A couple days ago, I wrote about the A Form of Sound Words post about “synthetic cursing” and the response from
Joe Missionary. I promised I’d respond to Messy
Christian and Jeff
the Baptist. Today I will.
Let’s start with Messy Christian. FYI, all cuss word edits were made by me and are set off with
“If people had known me before my Conversion, they would have known that I sure know how to use
language, if you know what I mean. And I have a fiery temper to go with it.”
“But then I became a Christian, and I quickly tried to ‘purify’ my language. The funny thing was, I
thought by ‘Christianizing’ my swear words it would be more acceptable. I know, funny.”
“So, I replaced [f***] with ‘fish’, [G*ddamnit] with ‘Gosh’, ‘Damn’ with “Darn” and the rest I
totally exorcised from my language.”
“Then, recently, thanks to a combination of things I’d rather not go into detail now, I realised
that it was just utter foolishness and stupidity to Christianize my swear words.”
“I mean, what’s more worrying? The words or the nasty emotions behind them?”
“I may use ‘fish’, but the feelings of hate, anger, jealousy blah blah is still there. We so tend
to focus on the externals. We dress prim and proper, but don’t deal with our wandering eye. We clean up
our language, but don’t deal with the nasty feelings inside. Dressing up one’s swear words is just
another fancy way of putting on a Christian mask.”
There is some logic to this position. Who are we fooling? Doesn’t God know we’re using foul language?
Don’t people know what we mean to say? It sounds attractive. It sounds honest. Who wouldn’t want to
avoid self-righteousness and hypocrisy?
Attractive though it is, it is also flawed.
Let’s make an analogy to quitting smoking. Is the use of a nicotine patch or nicotine gum hypocritical?
Does it somehow make an addicted smoker a phony? No, of course it doesn’t. Do smokers intend to use
either patches or gum for the rest of their lives? Of course not. They are means to an end. Nobody
has any doubt that people using either would rather be smoking cigarettes. However, by using
“synthetic” means instead, they are demonstrating a desire to quit. They are set apart from
other smokers. By quitting, they will likely enjoy better health, as will those formerly exposed to
their second-hand smoke, and their loved ones will likely be blessed by their continued presence on
Earth for more years. Even by just taking the step of using synthetic sources of nicotine, they are
helping themselves and others. They are starting to break the addictive cycle and they become one less
source of filth in the air. Words can be air pollution, too.
Unrepentant cursing is not appropriate behavior for Christians. We are to be in the world but not of
it. By attempting to filter or edit or swear words – and ultimately discard them entirely – we set
ourselves apart from the rest of society. This has two benefits. The first regards witnessing. If we
demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit, among them self-control, we will be recognizable to each other and
to the world as Christians. Let us not be stumbling blocks – scandals – to anyone. The second benefit
is to ourselves. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, “If you don’t behave as you believe, you will
end by believing as you behave.”. Substitutions for curse words are not meant to be an optimal
solution. Like nicotine patches and gum. they are a means to an end. The more you use foul language,
the more desensitized to it you will become. Substitution should be an exercise for our atrophied
internal editors. Many of us in the Body of Christ seem to have forgotten how to guard our thoughts.
The process of remembering starts with biting our tongues.
“Now I am just too apathetic to play the masking game, so I don’t even bother hiding my swear words
anymore. Sure, I don’t swear as much as I used to because I’d rather control myself and not pepper my
dialogue with as many [‘f***s’] and “damn yous” just to look cool. I mean, that’s sad and lame.”
“But when I’m angry – which happens far too often these days – I don’t bother disguising my
language for Christian consumption anymore. Let’s call a tulip and tulip, shall we?”
“I know some of you may not agree with my stance, and you know what? I wish I can come to a point
when I don’t have to swear anymore, but here I am … where I am!”
Apathy? Should any Christian lack empathy and sympathy for others? St. Paul taught that though all
things are permissible, not all things are edifying. If your language offends other Christians, you
should curb it, not because foul language is forbidden, but because your brother/sister is offended by
it. Being a disciple of Christ often means taking people as they are. That doesn’t mean we should
expect that of others. Aim for the laudable. When people reach out to you, hopefully, they’re willing
and able, with God’s help, to meet you where you are. Why make that difficult for them? Be considerate
of your brothers/sisters and meet them halfway.