Christians and Swearing – mercy, mercy, mercy

"God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth" - Anonymous
“God, put your arm around my shoulder, and a hand over my mouth” – Anonymous

By: Jana Greene

The office was silent, except for the gentle clicking of keys and an occasional throat clearing. I  took a bite of the carrot I’d brought for a snack.

CRRHHRUNCH. The sound echoed through the open space filled with short-walled cubicles. I had no choice but to finish chewing, each bite resonating.

“This is one crunchy-ass carrot,” I said awkwardly, without thinking – and to no-one in particular.

And then I felt guilty. The whole office knows I’m a Christian, and Christians don’t curse, right? Real Christians don’t.

It’s difficult to exist in a work environment 40 hours per week without saying a naughty word. And….is “ass” a naughty word?  Any fourth-grader can tell you that the words “ass” and “hell” are in the Bible. I suppose it depends on the context, since carrots don’t have asses, per se.

I’m a wordsmith. Sometimes, when I weave words, a strand of metallic thread makes its way into the fabric of a story. It can get pretty shiny, what with all those threads.

Sometimes, it is just pure laziness when I resort to the four-letter-genre. The societal standard for what constitutes a curse word is always changing.

Curse words are fuzzy territory to me, as a Christian – I know they shouldn’t be fuzzy. We aren’t supposed to say offensive words, period. But what is offensive, and to whom? The Bible also warns against saying, “by heaven or earth….,” but every translation of this verse is slightly different.

I have a slightly salty tounge, which I try to tame on occasion. Hey, I’m working on it.

Once, while trying to reign in my language, I tried substitute a particularly virulent word (said mostly in frustrating situations) with “mercy.”  For a two-week period, I refrained from said Big Daddy Curse Word, and instead, said “mercy. …until my husband remarked that I sounded a lot like his aunt, whose most favorite word in the universe is “mercy.”  This aunt  is a lovely Christian woman,  80 years old, and I’m sure she has never said either “ass” or “hell,” even in passing, unless reading scripture.  (If “by heaven and earth” is not biblically acceptable, what about “mercy?” I mean, if we are going to be legalistic.)

But I am not a lovely 80-year old Christian. I am a 40-something recovering alcoholic with three daughters, a full-time job, a passion for Jesus and recovery, a red-headed temper, and an occasionally salty tongue.

All of this wondering about potty words reminded me of a post I’d read by favorite blogger, Jon Acuff, about the subject. He is much more astute in his observations (and much funnier, I might add.)

“Christians occasionally swear. They don’t do it a lot. I’m not talking about thirty-second tirades laced with profanity. I just mean that every few days they’ll say a swear in the middle of a conversation. Why do we do it? I think we want you to know that we know those words exist. We want you to be aware that we are aware they are out there and we know what they mean. Plus, everyone knows that swears are nineteen times more powerful coming out of the mouth of a Christian. That’s a scientific fact right there. If you’re a nonbeliever and swear a ton, it’s just not that big of a deal. If you’re a Christian though and you swear, birds fall out of the sky. Trees shake to their roots. Magma gets fourteen degrees cooler under the crust of the Earth. Wielding that kind of power is too tempting to ignore.”

Mercy!  Jon Acuff is one funny-ass writer.

And I mean that with the utmost respect.

20 thoughts on “Christians and Swearing – mercy, mercy, mercy

  1. Jana, I was once watching a Christian program and two fine gentlemen were discussing this very topic, Christians and cussing. One of the men said, we only do it for “emphasis!” Well, it was funny how he said it. But we (Christians & ambassadors for Christ) do need to keep a watch over our trap. Myself included!! However there are those times when $#@&* happens and we have to repent to those within earshot. (It happened to me yesterday!) And vow next time that the Lord will help us to put a sock in it!!

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  2. Do you know me? You sure know how I am.
    Sometimes the words slip out despite my trying to speak nice.
    Keep up the good work.

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  3. I haven’t read Jon Acuff (although I plan to check him out right after this comment), but I think you’re very funny. And so are our mutual friends who made comments about socks and such. I have a sweet tooth and a salty tongue and socks that don’t do much good – I think I need a lot of prayer and repentance, but I’m in good company.

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  4. You are never alone, Kim! I wish I could find Jon Acuff’s blog post about the hierarchy of curse words for a Christian. It was HILARIOUS. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my *&^$@! post today. Love to you!

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  5. Yet another Great entry Jana!! I tryyyy not to cuss,,,but it does not always work out like I had planned… mercy!

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  6. I too have been known to swear. Some situations just call for it. But what I really chuckle about is when people after a period of knowing me discover that I am an ordained minister. You can actually see on their face that they are trying to remember if they used a swear word in my presence. …like I am in any position to judge!

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  7. In my lifegroup this week the topic of cussing came up and I told them that I cuss sometimes and I don’t feel bad about it. Its true, I don’t feel bad one bit. In fact I can pretty easily imagine when Jesus flipped over the tables in that tabernacle he wasn’t saying ‘mercy’ ha.

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  8. Hahaha, and indeed, Shelby. I am working on a piece on the flak about a tattooed Jesus. Will put it up tonight. I’d be curious to hear back from you about what YOU think! As my good friend Rush says, “These words didn’t even EXIST back then!” Lol.

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