A journalist aims a pointed pen at some ministerial fetishes

The tall, lean clergyman looked even more solemn than usual as he tentatively pushed open the city-room door of a large newspaper and asked a copy boy if he might see me.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, with the familiarity of long acquaintance. “You look as though you’d lost your last friend.”

“No,” he replied with a forced smile, “but you know how these things are; I’ve just had a h——of a row with my choir director.”

That was my first but by no means last experience with a type of clergyman who habitually uses slang, vulgarity, and sometimes actual profanity when talking to newspaper men—and to some other laymen as well. Clergymen of this type always have a “good story” to tell. The stories are usually earthy, to put it mildly. I have sometimes wondered whether such a preacher saves the stories he cannot use in the pulpit for occasions when he feels he must prove that he is a man among men, “of the earth, earthy.”

Of course, not all clergymen who use profane language do so to impress others. Some of them think that the language of the study and the pulpit is too exalted and artificial for ordinary conversation and that they must revert to “everyday” language to be understood. With others the occasional use of profanity is a genuine slip of the tongue, the result of years spent in circles where rough speech prevails, perhaps while working their way through seminary or serving as a wartime chaplain. Recently some poseurs among the clergy have adopted the use of four-letter words to prove their right to membership in the literary avant-garde.

Nearly half a century of association with clergymen of many faiths and various social strata has given me distinct impressions of ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.