i’ve long used words that some people find offensive (i.e. “sucks” “bites” “blows” “pissed” “butthead” “pissed-off”) but few groups of people get their panties in a twist about it like Christians. i’ve been accused of going out of my way to use words like these just to be “challenging” or “anti-authoritarian” and i suppose if i were honest about it, there have been some times when i’ve done that. but really, for the most part it’s just an ingrained part of my vocabulary – on top of that, i don’t find these words offensive.
but my story is two-fold.
several years ago i was invited to speak at a youth rally at a church in KY. the youth pastor (my friend jake) called me up one day and said, “dude, i want you to come and be the main speaker at this youth rally – can you do it?” “sure,” i said, checking dates, etc. “that’s awesome” he says, “but i have to tell you something… james (the pastor of his church) told me to tell you that he’s ok with you speaking, but that if you use the words ‘suck’ or ‘pissed’ in your message, you’ll never speak again at any youth rally at this church.” james, as you can tell, knew my love of these words.
“well, that blows!” said i, not necessarily with a straight face. but i agreed to refrain from using the words, and we shared a good laugh over that and joked about it in the weeks / months leading up to the rally.
come the day of the rally, i was on best behavior. no sucks. no bites. no pissed. good rally, good time, everyone was happy. i had one near-pissed but managed to catch it just before it came out of my mouth.
but that was only one part of this story.
the other part takes place some time later at cincinnati christian university.
CCU’s a good place. top notch professors, good administration, good education. most of the people there are awesome and i had a good time there. one thing they do is once a month there’s a commuter study break – donuts, coffee, juice, and staff comes and hangs with the commuters while we stuff our faces with free delicious donuts.
this one particular morning, jake and i are sitting at a table with three professors, one of whom is dr. north. north seems to have been at CCU for about 85 years, is a nice guy but VERY strict, very straightforward, straight-shooting, and while he’s got a sense of humor, it’s probably put to best use in a nursing home full of christians. so there we sit – jake and i are being our usual silly junior-high-minded selves and three starchy professors. we somehow get on the topic of language and i tell the above story to the assembled group, laughing and carrying on all the way. while explaining how james doesn’t want me to use the word “suck” in my message, dr. north interrupts me.
“well, scott” he says in his grandfatherly, pastoral way, “back in my day, the word ‘suck’ meant only one thing, and we both know what that was!”
and my world stopped. sounds went mute. movement froze. the lights dimmed. and there was only dr. north and me. can you picture my dilemma? can you hear what was racing through my antagonistic, smartass, anti-authoritarian mind?
dr. north, ultra-conservative old-fashioned ancient minister teacher author known throughout the restoration movement for his views on theology and church has just set me up.
and just before i open my mouth to say (with a fake puzzled look already plastered to my face), “why, no, dr. north, i don’t know – what DID it mean back in your time?” jake kicks me under the table. HARD. he had seen the look on my face, understood that the world had stopped and that i was about to attempt a take-down on the “don’t-trifle-with-me” CCU octogenarian. and he couldn’t let me do it.
and it sucked.