Thinking Out Loud

May 17, 2015

The Worst Word

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:15 am

img 051515

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?


December 26, 2014

Filtering Your Speech: Christians Using OMG and WTF

Other than a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last few years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes in language. So back a decade, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington encouraged the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!” The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines. Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them. Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’ If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss. It means something else. (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude. It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it. You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place. The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments? If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude? (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude?

And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world? Should not our speech be a part of that?

OMG and WTF have arrived at church. I heard the former on a sermon podcast recently, and edgier bloggers aren’t afraid to use the latter. It’s not hard to imagine OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship during the fellowship time after the service. Maybe you know people who use it regularly now.

And it’s just a matter of time before the language usage at church gets totally oxymoronic: “So she’s like, ‘I got you a present,’ and I open it and it’s a brand new Bible and I’m like, ‘OMG! …'”

And we’re not talking about teenage girls in the San Fernando Valley.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

September 14, 2011

Wednesday Link List

In case you’re wondering, the reason I’ve never done a pun here based on sausage links — even though we’ve done lynx cats and cuff links and chain links — is because the necessary pictures are all really disgusting.  Just so ya know.

Here’s where my epic adventures took me this week, though after the gazillion links posted here on Monday, I am a bit worn out…

God remains our source of courage when we’re traumatized by terror.
When we’re haunted by the headlines and the violence everywhere.
Hear God whisper in the silence, “Don’t despair, I’m in control.
Hurting hearts and broken cities will at last one day be whole.”

God recalls that tragic Tuesday when twin towers disappeared,
when 3,000 people perished and our hearts were numbed by fear.
Yet God whispers 10 years later, “Justice will in time be done.
I will stand with those who need me ’till my Kingdom fully comes.”

God invites us to be trusting when we find that faith is hard.
When we’re fearful for our safety and our nerves are frayed or jarred.
Still God whispers in the silence, “Even when your faith is weak,
I will keep your feet from stumbling when your way is dark and bleak.”

Greg Asimakoupoulos as quoted at Pilgrim Scribblings

February 2, 2011

Wednesday Link List

We read blogs so you don’t have to!  Or something.

  • Brent Mosley is president of Bluefish TV, the company that makes — among other things — those little two-minute video clips that start your weekly worship service.  He blogs, too.  Check out Is The Church Telling The Complete Story?
  • Speaking of video, it’s been three years since it was filmed and two years since it was released on DVD, but now you can watch Joe Manafo’s detailed 42-minute documentary study of alternative churches in Canada in its entirety at the website for One Size Fits All.
  • A list with ten things is actually easier to produce than when you decide to narrow it down to five.  And these five are well-chosen.  Trevin Wax posts Five Trends to Watch for in Evangelical Christianity.
  • And speaking of Trevin, here’s a video of a church promotion that he (and Zach at Vitamin Z) think is one of the best church advertisements ever.  “Before we tell you who we are, we want to tell you who we were.”
  • Contemporary Christian book author Skye Jethani tells why he doesn’t read many books by contemporary Christian book authors, in a piece at Out of Ur provocatively titled, I Read Dead People.
  • Dan Horwedel whisks you on a link-list journey of his own in a fascinating examination of the Christian worship song, God of This City.  Both the major-key version and the minor-key version.
  • I don’t read — let alone link — to Ann Welch’s blog very often because it’s more of a women’s blog and a parenting blog, but she’s been in the link-list here since day one because she is a blogger who has my utmost respect. Here’s a shorter piece even the guys can take a minute to read at her blog Resolved 2 Worship, titled Dart Throwing.  (Turn your speakers up, too; she’s got a great blog playlist.)
  • Chuck Colson believes that while most Christian children’s books contain a Bible narrative followed by “the moral of the story,” we need to teach kids to recognize the worldview being promoted in everything they read.  And he’s introducing a product that will help them do just that.
  • Pete Wilson raises the oft-discussed issue of swearing, or things that some people consider swearing.   200 comments so far about words like darn, dang, heck, geez, and shoot.  (And then, Daniel Jepson raises the same topic, too.)
  • A woman in a senior’s home invites John Shore into her room, and then dies holding on to John’s hand.  Yikes!  Obviously, readers are wondering why the story is just surfacing now.
  • Albert Mohler thinks that Piers Morgan’s interview with Joel Osteen identifies one topic where we either stand for Biblical truth or we try to dance around its politically incorrect implications.  Mohler says that sooner or later we’ll have to deal with our own Osteen Moment.
  • A Tennessee pastor refused to baptize a couple’s baby because the couple wasn’t married. He wants to make a statement about teen pregnancy.
  • Time for a quick hymn sing.  Here’s a couple of versions of a classic hymn that is well-known in England but not at all in North America.  One version is more modern, the other is most formal, but both of them work.  Check out Tell Out My Soul.
  • This week we should pay Trevin a commission.  If you’ve read the bestselling book Radical by David Platt (Waterbrook), you know all about “Secret Church.”  Well, this year, the event is available as a simulcast for any church that wants in. (Posted even though the event is a Lifeway thing. Look guys; no hard feelings!)
  • Here’s a return of a Link List favorite; Mike Morgan’s weekly comic, For Heaven’s Sake.

December 18, 2010

When “OMG” and “WTF” Come to Church

Other than a much more liberal use of the word ‘crap’ in the last 2-3 years, I am somewhat guarded in my speech, at least when there are ladies, small children, or anyone else present.

As a writer, I’m also very conscious of changes in language.   So back a few years, I couldn’t help but notice the way the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover Home Edition with Ty Pennington encouraged the broadcast use of the expression, “Oh, My God!”   The show’s final segment — called “the reveal” — would contain at least a dozen utterances of this phrase which, unless the participants were truly calling on God to give thanks for the new housing they were about to receive, amounted to a needless invocation of God’s name that I believe the third commandment is referring to.

The proliferation in print and texts of its abbreviation, “OMG,” unless it a reference to the Ohio Macrame Guild, is equally disturbing.

There are some lines I am very assured I will never cross, and speaking the OMG line in either form or using it print is certainly one of those lines.   Still, I often find myself falling into an OMG mindset, where I don’t audibly say the words, but think either them, or something reflective of the spirit of them.   Unless I am truly crying out to God — and I wonder how many of us today really cry out to Him — I shouldn’t allow that phrase to be part of my unspoken vocabulary.

But what do I mean by the “spirit” of that expression?

I can probably best illustrate that with another three-letter text gem, ‘WTF.’   If you believe this has something to do with a wildlife federation, then I envy you, since such ignorance is truly bliss.  It means something else.  (Go to the last letter for clues…)

WTF is somewhat of an attitude.  It expresses a familiar kind of bewilderment, but is in some respects a statement of a kind of confusion or Twilight Zone moment that didn’t really have a previous equivalent in colloquial speech.

Which is why I was rather amazed to hear it in church recently.

No, it wasn’t uttered out loud — either as an acronym or fully — but the highly respected Christian leader I was talking to was clearly dancing around it.    You could feel the tension of the self editing taking place.   The words used were different, but the articulation was intended to convey the spirit of WTF. The attitude was 100% present.

For the reference, file away the phrase “Twilight Zone moment” when trying to describe something of this ilk.

Another point — he said, anticipating the comment — is that if we really believe that in all things God is working for our good, should we really ever experience WTF moments?    If we are trusting, clinging and relying on God, while unexpected things happen, and while they do bewilder and confuse, should we embrace the WTF kind of attitude?  (A friend of ours call these “sand in the gears” moments.) Aren’t these weird and wonderful things the cue for a “count it all joy” attitude? And what about the idea that Christians are expected to “maintain a distinct identity” from the world?

So what about the title of this post?

I think it is only a matter a time before OMG and WTF arrive at church.   Maybe not from the pulpit though, unless Mark Driscoll has already.   But certainly as the Extreme Makeover program becomes more entrenched, and other broadcasters follow, it’s easy to see OMG being on the tongues of people at Sunday worship.

And it’s just a matter of time before the language at church gets totally oxymoronic:   “So she’s like, ‘I got you a present,’ and I open it and it’s a brand new Bible and I’m like, ‘OMG! …'”

And we’re not talking about teenage girls in the San Fernando Valley.

Romans 12:2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.NLT

Romans 12:2Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.The Message

July 14, 2010

Wednesday Link List

We’re back with the links… some of these have been accumulating for a few weeks, and there have been many great posts lately at Christianity Today, which are represented here:

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.

christians_swearing1

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.)

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.