Wednesday, February 15, 2012

To Cuss or Not to Cuss?

Lately, I've stumbled on a few stories debating the merits of cursing- as Christians. Mark Driscoll has long been blasted- or praised- for letting the expletives fly, even during his Sunday morning sermons. But a number of others are admitting that they, too, enjoy the release of a few four letter words.

Kurt Willems, an Anabaptist pastor in California, recently wrote this post over on Red Letter Christians

"In my opinion, we ought to have the freedom to use language contextually and not be bound by religiosity. That doesn’t mean that we ought to cuss like a sailor, but words have power… even what our culture considers offensive...
I grew up in a context where Paul’s words were oft quoted: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths…” I wonder what determines unwholesome speech? Does the popular culture? Does the FCC? Nope. The answer comes in the second part of the statement: “…only that which is good for building others up ACCORDING TO THEIR NEEDS.” This statement both relativizes cussing and invites contextualization. The test, does using this word tear someone down or build up? If it doesn’t tear them down (because it is part of a language they understand) then we ought not live in a legalism that the Scriptures don’t impose.
Oddly enough, in Philippians (3.8) Paul says that he considers all things as “rubbish” or “garbage” or “dung” or “loss” compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus. This word (skubalon***) is only used once in the New Testament. And yes my friends, that word is a first century cuss word.
I do not think that we ought to be known as “cussers” but I do believe there’s something wrong when my non-Christian friends feel the need to apologize when they slip the F*Bomb in the conversation. My response is always: Please, please, please feel free to be exactly who you are around me! Your language doesn’t offend me or make me see you in a bad light. I’d rather get to know the real you."

Lutheran Pastor Nadia Bolz-Weber recently invited people to unfriend her on Facebook or stop following her on Twitter if they're offended by swear words because she uses swear words:

"If you are a Christian who takes offense at swear words or believes for some reason that clergy should never be cranky or irritated, then I am not the person for you to follow.  It’s ok.  You don’t actually need me. The entire publishing arm of the Christian Industrial Complex (I believe my friend Shane Claiborne coined that term) has a great deal of material that is just for you! Countless Christian websites and books and blogs are your brand of Christian.  No need to leave me comments about how disappointed you are in my use of language because out there in cultural Christendom you will find niceness in abundance, super-duper positive thinking, and lots of inspiration with (best of all!) no swear words! The Christian world is your oyster.
 You are not my audience.
But there are other folks out there who are comforted by ambiguity, who need a Word of grace which is not covered in strawberry syrup. Who need the stark truth of what it means to be broken and blessed at the same time.  Who are at home in the Biblical story; stories of anti-heroes and people who don’t get it; beloved prostitutes and rough fishermen.  They tend to not really care that I use colorful language.  If anything, they are relieved that they don’t have to watch what they say around this particular member of the Christian clergy."

For the record, I do curse. It's not an every day thing. But it's not once in a blue moon either. I was raised STRICTLY against it, but after five years of college and thousands of hours spent listening to rap music, a four letter word will make an appearance from time to time in my vocab. But I don't believe in cursing in front of my parents, seniors or children. Or clergy. And definitely not during business hours.

So what say you? Is this an ultimate no-no? A way to show the world we're human, too? An issue of mere semantics?


Jesus-in-the-city said...

Hmmm... Cursing.... Me no likey! I guess it's personal preference. I just watched a message last week and Pastor Craig mentioned that Paul uses the s**t word in the Bible so I guess if Paul uses it in the Word then there really is no argument, but I still don't like it. I usually go by the rule that if it gives me a check in my spirit I don't want to do it or hear it and with cursing, that is always the case.

My husband sometimes let's the S word escape and I always take offense and give him the side eye, but that's more because he totally denies that it even IS a swear word (he's Scottish so things are different over there) . I guess even that wouldn't hold up in scripture though because I don't like it and it definitely doesn't build me up so scripturally he shouldn't be using it, but scripturally I should be respecting him anyway and making allowances for something that doesn't happen very often and not turning into his mom, but scripturally he should be loving me and in loving me not using offensive language that I don't prefer around me, and ya, I could go on and on and on.... You get the point!

One of my pastors said in a sermon recently that he strives to do things and speak as if Jesus were always right there next to him, because in reality, He is, (ok, inside, not next to, but you know what I mean) so if I look at it that way, I would say that I MOST DEFINITELY would not be using swear words in the presence of Jesus, so I wouldn't use them in the presence of anyone else either. although there has been the occasion when in extreme anger and really having it out with Jesus over something really serious, I may have let a naughty word slip, so ya, I'm back and forth on this one, but overall I think it's not great.

Thanks for this post though because it does cause me to look at things differently and maybe I won't be so judgmental next time I hear a bad word, although for the most part my friends don't really swear either. And for the record, I have never really been big on swear words so I don't feel like the writer quoted that I am sensoring myself around anyone, I just don't like to curse, so I don't. There are so many interesting words out there, I find it fun coming up with other useful words to use in the place of the "dirty" ones. I can't come up with any now that I'm on the spot, but trust me, they're out there!

And in closing, I totally can't believe you curse, Li! (shaking my head) I thought I knew you... Hehehe :)

Alisha De Freitas said...

K doesn't curse either. He just doesn't like it. So the few times I've heard him curse, it was during pretty extreme circumstances. Because I know he doesn't like it, I usually am even more mindful. Its no good to do something even if it's technically okay if it's going to offend... Especially my husband. Oth, I have a few friends who curse a lot more (I mean damn and hell, not the f bomb) and it doesn't bother me. So I think audience, place and culture plays a big part. And yeah, coming from Scotland, no, sugar-honey-ice-tea isn't so much a curse as a... How do I put it... Maybe a "ghetto" way to state it. Culture is actually huge.

On the FAR Facebook, a reader commented about certain Jamaican phrases that he finds offensive, yet many people (I guess from hearing reggae) will say them without thinking. So it's not just an arbitrary set of words like George Carlin use to joke about.

And as for me... Girl, go read my post, "The Secret Life of B----es". I admit to being a bi... Uh, er, "b" and call myself one. That's the thing about me. I tend to frustrate extremists in any camp because I'm both too conservative AND too liberal. Lol! Don't try to push me in any neat little box because I probably won't fit.

Alisha De Freitas said...

Oh, here's the link to that post:

Don said...

I'm working on it. Okay, Alisha. Lol. I mean, I often apologize on Twitter.

Nah, seriously, I cannot stand to be in the presence of someone who continuously uses curse words. It's loud, aggressive and violent in nature, if you ask me.

Like most, I'm understandable of instances where there just might be an acceptable cause and effect. Times where such words are completely in context of a situation or conversation, even.

For instance - a Toni Morrison quote I recently came across where she speaks of the need to "...let go of certain ish."

But, on a whole, I'd prefer not to be subjected to curse word after curse word after curse word. Too much of anything tends to bother my spirit, believe it or not.

And although I often slide a curse word myself, here and there, and grew up listening to hip hop and rap music, and watch a variety of films where cussing is written into a script, I am not an advocate of cussing.

Nor do I curse around children, elders, and definitely not mom.

She Traces said...

Wow I've never heard of someone cussin' on the pulpit. But recently, I've also had different views about it. I think Christians are held to a higher standard. If we look and sound like the world then what sets us apart? But I know that it's also about self-expression. For me it's an issue of respect, so I ask that my male friends refrain from using excessive expletives around me. But I can't deny that from time to time, I'd like the freedom to say exactly what I feel, and not have to censor myself. And recently, I have been taking that freedom. (not around church folk) When I get around my church folk though, I'm always afraid that I'm going to slip. (lol)

James 3:9-10 states 'With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.'
So that's pretty much why I feel like it's wrong to cuss, but just like everything in the Bible... it's up for debate.
I guess ultimately it's up to your conscience and your personal preference.

Alisha De Freitas said...

@Don, lol! Convicted, Bro? Hey, I'm working on it, too. But since we're both fans of "The Wire", I think we'll continue to slip, ha!

@She Traces, Hi! Welcome to the blog! Yes, I don't like that cursing while in the pulpit. There might be "freedom in Christ", but like chicks who show up to church with their boobs hanging out or thongs showing, or the dude who thinks it cool to stay blabbing on his cell while pastor is speaking, things should be done in "decency and order".

What's up with "church folk"? They kind of make me itchy. They never really liked me, even as a child. And now? With the tats and nose ring? Forget it. I'm a certified wolf trying to lead the sheep astray... he he he!

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