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?