What Could You Never Say in Church? July 16, 2009

What Could You Never Say in Church?

My friend Anne Jackson is going to publish a book later this year called Permission to Speak Freely. It’s a sort of Christian version of PostSecret, where people confess things they believe but feel they cannot say in church.

For example:

  • … I support civil unions for homosexual couples.
  • … I just had a drink last night and it tasted really good.
  • I hate it when people ask for prayer for their neighbors brother’s cousin (or some person like 5 times linked in the distance from the person you actually know). Seriously, why does that need to go in OUR church bulletin? We don’t know them! I don’t even take enough (or hardly any) time to pray for myself and MY family, let alone will i ever care to pray for your neighbors brother’s cousin!! I hate that prayer has become so competitive…who can share the saddest and most dramatic sob story…thinking if their’s is the best people will pray for it.

You don’t have to be a current Christian to remember what you thought when you went to church.

If you would like to include your thoughts in her book (a large Christian audience will see it, if that’s any incentive), Anne is taking submissions:

1) Write down your confession. What’s something you feel like you can’t say in church. You can make it as short or as long as you want. You can write it on anything you want — a piece of paper like a letter, a postcard, a bulletin, a page from the Bible, a photograph, a drawing, ANYTHING at all that you can mail. It can be any shape, any size. It doesn’t have uber creative (although it certainly can be). It can just be something written down. You also don’t have to currently attend church or even believe in God.

More information is on her site (along with some fine print).

I’m looking forward to reading this one.

And if you’re not wanting to send something to Anne, feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments: What could you never say when you went to church?

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  • beckster


  • I vehemently support a woman’s right to choose.

    The status of my hymen is none of your business.

    I am embarrassed at times by the what is said during the sermons.

    Women are not sperm receptacles or reproductive tools. Men shouldn’t automatically be the heads of the household just because they are men.

  • King Platinum

    -I want to go home

    -This is boring, he is talking nonsense

    -When everyone sings together, I get goosebumps because it sounds like snaketalk, the Ss and Ps and Ts all sound like hissing to me.

  • “I like to wear women’s clothing.”

    Only works for guys/TG of course 😛

  • “Do these people ever stop to think about what they believe?”

  • cmotdibbler

    “more singing?”

    “why do we have to stand up and sing?”

    “whoa, a check for $200 *every* week, hope they don’t smirk at my $2 (to compensate for the air I breathe)”

    “I voted for Obama and think Fox news sucks”

  • Demetrius Of Pharos

    I got one, something I literally thought the last couple times I participated in a Mormon church service about 10 years ago:

    – Ah for crying out loud, you people actually believe this crap? I’d be better off reading more science fiction.

    Something I have done a lot of for the last 10 years.

  • “You know … I’m not really going hiking on the Appalachian Trail this weekend … let me tell you what I’m really going to do … ”


  • MacCrocodile

    As a fairly solipsistic child, I always wondered if everyone else was attending church out of social obligation like I was.

    and @cmotdibbler: When you stand up and sing, you can get a better sound. Not that it helps the average congregant.

  • What I thought when I was young:

    How can services which are so boring get God’s endorsement?

    And why do they make it echo so much? It just makes it harder to parse words.

  • Kahomono

    I guess she’s NOT looking for something along the lines of, “this is all bullshit.”

  • Why are so many of the Psalms so gratuitously violent? Is this really something that should be in a holy book?

    What if the Greek gods are still around? Does anyone believe in them? What if *they’re* testing us?

  • When I was 8:

    My Sunday school teacher’s “w”‘s look like boobies.

  • Catherine

    the big thing that comes to mind for me is

    “I am gay”

    as a kid, I used to wonder if God thought church was boring too

  • zoo

    I’ve heard this one before. . . thrice. (My dad likes to recycle sermons at different churches)

    Side note, I like how my IP puts me in a different city *points at the live traffic feed* every visit.

  • erin

    Why is God so insecure that we need to “worship” him each week?

    Wouldn’t this time sitting here be better spent helping people?

    If I’m a member of the elect, does it really matter what I do with my life because God wants me no matter what?

    If this is all true, what kind of father would send his children to hell?

    If salvation is a free gift from God, where do I return it if it doesn’t fit me?

    How come the people who yell amen during the sermon and raise their hands when singing always seem to be the ones who leave the faith when the first signs of trouble come along?

    Why does abortion have to be a political issue? If you don’t want one, don’t have one, but don’t tell anyone else what they can or cannot do with their body. Wouldn’t it be better to move on to issues that really help people?

    Just because President Obama is a Democrat that doesn’t mean he’s evil.

    What’s with all the potluck suppers?

  • Don

    They said I would feel a change immediately upon accepting Jesus into my heart. Well… I did it… I don’t feel anything… maybe a little silly… maybe tomorrow…

  • Ryan

    To the point about having other people on your prayer list at church – I never thought of this before but what is the point of this? Does it matter how many people pray for you? Does God only help people who had the most prayers said/thought for them? If so, that’s absolutely the God I want to worship /sarcasm

  • Communion never did anything for me. It always seemed like a boring waste of time, bread and wine.

  • Ryan

    When I go home, I’m going to go watch Harry Potter or maybe the Golden Compass.

    *The condom broke, my girlfriend got pregnant and we mutually agreed to get an abortion.

    I watch porn.

    This church is so boring. All you people do is talk about dead guys on trees and you compare clothing.

    Science is fun.

    My best friend is a lesbian.

    *I need to leave, so i can go celebrate Ostara (or however its spelt)

    *The ones with * are the ones I’ve never acutally “felt” but I think would piss them off anyway.

  • Thilina

    “Easy with the violent stories theirs kids in here”



    and this article from cracked has a few funny ones you can yell out at a church when people start speaking in tongues (or having seizures – if you can tell the difference)

    none of these are actually useful for the book but it’s good for a laugh.

  • anonymouse


    My first disconnect/disbelief was when my female sunday school teachers basically told me I am a second-class citizen because of my gender. Then a couple years later we learned about a talking DONKEY. It’s in there. That was the first seed of doubt. I should thank them, really.

  • WCLPeter

    My sister and I were forced to go to church when we were children.

    The people who took us, the supposed “upstanding Christian parents”, with the uncontrollable malcontent that later became their drug addicted son, threatened to report my parents to Child Services for child neglect because they dared to raise “heathen children”.

    Sunday school wasn’t all a waste though. While the indoctrination attempts failed, which were intense because our parents had the audacity to create “heathen children” by teaching critical thinking, the lessons that taught respect for the disabled and different “races” sure stuck with us. In fact those cool, unbelievably over the top preachy, puppet shows were about the only times we had fun in that place.

  • ZombieGirl

    Towards the end of my years in Catholic School, I realized some of the songs we had to sing were really demeaning…I can’t remember the lyrics but when we sang them, I felt like everyone was singing about how worthless they were and how there was only one great thing in the world and that was “God”. Certain songs really disgusted me, and after I realized this, I refused to say “under God” while reciting the pledge of allegiance.

  • I’ve only ever been to church for weddings and funerals (and the odd jumble sale) but I’ve consistently had the thought whenever I’ve entered the “holy” ground.

    “What’s that smell?”

    I think “holy” smells of damp. At least in England.

  • I can’t help feeling your second example hints at a yawning gap between British and American culture…

    (That’s a comment, not an example of the kind of thing I couldn’t say in Church_

  • Tony

    “That priest looks pretty dishy in that dress….”


  • Gordon

    “I find bible stories boring, and the characters never act like real people”

    true story, even when I was religious I could never empathise with any bible characters and their crazy world view!

  • From my stint in an evangelical church. I’ve heard the pastor say specific things that triggered each of these questions.

    Why shouldn’t we associate with atheists?

    Why should the bible be read every day in your free time instead of other literary material?

    Why should God be “Put first” before all other things like yourself, family, community, equal rights, science, and rational thought.

    Why tithe if the money only goes to pay church utility bills and the pastor’s salary.

    Why should this group of people dictate what I should do with everything about my life.

  • Renacier

    “Why are all the pictures of Jesus white?”

  • cmotdibbler

    The church I attend with my wife frequently sings the old hymn “There is a Redeemer”. I played lots of Unreal Tournament and a “Redeemer” is a devastating portable nuke. So whenever they sing that song, my teenage son laughs while I try to hold back a smirk.

  • Ron in Houston

    Do you guys realize that you get horribly offended when folks stereotype atheists yet are engaging in your very own stereotyping?

    A number of the things you guys list are things that are said in many churches across the country.

  • “That doesn’t make any sense.”

    “Why hasn’t anything like this happened recently (with respect to the biblical stories)?”

    “Why don’t we sing songs written in this century?”

    “I wish I was golfing.”

  • i love these you guys.
    @Kahomono that is exactly what i’m looking for.
    would love for you all to send them in.

  • Shae

    Ron, perhaps you misunderstood the question:

    “What could you never say when you went to church?”

    I don’t recall anyone commenting on what someone else probably couldn’t say at someone else’s church.

  • Sandra

    Something that always bothered me:

    -We are supposed to try to be like god.
    -The pastor would talk about how jealousy is not a good emotion and we should not allow it into our hearts.
    -In the ‘Ten Commandments’ we are told not to place other gods above ‘the one true god’ because he is a jealous god.

  • Andrew Morgan

    I remember thinking four things in Catholic church:

    “Why is there so much getting up and sitting down? Can’t we just stay sitting? Why do we have to stand for so long? My legs hurt.”

    “What’s this thing I’m supposed to do with my thumb? Why am I touching my face with it?” I still don’t know what that was about.

    “Ew, I don’t want to shake other people’s hands. This ‘peace be with you’ stuff bugs me.”

    And finally, “I don’t know the words to what we’re singing.”

  • “Two thousand years from now, will people look back at us the way we look back at people who worshipped the Greek gods?”

    Greek mythology was my gateway drug to atheism.

  • Alexis

    Hey dude, I got up late and missed breakfast. Could I have a few extra communion crackers?

  • Thumpalumpacus

    “Pull my finger.”

    In seriousness, when I lived overseas, there were few Christians and fewer churches around, so my parents would shop Sis and I to whichever family was closest and going that week, denomination being disregarded. Our neighbors the Therouxs took us to Mass several times.

    The last time, her son Kenny — my best friend — was teasing me mercilessly, poking me, being a ten-year-old boy, in short. His mother in the front seat was not really aware of it.

    We get into church, and still he keeps at it; by now I’m really pissed. In the middle of the Homily, Kenny is still going. Able to take no more, I yelled as loud as I could, “Would you just shut up?!”

    You could have heard the harps in Heaven at that moment. And then Geri Theroux took me outside and beat my ass. She thought I had been talking to the priest.

  • ATL-Apostate

    “What if I don’t want to burn/throw-away my Black Sabbath/Ozzy/Slayer/Motorhead records and tapes?”

    “Fuck off and mind your own business.”

  • Neon Genesis

    We get into church, and still he keeps at it; by now I’m really pissed. In the middle of the Homily, Kenny is still going. Able to take no more, I yelled as loud as I could, “Would you just shut up?!”

    I’ve actually thought that about the preacher at my parents’ church so many times. I’ve also always wanted to ask “Why are you all such bigots?”

  • littlejohn

    Wait a minute, Jeb. I thought you said there weren’t gonna be no killin’.

    This is also useful for getting to the front of slow-moving lines at grocery stores and theaters.

  • Gods hell bound BS don’t scare me, it’s his delusive, mentally challenged, mindless fanclub that I fear!!

  • Heidi

    I agree with Andrew. “I don’t want any peace, and don’t touch me.”

    Also, “how do you people know what to say and when to stand or sing?” It’s like going to Rocky Horror for the first time, except without the squirt guns. Or anything else that keeps you awake.

  • As someone who converted to be an evangelical in my teens, but then went to Christian churches that were progressively more liberal, I have to say that, at the last church I attended before ditching the whole thing, the following statements would have been completely acceptable:

    * I support civil unions for homosexual couples (actually, at that particular church, there tended to be more gay weddings than straight ones)

    * I just had a drink last night and it tasted really good. (Drinking alcohol in moderation was completely acceptable)

    * I vehemently support a woman’s right to choose.

    * Women are not sperm receptacles or reproductive tools. Men shouldn’t automatically be the heads of the household just because they are men.

  • Danny

    Jesus turns me on. 🙂

  • Mark

    If I believe that Jesus is God come to earth in the form of a man then why do I have to also believe that he was born of a virgin and that he rose from the dead? Aren’t those just magic tricks to dazzle the morons in the crowd?

  • Valerie Kelley

    It seems like there is about no way to avoid going to hell. Since that’s the case, why do I have to sit here every Sunday and listen for two hours about this horrible place that I can’t avoid going to anyway? Why? Why?

  • Santiago

    Heh, probably days late for this, but couldn’t keep it to myself:

    “Guess where I put the ‘holy’ Eucharist you gave me. And no, it wasn’t in my mouth.”

    Never even contemplated doing this, but boy would that piss off the whole church!

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