I’m a Christian…and I swear

Advent. Day 13 of 24

I guess it’s time to explain myself. Some things have happened this year that make me think I should try to articulate why I sometimes use words that may be considered inappropriate for a Christian to use.
First it was the Christian magazine interview about Christians that use ‘vulgar language’, as she put it. When the reporter was asking around as to whom she should talk to about this, she was pointed to me. More than once…
Then it was this interview I did on a podcast called ‘Wikigod’. (You can hear it here. http://www.wikigodpod.com/home/82) For the first time in 82 podcasts, the interviewer felt that he should put a warning of strong language at the beginning of it before people listened and were surprised by what they might hear.
And finally my 14 year-old daughter, though never having heard me swear I hope, knows that I sometimes do.

I guess that was when I realized it’s time to try and spell out how I see no conflict in my life as a Christian who ‘swears’.
But first some disclaimers;
i) I absolutely hate and cringe at anything I view as taking God’s name in vain. So you’ll hopefully never hear me say ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus Christ’ in any other way than out of the deepest respect for God/Jesus. To hear these words as swears to this day makes me squirm.
ii) The language I’m specifically referring to are my use of the words ‘shit’ and ‘fuck’. From this point forward I will refer to these as ‘the s-word’ and ‘the f-word’ for the sake of readers who might struggle with these.
iii) I use these far less than I did 10-15 years ago when I thought swearing made me cool. I’m at least old enough now to realize that ‘cool’ is irrelevant.
iv) I realize that I may be wrong about all of this but that God has grace.

So, with all that said, here goes my attempt at figuring this out. I think there are 5 main reasons as to why I’ve decided this is ok for me;
1. Because I can and I don’t think God cares about if I do or don’t. This might be the same type of question as ‘how can you be a Christian and dance, or drink, or ride your bike on Sunday, or go to movies.’ Maybe it’s an irrelevant question.
2. It’s biblical. I think we’ve sanitized our holy book. Read the Psalms. Read Paul (Did he really say ‘dung’ or does our English translation just curb his language a tad?)
3. It helps un-bottle pressure. There was a recent study done of people experiencing low-level pain. Half the group could swear and the other half couldn’t. The half that could reported a much more manageable experience than those who couldn’t. I’m physically quite sick. Swearing sometimes makes it easier to cope. Sometimes that’s all I’ve got.
4. Sometimes swearing is useful to make a point. Sometimes dropping an ‘f-bomb’ is the only way to wake up a sleeping giant.
5. It’s honest. It humanizes me. One time, a while back, a man was struck and killed in front of our shelter. We brought in a pastor to lead a debriefing prayer time. One guy was so distraught by the loss of his friend and the violence that caused it, that his only prayer was ‘Ah f%#&’. It was the most honest and profound prayer I had ever heard. I will never forget it.

So in this Advent season, while watching the world stay messed up and possibly getting worse, sometimes a swear here or there is all we can muster.

Come Lord Jesus.
Come quickly.

8 thoughts on “I’m a Christian…and I swear”

  1. Willy Kim says:

    Very intriguing post, got me thinking as I am surrounded by guys that use the f-bomb in every sentence and find myself swearing under my breath at times. However it still bothers me as I have always considered that swearing are words used by ignorant people that don’t know what words to use. That’s my opinion so if other people want to swear, doesn’t bother me but swear at me in a offensive way then I’ll be pissed.
    Interesting that my friend posted the link below the around the same time you posted your blog. I totally understand both points but I guess for me, I consider how I would speak if God was right beside me (as He is always right beside me).


  2. Danielle says:

    Might I add some more?
    1. Jesus regularly used ‘offense’ as a ministry tool. He offended the religious in order to expose deeper heart issues… usually rooted in superiority and pride. I find that using offensive words strategically does the same thing. It offends. We naturally assume that all offense is ungodly but Kierkegaard reminds us that “If you haven’t been offended at Jesus, you haven’t heard him correctly.”
    What helps me in this regard is paying attention to what offends me and why. It’s been a constant source of repentance in my life because what is almost always offended is my pride. Check it out.

    2. Real everyday people swear all the time. Seriously. From police officers to nurses and lawyers to stock traders, swearing is a culturally appropriate way to express emotion. Your point that it ‘humanizes’ you is extremely valid. We have so many barriers that create distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’. Sometimes ‘watching our language’ stops us from expressing our heart. That’s when we’ve got it wrong… expressing our heart is God’s primary concern. Let’s get this in the right order.

    3. Extreme poverty, injustice and systems that keep people enslaved need our outrage. If ever there was a time for the church to express legitimate outrage and emotion over the state of the world it’s now. Who can watch the people in Aleppo tweet their last words and not swear? The world is sometimes total shit. And to say that is important. There is nothing worse than a glossy faith that refuses to acknowledge pain and suffering.

    anyway, some thoughts from a fellow potty mouth.

    1. Dion says:

      Love ALL of this my friend.
      Thanks for weighing in.

  3. Jim Ellis says:

    This issue arose in the Clinical Pastoral Education program which I taught for many years at Scarborough Grace Hospital. Not only did M. Div. students and chaplains need to be comfortable and non-judgmental while hearing such words and even stronger ones, coming from patients and families as they lived through the painful realities of sudden death, a still born child, tragic circumstances, and frightening diagnoses, they also needed vocabulary which conveyed the depths of their own feelings as they ministered to others, and faced their own inner responses to their current circumstances. I think that Christianity’s dismissive stance towards the ‘four letter words’ (especially the s and f ones) is mainly the fact that they are angry words. Good Christians are not supposed to appear angry. Remember the Sunday School ditty?: “Root them out, get them gone.
    All the little bunnies in the field of corn,
    Envy, jealousy, anger and pride,
    These must never in my heart abide.” The fact that the f and s words are verboten makes them even more powerful expressions of anger, which we absolutely need when being honest about how deeply we are affected by life’s inequities, injustices, and hurts. Anger is a healthy human response and healthy people find appropriate ways to articulate it. Anger buried by guilt or shame or fear (the Church has used these feelings to control its flocks) can lead to a very serious depression. Their vulgarity is not a bad thing, their over-use and familiarity may have weakened their value!

    1. Dion says:

      Thank you for this Jim. This seems so crucial for the work you and yours have spent so many years doing.
      I’m so thankful to know you and to be able to regularly benefit from your wisdom.

  4. Aaron says:

    I deal with a lot of mean spirited people in my family (extended) and if I’m trying to talk to them and if it comes out because of their ways then they change the subject completely and focus on their judging me for using one of the two words so since most of them are narcissistic, it’s all my fault for being a bad Christian. Hope that makes sense. I’m still trying to not use the word but can’t help it sometimes. I just want to be right with God. Thanks for the article and prayers.

  5. A girl says:

    I also curse. And I am only 12. I do very unpure things. I swear listen to rap etc. But then I am preaching a sermon in 2 weeks. And I know I am not the best example of a Christian right now

    1. Dion says:

      I don’t think I know you but Godspeed in your sermon and in your pursuit after God’s heart

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