Thinking Out Loud

March 4, 2009

Christians Using Four-Letter Words

Filed under: Christianity, Faith — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:19 pm

expletiveJeff McQuilkin has been blogging this week about a topic that needs to be raised:  Christians who swear.    A number of bloggers and a handful of next-generation authors — some writing for major Christian publishing houses — think nothing of dropping a four-letter word (or equivalent) into their writing.

Before I send you to read his blog posts, here’s a few of my thoughts on a subject I believe to be a lot more than superficial:

  • You can have your vocabulary under total control and still “lose it.”  Trust me, I know.    Spoken-word purists will have to go farther than that to claim absolute self-control.
  • You can have your vocabulary under total control, but still elect, under certain circumstances, to introduce a word for the sake of effect, because nothing else you’ve been doing has been getting the attention of the people you’re speaking to, and at that point, you feel you have nothing to lose.
  • Certain four-letter (or equivalent) words may be so much a part of your speech pattern that you’ve lost all perspective as to when and where you are employing them.
  • Like the chameleon, you may one of the people who only swears when they are with other people who do.   Blending in, I suppose.  Being all things to all people?  Uh, probably not.   (I’ve known people who only smoke when they’re around other smokers.)
  • You may be part of the under-30 Christian generation who don’t see this as a big deal, and wonder why I’m wasting blog space discussing it.   Especially when Christian authors get certain words past the editors of certain publishing companies.
  • You could be a person who employs strong language in print but never in spoken communication.   Or vice versa.    The one form rates a different standard than the other.   Interesting.
  • A person could never swear for a year, and then discover that they’ve merely been storing it up; necessitating the need for a walk in the woods where they then let it all out therapeutically for ten minutes with nobody around.   Then they’d be good for the next twelve months.
  • On Jeff’s blog, our good friend Jim brought up the matter of “substitute” words.   It’s a fact of life of human speech that just about everybody’s got ’em.  On the other hand, I had a pastor who used “scared spitless” in the pulpit at a time I had only ever heard it as “scared s**tless.”  I told him so after the service and he was shocked because he’d never heard the other expression.
  • And then there’s hand gestures; some of which are very much “non-standard” English
  • You may be cool and calm under almost every circumstance but have a “trigger” situation that never fails to bring out the worst.   For my wife and I, this would involve trying to save $5 or $10 by installing our own bulbs in car headlights.    (I think, in future, I’ll just pay the money.)
  • You might be reading this in an English-speaking country where the standards — or the words themselves — vary from that of other readers.    My wife shocked me with her use of “bloody” when we first married; now I sometimes employ it myself.


So there’s some ideas for discussion.   Does it matter?   Yes.   We are to reflect the character of our Lord.   So the question should  be, would Jesus comfortably employ this speech pattern in that situation?    I would expect that for some — answers on that one would be equally varied.   How about it?

Oh yes, here’s the links to Jeff’s posts, here and here.

Like the “blue” post effect?  Subtle, eh?

Today’s Bonus Item At No Charge I Can Has Biblical References
cat-can-part-snowIt doesn’t happen very often, but every once in awhile you find the influence of scripture in places you never thought you might.   This is from the “lolcats” blog, I Can Has Cheezburger, which, for the record, I don’t actually read that often.   (No, it’s not linked here.)


  1. My parents were really big on teaching us kids not to ever let swear words spill out of our mouths. My mom once told me that once you had said a four-letter word, it woudl feel comfortable slipping out again. So, believe it or not, I have never used “cuss” words. And because I am 49 years into this I doubt I’ll start any time soon. I am dismayed by the Christians who are letting their standards slip though…we should be known by our differentness (not a word…I know)in all areas of our lives. So Amen to this post!

    Comment by Cynthia — March 5, 2009 @ 12:16 am

  2. Well, my personal opinion is that Gossip and BackBiting among Christians is more destructive than the use of swear-words. You can cut someone down real good without ever uttering a cuss word. Some people can do it quite eloquently in fact.
    Just my opinion.

    Comment by Rick — March 5, 2009 @ 11:26 am

  3. Rick,

    Great point! Wish I’d included that one!

    Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — March 5, 2009 @ 3:01 pm

  4. I’m one of those people with a squeaky-clean mouth. I think there’s a good Scriptural basis for it. Having said that, cultural norms come into play for sure. My husband uses a word that I think is swearing and he doesn’t. I’ve got a couple that I think are strong language but not swearing and he begs to differ. If even we can’t agree…

    And then there are the words that depend on context. Used properly, they’re neutral; misapplied, they’re offensive.

    For me as a Christian writer, the other big question is swearing in the mouths of my characters. It’s very difficult indeed to write a novel in which none of the characters would ever swear. (I mean, a story with no bad guys?) Maybe that’s part of the reason I write fantasy. I can put my characters in a world with a different culture, so their swear words are not the same, and don’t offend our sensibilities. Still, I found myself unable to completely leave out a couple of mild words, ones that I wouldn’t use personally. The characters would, and the euphemistic substitutes sounded ridiculous. I’m wondering what the editorial reaction will be if the MS ever gets viewed by editorial eyes at a Christian publishing house.

    Comment by Janet — March 6, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  5. […] Mark Driscoll at has an article about “And” being the most important theological word.  There is also a discussion of Christians Using Four-Letter Words over at Thinking Our Loud. […]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » What Is Your Theological Word? — March 6, 2009 @ 10:20 pm

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