‘Honk for Jesus. Save your soul.’ Holds a Christian double talk mirror
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Once I got into a Christian fight in a schoolyard. It was verbal – nobody really fought in my strict boarding school in Michigan – and looking back, it was like a weirdo-world version of the standard cliches I learned from pop culture: instead of hanging out by the trash cans after school, there would have a small crowd of children in our dress clothes waiting outside the church after the service. It’s hilarious now, but I took that shit seriously back then. I had a reputation to uphold. The other kids knew I was sharp-tongued, quick-witted, and angry.
The only problem was that I had recently taken one of those Christian student pledges to stop cursing. Spirit Week, Prayer Week, and SWAT (Student Working in Temperance) Week often came with new promises of prayer, purity, and abstinence that students could commit to following. I ignored most of them when I started in Christian academy, but godliness was a type of social currency that I eventually had to buy into. I lived in a Christian-adolescent paradox where it was cool to know how to insult someone but also to get baptized, save sex for marriage, and stop swearing. I would have broken my promise if I had put a few weeks into it, but I was on a 12 week series to be pure in language. I would just have to circumvent the problem.
After the sermon, I burst outside the Cedar Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church, where the small crowd of children had gathered.
“I heard you talking shit,” I said. (I said waste.) “Your lying ass didn’t think I’d find out?” (I said end.) The crowd was confused. Some of them were unaware of my tendency not to swear; others were, but thought I would surely break it instead of trying to swear at someone without swearing. But I continued. Eventually, I finished with a knockout blow, pointing my finger in their face and stopping for dramatic effect as the crowd watched.
“Fuck you,” I said.
Only I said: “Ef you.”
It was so quiet that I could hear the rotation of the Earth. And that’s when I knew I screwed up.
“Did…did he just say ‘eff you’?” someone said.
A chuckle broke the silence. Then two. Then laughter broke out everywhere. One person fell to the ground laughing. She had to be picked up as if she had passed out. I will never forget this shit.
The day I said “eff you” was the most embarrassed day of my life. It was my 8 miles moment of being booed and laughed offstage, and I learned a lesson I will never forget: Christian doublespeak exists for a reason.
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