The scene is etched rather clearly in my memory. We were driving on the freeway heading to a Christian conference grounds for a week of spiritual retreat. My parents were in the front of the car, and I was occupying a middle seat in the back, affording me a clear view of everything from the front window.
It was then I saw the word, spray-painted in black on the side of the bridge; a four-letter, one syllable word beginning with the sixth letter of the alphabet.
[Pausing while people count.]
With my mastery of Hooked on Phonics kicking in full steam, I blurted the word out.
The lecture kicked in immediately. “That is the worst word;” I was told. Now that I knew that, I was given a warning that using that word again would result in my mouth washed out with soap. Or worse.
“What word is that?” I asked.
Okay, I didn’t ask that.
As years went by I started to wonder if that word really is the worst word, especially now that it turns up occasionally in Christian books, purely for provocation of course. Maybe we’re all becoming desensitized.
As I matured, I decided that to name a particular word worse than others was somewhat arbitrary. If anything, I think that hearing God’s name or the name of Jesus misused probably grates on me to a much greater degree.
Blasphemy is clearly the worst.
But so are words of hate. Hate speech can be racist rhetoric, or it can be the over-reaction of internet trolls speaking out against people who disagree with their pet doctrine or favorite Bible translation, or people who simply don’t use the same terminology as they do to express the gospel.
I still think the use of the F-word represents a lack of refinement. It is clearly still considered substandard English. However, it doesn’t raise my blood pressure as much as the aforementioned alternatives.
Do you agree?
- We covered the more general topic of swearing back in 2009. Click here to read.