A Tasteful Examination of Using Salty Language

 Warning: This post is rated PG-13. If you are offended by certain slang words that might be used in those movies, then please, do not read this post.

Is it okay for Christians to Curse?

I have a friend who works in the Christian publishing industry. He was recently telling me how conservative it is, and for emphasis, he added, “We can’t even print the b-word.” I scrolled through a catalogue of words in my head, trying to guess which b-word he might be referring to. There were so many choices. Was it bitch, bastard, balls? Surely any one of those could be the vulgar culprit. Or, perhaps there was some other curse word that I hadn’t been exposed to yet; some urban street-slang that these publishers were on to, one that would soon be infiltrating our suburban high schools, possibly even making its way into the mouths of our church youth. I remained silent, not wanting to guess the wrong word or expose my lack of street cred regarding the youthful slang that the Christian publishers were so down with. God forbid, I certainly didn’t want to show my age. Not hearing a response, my friend volunteered the answer to this trivia question. “The word is ‘breast’.” He said. “Breast. Can you imagine that?”

No, I can’t. What I can imagine, though, is the abrupt and final termination of any misguided notions I had for snagging a book deal within the Christian publishing industry. I pictured myself sitting across the desk from a pastorly editor, who is suddenly infuriated upon reading the word “ass” in my manuscript. Enraged and offended, he pulls me up by the ear and briskly marches me through the building, shoving me out the door, back onto the cold, harsh streets of Grand Rapids.

I never thought of the word ‘breast’ as risqué, really, not when it is used in an appropriate context. I mean, we are all adults here. And I bet most readers are either women or married men, which means that we either have them, or have had them in our sights at one point or another. Why work so hard to pretend that the breast is not a functional part of a Christian’s every day lifestyle? Read the Song of Solomon, for goodness sake.

It’s not that I am a foul-mouthed libertarian. I have always been fairly conservative when it comes to language. The Christian publishers’ attitude reminded me of my own conservative upbringing, and the taboo that was expressly reserved for any utterance remotely resembling a curse word. I never, ever heard swearing in my home, growing up. Even the words that were quoted during King-James bible stories in church and Sunday School, words like “hell” and “ass” (the animal ass, not the body part), were strictly verboten. However, with age, a more robust group of Christian male-friends, and quite possibly hanging around too much with my own teen-age daughters, I have definitely loosened up my tongue a bit. Especially as I started writing, I developed a healthy respect and appreciation for the use of a salty word now and then to round out a story, or to drive home a point for emphasis.

Plus, it’s pretty much how we talk. “We,” meaning the friends from work and church who I spend time with, those with whom I fellowship with and share my life with, even the most spiritually mature brothers and sister in Christ. We feel quite free to use an off-the-record reference now and then. Not every day, not usually in a crowd, and certainly not in every conversation, but occasionally, yes. I know several men, spiritual pillars of their churches, who will occasionally drop the word “shit” into their conversations with me. And hey, to me, it usually sounds just fine. Sometimes that is exactly the right word choice, just what the doctor ordered. “Golly, Brad, I think I just got on my pastor’s shit list,” one gentleman confides. Other times these folks are referring to the actual tactical meaning of the word, especially coming from those who are associated with the agricultural industries – those hard working men and women who till the soil and work with livestock. “I was out in the barn and got shit all over my shoes!” the godly Christian farmer will say to me, and he doesn’t even know that it was once a forbidden word in my Evangelical fundamentalist household growing up. None of these gentle folk are being vulgar, foul-mouthed, or inappropriate. We are just friends, talking to each other about our lives, in our own tongue.

So why can’t it be so in my own writing, where I am also sharing my self and spiritual life with my friends, you the reader? How we talk in real life is not at all like the Christian publishing market portrays. I’ve been a Christian for a long time, but sometimes I can not relate to the sanitized, simplistic, hyped-up and over-spiritualized language that is often passed for inspirational literature. Everyone is trying to out-motivate everyone else. I worry that these authors and publishers are more concerned with spiritually one-upping the reader, rather than getting down to the mat, revealing the messy truth of life, which is where the bulk of my real, normal life is taking place. It just doesn’t sound real.

Of course there’s still plenty of insights and inspiration to be gained from reading and listening to the pastors, motivational speakers, theologians, and writers who are out on the circuit today. And God knows we all can use some wisdom and guidance on our journeys of faith. But lately, for me, I am too often left with an awkward disconnect between their well-meaning spiritual advice and my real-world experiences. It’s as if these experts don’t quite get what my life as a “normal” person is like. I mean normal in the sense that giving spiritual advice is not my primary occupation.

I can understand the reluctance of Christians to print or speak words that may compromise or call their piety into question. Maybe they find it hard to know where to draw the line, and thus prefer to err on the side of caution. None of us want to fall under James’s admonition of being unable to tame the tongue, “uttering both praise and cursing out of the same mouth” (James 3:9-10).

I try to imagine if Jesus ever used a cuss word. Especially the teenage carpenter-apprentice Jesus, after accidentally hitting his finger with a hammer. I doubt it. But what about the disciples?

Take Simon Peter, for instance. Well, no question there. Peter definitely cursed. He was the one with the potty-mouth, the one that the other disciples had to keep apologizing for. “Oops, sorry Jesus, about my brother’s TRASH-MOUTH. He got into this bad habit of cursing when he was working in the Gallilean Fish Workers Union a few years back. But he’s a good guy. PETER CAN YOU PLEASE JUST TONE IT DOWN? Goll-lee! Jimminy Crumpets!” Peter was probably no different from any other fisherman you might be acquainted with – you know, “salt of the earth” and all. He may have toned it down some after becoming a full-fledged apostle, but I can still see him dropping some Aramaic f-bombs when he got worked up – he did have a temper, after all.

What about Paul? Rumor has it that if you look carefully at the original Greek manuscripts, you will find that he used a saucy word in one of the epistles, and not by accident. This scandalous idea was first presented to me over twenty years ago while in college, by a speaker at one of our Inter-Varsity Fellowship meetings. This gentleman was expounding on Philippians 3:8, “I consider everything a loss compared to the greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.” After the speaker preached on the magnitude of Paul’s commitment (“So should ours be,” he said), he went on to tell us that the word “rubbish” is not quite the literal translation. He continued on this tangent and with a wink and a sideways smirk told us, “You folks might find it interesting that the original Greek word Paul uses here is a slang word. It means something a little more explicit than the word ‘garbage.’ It actually refers to human excrement.”

“Whoa! Dude! All right, Paul!” That’s what most of us guys were thinking. But I never heard anything more about that translation again, and avoided saying that particular slang word for human excrement when describing my commitment to Christ, or in any other context, for that matter. Fast forward twenty-five years. A few months ago I stumbled across that same proposition while reading a book called “The New Christians,” by Tony Jones. Tony makes the exact same point in a little sidebar – that the Greek word Paul uses in Philippians 3:8, skubalon, is the equivalent of our vernacular word, “shit.” Most bible translations will use words like “refuse” or “dung” or “garbage.” But the real translation from the Greek is a slang word for human excrement. You know what it is, so I won’t say it again.

Well, there you have it. Paul used a street-word for its shock value, to get his point across. But Paul wasn’t “cursing” just then, was he? He was using a slang word in a certain context to bring a punch to his very strong point. There are certain slang words that are actually appropriate at times, more relevant or at the very least functional. There’s a big difference between using slang and actually cursing. Cursing involves outright vulgarity with an intention of offending and condemning the listener. Which is not what I, nor my good brothers and sisters ever intend when speaking. And, I guess that’s my point. Or my question. Just what exactly qualifies as a curse word anymore?

I serve on a Board with one of the pastors from a mega-church in our area. A couple weeks ago we were about to receive a presentation from someone who wasn’t quite so polished in his use of language. Like Peter, I warned the pastor that the presenter may accidentally drop a couple of off-color words into his presentation, by accident. Words not typically heard in his weekly sermons. This pastor replied: “So what. I think an off-color word can be refreshing once in a while.” This is actually code for “I am so effing tired of being censored by the Evangelical language police.”

Can you imagine that? A pastor who welcomes salty language as “refreshing?” Maybe I can someday imagine a world where Christian-oriented material is published with language that really sounds like me, my friends, my church, like we are having a real conversation about real life. Not that it would be nasty, irreverent or blasphemous, and certainly not cursing others, just talking. That’s quite a stretch, I know. But, dang-it-all, I can dream, can’t I?

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About J.B. Wood
  • http://faithfictionfriends.blogspot.com/ Glynn

    I’ve been reading a lot of Christian fiction, for a couple of reasons — I like good stories, and I’m researching the markets I’m writing for myself. To see what was happening on the secular side of these same markets, I read a couple of novels that aim at the same demographic, minus the “Christian” designation.

    I hadn’t read these types of (non-Christian) works in a long, long time. The use of profanity reached some level far below gratuitous. Characters fell in and out of beds, usually for no discernible reason. Most telling, the writing was awful.

    One of these books reached the New York Times best seller list. If I ever had any doubts that American culture was doomed, this dispelled them.

    I recently heard a Christian speaker, a pastor, sprinkle his presentation (not a sermon) with words I would never use in front of my wife, my children, my colleagues at work or anyone else I can think of. It had a good message, but he cheapened it to sound cool and “real.”

    As a writer, I don’t think I’d argue for “never use this kind of language in a Christian book or presentation” Neither would I argue in support of using it. But seeing what secular publishing has come to, and having a recent example of what a pastor’s speech sounds like when it’s peppered with this language, I’d err on the side of rarely if ever using it.

  • http://www.theblogofnancy.blogspot.com nAncY

    Salt of the earth

    Someone or a group of people who are considered to be the best type of people.

    This biblical expression from the Gospel of Matthew refers to the high value placed on salt in the Middle East in Jesus’ time. Salt was expensive, an excellent preservative, and highly prized for the way it brings out the flavour in bland food. In those times, salt was sacrificed to the gods, and it was commonly held that guests who had eaten their host’s salt (i.e. food) were obligated to him or her.

    This idea lies behind the Middle Eastern expression “There is salt between us.”

    Example: Although Justin might not dress well, he’s the salt of the earth.

    Salty (language)

    Witty or earthy chat that can border on rude or crude language.

    References to salty language have been made since 1573. Some believe there is a connection between this phrase and the expression old salt meaning an experienced sailor. The notion is that sailors were known for their foul language, possibly a result of working for months in an exclusively macho environment. However, dictionaries reveal sailors were first called salts around 1840, and this was clearly a reference to the salinity of the sea, not to bad language.

    Example: After John had had a few beers, his anecdotes became more and more salty.

  • http://www.theblogofnancy.blogspot.com nAncY
  • http://www.theblogofnancy.blogspot.com nAncY

    i wonder about peppery language, that might be a bit to hot.

    if language is too sugary it can be a bit annoying.

  • shrinkingthecamel

    Glynn – I appreciate your position – There are many words, not mentioned here, that I find extremely offensive and forbid in my house. You are right – it can easily go overboard and become downright disgusting. I respect your position of erring on the side of rarely if ever using it.

    Nancy – As always, great food for thought – or salt for thought? I am glad this post didn’t send you heading for the hills, or the vineyards, never to return to STC.

    And yes – TOO SUGARY CAN BE A BIT ANNOYING. What’s the balance? Peppery? Salty? Good thoughts.

  • donkimrey

    Sir, You crack me up! In my opinion, this is riotously funny! Didn’t I write you about Linda’s nose to nose with a proper kinda lady in one of our “Bible studies?” A while back I spent some time thinking (and writing) about why I LIKE Jesus.

    (Not just LOVE Him as a Savior) but why I really like Him. The kind of friend I’d enjoy just “hanging out with.” One of the things was that he wasn’t a stuffed shirt. Real guys didn’t walk on egg shells around Him. He probably laffed out loud if something was really funny, and knew you didn’t have to go around all self-righteous and “scrunched up,” too proper, upright and uptight to say “shit,” even if you had a mouthfull of it! Rest assured that I believe He should be treated with reverent respect. But I also agree with you about the obsessive-compulsive fixation on such minor matters.

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David

    Bradley

    To tell you the truth, I do love your writings and never miss a post. But I do find myself taken off track by your loose use of language.

    You have great insight and are a great writer, but sometimes the ‘salty language’ I think is thrown in for shock value. And it derails me. And I’m no prude.

    You are far smarter than that.

    I have a close Chrisitan friend who talks with plenty of salt and I put up with him — but he is immature and not fully discipled. He is getting better. He understands taht even though it is permissible, it is not necessarily profitable. And his language drives people from Christ.

    We have never met, but i consider you a cyber friend and a brother — and I hope we stay that way.

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David

    Bradley….

    I blogged about the British study that claimed swearing boosted productivity at work here:

    http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/2007/10/swearing-can-boost-team-spirit.html

    Also, World magazine raised the same question

    http://online.worldmag.com/2009/04/20/following-jesus-in-the-real-world-swearing-can-boost-morale/#comment-418097

  • http://www.thrivechristian.blogspot.com Kay Martin

    Perhaps a scholar of the language (and culture of the times) of the Bible could help us on this subject. I personally don’t think we understand how “raw” Jesus’ words were in His day. When He would rail on the Pharisees I imagine His words were most shocking in His culture. In Timothy…somewhere; Paul warns Timothy not to wrangle over words.

    Whenever my school marm self wants to stiffened her index finger over words I recall that scripture. The late Jamie Buckingham, one of my favorite writers and speakers, began Charisma magazine humbly as a church bulletin. His writing was so powerful that quickly the church secretary had thousands of subscribers and the magazine was birthed. Toward the end of his life when he no longer ran the magazine but was head writer and editor he was the center of controversy. He used the D word.

    He didn’t apologize to anyone and proved the validity in that context of his word choice. I say this is a place where we truly have to call out to God and listen to what He says about writing and speaking. The power we hold, as we live in Him, is real and would we want to misuse it?

  • shrinkingthecamel

    Kay, David and Don – Thanks so much for your honest replies. I had two Christian editors give me their opinions on whether or not to post this, and they both said OF COURSE YOU SHOULD.

    David – Of course we will remain bros, bro! Trust me, you will not find too many posts on my blog with salty language – (just every once in a while…and I will not go overboard) so don’t worry. This was an honest deconstruction of my own view of language, and as Kay observes, I think there’s much more to be said. No doubt opinions among Christians will vary across the map.

    Don – Yes, I cracked up too when you told me about your wife’s comment – Make sure she reads this. Love your comment about liking vs. loving Jesus. I get the same feeling.

    Kay – How insightful you are. Well said.

    Thanks all you guys for sticking around to comment on a “risky” subject. I respect the honest dialogue, and honestly take everyone’s opinions into account.

  • http://www.theblogofnancy.blogspot.com nAncY
  • http://katdish.blogspot.com katdish

    I like using fake cuss words. Did you ever see the movie “Johnny Dangerously”?

    “Farging Bastitches!”

  • http://www.steppingintothelight.net Diane L. Harris

    Bradley,

    Thank you for bringing up the topic of balancing honesty with respectfulness. Erring on the side of respectfulness would be my advice, but sometimes the “salty” word choice adds the exact flavor necessary in a particular context.

    With a Christian audience in particular, I’ve found that certain words can send readers running away, no matter how fitting. I used a certain word, without spelling it out, in the title of a book review on my blog some months ago. The word is one almost universally thought of as offensive, though I probably could have gotten away with using it only the the body of the piece where the context would have been clearer once the reader was halfway into my post. Using it as the title of the piece did indeed send readers running, and I’m still working on recovering my readership months later. It’s a shame, because I believe the post was one of my best, because it revealed deep personal pain and revelation.

    Anyway, I loved your post and agree that some Christians need to loosen up, without getting too loose.

    You’re a jewel, and I hope you do get that book deal.

  • shrinkingthecamel

    Diane – What a wonderful compliment – I really, really appreciate it.

    And thanks for a thoughtful response. I think it is interesting that you have had a similar experience… I was a little worried about this one, but looks like the readers are mostly thinking critically about using language, as I am.

    I think you summarized my feelings beautifully – “Some CHristians need to loosen up without getting too loose.”

    Enough said.

    Blessings to you!

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David

    Bradley…you got me thinking. I blogged about “profanity at work” here:

    http://redletterbelievers.blogspot.com/2009/04/profanity-at-work-does-it-belong.html

  • http://forsakenforlent.blogspot.com deb

    Great post! Sometimes the language is a matter of cultural differences as well. My Italian Canadian husband’s family are examples to me of trying to live life with both truth and grace. They are more comfortable with profanity , and are very immersed in the realities of living , which can more often than not demand , command, and cloak in the grit . Growing up uncomfortable to even think of saying “shut-up” , left me without a voice . I teeter too often as coward and pleaser . I am thankful that through the grace of engaging with my children’s very shockingly vulgar world, I can see the Light in so many more places that I thought were dark. Sorry for rambling, I do struggle to find the fine lines.

  • http://www.madetomatter.org Randy Kilgore

    “Bradley” (pseudonym), I grew up as the son/nephew of truckers/Teamsters and the grandson/nephew of coal miners; then worked nearly my entire career in heavy commercial construction, so I’ve wrestled in that “real world” you keep referring to… NO, mature Christians cannot and should not (willingly or lazily) resort to salty language; and it’s not accurate to imply or plant in others’ heads the idea that perhaps Jesus and Paul did. Nope, nope and double-nope. What Jesus taught by example (and said in person) again and again is that from people who should know better He expects, and expects us to expect, spirited attempts at absolute obedience and sacrificial living; and from people who don’t know Him or are young in the faith He exhibits, and expects us to exhibit, the same patience towards them He did while on earth; and that He does even now. For mature followers of Jesus Christ, profanity is a surrender to being like the world, ignoring Paul’s most earnest plea in Romans 12:1-2 to “not be conformed to this world” but “transformed by the renewing of (our) minds”; and more poetically even, to “take captive every thought” in II Corinthians 10:5.

  • shrinkingthecamel

    Randy (anthroponym), thanks for your spanking, er – I mean, comment.

    Seriously, I respect what you are saying, and appreciate the vigorous stand you take on the matter. That’s partly what I was hoping to come out of this, was to stir up a lively dialogue from a variety of perspectives (which are apparent from the diversity in all of the previous comments). This is also what the Christian church is made up of – a variety of opinions, backgrounds and perspectives.

    Please note – I am not condoning profanity. This is my point – many of the salty words I refer to are more of contemporary slang than outright profanity. Obviously, I may not see things as black and white as you do when it comes to language. I guess using the word “ass” could be viewed through the same lens as drinking a glass of wine, or gaining weight, or getting a tattoo, or seeing an Aerosmith concert, or going to an R-rated movie. These, to me, are all cultural issues that each Christian must take before God and live their life accordingly. I, for one, would not think to tell someone what they can and can not wear, watch, or put in their mouth, based on my interpretation of scripture. I honestly think that God is more concerned with our hearts, our love for Him and compassion for others than whether or not I used the word “shit” instead of “crap” or “poop” when speaking with my wife or a close friend.

    Of course we are also to be examples of God’s love and pure living, but that will mean something different to different individuals, depending on where, when and how you grew up. Throughout history, cultural points of reference will continue to change (slavery, anyone? Women as socially inferior to men?) I may have strong opinions one way or the other, but I find it difficult to think that my own version of Christianity is the ultimate truth for how everyone else is supposed to live out their Christian lives. I absolutely agree with you that Christians should not use profanity or abusive language… but, I also believe there is a crisp difference between slang and profanity.

  • A Christian Editor

    I’m wondering if I should go on the record here… I wish I could speak with Randy Kilgore’s conviction. I can’t. I love words too much. All words. They are just great.

    The breast word is probably okay in some christian presses, but I think it is accurate to say evangelical presses in particular are nervous about breasts.

    When I was a teacher years ago, I struggled with students who had potty mouths. Finally, I learned to explain it this way:

    People talk to each other in different registers of intimacy. We used to have different pronouns for this. A husband might call his wife “thou.” This meant they were close. German still does this with its informal “du, dich, dir” pronouns and its more formal “Sie, Sie, Ihnen” pronouns. (Once I addressed a German Chemistry teacher as “du” when I was a foreign exchange student. Not a good idea.)

    In English, we don’t have registers of intimacy much anymore. But curse words seem to function like that a little bit. Of course, they can be hateful. Even regular words can be hateful. But often my students were using curse words as a kind of informal register.

    Here’s the catch, I would tell the students. If I’m not close to you, it can feel very uncomfortable to be invited into your inner circle by the language you use. After all, we aren’t buddies. But if I walk by you in the hall and hear you using “buddy language” with your close friends, suddenly I become your buddy simply because I overheard your intimate register about the “effing good time you had last night, bee-ach.”

    They understand this well when I explained how uncomfortable they would feel if I started dropping f-bombs in my lessons. (In fact, my wife had a professor who did this. Totally uncool.)

    Randy raises the issue of profanity. Curse words can definitely be profrane. Historically, they are certainly profrane. But sometimes I think Christians like to use these words to make it easy to define what is profrane. As long as I don’t say [choose your favorite list of prohibited words] then it isn’t profranity.

    And yet, that’s not really what profanity is about. Too many Christians never curse, but profrane their faith, their family, their work, and their God with nonsensical foolishness.

    (Kind of like this comment. God, forgive me.)

    Do I curse? Sometimes. Am I careful where. Absolutely. Not because I’m trying to avoid appearing as a hypocrite. (That’s a given.) But because those words are powerfully loaded and only to be used amongst my closest friends who can handle my being fully authentic with them about what I’m thinking and feeling.

  • A Christian Editor

    Oops. Seems I was outed by Gravatar. Curses! You caught me!

  • janetober

    Good post! Interesting comments.

    I was at a Christian Writing Group this morning and the woman that read a portion of my memoir to be critiqued by the group, said “mmm it” instead of reading where I used “darn it” a few times. Then during the critiques, I was advised not to use it if I didn’t want to offend.

    Really??

    I hadn’t realized darn it was a saying some people aren’t comfortable saying.

    Thanks, but no thanks – think I’ll stick to being true to who I am – that’s how I speak at times when annoyed and darn it I want my memoir to be authentic.

    Janet

  • http://susandimickele.blogspot.com Susan DiMickele

    I’m with ya for the most part. I can really relate to the distaste for over-sanitized Christian blah. It’s not very inspiring. This really is a interesting topic for me — my work environment tends to be the place where I just can’t help myself. And when I swear, it’s not always an innocuous hell or damn. Sometimes, blurting out something more profane is quite exhilarating.

    When I decided to get serious about writing a few years also, my first proposals were laced with some mild profanity. I was bound and determined to submit to a secular publishing house. Of course they all rejected me. I remember when my agent edited the profanity before we went to the CBA. At first I was offended and didn’t like being censored. Then, my current publisher went on to edit the heck out of my story — taking out many of the off-color moments. Again, I was offended.

    Then, once we went to print, I was so thankful that someone had the sense to make it PG. Yep, my mother read it! And a host of other people who really didn’t need to know about my full indiscretions. So I continue to swing back and forth on this issue.

    I was talking to a friend yesterday who read my post, and she said that she regretted dropping the f-bomb at work last week. She was feeling pretty bad about it, but then one of her co-workers came up to her and said, “You made my day, now I know you are human.”

    So my friend concluded that God probably used the f-word for his good.

    (Mind you, when it comes to my kids, I’m still Fundamentalist Mommy in this area.)

  • http://www.kellylangnersauer.com/blog Kelly Sauer

    I like this post, Brad. I’m not always sure what to do with the language myself, though I do think that I should take care that the words that I say carry grace – but Jesus was SO MUCH about the heart, that getting legalistic about what words are okay or not okay completely misdirects the whole issue. Glad you shared at THC.

  • http://www.redletterbelievers.com David@Red Letter Believers

    I haven’t changed my position now over the last two years.

    I still think salty langauge indicates a profound and profane lack of depth. It uses shock instead of intelligence to make an argument.

    We are better than that.

  • http://newbreedofadvertisers.blogspot.com/ Sam Van Eman

    How did I miss this one, Brad? I probably saw you cussing and turned away. Kidding. Lots of good points in the post and in the comments. What to do? I like Marcus’ point about discretion. I, personally, am fairly consistent in my language use (I change more in tone and style from one context to the next), though I hesitated to publish my recent post on “buttload.” Not a big deal, of course, but also not a professional term. So I wrote as an authoritarian with refined language. It helped me be playful and respectful simultaneously.

    Anyway, I cringe at potty mouth for shock value and when Christians use it to say, “Hey, I live on the edge my pew.” I love it when the timing and setting necessitates it.

    Magnolia, regardless of how you put it, was a tough one to get through. Was it 200 uses of the f-word in that movie?

  • http://www.culturesmithconsulting.com Cheryl Smith

    Just catching up now and so glad to have read this. In my estimation, profanity is far more than letters strung together in syllables and words. I suspect profanity is born from the heart, rather than the vocabulary.

    I also think we should consider Paul’s advice to honor those who have arrived at different conclusions than we.

    Fun post. Great conversation.

  • http://www.denadyer.com Dena Dyer

    Brad, I love reading Anne Lamott and other skillful writers who use curse words. Their facile use of language, not just salty!, pushes me to want to deepen my craft. But if I ever try to use profanity, it comes off forced and false. Maybe because I can’t say any of those words with authority–as a Southern-raised gal, I never learned how. :)

    It’s funny, though, I just don’t have an interest in many R-rated (or even a lot of PG) movies. The “bomb” word makes me kinda queasy. And I do think we have to be careful of going too far in our quest to be “real.” Some preachers and Christians I’ve come across are too free (IMHO) with profanity, just to prove they’re under grace and not the law.

    Interesting post, and thoughtful conversation…with respectful disagreements. Gotta love THC! :)

  • john brown

    YES MY NAME IS JOHN—I HAVE BEEN A BORN-AGAIN CHRISTIAN SINCE AGE 20—JUST TODAY I WAS TALKING WITH MY PASTOR OVER IN OUR CHURCH–AND FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE IVE KNOWN HIM I WAS TELLING A STORY ABOUT WHEN I USED TO WORK, AND HOW THE GUYS USED TO TALK—-ALL OF A SUDDEN I BLURTED OUT THE WORD—–”CRAP” I THEN APPOLOGIZED OF COURSE. HE SAID I WAS OK SOMTIMES THAT JUST HAPPENS—-I FELT TERRIBLE— BUT I GUESS IT COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE WORD—I ASKED GOD’S FORGIVENESS AND ASKED HIM TO HELP ME WATCH MY MOUTH—WELL THANKS hustler.onlyone@yahoo.com

  • Larry Ambrose

    Guess I’m late to the party. Found this researching “salty language” for a message – sermon. (That’s right, I’m a Pastor/Preacher … hope that’s o.k. to chime in on this. I’ll promise to be gentle ; )

    To be honest, I understand the legalism vs. freedom angle. The comment comparing what I’ll term “mild cursing” to wine and R-rated movies bears merit, as well.

    However, I struggle with – for lack of a better word – the slippery slope nature of it. What words, how far, in what context, is it o.k. to “curse?” By the way, though I understand the linguistics of comparing cursing to profanity – and it’s true that many can be profane without cursing – I think there are some simple points that can be made.

    They begin with the idea that, if these are “bad words” – and I believe even society has recognized them as such, even though they’re so very liberal in their use – why is it ever justifiable to use them?

    Though a Pastor, I’m no prude, per se. But as an example, a sports coach/player is caught by TV cameras using “foul language” on the field/sideline. The argument is that he’s “in the battle/trenches” and that’s how they talk there (like maybe one’s workplace). But, if he says the same thing in the interview afterwards it’s not acceptable; it’s inappropriate to the point he could be fined, disciplined, etc.

    If it can be controlled in one setting, why not the other? Look, I understand things happen, and people – even Pastors – make mistakes. But why does it have to be the accepted norm at work, or otherwise.

    Two more points. If we allow it because it’s more acceptable to society as a whole, do we – as people of the Christian faith – also “allow” sex outside of marriage (and yes, I realize it’s rampant even among Christians), or homosexuality?

    If the only difference between these two is what the Bible says about it, what about these verses? “But now is the time to get rid of .. dirty language.” Colossians 3:8, NLT; or ‎”Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3:10; or

    “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD” Psalm 19:14 (NIV)?

    I love intelligent discourse. Any appropriate reply would be welcomed.

  • http://www.shrinkingthecamel.com shrinkingthecamel

    Thanks for your perspective, Larry. It’s funny that after having written this, I have far less “need” to express myself with those kinds of colorful words. I am personally not offended, when used in a proper setting, but your points are well-taken. Only, I think the biblical references to cursing and dirty language are just that – dirty language and cursing (which I am distinguishing from salty language), and there is a whole string of words and contexts that make their way down that path before it arrives to that station. But like you said, it’s a slippery slope.

  • http://megandwillome.wordpress.com Megan Willome

    You are one bold dude. But I agree wirh you.

    P.S. There goes my breast cancer book.


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