(WARNING: If you are offended by coarse language. Don’t read this.) Advent is here! Advent is a time for Christmas trees, lighting candles, waiting for the coming of the celebration of Christ’s birth and… dropping F-bombs?
A new Advent devotional is pushing the edges of decorum with such words and hashtags as…
Two pastors, Jason Chesnut and Tuhina Verma Rasche dreamed up this idea after recent cultural turmoil, and the lack of coverage and outrage, prompted them to start a gritty Advent devotional. It’s has a lot of traction on social media and prompting people to notice it. So much so, Christianity Today reported on it. (There’s a PG version too)
This led me to ponder, “Would Jesus curse?” Many would say, “No! Never!” Many are outraged by such an idea. However, Jesus’ critics were often outraged by Jesus’ actions and words. We do not have a record of Jesus using foul language, but we have plenty of examples of Jesus’ critics outraged at his claims to divinity, authority of the Law, general upending of the social-religious order, and hospitable treatment of marginalized people. Then, there’s that time when Jesus drove money changers out of the Temple courts with a whip. To the Pharisees Jesus was a rabble-rouser.
Chesnut says it’s acceptable to use language sometimes to express outrage for a just cause. He wrote,
As I continue to lament the utter brokenness of this world and our place within it, I am often overwhelmed with words that come from deep within my understanding of how our God became flesh in this same ripped-apart reality we call home. Sometimes, though, I do respond, I do scream, out loud, with those words: [f*ck] this [sh*t]. I don’t use these words to be hip or cool; I don’t say them for a shallow sort of “shock factor”; that’s just, well, the way I talk. I pepper my speech with what we have identified as curse words in the English language — and I do this a fair amount. I don’t do it all of the time, of course. I don’t invite congregations into a time of prayer as a guest preacher on Sunday mornings with a rousing what the [f*ck], God? I don’t go on a profanity-laden rant during the children’s sermon.
We’re attempting to tap into the real pain and anguish named by the biblical prophets in their cry for justice — a central theme in Advent, a traditional liturgical time focused on a visceral yearning for the Christ child to come again into our messy and messed-up lives.
I remember years ago, Tony Campolo told a story of speaking at an evangelical college chapel service (not Eastern University) and was speaking passionately about justice for marginalized and oppressed peoples throughout the world. He was adamant that as Gospel people, evangelicals had to do more for the poor and oppressed. Campolo noted that most of the students were not paying attention, didn’t care, or even sleeping. He decided to do something to get their attention concerning the topic. Campolo stopped in the middle of his message and said:
I can’t believe you are sitting there not listening or caring. There are kids in Africa starving and living in sh*t! Now, if you are more offended that I said the word “sh*t” than the fact children are dying in Africa, then you’ve got a real problem!
In the Old Testament, prophets often had the unfortunate job of delivering a message of woe for those who did not change their ways and repent. Prophets used colorful language in order to get people’s attention. Today, could it be that God is trying to get our attention through modern prophets? Have we reached a point where we need prophets to use provocative measures to expose racism, sexism, hate, injustice, and oppression?
If the modern ills of today do not trouble folks today and they’re more offended by the language in this post, then maybe Tony Campolo has a painful point for us to consider.
(Oh, and here’s the R rated version:)