don’t have to repeat the negative rhetoric that both groups used at the time.

    • Here’s a historical perspective, if you’re interested in exploring the intermural mele: http://ephphatha-poetry.blogspot.com/2010/08/is-gospel-of-matthew-anti-jewish.html

  • Tim

    I rarely swear in *English* 😉

    • Tim

      Bumboclatt 😉

  • Callie Rae

    We get it, you’re relevant cause you curse. I guess I’m not hip because I control my tongue and try to honor Jesus with my words.
    Why does everyone want to be so ‘real’ that it gives them an excuse to act as they please.

    • Do you honor him with your passive-aggressive words? With your bitter ones? Surely a well placed swear does less harm than these.

      • TK

        Tamara, you didn’t address her comment that pertains to you, not her, and that being why do others/you feel cussing is just being ‘real’? 😉

        • Pastor Cherie

          Ummm, TK… I didn’t get the sense that Callie Rae had any real interested in knowing what anyone thought about anything. Are YOU asking why people believe cussing is just being real?

  • Dave

    I used to preach, I’m disabled so not really able to now. During that time, I was given what lots of people thought was a prophecy, at least most did until I got to the last 3 words. They were (they are censored for those of a tender disposition) F*** off postman. God does work in mysterious ways!!!!!

    • Dave

      As an addition to my post above, I don’t normally swear, I haven’t done in years, but sometimes……… Someone I used to work with used to say, ‘You only swear to emphasise the bleeding point’. LOL.

  • After six years in ministry, I gave up this battle, and am more deliberate about when, where, and to whom I use swear words. Nadia, you speak the truth, in grace, and the most pastoral words you’ve ever said to me came in four-letter fashion. I hope those who are “not your audience” see that true grace is where you live and preach the Gospel of our Lord. I appreciate all you’ve done for me and the grace you’ve shown me in the midst of the raw and gritty bits of life. If that’s not grace, I don’t know what the f*ck is. 😉

    Thank you!

  • Garry

    Sometimes I swear more than a little, but that is just part of my imperfect humanness. I like to think that Jesus understands.

  • bartster

    I like the line Mr. Spock uses in a Star Trek movie that we “involve colorful metaphors”. The speech that disturbs me these days is comes in the form of cloaking our greed and mistreatment of others in religious or patriotic language. Then I think of our penchant for doublespeak and rhetoric that gives us phrases like “the corrections system” or “friendly fire” “collateral damage”. Examples abound (*%^*%-it!

    • Pastor Cherie

      Nice. Appreciate this very much.

    • Shannon R

      Too bad there’s not a ‘Like’ button here!

  • I’m concerned that you have insulted the oyster, a bivalve molluscs dear to my heart! “. . . out there in cultural Christendom you will find niceness in abundance, super-duper positive thinking, and lots of inspiration with (best of all!) no swear words! The Christian world is your oyster.”

    • Connie


  • Nadia, you have been blessed with the spiritual gift of earthiness! It’s the one that Paul forgot to mention when he listed them, but in many ways it is one of the most crucial. It’s a divine gift that enables Heaven and Earth to collide & embrace each other and, in doing so, touches the lives and hearts of people who would never dare darken the doors of a church, because all those bloody holier than thou people make them feel unwelcome.

    One of the manifestations of the spiritual gift of earthiness, is the utterance of mystical words that sound very like expletives to the untrained ear, but are really wonderful expressions that uniquely sum up what life is throwing at us and our reaction to this.

  • Sheri

    One of my favorite authors is Anne Lamotte, who once wrote that some incident of her snarkiness might “make Jesus drink gin out of the cat dish.” I don’t need you to be all nicey-nice, just real.

  • Mark Anderson

    Perhaps we can make a distinction between swearing and cursing as opposed to rude, vulgar, and intemperate language. If you are truly swearing or cursing it is probably a mistake.

  • timothy p mcmahon

    Love the blog about profanity.

    But isn’t it time to recognize what’s truly obscene, the distinction between ‘clergy’ and ‘laity’? A distinction that establishes an elite sect within the body of Christ, that divides Christ into two unequal groups?

  • John

    Found this blog through a friend. Subscribed to your RSS – keep up the real ministry.

  • Being a chaplain of Marines, I’ve learned that language is cultural. The “f-bomb” is used among Marines as nouns, verbs, adjectives, and every other part of speech you can think of. What is acceptable in one culture is denounced in another. Bottom line is, when you look at Scripture, there were two types of prohibited language: coarse talk and the Lord’s name in vain (oh, and by the way, “God” is not His name, but His title, so g– d— is technically not taking the Lord’s name in vain). Coarse talk was referring to the explicit sexual joking that was common among the Greeks and Romans. I always tell my Marines, there are no “bad” words, only improper usages of words. It’s amazing how much ministry God has opened up for me because I didn’t get offended by their language. When I throw in a few myself, it further drives home that I don’t judge them or look down on them because of what they say. My biggest fear is that I’ll let one of those words slip while occupying a guest pulpit somewhere! Lol!

    • Pastor Cherie

      Excellent point. Same is true when working in an Emergency Room or Shock Trauma Center in the innercity. One nurse, after letting fly with one of the most creative phrasing of displeasure I’d ever heard, turned to me and said, “Oh, no. Didn’t realize you were standing there, Chaps.” I replied, “Yeah, it just pisses the crap out of me when people cuss around me.” It gained me tremendous purchase in being able to minister effectively not only with the patients but also with the staff. It makes me think of Paul’s commentary on “being all things to all people…”

    • Shannon R

      I’m a Navy brat, so I can *totally* empathize!

  • Rob

    Thoughtful. Not sure I agree with everything, but I appreciate the perspective…however. I wonder — If I wrote that this was a *#(%@ stupid post, would the comment be removed?

  • You are brilliant dude. What a great blog!

  • JOE

    Wow! So many comments from poeple claiming the love of Christ in their lives, but at the same time proving how far the world has turned in becoming indifferent to regularly choosing sinful behavior.

    • Pastor Cherie

      …sounds like this is not the blog for you, Joe.

      • TK

        Yeah Joe… if you don’t agree, just go away.

        • Joe

          Sorry. I didn’t realize only people who are in full support of swearing are welcome here. I will gladly leave this nonsense.

      • Joe

        Yeah it was in my newsfeed on facebook from someone who goes to my church and others were commenting on it. I just thought I would see what it was all about. It has about the same effect as all the political articles. Some understand the effect of their choices, some are clueless, and some don’t care. But I have said my part and will leave it at that.

        • Pastor Cherie

          TK and Joe – didn’t mean to say “If you disagree, go away.” There’s disagree and then there’s truly offended. Joe sounded offended. And, as Nadia said in the very first line of her post, “If you are a Christian who takes offense at swear words or believes for some reason that clergy should never be cranky or irritated, then I am not the person for you to follow. It’s ok. You don’t actually need me.” That was all I meant.

          • TK

            Cherie, of course you didn’t mean to say it, but you did… lol. Go ahead a play the semantics game, but that is what you are doing by saying ‘not for you’ instead of the root of the message, which is ‘go away and mess around with that ridiculous christian industrial complex instead’. You just don’t want to admit it I see, because, well… you are too hip.

            Joe, I personally wasn’t telling you to go away, but was trying to show how ridiculous this all is for a christian to say how they love Jesus yet say it’s their way or you should go elsewhere, and then mock the areas she is telling others to go. I’m sure Jesus loves that she is doing that *rolling my eyes*.

            Feeling the need to validate swearing is a selfish endeavor, which should raise the eyebrow of every reader of this christian writers blog.

  • A.J.

    Hmmmm….wonder if anyone has considered, as I did, to see what you would think if I posted: “I love Jesus, but I murder a little, steal a little, lie a little, fornicate a little, hate a little, gossip a little, etc.” Seems to me that there is a big difference between continual wilful sin, and an occasional, rare, slip….especially viewing leadership as being held to a high standard. Doesn’t seem right to be proud of sinning, and I frankly can’t see Jesus saying fuck or damn for example, to be one of the “boys”.

    • mountainguy

      Can’t you see Jesus saying brood of vipers, or calling a corrupt political leader “fox”? Not to defend swearing, but decorum is not exactly the most important christian virtue

      • Shannon R

        …not to mention the fact that, in some cultures, to call someone a ‘dog’ or ‘pig’ is even more of an insult than to call them one of the ‘b’ words.

  • steve

    It kinda saddens me that we need people to write like this.
    Somehow the words that we use have become so divisive. And then we get all these lines drawn up, and people feel the need to defend or attack the opposite point of view. Both sides are in equal danger of becoming self-righteous. Those that say they are closer to Jesus because they don’t use bad language, as well as those that believe they are closer to God because they aren’t shackled by traditional understandings of “proper” vocabulary. Everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial.
    There is no list of words we aren’t allowed to say. Everyone saying that a using specific words is a sin doesn’t quite get what sin is. Sin is and always has been a heart issue.
    Words are ultimately given power by context. I TRY to make sure that what I say, whether considered crude or not, does not make those around me stumble and is never out of self control. But barring that, I don’t feel the need to avoid words in order to maintain some sense of piety.
    And as a side note, goddamn is probably the only word/phrase that I fight with. Even just damn it. As though somehow WE can condemn things. It seems, somewhat proud. Although maybe once in a blue moon it is a sentiment worth sharing.
    Bottom line, if you chose to use coarse language, know why. And if you chose not to, also understand why not. I would ultimately ask, what is the purpose behind using the language? If it works to show love, I would say it is a pretty fuckin’ sweet offering.

  • Jan

    Thank you Nadia for your refreshing honesty about what it can be to be Christian. I learned grace, forgiveness and how to say “f%^* you” while working for the church….it was a wonderful freeing experience! We are all God’s children, but we are all also very flawed humans – isn’t that wonderful?

  • TK

    Is being flawed an excuse to keep doing something you don’t want to change? The continual message of ‘I am flawed but love Jesus’ comes across as justification to throw at people who disagree with you. Why this blog if cussing is no big deal?

    The condescending tone of telling others to seek out the ‘christian industrial complex’ seems rather elitist and arrogant, but maybe you can spin it to say you are being Christ-like?

    • historyguy

      So, the pertinent question here is: who defines what the Bible means by “cursing” and “swearing”? I’m not enough of a Greek scholar to know. But I believe that it comes down to whether “cussing” is the same thing? And, by “cussing”, I mean those intemperate words that often describe bodily parts or functions. When the Bible speaks of “cursing” and “swearing”, is that the same as “cussing”? To me, “cursing” and “swearing” involve a good deal more malice than “cussing” – comments directed at a person, intended to tear them down or, worse, carry a spiritually damaging dimension.

      Expressing frustration is something we do in many ways. We can use Mr. Spock’s “colorful metaphors”, and is that sin? Just my thinking here, but I don’t think so.

      I’m not trying to be “hip” or justify sin…rather I’m questioning how the Bible would define that sin and if certain behaviors apply.

    • historyguy

      And…on to the “Christian industrial complex”. Are you so blind as to not see what is meant by this? Look at the output of “Christian” publishing houses….and you call her “condescending”?

      The “Christian industrial complex” rejects those who don’t quite fit their ideal model of what a “Christian” should be…whether because they cuss, hold different political beliefs, differ on church practice, what have you. In Christ, we have freedom. Where the Bible does not speak, we have freedom. Where we differ on Biblical interpretation, we have freedom. That’s what Christianity is about, as Jesus stated it.

  • Laurie

    This honestly feels like an excuse to not grow and improve one’s behavior. How can it be beneficial to fill your speech with words that degrade people or God? When someone who is a mature Christian uses any kind of vulgar language it makes my soul hurt. Its like a slap to the soul. We are supposed to be in the world but not of it. Swearing makes a mockery of mainly two things: the concept of hell and the concept of marriage. And sometimes it’s just childish potty language. And if you start throwing God’s name around too, well I think your non Christian friends will love to hear you swear…it means that Jesus really hasn’t changed you enough to even care about your language! I guess I must be one of those snobs who thinks that loving Jesus means obeying him and repenting when I make mistakes. The bible does not tell us to sin proudly. If I use degrading language in any way, even non cuss words then I need to be on my knees not jumping for joy. Out of the heart the mouth speaks. So this is my heart..if you really think that swearing is acceptable in God’s eyes, pray and ask Him to clearly show you whether vulgar words should come out of your mouth. Because I’m not hearing biblical justification here, it’s all what feels right and “I’m not perfect”…well duh, none of us are perfect but we shouldnt embrace what we do wrong. This was downright depressing. Try not swearing for a week or two and then being around those nasty words. People who don’t swear aren’t getting offended by you..it’s the words themselves that make us recoil. It’s impossible to not flinch a bit even if it is internally. Your words may cheer the non believer but oh what a stumbling block they are!

    • Pastor Cherie

      Whoa. Just…whoa.

    • C. Note

      What! “…a mockery to concept of marriage and hell.” WTF!! I have completed two years of seminary and cannot understand what the hell this means. SMFH!

    • historyguy

      So…what in the world has this got to do with “hell” or “marriage”?

  • Shannon R

    Nadia, I could have written that post! I’m not clergy (in fact, I was once discouraged from becoming clergy because I am a woman), but I hear you on the idea of how a Christian doesn’t necessarily have to be all sweetness and light. Guess what, I don’t think Jesus was either! Granted, he probably didn’t use the ‘F’ word as often as I do, but I notice that he had no trouble telling people about themselves when they needed it. It wasn’t that He was being mean for the sake of being mean (I hate people like that), but He told the truth whether we wanted to hear it or not. I’d rather be around someone like that-like you seem to be-than someone who feels the need to sugar-coat everything. To be honest, sometimes I feel like the ‘strawberry syrup’ stuff insults our intelligence.

    I am a very nice person, often too nice. I could really do well to learn to be less timid and more straightforward like you are.

    And you can ‘Friend’ me on Facebook if you want!

  • Terri C

    I guess with all the terrible things that people do to one another it is hard for me to imagine God is all that worried about the odd F-bomb, and sometimes clusterf*** is the only word I can think of that really describes a situation. I may not swear as much, perhaps lacking in creativity, but my work is with people who are dying and those who love them, and often they have no time or room for religious platitudes (“God must have just needed another angel; this is part of God’s plan; he’s going to a better place”). So I don’t use ’em unless the people I’m with are already using them and making meaning with them. Sometimes “I’m so sorry you’re going through this awful time” is more helpful.

    • Alison

      You’re right on that one, Terri C. My pastor told us one weekend that sometimes the best thing we can say is “I’m sorry you’re going through that” and just leave it there. Trying to overspiritualize/theologize everything just comes across as tacky, unfeeling and insensitive.

      Besides, I’m convinced that when one is suffering, a well-meant acknowledgment (“that sucks”) can be healing. The person is affirming that what you’re going through is rotten and what you’re feeling is not a surprise. They’re recognizing with you that what you’re going through does, in fact, suck, and you’re not the only one who feels that. Sometimes solidarity helps more than sermonizing.

      As far as the swearing thing goes, I’ve worked in the restaurant industry for almost 10 years. I’ve heard every swear there is, in both English and Spanish. I’ve learned not to be offended by them, since being offended would make me a f*ckin’ hypocrite since I say the same words myself. I just let it be–there are so many more important things in life than “the 7 words you can’t say on television”.

  • Blue

    The reasoning and logic in this article is poor. Cursing is ok because fisherman or the people you hang out with are “rough” or “colorful” act that way. Also the statement about not being a role model etc.. Seems rather out of place. We are able to curse because there is nothing in scripture truly condemning specific language/words other then Gods name.. But there is scripture that is clear about the way the language is used.. Context is key! I am not offended by cursing as it is not even an issue for those that view the big picture of redemption and restoration. People need to spend less time trying to defend what is right and wrong.. (Cursing, drinking, smoking, sex etc..) and more time on loving God and people equally but differently to meet their needs. You can make the bible and Jesus say anything you want it to if you pick it apart.

  • Hi, Nadia!

    Really, this IS Soooooooooooooo 1965! *

    Dave Bühler
    * That was the year I met Ken Kesey, Wavy Gravy, Ram Dass, Timothy Leary, Allen Ginsberg, Bruce Baillie, Stan Brakhage, Suni Mallow, and Diane DiPrima –and started reading Joel Cohen’s “Alienated War Baby Report”–all within about three or four months.

  • mountainguy

    Good for those who control their tongue to honor Jesus. Most of time I easily manage to not swear or use profanity, mostly because it doesn’t help to comunicate with others, and it looks unmature. But it makes me sick when people puts being prude over really important things, like justice, mercy, truth, etc. Just like Jesus didn’t mind calling pharisees “brood of vipers” and Herod a “fox”, not to mention Ezekiel 23: 19-20.
    So let’s be good people to each other, and try not to swear all the time, but never pretend to reduce christianity to mere decorum.

    • Pastor Cherie

      Nice. Thank you.

  • Deb

    Just came across this after a friend shared it on Facebook. I too love your faith and flaws, and I’m in the same boat. I have a seminary degree, and I also have the tendency to swear. Yes, I’m trying to stop, but sometimes life gets the better of me. I also (please hold onto your hats here, people) believe in ghosts, which is something else a Christian minister shouldn’t do.

    Thanks for being you!

    • Pastor Cherie

      Hey Deb,
      Why should Christian ministers not believe in ghosts? (sincere question)

  • Pastor Cherie

    Enjoyed your post, Nadia. Although, if reading the responses is any indication, you will continue to have in your audience those who feel compelled to save you from your willful sinning. ;D Blessings to you in your ministry!

    • Marge

      And here….all these years…..I was taught through the Word of God to STRIVE to be Christ-like….. my, oh my……

  • Fr. Todd

    Well shit! You done gone and mixed it up now Nadia. Thank you

  • First time reader. Good post.

    Me and Jesus aren’t that close [still trying to figure out how I got to this blog] and I find nothing gets the profanity rolling for me than talking about him, the church, etc. Though . . . most time, I’m pretty sure that I’m a little drunk.

    Anyways, thanks for the post and look forward to reading more.

  • tricksterson

    In the words of Don Imus (way back when he was a funny asshole instead of just an asshole) “All ministers cuss. Oh they might not take the Lord’s name in vain but go up to one at the end of a service and say ‘Re, the sermon sucked!’ and see what you get.

    More seriously, even Jesus lost his temper a couple of times. Did he swear? Don’t know wasn’t there and don’t trust the accounts that have filtered down to us but wouldn’t rule it out. But he most definitely dealt with those who did, the mentally ill (or possessed if you prefer), prostitutes and outcasts and I don’t remember him condemning them for their language.

  • Marge

    I am truly amazed with these comments. My 89 year old father, who was just promoted to Glory, was a pastor and ran a Rehabilitation for Alcoholics and Drug Addicts. NEVER in my entire life did I hear my dad utter a swear word or use any kind of profanity. I am really realizing how truly blessed I was to have such an incredible dad. AND, I witnessed many men who came to the mercy seat thru my dad’s preaching AND his daily example of “Christ like” behavior! Thank you, Jesus, for his example not only to others, but to me, his daughter. Til we meet again in heaven, Dad!

  • Mark

    I’m a CHristian and I swear too…but only on days ending in “y”;)

  • Jay

    I’m working off the assumption that everyone (for the most part) believes that swearing is a sin (Eph 4:29). If that be the case, then I would strongly disagree with the sentiment of this article and all that it implies. More than that, your disregard as a role model is naive at best and likely negligent. Scripture is clear (John 13:15, Phil 3:17, 1 Thess 1:7, 2 Thess 3:7, 2Thess 3:9…) that we are to be examples, how much more those that shepherd the flock. Your misunderstanding in the area of leadership walks you right down this path, leading others astray (Heb 4:11). I believe it to be very harmful to tempt others (even IF we believe this to be an area of freedom) in this manner. These are serious matters that have eternal consequences. I agree that we are sinners, and as such we sin, swearing included. But as those cleansed by the blood of Christ, we also repent and would NEVER encourage others to be okay with sin. We need to be examples of the power of Christ over sin (1 Tim 4:12) not celebrating it so others think we’re cool. I hope that you do not mistake my passion for anger or hate, that is not my intention. As it seems that your blog has a following, I beg you to study the Scriptures and reconsider.

  • I generally don’t comment on my posts, but I feel that I should clarify something. I do not think swearing is a sin.

  • Tim

    Lots of motes and beams in this thread (Matthew 7:3).

  • Great stuff, Nadia! I wrote a post a while back entitled: “Talking $h*t in Church” – there was some pushback. 🙂


    • Steve Horwatt


      I clicked over to your blog and read that. Good stuff.

  • Cindy

    Tough crowd sometimes, huh? I like it here, Nadia. I think I’ll stay for awhile, if, of course, you don’t mind.

  • Megan

    I’ve watched christians get their tits in a right tangle over bad words, yet they sit idly by while children continue being abused, and neglected. I’ve seen a christian tell my friend that she was sinning because she finally snapped and left her abusive husband, after years of mental and emotional abuse. I’ve watched a christian pastor tell another friend that the physical abuse she suffered in her relationship was her fault, and she needed to work on submitting to him completely and then the problems would stop.

    I think it was Tony Campolo who shared the example of standing up in a pulpit and saying “45,000 children died of starvation last night while you were sleeping and most of you probably dont give a shit. And whats worse, most of you are more likely upset and the fact I just said ‘shit’ in your pulpit than the fact that 45,000 children died of a preventable disease.

    I think the christian church misses the point alot of the time, they claim the moral highground when it reality their highground is no higher than the non christians

  • Trueman Muhrer-Irwin

    I picked up a copy of Sarah Miles’ book Take This Bread from the library recently and was annoyed to find that some earlier patron had carefully scribbled out all the swear words and improper uses of “god.” Fortunately, the scribbles stopped around page 40 or so. I guess reading about a lesbian, left-wing war correspondant, social activist’s conversion was too much for them.

  • Tina

    Wow. Um, ok, …you can swear and Jesus will still love you. But as much as using the tongue wisely, kindly and appropriately is talked about in the Scriptures, it isn’t something I’d take that lightly and humorously. If it would take just a little disciple to do something that would be pleasing to Him, isn’t it worth the effort?

    • Shannon R

      I don’t think people here are saying that we shouldn’t consider the impact our words have on other people so much as that perhaps people shouldn’t get so up-in-arms about hearing a few bad words every now and then. That someone shouldn’t be immediately dismissed as ‘not a Christian’ because they dare say certain words and for no other reason. But then, I live in the Bible Belt part of the US where people are sometimes considered not to be Christian because they don’t exclusively vote Republican or listen to rock music. There are other fruits (kindness, consideration for ‘the least of these’, etc) that IMO are a lot more important to think about than whether someone drops an ‘F-bomb’ when they get mad.

      But I totally agree that we should make an effort to control our tongues and treat other people with respect. I try not to swear a lot or say mean things, but I admit that I’m not perfect in it and don’t beat myself up for it.

  • D.E. Bishop

    I love the story about Tony Campolo’s sermon/comment about the dying children. Exactly. I’ll have to use that sometime.

    The clergy rolls include plenty of people who swear. Big deal. No, it’s not a sin.

    Thanks for the blog.

  • Paul

    I’m with you Nadia.

  • This reminds me of the Natalie Portman SNL digital short when she tells an interviewer,”I never said I was a role model,” and then all hell breaks loose. Good times.

  • i friended you BECAUSE.

  • Deb

    I believe it was George Carlin who said, “you can’t fool me. Shoot is shit with 2 O’s.” So if this post make you mad, get over yourself and move on. Comment elsewhere. Be full of umbrage elsewhere. Nothing to spew about here. Move along.

  • Scott Presnall

    I once had the privilege to meet a pastor at a church choir social gathering and was surprised at his humanity. He had a cigar in one hand and a glass of Scotch in the other. He was very approachable. His sermons seemed more like congregational conversations than preaching, and I got more from them that in my entire life as a Southern Baptist. If I ever find a pastor like him again, I’ll be in a pew every Sunday.

  • Karasumaru

    You know, I walked away – ran, really – from religion because of the way people focused on the external bits (swearing, etc.).

    I am a survivor of abuse who still has to wrestle with internal BS on a daily basis and I can’t tell you how much it would have helped to hear the sort of thing I read on this blog many years ago rather than the sort of picky legalistic nonsense that made up the churchgoing experience of my youth and failed to help me make sense of anything.

  • Boaz Patlur

    Swear words dont offend me, i swear when i lead worship sometimes, if something bad hapoens. I think there is a new swear word invented every month, especially on UrbanDictionary.com. Swear words aren’t Universally bad/ immoral. They all have a history & most are made up. Swear words are said with a feeling/ spirit behind them & real people usually feel our emotional expression from our heart, before they judge the words said. I think our ‘Christian Culture’ is against breaking cultural norms & hierchy instituted rules. As a real life example, I’m against Animal Cruelty, but if I say: ‘animal products support animal cruelty’ amongst Christians, they all get offended, worse than if I dropped a glass of water & said: ah, shit…