Words Matter #4

Oct 21st 2010

Cussing, Cursing or Blessing.

In a recent blog post on cussing Christians, Caroline Ferdinandsen writes, “It used to be that if a Christian dropped an F-bomb, its mushroom cloud and subsequent radiation would kill every evangelical in a ten mile radius. the-power-of-wordsNowadays, the cussing Christian is an old issue; I’ve almost made myself irrelevant by writing an essay about it.”

To be honest I don’t get uptight about cussing Christians.  Well I guess that depends on what you put in the cussing category.  For example, at least a couple of times in the last couple of years, I used the word “crap” in a sermon — I think I got more comments when I used the word “sucks.”  I grew up on a farm where words about excrement were fairly common, in fact the one that starts with “s” was a favorite of my grandma’s — and she loved Jesus with all her heart.  Then there is the whole realm of euphemisms — from gosh to darn to Jiminy Cricket, from frick to frack to fudge.  I don’t get too excited about those either.  I’m not a fan, but I don’t get too worked up when I hear it.

On the other hand, if I’m in a conversation with someone who drops the f-bomb as often as my “like” kids “like” say “like”…that gets really old and I either have to walk away or ask them to try another word.  The same is true when I’m in a movie that uses the name of Jesus more often than you hear it in a church on Sunday morning.  In other words, I get a bit more passionate about refraining from words that trivialize sex or God.

But here’s the deal…there is something far more damaging than a cussing Christian.  It’s a cursing Christian.  Yes there is a difference.  A curse is a wish or a prayer that evil or harm will befall someone or something.  In other words, a curse is what we do when we declare something good to be something. The classic form of a “cussing curse” is something like “God damn you/it,” or “Go to hell.”  When a Christian utters those words, isn’t he or she defiling the very heart of Jesus?

Now hold on to this for a moment and don’t simply tune me out when I ask this next question.  My friend Ben Henderson got me thinking about this.  He’s a communications instructor, so words matter to him as well.  Here is the question:  Why is it so common in next-gen communication to call that which is good, something that is bad?  Does it matter when my sons describe something that is good with the words, sick, nasty, bad, or wicked?

Now granted I have an ulterior motive, I always find myself asking my kids questions like, “Did you mean sick as in that’s bad or sick as in that’s good?”  And when they respond, “I meant sick as in that’s bad.” Then I have to ask, “Did you mean bad as in that’s good or bad as in that’s bad.”  “No Dad sick and bad both mean good.”  “Ah,” I respond, “and what then does good mean?  So I’m stuck wondering why can’t we just call good good? And what do we call bad?  And is it good to name that which is good, as wicked or nasty?  Is it wise to call that which is good, that which is bad?  Ah therein lies the question…  “Is that a curse?”

I’m not sure, but at the very least doesn’t it lean toward deceptive and if words matter and we worship the one who is called The Word, do we want to lean into the deceptive?  Now I know, every generation has it’s slang — mine did, in fact we’re the ones who started using the word “like” as punctuation — so maybe it’s a bit unfair for one generation to judge another’s slang.  On the other hand, I believe it was my generation that first started using “bad” to mean “cool.”  So…not judging…just pondering…

Because words matter.