19 October 2007

The Art of Cussing and Suggestions on Proper Cussing Etiquette

Post-modern Christianity brings freedom, releasing us from the shackles of religiosity. Some of us drink. Some smoke. Most cuss at least once in a while.

I used to say things like, “Darn it, Fudge, Dang, Shoot” or “Golly Gee Beave!” Now I am free to leave censorship aside. I am not only free to watch rated “R” movies, I am also free to quote the lines in the car on the way home.

But for those of us newly acquainted or are being re-acquainted into the language formally reserved for heathen and Irish Catholics, let me lay a few ground rules that can help you not only live free without hypocrisy, but also not offend the children in the playhouse at McDonalds when you accidentally drop your McNuggets on the floor.

Suggestion#1. Don’t eat at McDonalds.

Suggestion#2. Be respectful.
If you find yourself eating at McDonalds and you do drop your McNuggets on the floor, remember that there are probably others around who don’t want to hear that language even if you are emergent. So hold it under your breathe, or say it softly out of earshot. You don’t have to be a hypocrite and still be respectful.

Suggestion#3 Don’t sound like white trash.
With all due respect for NASCAR lovers, you don’t want to lace every sentence with colorful metaphors and descriptions. When you talk about who won the Daytona 500, you don’t have to say, “**** man, that Jeff ***** Gordon is ******** a big ***** paycheck for doin’ all the ***** winnin’ – Hey Mary Bea did you ****** go to the ***** store to ****** buy me my BudLite?

Suggestion #4 Don’t drink Bud Lite.

Suggestion #5 Use when poignant. If you follow rule #3, this should just come naturally. I had a guy apologize to me for cussing so much since he knew I was a Christian. What he didn’t know, was that I was post-modern so I looked him straight in the eye and said, “I don’t fucking care!” Although he hasn’t yet, he said, “Man I gotta come to your church!”

And although Emerging and Seeker Sensitive are completely different, this can be a good strategy for Seekers wanting to build a mega-church. After all it works for Driscoll (who is not Emerging – incase any of you have been too busy watching NASCAR to notice).

Rule #6. Be edifying.
Paul exhorts to use words that are for building up and edifying each other. There are times to let it loose when you stub your toe or when your favorite American Football teams star running back gets busted for smoking pot, but you can also use cussing to emphasize your love for others. For example, “You’re fucking radical!” is so much more dramatic and encouraging than saying, “Golly gee, you’re swell!”

Rule #7. Don’t give a shit. After you’ve followed all these suggestions, then just have fun with it. Be natural. Make up words that sound like cuss words but aren’t. Sometimes it’s more fun to quote Battlestar Gallactica and say “Frack!” You can even sing them. Check out my new favorite group, Cobalt Season. They love Jesus and follow him on the edge of life… and they say “shit”.

It just can’t get any better or more real than that.

So go. Be respectful. Be free. Build each other up – and use some colorful metaphors to create emphasis that will always be remembered.

And if by chance you don’t follow one of these suggestions – for example you yell something from a rated “R” movie as you watch your McNuggets scatter across the floor – and you look up and realize that children, mothers, seniors, and a Mormon are all staring at you, just say, “It’s okay, I’m f****** emergent.”


Mike said...

Dude, you're the shit.

paul said...

I was gonna say this post is the mutt's nuts! but then i kinda thought that it cut the mustard so it's the dog's bollocks!

jovial_cynic said...

I've had similar conversations with my in-laws. I don't generally cuss anyway, but I told them that I'd rather hear my kids cuss after stubbing their toe than ever hear them call someone fat or stupid. Because if we're talking about heart condition and what really matters about what comes out of our mouths, I think God is considerably more offended when we degrade one another with "correct" words than when we cuss after an injury.

sonja said...

David, if you're going to swear. Then go ahead and just do it.

Like this ... I'm f^cking emergent! or this ... Holy sh!t! Batman! I just dropped my McNuggets.

You can just let fly, my friend. Or not ... depending on the shock value you are attempting to invoke. And here are a couple of interesting posts on the subject at my place ... here and here. I wrote them a couple years back ... but they're still kinda fun.

Paul ... are those British swear words? Cause they don't sound all that bad over here ...

Julie said...

That's funny. I was just having a conversation this morning on this topic. We were discussing why, biblically, saying "that's so gay" is sinful while saying "f^ck" is not. I posted about this a few months ago here

Kay said...

My manager at the store I work at is a Mormon (as is most of the state). She'll get angry at something and say "Shit." Then she'll slap her hand over her mouth, look horrified and say "F**k, I can't believe I just said shit."

She's hilarious.

Geoff said...

See, I agree to a point - I think in many situations the whole attitude of Christians has in many cases become an unnecessary barrier between us and the "big-bad-world".

But I'm not so sure that I'm as comfortable with words that start with f and rhyme with duck, at least personally. I just don't like using a synonym for sex as a derogatory term. It just seems to me that it reinforces the societies disregard for the sacredness of sexuality. Whereas I'm not so concerned with the sacredness of my shit, so I'm not as worried about using shit as an expletive! :)

Bill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bill said...

I guess I'm just not "emergent" enough...but I don't see the virtue. I remember middle-school recess when we were just beginning to get daring enough to cuss. They guys would all stand around searching for coolnes in outcussing each other. Was silly then. Even more silly now that I'm an adult.


David said...

Hey Bill,
I'm totally cool with that.
And you're someone I wouldn't just let it fly around. :-)
My point (and you made it well too) is that cussing is simply language, and that whether one cusses or not should be a social or cultural issue and not a theological one.

Great comments ya'all. It's hard for me to really respond as work prevents me from checking during the day... and I can't cuss at work.


Anonymous said...

Wow, did some NASCAR fan piss you off? I'm not offended (nor a NASCAR fan) but more surprised you would single out a particular ethnic and socioeconomic group for ridicule.

Would it sound the same if instead of white trash you suggested:

Suggestion#3 Don’t sound like ghetto trash. With all due respect for bling lovers, you don’t want to lace every sentence with colorful metaphors and descriptions. When you talk about who won the NBA Finals, you don’t have to say, “**** man, that Tim ***** Duncan is ******** a big ***** paycheck for doin’ all the ***** winnin’ fo' shizzle – Hey Shaquanda did you ****** go to the ***** store to ****** buy me my 40?

Suggestion #4 Don’t drink 40's.

I wouldn't say that. But I wouldn't say something similar about white trash NASCAR fans, either.

David said...

Yeah anon- my wife kinda called me on that too.
So I'm sorry if I offended anyone.
I could have picked anyone and just happened to pick on NASCAR.
But I thought I was picking on emergent pretty heavily too and I am one.
So it's all in jest.
Next time I'll make fun of Canadians since I'm also one of them.

Anonymous said...

Hey, it's all good. Kudos to you for your attitude and not getting all po'ed and defensive. Hell, there are things about any group or subgroup that, viewed from the outside, have a bit of humor in them. Sometimes in our efforts to not be hurtful we go a little overboard and lose our sense of humor, I think. But I'm for consistncy all the same, and po' white trash don't deserve bashing any more than po' any other kind of trash. And nobody is trash, actually. I guess if we want to laugh, it's safest to go listen to a comedian who's a part of that subgroup, and who is then *allowed* to poke fun at its idiosyncracies (sp?). Chris Rock, Jeff Foxworthy, etc. Sounds like a separate blog post/rant/musing of its own.

ed c said...

Agreed David. I think language goes back to intent in so many ways. I heard a presentation by language expert Stephen Pinker and he spent a lot of time talking about how people use profanity to accomplish a number of certain aims.

So using profanity for the sake of vulgarity or verbal abuse seems awfully wrong to me. However, there are times when people use profanity to strengthen what they are saying, and in that case it doesn't seem so terrible.

For example, I was watching a documentary called Jesus Camp, and all I could think while I was watching it was, "If these people are the hope of the world, then we're fucked." I tried to chastise myself for such a thought, but there was no other phrase I could think of that adequately conveyed just how serious, messed up, and troublesome. I didn't go around yelling it, I just thought it. I'm still not 100% comfortable with using that kind of strong language, but I cannot rid myself of that initial response.

By the way, I noticed that no other commenter has yet to spell out the F-word, so my apologies if anyone was offended!

David said...

Well Fuck, I don't care!

But to the point, I haven't seen the movie yet (it's in my Netflix cue, but at the risk of too much information, I'm finishing the Babylon 5 series first), so I'm curious to know what my reaction will be. I heard from a friend that if you watch it with the comments by the producers on, you get an interesting perspective...and not a bad one actually.

But your point is well made and I completely agree. :-)


Don't look now you've been outed...

You frickin heretic! Sorry couldn't bring myself to say it.

But I will say you're "The shizzle ferizzle double "D" skizzle"

Anonymous said...

I guess I'm old and spent many years trying to teach my kids how to communicate using the many words that are available in our language. I don't know who gets the credit for this quote but when I was a teen it was sometimes heard. "Profanity is the effort of a feeble mind to express itself forcibly." I guess the feeble mind issue stayed with me and didn't want to be thought of that way.

Rolly said...

My neighbor who wants nothing to do with the church has four wonderful children whom I have never heard a cuss word out of their mouth in the 10years I have known them. I really am torn to invite them to my church because the youth there speak like your art of cussing article. Its unfortunate that the tables have turned. The Christian light is dimming.

David said...

Just Momentum - Thanks for the head up. :-) Part of me wants to "get into it" but cussing or not, we are to speak graciously so I'll I shall control my tongue (which doesn't mean cussing or not cussing btw).

Anon - Good quote. See Ed C comment above yours a bit - I think he responds as well as I could.

Rolly - I'm sorry you're ashamed of bringing people to your church because of cussing. And regardless of how I feel about whether one should cuss, I think we should always be respectful of others and considerate of those around us. I cussed on this post quite a bit to make a point.

Maybe this is something that needs to be addressed if you feel uncomfortable. I would also ask, is this coming from an attitude of the youth group - negative, bitter, angry, rebellious, hurtfull? Or is it just that they are nice Christian kids who happen to cuss. If it's an attitude, there are deeper issues that have to be dealt with. If it's just some kids who use colorful language, I'd then process this out: If you don't want to invite your friends to church because of cussing I guess maybe you should look at the bigger picture. Should you invite someone to go to church to get connected to a community of people who hopefully love God, or should you not invite them and and keep them on the outside looking in. Is Jesus more concerned with you being embarassed by language or the expansion of his kingdom? I don't say that to be derrogatory - you are obviously someone I would never cuss around - but what is the bigger picture?

Better yet (if you haven't done so) build a deeper relationship with the family and get to know them as people; find out who they are, what their hopes and dreams and fears are, and then determine whether your church is right for them... or maybe another church if they are open to attending somewhere.

Our job is not to bring people to church. Our job is to be Jesus to people whether they come to our church or not.

So who cares about the cussing, care about them. And if it's true that you are concerned about how they would feel with cussing in church, find out about them. Ask them. Get to know them.

Jane said...

licentiousness...need I say more. Well, maybe just a little bit. Our society is in a shambles because everyone wants to do what they want. No community (society as a whole) standards of anykind, will result in anarchy. But in the meantime people will further sequester themselves into little enclaves of people who think alike. This issue is about more that just profane language.

David said...

Cussing leads to anarchy.

David said...

Well, that was fun, but in the spirit of edification, I'll no longer comment on comments here.
But you are welcome to send your volleys my way. I'm not threatened, or intimidated. Nor will you change my mind.

Whoever you all are, I prefer to see the best in you, even though we disagree.

May God's grace be upon...
And it truly mean that.

David said...

I was distracted...
my closing comment was

May God's grace be upon you
I truly mean that.


Anonymous said...

Does the Bible not say "the toungue is a fire..." You people can't be serious! We are to be a light unto the world...Stop justifying our terrible language (which shows a lack of intelligence.) Before I repented and trusted in Jesus Christ as my savior I used foul language with the best of them, now, I see it for what it is. Foolish. Wrong.

Next you are gonna tell me that homosexuals are going to inherit the kingdom of God. PLEASE!

Anonymous said...

Don't get me wrong, I still slip up and I do curse. You people are crazy! AHHH!

Danimal said...

George W. Bush
Albert Ellis
James Joyce
JRR Tolkin
Mark Driscol
Rudolph Guliani
Bill Clinton
Lyndon B. Johnson
Ronald Regan
Mark Danielawski
Lyndon Johnson
Robert Kennedy
Al Gore
Francis Crick
Alan Ginsberg
Mya Angelo

The line of reasoning that swearing is the sign of the feeble-minded and a poor intellect is a bullshit argument.
Why is it that the best minds of our generation have chosen to publically use coarse language.
One may not use, or like, the use of language, but using a poor line of logic doesn't prove your point.
Develope and stand by your philosophy, don't try to be glib and pithy and thus discrediting anything you write.

Neo Barthain Thought said...

nick, your comment is a bit esoteric and I have no clue as to what you mean. What exactly are you referring to Kierkigard for? Are you equating Kierkigard to the stream of theology that doesn't accept a legal definition of the covenant, or are you critiqing the idea that Christians are not too much different than other "non-beliver's" in their actions and representation of the gospel? Please clarify rather than being solely sarcastic.

David said...

I removed Nick's comment, because I couldn't give a shit about cussing, but still feel strongly about being above the line in our words and actions... using all of our language (verbal and non-verbal) for edification and building up.
Besides, I too didn't really understand his point.

No offense Nick, but if you'd like to say something, please do so out of respect for others who read this. Cussing is one thing; being a virtual shock jock is another.

Nick said...

I was just checking to see where your propriety kicked in. Although you, David may find what I said offensive and believe that I mis-interpret what you're trying to say.

I thought it would be a good exercise to see how a weaker brother may end up following your line of reasoning. I was wincing while I wrote what I did, going back and editing it several times. To have the work "fuck" in the same sentence with the name of Jesus reminds me of Dane Cook or some other god hating individual.

It's interesting that their are suddenly limits, and that David, you seem to be offended. But could i not have responded with "it's ok, I'm a post-modern christian"?

Anyways what you outlined were laid out as suggestions and my deleted post was following at least suggestion 5 and 7. But they are only suggestions after all right?

leason said...

You know, I'd rather admit I'm a hypocrite than try to make God okay with my behavior. But hey, that's just me.

leason said...

And just in case you think I'm rediculous, check out James 1:26 -
If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

You guys keep that in mind as you read this man's writings and be careful who you follow. Check out first, second, and third John too and watch for things about false teachers. Remember folks, we follow Jesus, not men, and the scriptures are where we learn about Him.

David said...

You're exactly right Nick...
everyone's tolerance can be different. Which is why I try (not always succeed) in being respectful of others.
You prove my point - that cussing should not be a theological debate but a cultural one.
It wasn't the words you used, but the way in which you used them.

I think you want to draw a line in the sand and say, "Use these words, but not these other words." That's fine for you. But I would rather draw a line that says, "I don't care what words you use, just make sure they are for the building up and not the tearing down of others."

Words are just words until we put a context and a meaning to them. For you, the words themselves have inherent meaning. But that meaning will change over time.
I can say, "You're gay." 50 years ago that meant "You're happy." Today it means something else.

There are also cultural differences. I hear the word "Shit" watching BBC, but would never hear it on standard cable here in America (not yet).

Now because meaning does lie with the reciever and not with the sender, depending on who I'm talking to will depend on what words I use.

Unless I'm trying to make a point regarding use of such words (fuck). Which is the same thing you did in your previous comment.

David said...

Leason -
Like anonymous posts I usually don't respond to posters who have no profile - even with a post name. If you're gonna lay it on the line, let me know who you are!

But I've made exceptions to this thread and you're no exception to the exception.

All that to say this - Yes, please read the scripture. Please don't listen to me. If you find something in the scripture that tells us we cannot say "four letter" words, then I'll recant.

All I see is exhortation to use words to exhort, encourage, build up, and not make promises we can't keep. Words of adoration, and love for one another. Words of praise to God, and justice for humanity.

I don't see a list how what words we can and cannot use to do this.
I see Jesus looking in the heart of a pharasee and calling him a whitewashed tomb, and then looking into the tears of prostitute and embracing her.

Let us also do the same. Who the hell cares what words we use to do it.

Thanks for the enlightenment ya'all. :-)
I'm done commenting here (although you are welcome too) for good this time. I felt it necissary to respond to Nick since I actually deleted his comment which might have been hypocritical of me, but I hope I made some sense why, even if you disagree.

But now I'm ready to move fuckin' on! :-)

By the grace of God be on you all.
Maybe we'll all share a beer in the future.

Nick said...

"Now because meaning does lie with the reciever and not with the sender, depending on who I'm talking to will depend on what words I use."

(begin sarcasm)
so basically what your saying is that you agree with my point and detract everything you said about Christians cussing and profess that we as believers should not swear because it sullies ours and others testimonies.(end sarcasm)

50 years ago if i went up to someone and said "Fuck" it would still mean the same thing it does today.

Just because there is no verse that says "Thou shalt not snort coke" doesn't give us carte blanche to use booger sugar.

leason said...

David, my comment was not made anonymously. My name is Lee Eason. I have a profile but I just don't feel the need to blog. I am a follower of Christ and a musician. If you want to get together for coffee or something let me know, but short of that I don't think the internet is going to really help you much.

Honestly man, if you claim to be a teacher of the scriptures but you don't see the biblical principle of self discipline in the area of your speech then you really need to go back to school. I mean that as sincerely as possible. It is easy to become a false teacher even by accident.

Re-read the verse I gave you earlier, James 1:26. Then read Proverbs and pay attention to 25:28 and 21:23. Then check out Psalms 10:7 and 39:1. I really don't see how you can read James (the whole book talks about speech) and then say its okay to use profanity when you stub your toe.

Bottom line: Hypocrisy is when you rail against the sin of another but justify or ignore your own. That is a far cry from admitting I am a sinner myself and am prone to the same mistakes as everyone else. I'm just not willing to bring Jesus down into my depravity and say that he would condone it. Does Jesus love me? Absolutely, but does he love it when I use culturally unacceptable language? I don't think so.

C'mon man, who cares what words we use? The same Jesus you claim to serve cares. Not because he's trying to tell you what not to do, but because he wants you to have life more abundant. God wants us to enjoy our lives and not get snarled by the things he's been warning us about for thousands of years. An unbridled tongue yields an unbridled spirit, one without walls that is open to attack and deceit.

I'll close with one last thought. You speak against the pharisees but I warn you to recognize their folly. They claimed to be righteous, but their sin was obvious. The missed simple truths. My concern for you is that you also claim to be righteous and yet seem to be missing a simple scriptural truth. Remember what Jesus said, you cannot be healed if you don't think you are sick. That was the downfall of the Pharisees. Don't let it be yours as well.

neo barthian thought said...

Leason: I appreciate your willingness to engage in an honnest dialoge, and open to how you see and interpret the scriptures. I disagree, and view the the books and citations you referance differently. But i commend your style and desire to help others seek the truth.

Nick: you references to song of solomon and Kierkagard made no sense and were more Bill Hicks that Dane Cook. Sarcasm only works when the person is cogent in what they are saying. Unfortunatly, i believe you don't really understand Kierkagard or even what this post was talking about. If one wants to find the etological root of swearing one might want to start with the Oxford Dictionary, and the use of the work "Fuck" will have a different meaning even 20 years ago, let alone 50 years ago. However, the roots of the word began way before then, and ultimatly a socialogical turn decided it would be a "salty" term. However, this is all cultural context that happened way after Paul wrote his letter, or even Jesus talked about honnering the father.
If you quote the great pre-existentialists that is great, but don't lump them in with a critique on post-modern philosophy. Dannish Philosophers of the 19th century really are not representive of current philiosophical schools. Espacially in regards to posts about linguistics in the 21st century and linguistic therory.
But I digress since Nick was wanting to be like Dane Cook in a philosophical discussion.

North American 4 Life! said...

HA HA ROLFLOL! That's right Jesus totally didn't die for those who said Fuck. He only died for those that watched their language and use the bible to promote their political agenda.
Ha ha Philosophy... what was his last words??? "It is finished except for those that don't use the right words?"
In John, he wrote in the sand that the Pharasees had said fuck and thus they couldn't stone the woman....
Jesus loves my lexus and my poor exegisis. White Bread tastes sooo good!

Nick said...


This blog is both irrevrent and snarky, which is ok. but I thinks its a haughty to breakdown the dissidents remarks because it was delivered in the same manner.

If you take a look at the grandfather of this Emergent Church/Post Modern Christianity you'll find Brian Mclaren and his book A New Kind of Christian. Brian Mclaren is well read and is quoted reading Soren Keirkegaard. So i thought it was HUMOROUS to use his name in my parody. Sorry I thought people in this "movement" were cogent of it's thinkers.

While i thought your pretentious spiel on linguistics was quaint; I disagree and firmly believe that old school theologians are very influential in today's christian philosophy and theology. Kuyper, Von Til, Lewis, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and Paul are still very relevant no matter how old their respective literature is.

I think it would be wise for you to look back on your hero Karl Barth, who ironically was against the synthesis of modernity and the christian church. lets read a quote from Barth

"Homesickness for the [One True Church] is genuine and legitimate only in so far as it is a disquietude at the fact that we have lost and forgotten Christ, and with Him have lost the unity of the Church. Thus we must be on our guard, all along the line, lest the motives which stir us today lead us to a quest that looks past Him. Indeed, however rightful and urgent those motives are, we could well leave them out of our reckoning."

...And North American....your comment was so middleschool I thought about not even acknowledging it. But I had to point out such a cretin making a flagrant display idiocy.

Tony Arens said...

Believe it or not, this post really hits home for me. Prior to picking up my own cross and following the Lord Jesus, I use to cuss like a sailor. When the gift of the spirit was given to me (and what an incredible experience that was!), the cussing totally stopped. It was really incredible and honestly, it was involuntary! I didn't realize it until a friend noticed it. The change that he noticed prompted curiosity in himself and it openned up a dialog that eventually lead him to a saving relationship with the Lord as well. When we allow the Holy Spirit to direct our lives, we change, and it is this change that others notice. Jesus's disciples experienced dramatic changes, and the people around them took notice of these changes. I listen to words very intently now, and when I hear cussing, I can almost feel pain in my body. I believe in my heart of hearts that the pain is a mourning of the Spirit. When I person cusses like you do, I have no choice but to pray for them - pray that they receive the same gift that I received from the ultimate change agent - the Holy Spirit. The gift of the tongue is so huge! Imagine a world without it. A gift like this brings with it great responsibility, and to cuss like you do seems so very disrespectful to the One who gave you the gift of speech in the first place.

I shared your post with a cousin who is deaf and can barely speak. His eyes welled up with tears as he wrote me a note that said "I'm glad I can't hear that kind of language, and if God ever granted me the gift of speech and I talked like that, I hope he would take the gift back.

Doulos Christou said...


Interesting post. Disturbing conclusions. Could I ask whether you think Ephesians 5:4 relates to this discussion (and if not, why not)?

Jeff R said...

I would quote scripture at this point but I guess Emergents don't really care what the Bible says anymore and that would just be casting pearls before swine anyway so I won't.