I’m really nervous about posting this.  I’m afraid it may sound judgmental and may make people feel really cranky.  Others may be offended.  And it may not even be a relevant post to those of you reading this!  But I read an article in USA Today about a month ago that addresses something I’ve been pondering for awhile.  It talks about the trend in publishing (books, music, plays) to use profanity in the title.  The article says, “What used to be profane is becoming prevalent – and very profitable.”  Turns out that naming something “S— My Dad Says” makes the book sell more.  Go figure.

Not so surprising in secular culture I guess, but what about Christians?  As I’ve been reflecting on this,  it seems like even we as Christians can fall into several possible categories…

1.  The Hipster Christian.  Profanity is THE badge of cool.  The thing that says, I can follow Jesus, but I’m just like you on the hip-o-meter.  I’m down with the f-word so don’t exclude me from your conversation.”  It’s more a part of their persona than an occasional slip when they stub their toe.

2.  The Anti-Pharisee.  I am not a legalist.  Only the Pharisees would bother with language as an expression of devotion to Jesus.  It’s all about grace and I’m leaning into it.

3.  The Exceptional Christian.  Occasional crude language, like driving the speed limit, is my exception to the rules.  You have your exceptions, I have mine.

4.  The I’m a Jesus-follower.  I love Jesus, but not uptight Christians.  I care about what He cares about and that’s social justice.  Evangelist Tony Campolo told many audiences in the 1980s, “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 damn. Third, and worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said a swear word than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

5. The Real World Christian. ” This isn’t a big deal.  Let’s major on the majors and let this one go.” We have a good friend who came to Christ and designated himself our “S— F—- Guy”  He said he saw it as his job to loosen us up and keep us in touch with the “real” world.

I think people (like me!) are afraid to even bring this up for fear of being labeled a prude.  I grew up in a sheltered environment where we never heard any language considered even remotely objectionable.  As a result, it’s not what I think to say, except somehow on the golf course (where it is always justified 🙂 ) which probably puts me in the “Exceptional Christian” category.  In any other context I’m probably more sensitive to crude language than most.

This issue came to mind in a different way the other day when I read an article about how our more and more casual dress in church is an indication that we don’t revere or have the awe and respect for God that we once did.  Dress.  Language.  Are these related?  Do they say something about our view of God?

I’m really interested in what you think about this!  What are your thoughts?  

12 thoughts on “@$#&;;;!

  1. Sadly, there is a lack of civility that seems to increase with each year. It’s disappointing that book titles have to include swear words, but it is the way it is. In my view, we do major on the majors and this one is a minor, albeit annoying, issue. As Christians, I think we are better off investing our energies into loving others, doing great work that benefits others and the kingdom, listening to God’s mission for us and following it, than worrying too much about this disappointing lack of civility. Thanks for the thought provoking post, Laura, and asking for comments.


  2. Thank you for the courageous post. I have been thinking about this issue, too. It reminds me of 1 Cor 10:23 “‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say—but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.” Yes, we can use profanity. But should we? Does it really benefit others?

    Maybe. Some, according to the categories listed above, would say yes. I’m not sure. Sometimes it feels like something being done intentionally for shock value. Yes, God gives us grace. But does intentionally using profanity cheapen what grace is for?

    At the same time, I think it is interesting that we are bothered so much by words that start with “s” and “f” and not THE words that start with G, L, and J. The words that, when taken in vain, are the literal breaking of the 3rd commandment. The names of our Lord. Names that show a God who is personal, revealing, and loving. Names, that, when cheapened, reduce this identity to an adjective for being shocked or surprised or angry.

    My attempt at applying 1 Cor 10:23 is to both not swear myself, but also not judge those who swear. (Or confess after I have judged, which might be the case more often, if I’m truthful.)

    I love that quote by Tony Campolo.


  3. Great post Laura. One that I have a hard time with is the “Boys Club” Christian. It’s the persona that justifies acting different when only in the company of guys. Means we can swear, drink & smoke all that we want. Somehow “us” guys find it ok to bypass who we are at work, with our spouse or family, all in the name of being real. We become two faced all in the name of fitting into the “club”.

    Kinda bugs me.

    Cheers to a great post!


  4. Ephesians 4:9….this verse tends to leads me into conviction and power of words. I too didn’t grow up with foul language surrounding me. My 93 yr old dad just passed away. In all those years I think I heard him say “damn” once and that was on his death bed and didn’t come naturally. Yet I have said and thought some more often than I am ashamed to admit.
    God doesn’t look at the outside, and yet there seems to be a reverence when one walks into a Catherdral or dresses appropriately for an occasion. We walk differently, hold our posture differently…and yet God accepts us for “where we are”…Its a delicate balance and I fear as Christians we don’t take it enough into view and do tend to throw the word Grace at it when we should be asking the Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out to please Him.


    • Yes, thanks for your great thoughts! Such a balance! An awesome God we are to revere, but one who amazingly draws close and allows us to be in a relationship with Him by grace that’s not to be taken lightly.


  5. While swearing seems to be a minor infraction, and I am more disturbed when people use the Lord’s name in vain, lately I’ve been feeling God begin to change my heart and my views on the language I use. I’m not saying that the occasional curse doesn’t come out from time to time (especially on the golf course) but I honestly try not to use foul language. What good does it really do? Does it make the story that much better? Get my point across that much more clear? God calls all of us to give him our entire lives. If I can’t be faithful or give him the small things (i.e: using foul language) how am I supposed to give him the bigger things in my life.

    Whenever I’m tempted to use foul language or speak I remember the following verse.

    “May the words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart be acceptable in your sight. O Lord my strength and my redeemer.” Pslam 19:14

    Thanks for the post Laura!


  6. So thought-provoking, Laura. I can see myself fitting into all of these categories, depending on the company I am with. When we consider how short life is and how few opportunities there are to communicate . . . it makes so much sense that we ought to be using our words for God’s glory. I’m convicted.


  7. I would suggest that profanity speaks more about he heart condition of the speaker than anything else (thus Jesus’ verse about “wellspring” of the heart is pertinent). When one asks why swearing is used in language (an interesting discussion in and of itself) it most often articulates anger, frustration or extremes of some kind.

    In my younger days I neither a “a Christian” nor someone who ‘swore’ frequently, but did so during college and university I think largely by virtue of the environment I was in – others did it so I incorporated it into language without any qualms. When I took a “decision” towards Christ a little over a decade ago (during my final year of university) one distinct change I recall was my swearing just dropped off. What was intriguing was the lack of effort on my part. My use of profanity simply went away. Perhaps one can speculate that the new group of friends I found myself around did not use such words so neither did I. Or perhaps this was a reflection of a spiritual “reset” (what might be called being “born anew”). Or perhaps likewise, there was some distinct heart change in which the roots of those emotions which led to forceful and profane articulation through language were cut off. Thus, what was at one time frustrating – a traffic jam for instance – was no longer irksome because we were learning patience and deeply trusted God to work in our waiting; we no longer seethed with violent angry words because we had a spirit to forgive and a love that overrode all else.

    Of course, like weeds, such roots can overtime grow back (perhaps this is a 6th category?). Nevertheless, this loss of profanity stands as an example that something significant happens “the hour I first believed” – no matter how much we later question and doubt.

    In latter years I have found myself becoming somewhat jaded and cynical regarding Christians. There are many “Christian’s” whose ways are in large measure no different from those who maintain a secular mindset. Observe Christians intaking the same media, enduring the same struggles, the same cultural practices and using the same language. Either Christian’s aren’t trying (and by Christian parlance, aren’t dying) or the God’s power to change, transform, heal and guide isn’t all we’d hope and expect. This culture values wealth and healthy longevity above all else; by stark contrast Christ esteems the poor in this life, those rich in good deeds and the dying to self. In a right world – even a pluralistic one – Christian’s lives might be lived in such a dynamically different way that the landscape of their existence might stand in glorious, attractive, pure, purposeful contrast (and more significantly, point the way in wondrous exultation to the One they live for and through).


  8. Will, you’ve clearly given this subject some serious thought and a attention. Thanks so much for taking the time to share some about your journey. Very cool. Thanks too for the reminder of how we’re to live different from the world!


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