Once upon a time Christians watched their language. Armed with scriptures like Ephesians 4:29 we knew that ‘no unwholesome talk should come out of our mouth” and that never, under any circumstances should we take the Lord’s name in vain (Exodus 20:7). Alternative cusswords abounded, nothing too crass, or cutting, but otherwise ‘safe’ lists of mild oaths. This is how hell became heck and other close sounding words were born (frick, frickin’, shoot, etc). Rather than shout God or Jesus in anger, many opted to misuse the names of other gods (Great Zeus!) or replaced it with nonsense phrases like (Golly, egad, geez, Gadzooks!). The problem with all these ‘cuss words’ is they weren’t much better and made the speaker sound like they escaped from Archie comics.
Now there are Christians who like to swear. They think nothing of dropping an occasional f-bomb or talkin’ some crazy $h!t. I know pastors and speakers who will swear in sermons, mostly for effect and to get a reaction out of people. The first few times they swear from the pulpit, it actually is amazingly effective; then they sound just like everyone else.
I’m not personally disturbed by much bad language, some of which I think is just the parlance of our times. Certainly people can be overly crass and their language can be too sexualized or harmful, but the occasional swearer doesn’t bother me much. I’m perhaps a little more sensitive about it now that I am the father of young children that repeat everything they hear. Sometimes when I’m walking down the road with my jogging stroller and neighbors are speaking loudly and crassly, I wince a little. It seems impolite to not respect other people’s kids (unless there are an inordinate amount of people with tourette’s in my neighborhood, than I apologize for my insensitivity).
So what is a Christian to do? Certainly we get angry and need to be able to express our frustrations. But we also need to be careful with what we say. So here is my guidlines on how we as Christians can be better swearers:
- Don’t swear at people, swear with people. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus had these words to say to his disciples, “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca, is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Matthew 5:22). I think a lot of the problem with ‘bad language’ in the Bible comes from the way we label people, curse them and dismiss them. This is wrong and should stop, no matter how great your language is. On the other hand using language to identify with people and connect with people, isn’t so bad.
- Tame your Tongue! Jesus’ favorite brother talks about the need to make sure our language reflects our commitment to God and the type of life he’s calling us to, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water (James 3:9-12).” There is not a list here of approved words or phrases for daily use, but I personally know when I’ve crossed the line in the way I describe a neighbor or when I say something harmful to my Spirit or others. We need to cultivate a sensitivity to our own words and how they affect us and others.
- Don’t demean God! This is the big one! Right in the 10 commandments it says not to misuse God’s name (Exodus 20:7). Certainly this includes using any of the names of the Triune God as a cuss word. I think it also warns us about being cavalier in the ways we invoke God’s name ( i.e. honoring Him with our lips when our hearts are somewhere else). So with these guidelines, how’s a Christian supposed to cuss? Lucky for you I have more to say!
- Be Creative. I think one of the biggest problems with traditional cuss words is overuse. They have become mundane and lack force, the rest of the list will help you tune up your cussing muscle (cusscle?).
- Go Greek and Hebrew. One way to become a better cusser is to learn the crass words and innuendo of the Bible which are sometimes cleaned up in English translations. For example in Phillipians 3:8, Paul says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider themrubbish, that I may gain Christ.” Most English translations say ‘rubbish’ or some near synonym (garbage). A more literal translation, to put it crudely, is “Shit.” You can transliterate the Greek as skybala. Try shouting that the next time someone cuts you off on the freeway. There are other crass words in the bible , but I don’t want to spoil your fun. These are best found as you get deep in BS (Bible study).
- Go Festive. We love our holidays and traditions and while many of these are religious holidays they do provide us with many alternative non-blasphemous cuss words. My current favorite is, “O Tannebaum” (the German version of O Christmas tree) as an expression of utter and total disgust. If you do it right, you may have the perfect mild expletive for every occasion. Plan ahead for the holiday seasons!
- Say, “God Darn.” Thus far I have restrained the urge to give you a list of particular cuss words you should say, but I think this could be a good one. “Gosh darn it” was sort of the cleaned up version of saying, “God damn it.” Gosh is a perversion of God’s name to avoid saying it in vain (though it is still demeaning him). When you say, “damn it” you are saying, “Condemn it to destruction.” When you use the phrase, “God damn” toward a person, you are literally cursing that person to hell. You shouldn’t say that, because your words really matter. Instead say “God darn it.” Why? Because darn means to mend ( like ‘darning socks). So when you say “God darn it” you are not speaking nonsense, or saying, “to Hell with you!” What you doing is praying that God would take the situation, the person, this moment of utter frustration and mend it. So say “God darn it” and your cussing transcends cursing and becomes a prayer for restoration and wholeness. Say it enough and. . .World Peace. Wouldn’t that be nice?
So this is my list? What are your thoughts on “Christian cusswords” or “ways Christian’s should (or should not) cuss?