Some people don’t swear. Most people do.

Here are two perspectives on the issue. First, an opinion-piece from this “post-evangelical,” American (New York) magazine, and then an article from this other, significantly more popular, Floridian mag, to which the first group is writing in response to.

I think people who swear and those who don’t

should not have the quality of their Christian witness judged

based solely on whether or not they’re swearing,

but on whether they’re bringing people to Christ.


An example of a non-swearer that God clearly uses:

My wife’s uncle is a shining example of an excitable and passionate man who just simply never cusses. He never has. What a peculiar example he must have been serving in the army in Vietnam. He will literally beat the floor when something bad happens during his favorite college football game, but he won’t cuss. Besides being an incredibly positive example and witness, his non-profane substitutes are a constant source of family laughter. If he gets really upset, he’s likely to shout, “What the BULL?” He doesn’t know why we laugh, but we love him anyway.

(on page 3 of the comments for Relevant’s article)

An example of one who swears that God clearly uses:

i remember when my mom, sister and i were homeless because we were running away from my abusive father. i met a Christian who profoundly witnessed to me at McDonalds. He had seen our car filled with clothes and asked where we were moving and why. When we finished our story, his tears welled up and he said:”That’s fucking wrong.” His cursing witnessed tome profoundly, because it conveyed mercy and sense of understanding those who are the most lowly. His F bomb. when coupled with tears made it clear he sincerely felt my pain. Most Christians can’t even do that on a daily basis.

(on page 6 of the comments for Relevant’s article)

So when is it ok? If ever? Have I woken up to the reality that the current generation of Christians swear?

Patrol suggests “how widespread and essentially non-controversial Christian swearing has become.” Brett agrees that “we have cussing pastors now, and cussing Christian bands and lots of cussing Christian college graduates” but suggests we need to “clean up our mouths” for the sake of the “non-Christian observer.”

But let’s engage the non-Christian observer. Let’s get to know them. Then they’d see our hearts, they’d see the whole picture. Maybe swearing makes you more human to some, maybe not swearing makes you a safe place to others… either way,

“the sailor-like Christian cusser … is largely a mythical creature: look for him boorishly spewing obscenities every which way without regard for his company or social setting, and you are almost certain to return empty-handed. Thus the admonition that we “clean up our mouths” is … based almost entirely upon straw men.”

So, I agree, Patrol. I don’t think most Christians who swear are unwise about it, or harming their witness. But let’s not get elitist about this.

Would I really stand out that much if I didn’t swear? Would you – those in my circle of influence – really be surprised if I never used a swear word? Would I sound inhuman?  Hopefully I can convey myself honestly and genuinely with all my words, even if I don’t use a few of the more commonly spoken ones.

What do you think of me, dear friends and strangers? Because I don’t swear. Do I seem fake to you? Do I seem stuck up? Do I seem disconnected with the world? Because I’m not. I feel – strongly. I weep, I hurt, I write poetry and I sing along to songs in my room and I dance. I show you all of me, the broken bits and the dark parts and I let you know that you and I have a lot in common.

But you swear and I don’t.

So am I that out of touch with you? Does my God seem foreign to you because I don’t swear? I hope you hadn’t noticed I didn’t swear. Because I honestly don’t do it in order for you to notice. It’s probably part of my upbringing. It’s entrenched in me that swearing is wrong. Because when I hate I swear, when I’m out of control I swear, when I’m trying to be cool I swear. There is no neutral swearing for me.

As ever, I will love you, and laugh at your jokes (if they’re funny, and sometimes if they’re not), whether you swear or not. It doesn’t offend me, and you know that. You feel comfortable around me even though I’m not exactly like you. Thank you.

I have one last thing to say:

Patrol is kinda snarky.

“If we are to be concerned about our “witness,” then not drafting semi-literate, scruple-ridden cases against “bad” words is a very good place to start.”

I don’t know how to say this with the wit and worldplay of this writer (although apparently I’m quite apt at alliteration), but I will say that God uses those semi-literate, scruple-ridden folk. Yes, they were criticizing the article, not the author, but I can’t help but see through that to a heart set against the “Simple Christian.” Those people who aren’t as well-educated, and are perhaps a bit antiquated in their beliefs, do a lot of good, only by the grace of God, just like the rest of us (although I don’t consider myself in league with the writers for Patrol – I’m not that (what’s the word? cool? angsty? smart?). It’s a personal pet peeve of mine to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s face it, Evangelicals have been known to miss the mark (or “the point”) but God is going to use them, nevertheless.


One Comment Add yours

  1. Freeman5673 says:

    I really appreciate your comments on foul language. Very thoughtful and balanced.

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