Theology for the Masses

November 16, 2006

On Cursing

Filed under: Ethics — Henry Imler @ 12:10 am

Today’s topic is cursing and Christianity. Can a Christan curse? Can they use “curse words?” The answer is, “It depends.” For readability’s sake, I will use the first letter dash word method to identify curse words.

With most things, a number of distinctions need to be drawn. First off, what does one mean by the word “curse?” Within this post I will take curse to mean 1)the expression of a wish that misfortune, evil, doom, etc., befall a person, group, etc. and 2)a formula or charm intended to cause such misfortune to another (taken from dictionary.com). As Christians, and as people, we should not be wishing evil to befall another person. Doing so is going against Jesus’ charges that one is to turn the other cheek when stuck and that one is to love their enemies. There is no room for one to take this seriously and to also curse someone.

What are words? Words are simply vessels of meaning. It does not matter what color a pot it, what matters is what the pot contains. It is the same with words. I can call some one a “neocon” and depending on how I say it and what meaning I attach to the term, I can mean several things. I could mean a person who adheres to a new version of conservatism, one that recognizes the flaws of past versions of conservatism and have tried to formulate a better version, a more progressive version of conservatism. On the other hand, I use the word neocon and splice the “neo” element of being evil off of neonazi and attach it to a sort hand version of conservative, “con” to get the picture of an evil conservative. I am not saying this is how the word developed, only how one puts together the meaning. The point is that words are only a vessel of meaning. Sociey at large has designated certain phrases to be considered curse words. This meaning only goes as far as the society does. I am sure that most of the readers do not hold to cultural relativism.

If one takes “curse” to mean “the use of a curse word in regular speech,” then one is talking about something entirely different than the preceding paragraph. Consider the following, one has just scored the winning basket in a very close game of basketball. In that person’s elated state, he exclaims, “H-word yea!” Has this person committed a sin? They have not. What are words? Once again, they are simply vessels of meaning. The h-word in the above example only conveys excitement and the rush of success. There is no negative connotation here, and no one is being put down. Therefore, it is permissible. I believe that this applies across the board with words. One needs to take into account the connotation and meaning before assigning a moral value to the usage.

Lastly, and least concrete is the use of curse words to describe situations and the actions of others. Many people take the a-word to mean the same thing as jerk. If someone is genuinely being a jerk, can a person use the synonym a-word to describe another person? Once again, if the usage falls outside of 1) and 2), then I think a case can be made. Am I being mean spirited? Am I attaching this to the person or to their actions? These questions need to be asked. I think that there are fewer cases where one is morally permitted to use curse words as descriptors of behavior.

However, is the use of permissible words always beneficial? No. One has to be mindful of their audience. How will the people that hear me take the word I am using? Does it offend them? If it does, should I actively try to offend these people merely because I have the moral right to use this word? Are there better words that I can use? Despite my freedom to use such a word, am I still above reproach? Those are the questions one should be asking his or herself when considering the vessels of meaning the person is wanting to sail.

In sum, one should never curse someone, but there is a moral freedom to use societally designated curse words in morally permissible meanings. Despite this freedom, it is often unwise to use such words because of how you and Christ as a proxy are viewed.

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3 Comments »

  1. I will have to say I kind of agree with your argument on “cursing” I have kind always felt self-conscious about the words that society has designated as “curse” or “swear” words. To me it is not a sin to use the words it is just not very pleasant and it can be disrespectful. Since the Lord calls on us to be respectful and honorful that is what makes using those words questionable. I will admit I have used them on occasion (when getting extremely angry usually). . . I just don’t like it when other Christians try to make fellow Christians feel so bad for using those words. As the word of God says “He who is without sin may cast the first stone”.
    They are just words…yes our societies ideology as set them as “bad” but once again they are only words. I do feel that people should watch what they say around different people so that you do not offend others or make yourself a poor example.

    Great Article.

    Comment by ChristianSince97 — September 20, 2010 @ 6:03 pm | Reply

  2. I understand what you’re saying.
    But why would anyone say anything that they wouldn’t say in front of the Father? The meaning of the words are what’s important, yes, but if you’re using the words the world has deemed bad, how are you honoring God? Since Christ died for us to be set above the world, why would we use the words the world h as deemed bad? In the book of James it talks about taming the tongue, and how we should have a tight rope on it? Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. james 1:26
    My religion and faith is defiantly not worthless; yes this can be traced back to slandering someone, but IF THE WORLD SEES THIS AS SOMETHING THAT IS BAD AND NEGATIVE WE SHOULD BE ABOVE THAT. We should speak with Godly tongues, and sacrifice our voice to the Lord. Because when we speak through our self, we lose control of things and cannot tame the words we are using properly. We shouldn’t slander. And i understand using words that are in excitement, but if we’re supposed to be planting seeds, and we detour people our words, how can we properly spread the gospel?

    Comment by Donald Robert Clinton Jr — June 13, 2011 @ 7:27 pm | Reply

  3. […] of SwearingIs Cussing a Sin? – Reformed Answers says no, with qualifications.  Nice.On Cursing – a short piece on the difference between speaking harm on others v. voicing anger (cursing […]

    Pingback by A Theology of Profanity | Whole Reason — October 1, 2011 @ 9:32 pm | Reply


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