The Allure of a Foul Mouth: Curse Words and the Church

imgres-3These days it seems like everybody uses curse words. Although those that monitor the usage of these words in the media call for censorship, they allow just the right amount of letters to slip out of the bleep so that the intended audience can have some idea what the word is supposed to be. This type of censorship reflects the attitude of the culture that it’s in. If a large amount of those that live within the culture were bothered by the usage of these words then the censorship committees would be hard-press not to bleep them completely, or better yet, rework the dialogue so that there wouldn’t be a need for bleeping.

The existence of a censoring committee is evidence that a large part of the audience is concerned about words. The committee would not have existed and any attempts to create one would have been strongly protested if a large majority of the audience was fiercely against it. The majority of the audience is not anticensorship and if they are, they are not passionate in their conviction. However, over time it seems that the committee has become more lenient in what it allows. The partial bleeping of certain words and the removal of some from the bleeping list–that is to say they are not curse words, or that they are acceptable curse words–are indications of the progressive leniency of the committee. It is only able to do so because a lenient audience allows it.

In its day to day interactions the audience uses a vast array of curse words. A curse word is used when one wants to degrade another, to express anger when something goes awry, or as an adjective in a sentence. It seems like there is no end to the type of ways curse words can be use. It has gotten to the point that if you don’t curse you stand out as an anomaly. The reason that this is possible is because the underlying drive that pushed not only the explosion of curse word usage, but nudity and the telling of what use to be classified as “private business,” is the self-expression mentality.

The mentality goes beyond simply being yourself. It’s about allowing the world to see who you are without care for what is considered right and wrong, no sense of morality. Everyone reveals things about themselves to some degree. It’s natural. However, this mentality allows for the extreme: the revealing of everything without care for the opinions of anybody else. It allows for rebellion to be glorified and to be viewed as how things ought to be.

What happened over time is that the mentality has also grabbed hold of most of those that it initially was reacting against. So now it’s not really a reaction, its a norm. Part of the norm is the constant use of curse words. It is in this environment that the Christian is found. Lo and behold curse words are heard more than ever on the lips of Jesus’ followers. Is it for the better or the worst? It’s easy to get an answer within the confines of a faith community. But how do young Christians sort their way through this complex environment?

The existence of a faith community entails not only that those within hold to the same beliefs but that those beliefs are reflected in their lifestyles. There are Christians that don’t curse. This does not mean that they’ve never said a curse word. It means that they rarely curse. They hold to the view that using foul language is wrong so they don’t use it. They tend to be more cautious with what they say and therefore choose their words carefully. They are viewed as anomalies for their rejection of the everything goes communication system.

There are Christians that curse. Some of these don’t want to do it and are struggling. Others are not really concern with stopping and feel that it’s completely acceptable if they use some choice words here and there to get their point across. Making the distinction between those that are struggling and those that don’t care is important because Christianity recognizes the inward struggle of the believer between what is right and wrong. Whereas foul language may be an issue for one, it’s not necessarily an issue for another. The one that it is not an issue for shouldn’t feel superior.

The Christian can’t allow cultural environment to alter classification on what is right and wrong without significant thought. Whereas on one hand the culture applauds those that mingle Christian views with itself, it is quick to identify certain behaviors as unfitting for those who profess Christianity. One of those behaviors is cursing. If you were to ask non-Christians: do Christians curse? They would say yes. If you were to ask them: should they be cursing? They would probably answer no.

The reason that a Christian should not curse can’t be base on wether or not the culture thinks so. It should be base on the meaning, the impact, and the intent behind the usage of the word. If this concept is difficult to understand it is because there exist a lack of exposure to biblical teachings on speaking. The teachings speak against the anything goes approach. Perhaps this is the reason why they do not receive sufficient attention. This automatically puts Christians at odds with their surroundings. They are then face with conforming to the biblical stance or going the way of all the earth.

How do we help young Christians? We need to teach them what the Bible says about speaking. Adults need to be aware of their speech. There is a dual effect when teaching and living flow together, They shouldn’t only be told about it, but they should see it. Perhaps part of the failure may be that a large amount of Christian adults are now cursing and so those that come after are simply following in their footsteps. Sometimes what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

The allure of the foul mouth will keep calling. This contra-Christian, rebellious, mystical way of being will attempt to sink its teeth on any Christian who dare to stare longingly. It’s time to show the better way of communicating. One in which countless neglected words in our languages are use to communicate effectively.



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A Different Way of Fighting: Verbal Attacks in the Church

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On the street corner, conflicts are resolved with the throwing of knuckles, the quick slashes of a knife, or the rapid fire of a gun. There is always the potential that they can be handled that way in the church, but that is the exception rather than the norm. Physical violence, as an approach to conflict resolution, is often avoided because of the damage that it will cost to one’s public image. Therefore, even though one would prefer to handle an issue through violent means, it rarely happens.

A different method of dealing with conflicts is more dominant. Instead of violently taking down an opponent, it has become the norm to use cleverly selected phrases. There are two results: (1) the first is that the attack has the duo effect of not seeming to be an attack, when in fact it is; (2) the second is that one gets to avoid the public disgrace of reacting violently in a physical manner. Perhaps some further elaboration will make matters a bit clearer.

When offended individuals decides to use phrases as a means of attack, they intend for the message to be communicated. If that wasn’t the case then there is no point in utilizing that method. However, they also don’t want to be seen as being too direct. Being too direct will result in bad press. To correct this problem, they carefully word their phrases in a manner that gives the listeners enough evidence to make assumptions concerning what (and of whom) they are speaking about, and at the same time, leave enough room for doubt. It’s a balancing act.

Using a non-physical assault is more “civilized,” at least that’s what we tend to think. In fact, most would probably lift it to a higher standard, such as: “the method of the intellectuals.” Somehow many assume that we are better Christians, or perhaps, not as bad as others, if we don’t use physical violence. Our sinner’s rating scale reveals that it’s o.k. to attack somebody verbally but not physically.

Where has this gotten the members of the church? Years of endless hatred between families. At times the hatred is so evident that one may be fair in concluding that perhaps we think that it is o.k. to continue existing like this because God has approve our hatred. The most absurd thing is that we think that we are so clever that other members of the church don’t realize what is going on, especially the youth–who, if they haven’t already, will most likely do the same thing.

It has also made us very prideful. The more that we cleverly mask our phrases to launch attacks, the better we get at it, and the better we get at it, the more we think that we are smarter than everybody else. If a person who is trying to live a godly life still has to watch out for pride, imagine one who revels in the fact that he/she has just assaulted an enemy through the use of words. The very fact that that individual finds it o.k. to use the verbal attack makes it difficult for he/she to then turn around and confess the wrongness of the act. How can they be convinced that pride is something to be shunned when the act that is being committed leads to it? They won’t be worried about pride. Their satisfaction concerning their verbal achievement will be more important to them than pride.

Talking bad about people has been preached on, however, I’ve yet to hear a sermon that goes into detail concerning the various tactics that are used to launch verbal assaults. I truly believe that if the topic is brought to the forefront, some will continue it (as is the norm whenever admonitions are given) and others will cease to do so either because their secret is out, or they never sat down and reflected on the implications of their actions. The problem is that most sermons only go surface deep when commenting upon real life issues. The nail is rarely hit on the head.

Maybe I should not have said anything about this. It seems that there is a large fraction of the church that is fine with the way things are and would like to continue in that direction. However, for the few who dare to think that there is a greater ideal for the church, then this is another deficiency that needs to be reflected on, and with the help of the divine, overcome. Being content with disease will only result in the eradication of the one infected.