Profanity and Christians (NSF…LFC)
How’s that for a title? Let’s see Google start indexing that one and bringing the visitors to my blog. (New record recently, by the way…180+ visitors in one day!)
So, profanity and Christians. Or maybe swearing and Christians, as most Christians will agree that profanity, defined as profane words against God, is wrong (which comes across in contemporary talk as “Jesus Christ”, “Jesus H Christ”, “Goddamn it”, etc)(although the argument can be made that “God damn” is not taking the Lord’s name in vain). But I’m one of the (many, just not in America) Christians who doesn’t believe that swearing is inherently wrong, sinful, or demonstrating a lack of intelligence or vocabulary.
What prompted this blog post? This insightful article on another blog about Counting Cusswords.
So while most of us would agree about the inappropriateness of certain expletives, as well as biblical exhortations to mind our manners, inevitably, each of us must draw lines concerning what is and is not offensive. But who’s drawing them and where they’re drawn is another story…Anyway, it makes me wonder whether or not we’ve sorely missed the mark, whether or not we are straining at gnats and swallowing camels (Matt. 23:24). Instead of celebrating quality craftsmanship and engaging the world with our stories, we’ve become moral policemen, cruising the movie theater or book store, passing out citations for the most “asses,” “F-words” and cigarettes smoked.
I once heard a preacher open his sermon by saying, “The world is going to hell and most of you don’t give a damn.” After a pregnant, rather uncomfortable pause, he said, “And the problem is, most of you are more concerned I just said ‘damn,’ than that the world is going to hell.”
I wonder that the same applies to Christians in the arts.
Many have heard that story about the pastor before. By this point, having an opinion on swearing and profanity (I’ll use the terms interchangably) is like having an opinion about alcohol or going to movie theatres or pants on women…or whatever. I have listened to all the arguments, hopefully humbly, and am just not persuaded by most of them. I believe profanity has a place in a Christian’s life, is not something that should be ashamed of when used appropriately, and therefore not a sin in most cases, and most definitely not an indication of poor intelligence or vocabulary. Nor is it someone a mature person should run away from, or God forbid, try to regulate amongst those who don’t share your own personal convictions. (Maybe a hint of hypocrisy there with this blog post; I’m stating my opinion and position, persuasively, and not making it a law or issue to others.)
1 – God judges the heart. It is not cute to substitute an ok Christianitized word for a swear word. If you have a pet saying or term that you use when you are upset or don’t like someone or an idea or whatever, that matters little to God; he sees it and judges it on the basis of the heart condition and not on the actual words being used. And that leads into…
2 – Words change with time, and words have meaning. The KJV uses “pisseth”, “bastard”, “asses”, and other terms that are now forbidden amongst Christians. As that link above alludes to, I was also told that words like “stupid” were on par with taking the Lord’s name in vain. Nonsense! Having children not call each other stupid is a great thing, sure, but please don’t bring capital T TRUTH and the WORD of GOD into the reasoning. (Leaders, quit lying to kids.) Take a term such as “motherfucker”, which was a gross insult when it was first used in America, but now has become a term of respect and endearment amongst some cultures; most of those people nowadays know you are not being insulting or deragatory one bit when using that term. And if God judges the heart, what then? I can call a Mexican coworker a “pendejo” and not be insulting at all, and they can call me whatever in return.
3 – There is a season for everything. And by this I mean, there are times and places where certain types of conversation and words are appropriate, and times and places where other types of conversation and words are appropriating. Don’t be cussing from the pulpit or in church (something which I’ve never heard Mark Driscoll do yet so many claim to have “heard” him do…heard meaning heard from others or read in a Donald Miller book). Don’t be cussing around your parents. Don’t be cussing at work in a meeting. But there is nothing wrong with guys “cussing” in a locker room, as that type of situation may naturally contain different types of language that is a part of male bonding.
4 – Biblical reasons. There are many verses that are used definitively to declare that all swearing is evil and wrong and sinful. Take the salt water verse, James 3:11. Nowhere does it say that swearing is salt water, rather the passage is talking about blessing and cursing people, both actions that are done throughout the Bible, and through which we get our modern day “God bless you” and “God damn you”. James makes a great point that we should not be both blessing and cursing people but rather blessing, but Scripture is replete of times when cursing (damning) is the proper thing to do! Heck (excuse my language), Jesus did it, and He was sinless. (This James passage is interesting because it’s another one of those passages that can be “plainly read” multiple ways.)
5 – Swear words are often necessary to get a point across. This here is the point where someone says “well why couldn’t you have just used the word that is the definition of the word you just said?” As if the point is to avoid at all costs that forbidden word, which is not the point at all. Some words have no meanings. Other have huge meanings. My classic example:
Jesus, Jesus help me
I’m alone in this world
And a fucked up world it is too
Tell me, tell me the story
The one about eternity
And the way it’s all gonna be
Wake up, wake up dead man
Wake up, wake up dead man
So many got up in arms when U2 and Bono wrote the song “Wake Up Dead Man”. Don’t see why. It’s a modern day prayer. It’s a song that declares at its basis “Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus and rescue us!”. And it’s brutally honest, another reason many don’t like profanity, because profanity tends to come out when honesty and passion does. This world is pretty fucked up! We’ve known that since Satan tricked Eve and Adam into eating the forbidden fruit. All of creation groans with how fucked up this world is. Christ was born in the shit and the mud of a cattle stall, all to save this fucked up world, redeem it, and glorify it! For Bono to not have used the “f-word” here would have been to rob the song of its power, its point, its testimony and witness to God, and its honesty. The greater offense, sin, would have been to censor it.
Final word. I use profanity. I use swear words. I feel they are wholly appropriate in certain moments and inappropriate in others. My conscience, obviously seared and deceived, before God on this issue is clean. I choose not to use swear words around certain people and choose to use them around certain others. When I’m alone, I sometimes use them and sometimes not, so obviously that reveals my true heart. I understand that for many Christians this is a stumbling block, and one that I don’t want to put in anyone’s way.
And a final caveat – perhaps the only reason I choose to swear is because my idols U2 does, so I want to defend them at all costs. Whatever.
Now sod off! lol