What the @*&#…?
A Christian Critique of Swearing

Evangelicals — By on November 28, 2005 at 2:36 am

According to a profile in Christianity Today entitled “The Positive Prophet,” the liberal evangelical Tony Campolo would often begin a speech by saying:

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a sh*t. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said sh*t than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Although Campolo is overstating the point, he is right that evangelicals often take great offense to the use of such language and are surprised when it is used by Christians. I was reminded of this fact while reading a review of the film “To End All Wars” by my friend Tim Challies. Before delving into his critique, Tim offers a warning:

I was quite surprised at the volume of swearing in this film. Usually I would not be surprised to find bad language in a war movie, but was surprised at this one primarily because the people who recommended it to me made no mention of it. Thankfully, because of the subject matter, it was not a film we decided to watch with the children present.

In expressing his views on swearing in an earlier post, Tim wrote, “I believe the answer is quite clear that cussing, swearing, using vulgar speech does NOT please God in any way. It’s the way of the world, it’s the language of the former man, the spiritually dead man.” Later in the post he adds, “The only ‘proper context’ for using such language, is from the lips of a man at enmity with God, walking according to the lusts of the flesh, according to the ways of this world, defending his pride. It has no place coming from the mouth of a man or woman, professing to love Christ.”
Michael Spencer also noticed Tim’s review and in response highlights a “really cool article” by Eric Rigney on the ethics of “cussin.” Rigney says that “cussing is not necessarily a bad thing” and lists a number of “poor reasons” and “good reasons” not to use such language. Some of the “poor reasons” for refraining from swearing according to Rigney are because the Bible says it’s wrong (he doesn’t believe the Bible makes such a claim), because the words are inherently wrong, or because it is offensive to those around you.
While I am sympathetic to both points of view, I think they each go too far. Tim’s view tends toward excessive legalism while Rigney’s errs by invoking a naive view of “Christian freedom.” I think there is another way in which Christians can approach the issue of swearing.*


In a related post, Tim writes that he is “not opposed to movies” but finds nothing in the Bible that would convince him he can and even should watch movies in order to engage the culture. “How can I be an effective witness if I begin a conversation with an unbeliever by proudly proclaiming that I have just watched a movie that is filled with the very acts my faith tells me I must avoid”? he asks. “Will unbelievers not immediately note the inconsistency between what I do and what I claim to believe?”
The problem is that if we applied this standard consistently then Christians would need to avoid not only Shakespeare (which is full of archaic cuss words) and C.S. Lewis’s Narnia tales (which contain a sprinkling of mild profanity) but the Bible as well. For example, Paul writes in Philippians that the things he gives up for Christ are but kopria, a Greek word politely translated as “dungpile.” The New Testament scholar Robert Jewett also argues that Paul’s use of the words we translate as ‘circumcised’ and ‘uncircumcised,’ which come up during the circumcision debates in the early church, are the equivalent to the modern use of words like “d***head.” Jewett also notes that the Old Testament uses the equivalent of S.O.B such as when Saul calls his son Jonathan a “stupid son of a whore.” (NLT)
The broader issue, though, is the question of whether we should avoid all areas of the secular world where such profane language is used. This seems contrary to Gospel since, as film critic Steve Lansingh points out, “We preach that Jesus can transform the soul, but we expect people to reform themselves before they even approach us.” How can we witness to those in need of repentance if we are offended by even common vulgarities? Christians should neither be surprised nor particular taken aback when non-believers cuss and swear. And while our conscience should guide us in how we engage culture, we should avoid laying down arbitrary limits that might cut us off from those in need of the Gospel message.
But while Tim proffers an unnecessarily strict standard, Rigney provides an unduly libertine one. He argues that the Bible doesn’t specifically prohibit cussing though it does, he admits, say that we should refrain from “filthy language.” Rigney says that modern society cannot arbitrarily decide which specific words fit into the category that Paul is addressing. The Holy Spirit, he adds, should direct us as to the specifics about what is “filthy.”
Unfortunately, Rigney follows this insight with the ludicrous claim that words that specifically describe such acts as defecation and incest with one’s own mother are not inherently “filthy.” “[M]eaning is what we’re talking about here,” says Rigney, “and what we mean when we say a word is far more important than what the word itself is.” Ironically, his statement doesn’t mean what he thinks it does. A word’s “meaning” is comprised of both its denotation (the literal “dictionary” meaning) and connotation (the suggestive or implied meaning associated with a word). Rigney appears to be arguing that the connotation can be separated from the denotation in a way that completely transforms the word from “filthy” to acceptable.
If this were true, though, then there would be no need for him to claim, as he does later in his essay, that cussing should be avoided when around children, when angry, or when doing so would be rude. Either the denotation is relevant or it isn’t. Rigney justifies his claim not on evidence that the denotation is irrelevant in certain contexts but that it is merely acceptable to certain groups.
Earlier he says that the Holy Spirit should aid a Christian in determining what words are “filthy” and should be avoided. Later on, though, he says, “If I cuss when I am alone with my wife (who is generally not offended by cussing), am I doing wrong? Of course not “ no harm, no foul.” But what if the Spirit says that a word is unfit for use by Christians? Rigney’s seems to have abandoned that standard in favor of one based purely on audience.
Ultimately, the issue of swearing depends on how we apply Christian liberty. I don’t think Tim’s position gives a Christian enough credit for being able to be around those who sin without being tempted to sin. Watching a character takes the Lord’s name in vain does not make me want to imitate the action anymore than would watch them snort a line of cocaine. While I should carefully consider my motives for engaging with such cultural artifacts as movies and music, I don’t think we are warranted in avoiding them altogether.
I’m more troubled, though, by the immature view of liberty presented by Mr. Rigney. He appears to present a view of liberty that is common to children: liberty as freedom from something (i.e., the Law) rather than freedom to something. We were not freed in order that we might do as we please. We were freed so that we could finally be able to become like Christ.
Although the Law should never be replaced with a updated form of legalism, we should also not fall for its opposite error. Grace and conscience should not be used as covers with which we justify any sort of questionable behavior we don’t want to give up. When it comes to the issue of swearing we must be guided by the Word of God, our conscience, and the Spirit. But if you claim that the Holy Spirit is leading you in your “freedom” to use such language don’t be surprised when your fellow Christians respond by asking, “What the @*&#…?”
*Being from Texas I prefer to use the term “cussing” rather than “swearing.” But since I’m now in Chicago and have an audience of mostly non-Texans I’ve decided to use the more common (though less accurate) terminology.
[Note: During the decade and a half I spent in the Marines I had the opportunity to hear — and regrettably say — every filthy, disgusting, offensive cuss word that has ever been uttered. And while I prefer to avoid such language when in polite company, I’m not particularly prudish about hearing such language. I do find, though, that the further along I tread on the path to sanctification the less I feel the need to use such language myself. Other Christians who are more mature than me may differ so I will add that this is a Christian view and not necessarily the view that all Christians should take. ]
Related: Glenn Lucke points out an interesting article about a progressive church pastor who invited a new-ish member of his church to read a poem as part of leading worship. Because the poem used the F-word a number of times it raised issues of appropriateness in worship. The comment section is also worth reading.



  • http://motopolitico.blogspot.com/2005/11/christian-approach-to-cussing.html Motopolitico

    A Christian Approach to Cussing

    An interesting dissection of different views on how Christians approach swearing. One idea that was not discussed in the article was that of revulsion.

  • http://motopolitico.blogspot.com motopolitico

    Interesting take. What about revulsion? I have found myself increasingly revolted by my own cussing and that of others, as I have grown in grace. Oh, and also, there is something wrong with your trackbacks.

  • Ludwig

    you fundies really need to get a life…

  • tommythecat

    language is a virus, nothing more…
    i agree with campolo, he is the only xian that every made sense to me, but then he worked with clinton, so who can say…

  • http://commongroundsonline.typepad.com Glenn

    Joe,
    In support of your contention that we don’t want to insist upon holiness of non-believers prior to engaging them, Paul said similar things to the Corinthians about their relations with those outside the church versus those inside the church.
    1 Corinthians 5:9-10, 12
    9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people- 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world.
    12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?

  • Rob Ryan

    “I have found myself increasingly revolted by my own cussing and that of others, as I have grown in grace.”
    I have found this to be true as I have grown in maturity. Unbelievers can also be offended by profanity.

  • George

    Swearing is the refuge of those with an inadequate vocabulary. Language is meant to communicate. The greater the number of meanings a particular word has, the less communicative precision it has. It’s unfortunate that our youth, who are basically idiots whan it comes to mathematics and science (I think the last international comparison placed the US at 24th place out of 25), are equally inarticulate.
    As is often true, the Bible hits the cultural nail on the head once again. You really can’t get better advice about how to live, Drs. Freud and Kinsey notwithstanding.

  • http://she-lives.typepad.com Carol

    During the ten years I spent working in the psychiatric field, I heard, engaged in and was the target of language akin to what you describe while in the Marines. Now that I live a more abundant life, I notice cussing detracts from what is being said rather than enhancing it. We hear the swear words and lose the speaker’s meaning.
    Language is so rich with words that the repetative use of a handful of distracting ones seems so limiting. The way we choose to express our thoughts directly reflects who we are.
    My take, anyway. Thank you for your insights, Joe.

  • sonspot

    Swearing is another form of sensualism, a verbal pornography. Makes one feel powerful and in control.

  • http://thegreatestblogalive.blogspot.com Joe Greene

    I did a much less thorough post on this on my own blog a few days ago. Here’s the scenario I put out there:
    1. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say darn it.
    2. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say dang it.
    3. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say damn it.
    Could anyone tell a legitimate difference if all three are uttered with the same forcefullness? Other than social/cultural norms, there is absolutely no difference. The idea of “cuss words” is moronically limited when it’s the attitude that is much more important. If any of the above 3 are uttered in a way that is not pleasing to God, they are wrong. If any of the above 3 are uttered in a way that is fitting to the context, then there is absolutely nothing unbiblical about them.

  • http://www.blar.net/kurt/blog/ Kurt Nordstrom

    A second to what Mr. Greene has said. Most Baptists I know would not blink an eye if I stubbed my toe and uttered “oh poopy!” If, on the other hand, I warn them politely about stepping in that pile of dog sh__, I get all sorts of flak.
    Which was the filthier language? And why?

  • http://mattharmless.blogspot.com mattharmless

    “…that the further along I tread on the path to sanctification the less I feel the need to use such language…” You might say that words like those are “out of place” coming from the mouth of a believer.
    Sounds like you are close to Ephesians 5, “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place…” If you want to get really convicted about your words, then just do a word study on the whole of Ephesians 5… very convicting stuff.
    As far as not getting “offended” about a non-believer’s language, I totally agree. I have spent several years working in warehouses and with furniture movers, and it totally shuts a door if you act all put out by their language.
    When I am around someone who talks like that, I never say anything. Eventually they do… I have seen it a hundred times. Without saying a word, they begin to feel convicted about their language. They will usually apologize to me. But my reply is usually, “don’t worry about me, you aren’t saying anything that I haven’t heard before… why would you say that?” then I get a chance to talk about how doing good deeds doesn’t get you any closer to heaven, it requires faith and repentance.
    anyway…
    For those who think that obscenity isn’t a big issue… I agree, but I would like to put the words of Christ in your ears as far as those non-weighty issues,
    To the pharisees when they focused on the small things, “But you have neglected the more important matters of the law

  • http://alesrarus.funkydung.com/arc20051101.html#BlogID2074 Ales Rarus

    Unclean Lips

    Joe Carter at Evangelical Outpost has written a post about the use of foul language by Christians…I have nothing new to say about cursing, but I will point folks to what I’ve already said on the subject.

  • tom

    And it’s interesting how the two different “cities” (cf. Augustine) interpret the others’ list of offensive terms. R.C. Sproul tells an illuminating anecdote of being with a man who said, “God damn it …” and then, apologizing to R.C., said, “God darn it …”
    R.C. gently corrected him: “You changed the wrong word.”

  • http://eternalperspectives.com/ Mike

    Becoming a Christian at age 25 gave me ample time to develop a full and rich vocabulary of profanity; I was fluent, to put it modestly. When I became a Christian, I found that I retained the ability to still think in such terms, although I maintained my evangelical, spiritual image by not vocalizing my thoughts – usually.
    I tried for many years to deny the profanity-laced thoughts in my head. I only succeeded in distancing myself from my real emotions and becoming someone I was/am not. Denial is a primitive and ineffective way of coping with emotions.
    Now I just say what I want to say. Profanity comes out sometimes, but when it does I pay attention to it in the same way I pay attention to a pain in my ankle or muscle spasms in my back. Profane language is an indication that something is wrong in my soul/spirit: perhaps the problem is with me, perhaps with my situation, perhaps with something of which I’m not aware. But it is an indication to me that something is amiss and needs my attention.
    Since I’m usually angry when I cuss (I grew up in Indiana but now live in Texas, so I’m bilingual), I have to figure out where the anger is coming from and what the hurt is that lies underneath my anger. When things are humming in my life, the proclivity for swearing is greatly reduced.
    It doesn’t both me at all to hear others – Christian or not – use profanity. It’s generally quite understandable, sometimes creative, often funny, and its use gives me a pretty good idea of what is or isn’t going on inside of the individual who’s employing it.
    Profanity, like pain, is an indicator: if you’re using it involuntarily, something’s wrong; if voluntarily, something’s wrong. Either way, pay attention.

  • berean77

    EPH 4:29: Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

  • tom

    Mike, well said. I too became a Christian at 25, after 7 years as a Marine Corps grunt. Trust me, I know cussing.
    I too find the occassional cuss word pop out of my mouth (although I’ll say, defensively, of the milder variety) when I’m tired or angry. Your analogy of paying attention to the pain that underlies the utterance is a good one–and wise advice.

  • Soup

    Spiritually speaking it’s quite dangerous for a believer to take a cavalier, flip attitude toward his utterances.
    Jesus Himself revealed the heart motivation behind the words of our lips:
    Matthew 12:34
    O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
    The heart is the source of our actions. Blessing and cursing originate in our hearts and are put into action with our choices:
    Deuteronomy 30:19
    I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
    The redeemed can choose to side with the old fleshly nature, or side the spirit man:
    Ephesians 4:21-23
    21If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
    22That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
    23And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
    Colossians 3:8-10
    8But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
    9Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
    10And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
    Romans 8:6-8
    6For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
    7Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.
    8So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
    Ephesians 4:24
    24And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
    And we react to situations and circumstances according to our choices. If you feed your flesh, you reap carnality, if you feed your spirit, you reap the spiritual.
    James 3:6
    And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
    Proverbs 23:6-7
    6Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
    7For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
    The words we use often reveal who we really are on the inside, behind the social masks.

  • http://www.wayofhope.com Steve

    Mark 7:14-23 speaks directly to what is flowing out of the heart. It is not the words, but the spirit in the heart that is propelling them. Tony’s quote included a cuss word in the right spirit of the heart, but for me, there are very few times I don’t look like a fool when I cuss. I think the part we have to come to grips with is this: cussing leaves the door open for us to look like fools without even realizing it. If nothing else, be gentle with your words, and slow to speak so that you nurture others like a mother as referenced in Thessalonians 2:7-8. I’ve never found using f**k glorifying to God in any way. Also, cultural relevance has a big part on the use of vocabulary.

  • ex-preacher

    I don’t believe in God, I believe in Gosh.
    And if you don’t believe in him too, he will darn you to heck!

  • tom

    It is not the words, but the spirit in the heart that is propelling them
    Indeed. My wife is British, so I’m aware of a whole ‘nother world of cussing/not-cussing. Older Brits still recoil at the word “bloody” (shortening of “God’s blood”) but are less aroused by “blimey” (short for “God blind me”) or even “cor” (another bastardization of God’s name). These, I believe, are curses very much in the Old Testament sense, and it seems Christians should react more strongly to them than to the more scatalogical or sexual “cussing” that so many do react to.
    In fact, is that a proper division? Should we react more strongly to invocations of God’s name or wishing His condemnation on others than to the garden-variety “d***” or “s***” or, in the immortal words of Jean Shepherd in A CHRISTMAS STORY, “The word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word”?

  • http://www.gryphmon.com Patrick (Gryph)

    As a young child, I was scolded by neighbor for using the Lord’s name in vain. I was genuinely confused by her reaction, as my parents used the same word all the time and I didn’t see what it had to do with God or the Bible.
    The scolding ended when she asked me to spell it and I did. G-e-e-z-e-s.

  • Bryan McWhite

    An insightful post on a topic that does not receive enough discussion, as part and parcel of the broader discussion on the parameters and purposes of Christian freedom. To that end, I think this remark: “…[Rigney] appears to present a view of liberty that is common to children: liberty as freedom from something (i.e., the Law) rather than freedom to something. We were not freed in order that we might do as we please. We were freed so that we could finally be able to become like Christ” is right on the mark, and represents an ethical framework crucial for Christian maturity.

  • brandon

    Joe:
    Ultimately, the issue of swearing depends on how we apply Christian liberty.
    It has less to do with liberty and everything to do with the love and murder laws. Cussing is implicitly prohibited by the Bible, if by cussing you mean using particular word/s for the force held by those words to disparage or speak unjustly of someone. And by that definition calling someone an imp unjustly is possibly just as wicked as calling them a shthead.
    For a long time I’ve thought that if I hate through specific words then I’ve cussed. Conversely I do not hate (or cuss) if, for example, I sarcastically refer to someone using a traditional cuss word.
    As for the references to filthy language reference in Colossians, I would love to know the cultural background of the Colossians regarding language and words use. I’ve never seen one and I don’t know what Paul means and what the Colossians understood “filthy language” to be. It is grouped with some strong hate-filled forms of language: anger, rage, malice, slander. It is linked to a subset of idolatry (verse 5). Other than this, it is hard to say what Paul means. Aijscro (the greek adj filthy) means dirty, or base. Is is used to describe someone when they have an evil motivation for getting money (filthy lucre). When used alone is means shameful, though I don’t know if there is a nuance there. But if someone were basing a case against cussing primarily using aijscrologia it wouldn’t be convincing. It is somewhat circular.
    “Don’t cuss.”
    “Why?”
    “Bible says no aijscrologia.”
    “What is aijscrologia?”
    “It is cussing.”
    Of course being around a lot people who go most of their lives not using commonly accepted cuss words (except of course when they are very angry… ha!). I don’t use use those words around them, out of respect for them. I grew up in a cussless household and the amount of times I cussed using traditional cuss words I could count on one hand. I didn’t start using traditional cuss words regularly until I was about 27. So I’m coming from the opposite direction. Not seeking to justify a habit, but seeking to be more accurately expressive. Sometimes nothing fits the situation better than well-placed strong language. Not in hate, mind you, but in love.

  • http://writingright.typepad.com/writingright/2005/11/swearing_beer_a.html Anonymous

    Swearing, Beer and the $#@%! Christian

    It’s not very often I link to something Joe Carter has written on his blog Evangelical Outpost however, today is an exception because I love the subject he is discussing today. The topic – Christians and swearing! What the %$#@

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    There’s something of a yin and yang relationship going on here. In order for swear words to be effective they have to be offensive to people at some level. When they cease to be offensive they cease to be swear words because they cease to have any weight.
    I realized this when some of my nephews were scolded for saying ‘that sucks’. It had just occurred to me that I had seen a regular tv commercial that said the competition ‘sucks’! The word had ceased to be a swear word and crossed over to mundane language use.
    BTW, being raised Catholic I was once told never, evern abbreviate Christmas as ‘Xmas’. Anyone care to comment on that?

  • http://leftcentralca.blogspot.com MCI

    Ahh Cussing that thin line that separates us from our coworkers and is usually the only visible difference. I too view flagrant cussing as a lack of Vocabulary, such as using F-ing as an adjective. I have found though that some “Cuss” words are appropriate , because they can describe an individual or feeling much more perfectly than your typical derogatory word. Such as a person may be a jerk, but to carry it further there are a few that fit the word a**hole or applying the same thing to a female, some may be a witch, but even fewer fall into the b**ch category.These words are more appropriate in very certain circumstances

  • Bryan K Mills

    “Xmas”… Boonton, I was taught the same thing.
    But X in Greek is Chi, the first letter in “Christ”. Thus someone else informed me that shortening it is OK.
    I try not to worry too much about it. Especially since we’re not allowed to call it Christmas anymore, anyway. Happy Holidays. Wait, that has “holy” as a root. Happy Festive Season. But isn’t “festive” tied to “festival” which may have religious roots?
    How about: Have a Nice Day.

  • Tim

    From m-w.com:
    Christmas: Etymology: Middle English Christemasse, from Old English Cristes m

  • Larry Lord

    BTW, being raised Catholic I was once told never, evern abbreviate Christmas as ‘Xmas’. Anyone care to comment on that?
    I never heard anyone object to it before. I thought the X was supposed to represent Jesus on the cross — you know, the way he’s usually depicted.

  • Larry Lord

    Oh, and I was raised Catholic, too, but I went to one of those “liberal” Catholic churches where we sang Beatles and Byrds and Cat Stevens (!) tunes during mass.

  • tom

    I went to one of those “liberal” Catholic churches where we sang Beatles and Byrds and Cat Stevens (!) tunes during mass.
    I sent to a similar Catholic church with Father Joe, the hip young priest who could rap with the kids. And, to bring this discussion full-circle, I first questioned the reality of his faith (and by implication all adults’ faith) when I heard Father Joe cuss. (He couldn’t find the right key to open a door and said “d***”.) When no lightning bolt immediately followed, I wondered why. Okay, I was only about 10 years old at the time.

  • http://jeffthebaptist.blogspot.com/2005/11/swearin.html Jeff the Baptist

    Swearin’

    Joe Carter is discussing why it bothers us so much. I swear sometimes. No one over there has pointed out that not all “cussin'” is not the same yet…

  • http://www.kudzufiles.com/archives/000712.html The Kudzu Files

    The Words We Say

    Joe Carter at The Evangelical Outpost has a Christian Critique Of Swearing that makes some interesting points, applicable to soem degree even to those outside the Christian realm. I had read of Tony Campolo’s statement before: “I have three things…

  • Julana

    I’m still thinking about the 30,000 children that died last night.

  • Larry Lord
  • Tim

    I rarely swear (or is it cuss)!
    Sometimes it does come out though!
    But that is not where my concern is. My concern is that when I do swear, it is when I am “out of control”. An example is when I am angry. The example of anger might be understandable to some but what bothers me even more is when it happens due to just not thinking about what I am thinking.
    Why?
    Guard your heart, for out of it flows the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23
    As a person thinks, so they are… Proverbs 23:7
    I am not concerned about offending anyone and I don’t see where the Bible shows that is where my concern should be.
    I don’t want to swear (or cuss) even in my mind, for in my mind reveals what is in my heart.
    Romans 12:2
    Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.
    and
    Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philemon 4:8
    That is why I am trying to teach myself (and praying for) the absence of swearing.
    Larry Lord: I am sure the intentions were good with the billboard, but I would say that somebody messed up pretty badly there. It’s kinda funny except for the fact that some kids see it.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I’m wondering how much of Joe’s change of heart on swearing is simply due to a cultural change. When he was in the Marines he was hanging out in a swear heavy culture. Now that he is hanging out with Christian’s he is in a swear-lite culture.
    Whatever you think about Christian’s claims on the supernatural world the fact remains that they, like any other group, have their own culture. Swearing may ‘feel bad’ to him not really because God frowns upon it but for the same reason wearing jeans and a t-shirt to a black tie affair feels bad…it violates the cultural norms of his peer group.

  • Scott C

    Is ex-preacher now a poet?

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/ holmegm

    >Tony Campolo would often begin a speech by saying:
    > “I have three things I’d like to say today.
    >First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000
    >kids died of starvation or diseases related to
    >malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a
    >sh*t. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with
    >the fact that I said sh*t than the fact that 30,000
    > kids died last night.”
    Sorry to get off topic, but how the h** does Campolo *know* that “most of you don’t give a sh*t”? Who gave him the power to look inside men’s hearts?
    I’d say in this case his profanity was just emblematic of an unloving attitude (of which yes, we’re all guilty at times …).

  • jim`

    Choosing not to cuss shows self-restraint. Self-restraint demonstrates maturity, the ability to postpone present gratification for future gain.

  • Rob Ryan

    “Especially since we’re not allowed to call it Christmas anymore, anyway. Happy Holidays. Wait, that has “holy” as a root. Happy Festive Season. But isn’t “festive” tied to “festival” which may have religious roots?”
    Please. No more Cal Thomaseque misrepresentation of fact. Say “Christmas” until you are blue in the face, for all anyone cares. What many conservative Christians really object to is the failure of public schools and retail establishments to promote their religion. Many of these entities opt for inclusiveness and respect for diversity by utilizing terminology like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”, and I applaud their initiative and sensitivity.

  • brandon

    holmegm:
    Sorry to get off topic, but how the h** does Campolo *know* that “most of you don’t give a sh*t”? Who gave him the power to look inside men’s hearts?
    Because actions speak louder than words, and evangelical intent regarding the weak often belies the true belief. They don’t help weak people in a day to day way. Simply wanting, on some level, for the weak to be helped isn’t at all the same thing as helping them. Not all evangelicals all the time fall into this, but I think it is true much of the time. And if I am not habitually helping others it could be a good indicator that, no matter how much I lie to myself, I don’t actually want to help them.

  • brandon

    Rob:
    Many of these entities opt for inclusiveness and respect for diversity by utilizing terminology like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”, and I applaud their initiative and sensitivity.
    No, they don’t. They can’t be inclusive when it comes to so many things. Someone will be excluded. In this case, it is Christians when their holiday’s identity is goosed (haha). Inclusivity is impossible in this culture. Diversity is and always has been a farce. Attempts at it water down life and celebration, introduce weakness and uncertainty, and places decision makers, not natural culture, as the arbiters of how diversity materializes. It is a form of rule of the tyrant. The losing side is always disenfranchised to some extent. Diversity does nothing to change the varying beliefs we have. Trying to find common ground is admirable, but many of these beliefs and customs are exclusive. It is humorous to watch the diversity advocates try to belly dance their way through the culture. Diversity will die a slow sure death like the old dog it is.

  • http://auspiciousdragon.com/ holmegm

    >Because actions speak louder than words, and
    >evangelical intent regarding the weak often belies
    >the true belief. They don’t help weak people in a
    >day to day way.
    So you’ve been granted the same omniscience, then …
    Somehow I doubt that Campolo would approve of harsh, profane condemnation of a crowd by a preacher if it were not him doing it, and about a different sin.

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    I’m not sure how “Happy Holidays” is not inclusive of all holidays that fall in this time frame? Sometimes anti-political correctness becomes a political correctness all its own.

  • brandon

    holmegm:
    So you’ve been granted the same omniscience
    I wish.
    It is simple observation. I know many able people who say they are sorry to see people in a bad state, but they do nothing about it. I ask them about it and they put up excuses, or they plead tithing.
    I don’t know about Campolo. I’ve never seen or heard him. I heard his son once, and it was entertaining. It was at chapel at Biola and he said “Once you’re saved, you’re not really saved” and this guy, known for his zeal, stood up, shouted “heretic!” and walked out!

  • Rob Ryan

    Like Boonton, I fail to see how “Happy Holidays” is not inclusive. The word “holiday” has long been used in a secular sense. Martin Luther King Day is not a religious observation, but it is called a holiday.
    As for the rest of your comment, Brandon, I can only shake my head and wonder what the heck you are talking about. Especially this:
    “Diversity will die a slow sure death like the old dog it is.”
    Are you suggesting our society will become less diverse as time passes? Demographic data says otherwise, at least in the foreseeable future: more hispanics, more Muslims, etc. Or do you mean that respect for diversity will diminish as battle lines are drawn? I hope that is not it. Perhaps you can explain what you mean.

  • Zeb Trout

    Zeb has for years wanted a cheerful red and green Christmas sweatshirt emblazoned with “Merry Christmas! Bring on the damn Joy”. Alas, his courage fails him.

  • tom

    Zeb
    You’re too late. I recently saw a shirt emblazoned, “Ho, Ho, Ho, Dammit!”

  • David

    In response to:
    “1. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say darn it.
    2. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say dang it.
    3. You swing a hammer, hit your thumb and say damn it.
    Could anyone tell a legitimate difference if all three are uttered with the same forcefullness? Other than social/cultural norms, there is absolutely no difference.”
    But cultural and social norms are not as unimportant as is implied here. Else there would be no need to ‘be like the Romans when in Rome.’ Our sensitivity to those around us often makes all the difference in the world, a thing Campolo and apparently too many others seem not to understand.
    As believers we ought to be above reproach, not seeking to press the envelope where evil and filth are concerned, but always seeking to project the Holy image of Christ to all men. We ought to be in the business of spreading that which is known to be good and pure. When Campolo takes “freedom” to be vulgar because of the perceived flaws of others, he displays a shallowness of heart that is uncharacteristic of Christ. His speech seems based on pride and not holy concern for hurting people, some of whom were likely in his audience and who perhaps became turned off to the Gospel because of having seen yet another alleged Christian behaving no different than unbelievers. Campolo’s concern for the hungry is no different than that of thousands and thousands of humanists who deny Christ. The things that should shine from him are holiness, love and purity, things that are muted, to say the least, as he casually uses profane language and vulgarity.
    I do not imply that books and movies with profanity are automatically off-limits to the Christian. Christ entered a world of profanity, dined and was even entertained in it. But He never engaged in it Himself and the purpose of His being within it in the first place was ultimately to elevate others. I think we are free to enjoy the world, despite its vulgarities. We are not free to be vulgar. Those who wish to be vulgar and who call themselves Christians should perhaps take inventory of their faith, to see whether the light of Christ is present with them.

  • http://www.challies.com/archives/001486.php Challies Dot Com

    A Theology of Profanity

    Over the weekend I posted a brief review of the film To End All Wars and indicated that, while it was quite a good movie, I would hesitate to recommend it because of the amount of swearing it contains. That comment led to some discussion over at Boars …

  • http://TheEverWiseBoonton.blogspot.com Boonton

    As believers we ought to be above reproach, not seeking to press the envelope where evil and filth are concerned, but always seeking to project the Holy image of Christ to all men. We ought to be in the business of spreading that which is known to be good and pure. When Campolo takes “freedom” to be vulgar because of the perceived flaws of others, he displays a shallowness of heart that is uncharacteristic of Christ.
    I think you assume the conclusion here David. You assume swear words are evil and filth yet there’s no particularly good reason to think that. There’s a lot of reasons to think those perceptions are more class based or culturally based than anything else.

  • http://jollyblogger.typepad.com/jollyblogger/2005/11/too_busy_to_blo.html JOLLYBLOGGER

    Too busy to blog

    I’ve been too busy to blog these last two weeks and it looks like it may be next week before I have time to put up anything of substance. I may get something up sooner but probably not. So, I

  • http://thegreatestblogalive.blogspot.com Joe Greene

    I’ve got to ask David to tell me what he uses to determine whether a word is vulgar or profane, and how he judges which way a person is using a word that he doesn’t personally approve of? Is the supposed swearing he invokes really even there? He seems to know peoples hearts, know which particular words are evil and profane and have the inate ability to avoid the question posed with the typical American ability to just assume things are as he sees them without really engaging the situation at hand. While I’m not a fan of Campolo’s theology, and most of his social belief, he at least is putting something out there that looks like a real wrestling with something that is just assumed by so many.

  • http://www.postmodernclog.com/archives/001594.html Le Sabot Post-Moderne

    Bloggy Goodness

    Batesline is on the Duke Cunningham story. Tim Challies and Evangelical Outpost are looking at the theology of cussin’. Reliapundit on the fizzling end of Cindy’s Crawford junket. According to the article, 200 people showed. That’s something less than …

  • http://midnighthour.org/mh/thoughts_on_cussing Midnight Hour

    Thoughts on cussing

    Considering the providential ordering of the topics in the Christian blogosphere and HowItWorks, I have decided to weigh in on the cussing/swearing topic. I’ll use cuss instead of swear because it emphasizes my geography. This is in direct rebellion a

  • Larry Lord

    Diversity is and always has been a farce. Attempts at it water down life
    Hyperbole.

  • Larry Lord

    “Dung” is a great word, especially when it’s part of a larger word, like “dungball” or “dungamungadungadillydoodoo.”
    I am also fond of the term, “scat.”
    All these words have their uses.

  • http://parablemania.ektopos.com Jeremy Pierce

    If you’re going to insist on the original meaning of the word ‘swearing’ in order to deny that it has an additional meaning, then I’ll insist on the original meaning of ‘cussing’ to deny that it’s the proper word for this. After all, ‘cussing’ is Southern for ‘cursing’, and I don’t see any calling down of eternal constipation on someone’s descendants in most of these cases. If it’s inaccurate to call it swearing, then it’s equally inaccurate to call it cussing.
    I believe none of this, of course. This sort of language is perfectly well under the semantic range of both terms. I just don’t think you can say it’s more accurate to call it cussing when the problem with calling it swearing arises just as easily for calling it cussing.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Jeremy,
    I just don’t think you can say it’s more accurate to call it cussing when the problem with calling it swearing arises just as easily for calling it cussing.
    By “more accurate” I do not mean etymologically accurate but correct in the sense of correct usage (i.e., what we say in Texas). It is similar to the way it is more accurate to say “ya’ll” rather than “you all” or “youse guys.” ; )