Paul Hill blogged about his recent experience at the Christianity21 conference. It's a good post. Go check it out... I'll be here when you get back.
As you can tell, Paul was taken aback by the pervasive use of profanity from many of the speakers. He wonders if his negative reaction to the use of the F-word means he's becoming The Church Lady.*
At EC21 the speakers intentionally and frequently used [the f-bomb], commented on using it, and nearly celebrated using it. I don't see how this communicates relevancy so much as it is pandering to the audience.
It's hard for me to separate when someone is using salty language for emphasis and when they're just showing off. I certainly am no stranger to profanity, and I'm not personally offended when someone f-bombs...but, I'll admit to being annoyed at times. It's as if some of these folks are saying, "Look at me...I said a naughty word!"
Then again, I'm probably not the intended audience for the speakers at events like Christianity21. (White, middle class, suburban, midwestern, life-long Lutheran, pastor's kid, etc.) I really love what Emergence Christianity has done to draw the church out of it's fuddy-duddyness. Furthermore, most of the emerging leaders are doing the kind of ministry I don't have the courage to event attempt. If cursing and tattoos and piercings are part of the Relevance Package for these ministers, who am I to say they should stop?
Jake and I wrestled with the topic of profanity when assembling Cancer & Theology. Several of the authors used words that would make my grandmother blush. For a variety of reasons we kept their original language in the book. We did this recognizing there are some people who will miss out on an excellent message because the writers employed a handful of curse words.
When it comes to the use of curse words, it's probably a living-in-the-tension situation, which, I'll admit, feels like a cop-out. For me, it's about knowing your audience (whether it's a large assembly or a small group) and understanding when an f-bomb will convey passion and emphasis...and when it will distract and offend.
What do you think? Is it okay for a pastor or church leader to use a "bad word" when writing or speaking in public?
* The Church Lady was a Saturday Night Live character, made famous by Dana Carvey, who frequently rails against the sinful nature of famous people and youth culture.