Bad Words

Three of the women that I most respect, though I have never met, have tweeted or blogged (somewhat) recently about something that is near and dear to my heart.

The use of words that “offend” some part of the population. Swearing, cursing, cussing, vulgarity – whatever you want to call it.

For some Christians, this is basically a salvation issue – they feel so strongly about it, that it comes across that if you partake in this ‘sin’, you can have no hope of heaven. It’s practically up there with denying the fact that Jesus died and was raised again on the third day.

Of course, I have some Christian friends that don’t feel this way (I LOVE Episcopalians!) But I’ve been caught up in the midst of some controversy because my language can be…well…colorful.

And honestly, I think I do a pretty good job of reigning it in. I normally don’t say offensive 4-letter words around people I think that will be offended by them (or around people I don’t know). I try not to swear around my kids, because I think that can be a bad habit if the words are overused. (We teach them not to use these words, but that they’re not as bad as words that we use to hurt people.)

But when it comes down to it – that’s all they are. Words. They have no innate power outside what we give them. Why is ‘poop’ worse than ‘doo doo’? Why is ‘crap’ worse than ‘poop’? Why is ‘shit’ worse than ‘crap’? I have no idea. And honestly, I’m probably not going to spend the time to study to figure out why some words are more offensive than others.

I’ve been called out in Bible classes and Bible studies for using language that might not be considered ‘polite’. I remember one Sunday morning, I was teaching a class of about 20 or 30. I was talking about being open and transparent with each other. About being real. And I used the word ‘pissed’. Oops. I got talked to by one of the church leaders for that.

And over a period of three years, I met with a small group of (adult) men (about 6 or 8) every Friday morning. Over these 3 years, thinking that this was a group of mature adults who could handle who I really was, I said the word ‘shit’. Twice. Over 3 years. The second time I said it, the self-appointed leader of our group just had to make huge deal out of the vulgar language I was using. It almost brought him to tears. That was the last time I attended that study.

I know some people reading this might say, “Those words were inappropriate, and those responses to them were appropriate.” But I know a lot of people would say, “WTF?!?”

But back to where I started. To the women I respect that have been talking about it.

A couple years ago, Jamie the Very Worst Missionary talked about the Strong Words she sometimes uses.

Earlier this year, Nadia Bolz-Weber explained, “I love Jesus, but I swear a little”.

And yesterday, Rachel Held Evans tweeted about this very same subject: In Defense of the Four-Letter Word, by Addie Zierman.

It seems like there’s a trend here. People are realizing that following Jesus is not about moral superiority. It’s about loving people. About opening your hearts and homes, and caring about people. We cannot do that when we’re focused on what we look like (or sound like) on the surface. Unfortunately, for most of the folks in our culture, it really is a major paradigm shift.


2 thoughts on “Bad Words

  1. Yes, and I think if more Christians were picky and overbearing about our call to love other people no matter what their human flaws were, we’d have an outflowing of love. Let’s be blunt and say that people that are so legalistic about these kinds of people are full of “shit.” I truly believe that people who are so quick to point these errors out to others are secretly dealing with their own flaws. If we were all transparent, which is something you seem to be wanting to communicate to people, then we’d all be willing to say, ” I swear, I lust, I cheat, I hate sometimes, etc.”

    Sadly, in the Christian realms of our culture, you’re not a good Christian if you’re open about your flaws. And if I seem bitter about this it’s because I was a teenager in a church that let the youth pastor go after he had been getting counseling for dealing with his computer use. The guy saw that it was an issue, he shared it with his wife and with the senior pastor, and went through counseling for something that affects a lot more people than we like to admit. So why does the one guy who is transparent, lose his position at a church where you have a lot of teenagers that would probably learn more from having a youth pastor that’s transparent than having to learn how crappy the church is because they force someone to leave because he fell down a little. We all fall down and it’s crap and it “pisses” me off.

    I think that’s why we have the problems we have in the church, because not enough people are transparent. Maybe we all need to swear a little more. It sure would loosen us up a bit.

    • Jason – thanks for your comments! I have been struggling with the transparency issue – I sound like a broken record I talk about it so much. But the more transparent I am the more it bites me in the ass. I think that I’ve been a part of a fundamentalist version if Christianity for so long, and I’ve finally decided to leave it. It doesn’t help that I’m in the Deep South and it seems like there’s nowhere to go. But we’re looking. I hope you keep looking too. I think God will eventually put us where we need to be.

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