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Posts Tagged ‘bad words’

When it comes to cussing most Christians are either surreptitious Platonists, thinking that the librarian of Heaven keeps an official register of “bad words,” and that it is a sin to say any one of them, ever, or they are libertines who scoff at such reification of bad words, concluding falsely that there is no such thing as evil speaking. But there is evil speaking, a lot of it, and more than there ought to be in your midst.

I lived the first 18 years of my life without Jesus and that means I went through junior high and high school using the same language as everybody else. Though my speaking of foul language has diminished, the flesh patterns are still there. So I was stirred yesterday by a blog post written by Doug Wilson called “Understanding Bad Words.” I appreciated his candor and usual bluntness in dealing with the topic and bringing up issues we hesitate to bring up. I would say that I tend to swing towards the direction of the “Platonists,” simply avoiding certain “bad words” as he describes above, but the following comments resonated with me and were very convicting:

There is an additional category that we might call “shoot cussing,” which traffics in hecks and darns and goshes, and which calls the driver in front of you a “wall-eyed son of a whatnot.” Again, note the presence of that damned Platonism again . . . did that on purpose, it really is damned . . . where it is assumed that all a word has to do in order to be clean is be off that list. But you can hit your thumb with a hammer and run around the house screaming doorknob, and be as deep in sin as it gets. And you can use the word Hell in a way that should offend no one, and not just in sermons about the last judgment either. Say someone says that something is blacker than the Earl of Hell’s riding boots. That a sin? Or just colorful?

Last week, I was in the field doing some sediment sampling on the Platte River with a few coworkers and this topic actually came up! My coworkers are not Christians which made the conversation even more interesting. What precipitated it was a comment by one coworker talking about another coworker who used the phrase, “Aw, stink!” He thought that was so ridiculous and said he thought, “Don’t you mean: ‘Aw, Sh**!” That then brought on a rewriting of numerous phrases like “Fornicate!” “Intercourse you!” “Aw, poop!” and, my personal favorite, “You Richard!” You might be laughing right now or maybe cheesed off, saying to yourself that these phrases aren’t that different from the original. But don’t we do this all the time? Words matter and yet… the heart matters as well. I was convicted by how easily I may speak a phrase not falling into the “bad words” register and yet think the bad word in my head anyway along with being given over to anger or grumbling internally. My unbelieving coworkers could sniff this out immediately!

Doug Wilson closes his post (actually a talk he gave) with some good questions for us:

Is your use of such words a matter of self-conscious Christian discipleship? If not, then stop saying them. Who taught you this word? Who are you imitating in using it yourself? How confident are you that there are no strings attached to the word? How confident are you that you learned nothing else along with the word? Is your use of these words paired up with an ungodly attitude? Is it connected to Ezekiel’s prophetic use or to some hard-R sex comedy? Jesus says that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matt. 12:34). Is your speech a fresh water spring or a sewage pipe? When you speak, are you respectful of the presence of women? Does that kind of thing matter to you at all? Are you aware of the difference between not speaking like a gentleman all alone, which is bad enough, and when you are with others not speaking like a gentleman in such a way as to insult a lady? When you speak, is it for the edification of the hearer, or is it to get a laugh for your own glory? Do you speak for them or for you? And are you like a poor stand-up comedian who tells dirty jokes because nervous laughter is better than no laughter? Do you use the existence of verbal Platonists as an excuse to be a libertine?As we finish, consider the explicit teaching of the apostle Paul on the subject. “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers” (Eph. 4:29).

I commend the entire article to you, I know I was personally convicted by his well put thoughts.

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