Hey! This is the old a broken mold. Newer stuff is at abrokenmold.net.
That being said, feel free to rummage through the archives over here. Also feel free to leave comments; we're still keeping an eye on this.

Alright, I know. I opened a can of worms just by saying that. But I'm prepared to put them on the hook.

I wanted to blog about this a while back. In fact, what started it all was me asking (or was it telling) a friend (OK… an internet friend) was cussing on IM. And he said 'why?' So that got me Googling on it, which dug up… previous cans of worms. Specifically, some of the stuff I turned up, for reference:

Grudem and Piper on Profanity :: :: A Reformed, Christian Blog
constantly..in need of grace...: Glorious Biblical Profanity
Profanity and Christianity « JP’s Mind

And that post, by the way, was when I ran into JP's Mind, in case you ever noticed the link to it on the blog.

So, the argument rages on.
"Swearing is wrong."
"It's the only way I can adequately express myself."
"Hey, even Paul used profanity."

Each argument, each opinion, we could follow on a network of its own, but this is what I have to say. It's not about walking the line. Something I have learned is that righteousness isn't a line; it's a direction. That being said, we would want to be walking in righteousness. Which brings us back to the question, does profanity belong on the road of righteousness?

I see this is going to get a little more involved…

First, we have to know what profanity is. The Encarta® World English Dictionary (eh, it's on my laptop) defines the verb transitive as "to treat something sacred with disrespect." Using God's name as a swear word would fall under this description, I think. The other word that comes to my mind is obscenity. And what is an obscenity? Merely something that you are not supposed to see. So when we make things that should not be seen visible, it's an obscenity. What's not supposed to be seen? Check the Bible for answers on that one. One other angle we might hit on is the word cursing. Wishing or commanding something bad on someone. Really, we can't do that except what we ourselves would do or influence others to do. Still, I don't have as good a handle on this one. In the back of my mind, it seems I remember someone saying when we curse, it does have an effect. Maybe I should ask around.

Anyway, neither profaning things nor making visible that which should not be sounds like something Christians should be doing. When it comes down to that, it's easy. The answer is, it's wrong.

Really, the whole thing revolves around three things in my opinion: the dynamic nature of language, the intent of the heart, and stumbling blocks.

So, we should first realize the dynamic nature of language. Some of the things we say today that don't seem offensive at all might have been highly offensive 200 years ago. Language changes. Definitions change. Keep that in mind. But also keep in mind, God was holy 200 years ago, and he still is. Respect his name. Also, what was obscene 200 years ago is still obscene today, though our culture seeks to define it as acceptable.

Secondly, the intent of the heart; it can be good or evil. If you say "son of mutton chop" but mean "son of a ***" in your heart, that's wrong. That's not to say we can't express anger. I was reading something in my Googling that said it well (indirect quote, click for original): 'When I say "Damn!" after hitting my thumb with a hammer, it doesn't mean I'm calling down eternal damnation on the hammer. It means "ouch!"' In that situation, the intent of the heart isn't cursing somebody, it's saying "I hurt!" Or "I'm annoyed!" On a personal level, this seems agreeable, but I think it could be a stumbling block, and people could also get the wrong idea if you're saying "Oh ***!" every time something irks you.

Back to the stumbling block. I think a person can be a stumbling block in two ways: by doing something that is definitely Biblically wrong (which might encourage others to do the same, both those who know it to be against God's law and those who don't), and by doing something that would violate the conscience of a brother or sister in Christ (in their presence, or such), e.g., Delbert believes it's wrong to eat hamburgers, and Bob walks into the break room with a quarter pounder, plops down beside him, and starts chomping away (to take it a little further… Bob: "Oh, hey, Delbert, man, you gotta try this. Oh, yeah, I know you don't believe in hamburgers, but one little bite won't hurt. C'mon man, yur missin' out!").

Alright, I think I've gotten my thoughts expressed. I welcome yours.


Matthew said...

Well, that's what this blog is for: opening cans of worms! Good call, Gnat. I agree with the vibe of what you are saying. Certainly, it is beyond dispute that the Bible calls us to put aside filthy talk and coarse jesting. However, I believe there is a place for strong language. Strong language that could include calling something what it is. Calling an inundation of humanist, selfish, atheistic thought and teaching in the schools and media what it is: a load of BS. A Louis L'Amour-style "You b-----d! before going for your gun. In a song about Johnny Tarr, a "get up off your asses and set up the glasses, I'm drinkin' this place dry!" Compared to a solid faith in God and the salvation that is only through His grace, our attempts at righteousness are *dung*. One might even say that our so-called "good deeds" are a pile of c--p or s--t. And maybe it's not a sin for them, they don't have a problem with it. However, if you're using that kind of language because it seems daring and pushing liberties, or IF IT IS A STUMBLING BLOCK, it IS A SIN to use it. Personally, I don't like to use that kind of language (particularly the latter), because it seems filthy to me, mainly because of the way it is used in our society. As Gnat mentioned, it could be perfectly normal terminology in another time or culture (although some of these words have a history as obscenities all through the English language). And I could also accept that a Christian could use this terminology and not be sinning, but it would have to be in a manner other than I described above. STRONG LANGUAGE is a term that comes to mind to describe what might be appropriate. Oaths? Swearing? Curses? Cussing? I don't think there is a place for *profanity* in the Christian vocabulary. I don't think there is a place for *cussing* either. That's idle and detrimental talk. Or for *swearing*, in the obscene sense of the word. How about the justice connotation? Good question. Since we are told in Mathew 5:33 not to swear by heaven or earth, but to let our word be our word, what does that mean about courts? Well, that's a sidenote, but I personally think our word is our word, but swearing in court or to take office or something is just for the sake of the worldly system that doesn't come with a completely Christian presupposition, and it just confirms what we already are: true. Back to profanity. How about *oaths*? Well, I think there may be a time for oaths, depending on how you define them. This seems to me in the same ballpark as strong language or cursing, all of which have a place, in my opinion. However, I don't really see a situation where I need to be calling down oaths or cursing someone, since I think that's better left up to God, but you see people like prophets or godly men in the Bible cursing people. But, back again to modern usage of many words, f--k and b---h and many other words really have no place at all in the Christian vocabulary, since they are intrinsically obscene, filthy talk by nature of their definition and connotations. Well, all this to say, maybe if you're the Scarlet Pimpernel, taxing your mental and physical faculties, undergoing pain and exertion in the eluding and outwitting of your enemies, there seems a time when, out of the darkness, one might be thrilled to hear a "good, solid, absolutely British 'Damn!'" and "somewhere, not very far away, a cheerful, strong voice...singing 'God save the King!'"

JP said...

Well now...

I can't see anything here I disagree with.

I appreciate the link to my post on Profanity and Christianity, however, I wonder if you read the follow-up post which explores the idea even more in depth:


Now I'm off to read more of what you have to say...

Matthew said...

Thanks! That was a good read. The only thing with which I disagree is that I wouldn't use just any words around someone I've just met, as I don't know what offends them.

Nathaniel said...

Aha. I had seen a link to it, JP, but I'd never read it before. Very good, quite persuasive!