What do John Piper, Derek Webb, Mark Driscoll, and British folk band Mumford & Sons have in common?  A lot more than they would probably all admit, but at the very least each of them has used a curse word in a public setting (to be fair to Piper–he is merely quoting someone).  If you are a music fan, you are probably familiar with the controversy (albeit somewhat self-inflicted) surrounding Webb’s song “What Matters More” in which he uses two four letter words in an effort to expose what he sees as an evangelical tendency to attack homosexuality while ignoring more pressing matters.  To be fair, Mumford & Sons have not declared publicly whether or not they are Christians, however, their album Sigh No More is a testament to salvation by grace alone.  “Little Lion Man”, one of Mumford’s most popular songs has the F-word in the chorus–so it’s repeated often and yet the song is clearly about seeking salvation outside ourselves.

So these examples press the question, is it ever appropriate to curse for the sake of adding force to our arguments or relevance to our art?  Should Christians avoid art that includes four letter words?  Is there ever an appropriate time for curse words?  Did the Biblical authors ever use such language?  How much does our culture define our words?

I can’t even begin to address all these questions adequately in this blog post so I won’t try, but I will lay out some guiding principles in navigating these waters.

1.  Cursing does not prohibit someone from being a Christian. This sounds like a no-brainer, but when I first started thinking about writing this post I didn’t know whether the members of Mumford & Sons publicly professed to be Christians–so I did some googling and discovered a couple of discussion boards addressing that issue and found a number of Christians saying things like, “they are not Christians–they use the F-word in one of their songs.”  Given that these comments were made, I feel the need to point out that cursing simply is not a biblical indicator as to whether someone is a believer or not.

2.  The Bible does not condemn the use of four letter words explicitly.  The key word here is explicitly.  The Bible condemns foolish talk and perverse language (Col. 3:8; Eph. 4:29, 5:4) and promotes that which serves to “build up.”  The Bible is more concerned with the purpose behind our words than the words themselves.  Our words ought to be gracious and seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6).  It’s worth saying that there is no list of words that do and do not fit that category. Even if there was, what language would it be in?  What English words are off limits for the Christian?  I am not insinuating that anything goes in terms of the language we use.  Whether a word is a “curse” word or not is not the question these verses move us toward.  The question we should be asking ourselves is what the motive is behind our language.  Is it to build up or to tear down?  Is it to promote beauty, goodness, and grace?  Do our words encourage or discourage the pursuit of God?  Is the motive behind our words to make light of that which is evil?  Is our motive to be controversial and divisive?   It is not what goes into a man that makes him unclean but what comes up out of his heart (Mark 7:18-23).

3.  Words are defined to some degree by the culture they are spoken in.  Meaning begins with the communicator, but the meaning of the communicator’s words are influenced and defined to some degree by the various cultures they are spoken in.  For example, the word “bloody” means something completely different here in the United States than it does in the United Kingdom.  In some English speaking cultures, what we would consider to be curse words are much more common place and are not nearly as offensive as they seem to us.  I have personally known Christians from other cultures that regularly cursed in conversation and didn’t think anything of it and typically their cursing was not motivated by bitterness, anger, or slander.  Think about new believers–some of their cussing before they came to Christ was probably not motivated by perversion or anger.  For example–they see something that surprises them and they respond with, “Oh s**t!”  Such speech was not motivated by slander, anger, or desire to hurt someone.  What motivated that particular word was surprise.  Biblical wisdom and sensitivity may suggest removing certain four letter words from our regular vocabulary.  You could even say it varies from family to family–I have upset parents by saying “stupid” before–even though I wasn’t referencing a person but an idea–i.e. “driving without a seatbelt is stupid!” These examples do not make it wise to use such words, but at the very least we should consider how far removed we are from someone’s culture or situation before we start throwing stones at them for using such language.  I am simply arguing for Christian charity here.

Does that mean that there is an appropriate place for four letter words in Christian expression?  I would simply say that the Bible doesn’t answer that question for us.  In my context there really isn’t any situation I can presently think of in which I would feel compelled to use what our culture would consider a curse word.  Take the S-word for example.  What makes it offensive?  You wouldn’t chide someone for saying saying “excrement,” “feces,” or even “poop.”  Why is the S-word offensive?  It’s worth thinking about.  Paul Tripp addresses this very issue here (he is building on Scriptures’ teaching on our speech–don’t watch it if hearing the S-word is going to cause you to sin).  But these words shouldn’t cause us to sin.  If merely hearing these words is causing us to sin, there is a much deeper problem in us that needs to be addressed.

Most four letter words are culturally impolite and we don’t serve anyone well by using them.  But what should we do when others do?  Be gracious to them–be willing to distinguish between words that are meant to damage others and make light of sin and words that are merely impolite and do not indicate impure motives on the part of the speaker.  In general, we should always care more about the condition of people’s hearts than we do about their outward actions.  Outward actions are heart indicators, so we don’t help Christians by correcting behavior without addressing the heart.

So what to do with Mumford & Sons?  I wouldn’t recommend “Little Lion Man” to any of the students at my church.  I have listened to it, and I think despite an unwisely used word (which doesn’t seem to be aimed to hurt anyone, but rather to express remorse) the song has a redemptive theme that is worthy of consideration by mature Christians who are not going to be tempted toward sin by hearing that particular expletive.  Their use of this particular word in this particular context does not warrant a boycott of the rest of their catalog which is expletive free, gracious and seasoned with salt.

What about in our interaction with media?  Should we avoid music and movies that contain expletives?  Yes and No.  Yes if hearing such music or watching such movies is influencing you to use language in a damaging way rather than a gracious way or if that particular media is actively promoting immorality.  We live in a very dark world, however, and much of the media we decry is actually drawing out the darkness of our world rather than promoting it–that is a distinction worth making.  Anytime you watch a movie or a TV show–ask yourself what the point of its use of language is.  Is the show promoting immorality through its use of language or is it simply realistically illustrating a situation?  In case you didn’t know, lots of people in our country use curse words regularly.  Any war movie in which people don’t curse when bombs are falling all around them is simply not realistic.  Think about the meaning and the purpose behind all the words you hear before casting judgment.  Be wary of writing off a particular piece of pop culture simply because it uses a word on your list.  Jesus didn’t give us such a list and I think he would rather we be concerned more about the condition of our hearts.


  1. As I see it, there are two issues at stake here. 1) Christians attempting to “keep their mind clean” and 2) Alienating “cussers”.

    For the first, I think Christians obviously should attempt to avoid offending with their words, while at the same time understanding that pretty words with ugly hearts are more offensive to God (and other people, in reality) than a 4-letter word spoken with love.

    For the second, I think it’s dangerously destructive for Christians to make sins out of things that aren’t expressly prohibited by God’s word. For example, I would argue that Southern Baptists’ stance on alcohol has caused just as many problems as it has helped to solve.

    I don’t mean to imply that we should not be careful of our speech and encourage the same in others, but we should be mindful not to perpetuate the idea that the outward expression matters more than the internal motivation. Else we are teaching them to take everything at face-value, to be whitewashed tombs, prizing appearance over substance.

    I have worked with students for a while and remember when a teenager, who just gave his life to Christ, let slip an expletive while giving his testimony at a youth gathering. It shocked a lot of the crowd, but was evidence of his sincerity to me! I don’t imagine that God was offended, either.

  2. “pretty words with ugly hearts are more offensive to God (and other people, in reality) than a 4-letter word spoken with love” –well put, I agree not only with that sentiment, but your entire comment. You summed up what I was trying to express only in many fewer words.

    With regard to media, I think Christians often discredit media for all the wrong reasons. We discredit media because it has bad language–but what does that mean? Is the language bad simply because it includes words on our bad-words list? Biblically what makes language “bad” is the intention behind it not the words themselves.

    That is why I think we ought to be asking better questions of the media we take in than did they use bad words? What makes a particular word “bad”? I am far more concerned with the purpose behind language than the language itself. In addition, I think in media–often times what we would deem offensive language is used but it is used to expose darkness or to realistically illustrate a dark situation such that we can learn from it.

    For instance, if a movie uses destructive language, we ought to at least ask whether the movie is painting the destructive language as destructive or appropriate. There is a big difference.

  3. A long time ago, a 16 year old that looks a lot like me was a Christian youth leadership conference, where one of the speakers was Tony Campolo. In his discussion of how the church treats external influences, he related an anecdote about why a prostitute wouldn’t go to church, which in the final sentence had the fictional hooker saying “because if I wanted to be treated like shit, I’d stay on the streets”.

    At the use of the word “shit” the entire audience went silent; I mean a room with easily 1,000 people in it and you could have heard a leaf fall on carpet.

    That evening, everyone was talking about it. And I think in that alone, it was justified – because the number of people that for the first time really thought hard about the issue of Christianity and curse words, as well as the root cause of it which was the external perception of the church in a community that desperately needs to be evangelized justified the “shock value” of what he said.

  4. Sometimes I think a curse word can really be edifying. My wife and I have a lot of inside jokes where a curse word is perfectly timed and makes us both laugh. It doesn’t seem like we’re being malicious towards anyone. So the question I often have is whether in principle one can explain the circumstances in which cursing can be, not just “not bad”, but actually good. And why? What exactly is good about it if it is good?

    Ultimately the principle of “edification” has been what I have viewed as the thing we should be motivated by – and sometimes it does seem like it’s really edifying to someone for a perfectly timed f-bomb to be dropped. But that’s really just to say that there are situations where you can do some things that are only good in those situations. It’s good for a man to have sex with his wife in their bedroom. It’s not good to do so in front of people. I suspect cursing may have similar kinds of purposes where the ethics of using it is entirely circumstantial.

    I also wonder if it is really always wrong to curse when one is angry. Again, it’s very hard to know just what Paul means when he is talking about the coarse language. Is he talking about bawdy humor, for instance? Is he talking about some equivalent to the f-word in that city and time, and basically banning it? But he doesn’t name the word, so that doesn’t seem correct. He seems to have some kind of casual use of culturally accepted “profanity” in mind, but when I read him on this, I sort of get frustrated that I’m not given more information and guidance, because I am not sure if he is responding to something specific (and thus the prohibition is more like “don’t have sex with your wife in public”) or something general (like never use profane words, no matter what).

  5. My wife once wrote a paper in which she contends that the depiction of profanity and blasphemy is permissible (and even in some cases necessary) for the Christian author—not on the basis of “artistic license,” as though art is outside the realm of God’s jurisdiction, but rather on the basis of man’s ultimate calling to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

    If blasphemy and profanity are permissible for the Christian author, then why not mere vulgarity or obscenity, which at their worst are tasteless or mean-spirited? Honestly the pop-Christian fear of these things is awe-striking. That this article probably needed to have $#*! in its title is just flat-out depressing.

    I hope the children in the church will grow up soon because there’s an entire world out there that needs them.

  6. I have a lot of thoughts on this blog post, and much like you Drew, I can’t fit everything I want to say in a post, haha. But one of my main thoughts was the use of expletives in music. This was something I battled when I was younger quite often. My thought process ended up being as long as the music doesn’t actually have “cuss words” in it, then it’s okay to listen to. Following this logic, as a child I listened to good Christian bands like DC Talk, Newsboys, and P.O.D. Then the “good” secular bands I listened to included Backstreet Boys, N*Sync, and Linkin Park. In my mind all these groups not cursing pretty much put them in the same category, which is/was a VERY dangerous thought.

    Now I realize there still needs to be some type of filter where we decide what to fill our heads with, but it should be more of an intuitive process, rather than a filter that cuts out anything that says one of a list of banned words, but also lets through anything not on that list.

    In my life today, I can point to songs like Little Lion Man by Mumford & Sons, John Wayne Gacy Jr by Sufjan Stevens, and many songs by David Bazan, and say that these songs contained foul language or some type of controversial lyrics, but these helped build me up more than any “good” lyrics from songs such as “Shine” by Newsboys. (I hate to attack Newsboys specifically, but this is a theme song of Pop Christian Music for me. It has a catchy hook, useless lyrics, and does nothing but further separates Christians from non-believers.)

    P.S. I was listening to Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens as I read this blog. Suddenly in “I Want To Be Well” he dropped the F-bomb several times, quite suitable as I read this hahaha.

  7. @Scott–I think Paul doesn’t give us the exact instance he is addressing in Eph. 4:29 because we are to apply those verses to many different situations. And I agree, the essential principle is that our words edify and build up. It is possible for four letter words to function this way. I have personally known Christians who have used four letter words appropriately to rebuke other believers for their mistreatment of other believers.

    Anyway your frustration with Paul reveals our human desire to want a list of rules to live by (I understand your frustration because sometimes I feel the same way). It would be easier if Paul had just said, “hey here is a list of words I don’t want you to use.” But instead he said things like make sure your talk “builds up” and “gives grace to the hearer.” The reason being because the Bible teaches us to live wisely and to live proactively to bless and impart grace to those around us rather than just what not to do.

    @Seth–I understand your frustration and I too hope that we could grow up on this issue and many others for that matter. For the record though, much of my writing is aimed at challenging the thinking of “older brothers.” I want to meet them where they are at and help them address these unnecessary walls they have built up. It think CAPC probably attracts a little more mature Christian than I sometimes write to—I do that on purpose—I think its worth reaching out to the older brother with grace and (hopefully) sound arguments that will challenge them to think and hopefully help them.

    That said, I think your sentiments here remind me how poorly many believers have been served by teaching that focuses on law rather than grace and performance rather than position. Its much easier to recite rules than to learn to think critically with biblical wisdom in view. That may be why many professing believers don’t know how to filter and think critically about art—we are asking all the wrong questions.

    @Austin—thanks for the feedback buddy and for sharing your story. I had a similar experience with music—realizing how misplaced all my thinking was about music and consequently realizing how insipid so much CCM was.

    If only Rich could have waited a few days, I might have cited “I Want to Be Well” by Sufjan Stevens instead of Little Lion Man—what a fascinating song! I am still trying to figure out what it is about, but in short, Sufjan’s use of profanity there is a good example of what I am talking about. Is his use of profanity aimed to tear others down and to do them harm? I don’t think so—it feels like its intended to wake up the listener to the seriousness of a very dark situation. Maybe I will write about it soon.

  8. @Drew – Thanks. I may be wanting a list, but I don’t think I do. Mainly, I’m saying that without a complete context of why he wrote what he wrote and what exactly he is referring to, it’s difficult to construct a principle. It is not obvious to me what maps onto our profane language from Paul’s short sentence. I’m not entirely convinced we can draw a principle yet, but I may be wrong. I do see, though, that it is possible to harm a person with profane language, and insofar as it does, that is wrong and ill-advised. If that was the most common usage of profane language among his audience, then a reasonable principle might be to avoid profane language where it harms a person, but not necessarily otherwise. But if these are men engaging in bawdy jokes, for instance, where the harm if it even exists is quite different then the principle seems different, too. Without more information, it’s very hard to construct an ethic from that sentence, which is unfortunately one of the main sources we have for thinking about the ethics of profanity.

    I go back to thinking about anger. Is it wrong to curse when I am angry? Why? What if I am alone? What if I am around my children? What if it makes me feel better to do it alone, and there is no harm done to anyone else? Cursing may be cathartic, but is that relevant?

    Then there are things that a husband and a wife may say to each other in private settings where certain kinds of profane language are said to each other without any malice at all. For instance, in intimate settings. Does Paul have that in mind?

    My point is, the sentence is a prohibition of something and I certainly agree the audience would’ve understood that, but it’s not obvious from it what principle we are to draw. We know we are to love each other and to be discerning people, compassionate, understanding, willing to give the other person the shirt off our back if need be. So as a general rule, if I live in a place where people are offended by profane language, then I should not use it, period. But I do not need that text to deduce that. I get that from the more general rule of love for others, don’t I?

  9. @Scott, I didn’t mean to insinuate that you were longing for a list of rules. I just meant to point out that the questions you are asking of that verse intimate that sometime we hope for the Bible to be clearer when it isn’t clearer for a reason–I think we’d agree on that.

    But I think the questions you are asking are good ones and wouldn’t quibble with you on them. I think the questions you bring up are exactly the kind of questions believers need to ask to get out of the mire of unbiblical legalistic categories of language.

    While what exactly Paul means by “corrupting talk” (Eph. 4:29) or “foolish jesting” (Eph. 5:4) is unclear. The principle behind both of those verses is that our speech should seek to edify and impart grace and thankfulness as we would agree. We could sum up these principles by perhaps saying, we ought to speak with the motive of love. As I have mentioned above, language is culturally defined to some degree and context is important as well, thus it is certainly not outside the realm of possibility that we could speak a “curse” word with a desire to build up and impart grace to the hearer.

    Anyway, all that to say, I like the questions you are asking, I think they are helpful.

  10. Some things points to throw out there.

    1 – Is there any difference between using profanity and saying something with the same intonation that you instantly call to a listener’s mind that profane (or rather vulgar) word? If I say “what the ______ ?” (either saying nothing, or literally saying “f,” or take your pick, etc.) Have I not just communicated the same thing?

    2 – Technically, there is a distinction between profanity and vulgarity and the two are often mislabeled. Profanity would be language against God, while vulgarity is words like shit and the f-word that are culturally frowned upon. (or were.)

    3 – Glad you pointed out that cursing in movies can just be adding to the realism and showing the darkness that is in the world. I wouldn’t say its necessarily wrong to watch a movie that portrays sin. You would be hard pressed to find any good movies without sin, I certainly can’t name any. Or for that matter books, including the Bible. The question I suppose is does that make you want to go out and do that sin. (so pornographic movies are a definite no go.) I’d say a lot of Christians are fine watching war movies where you see people killing and don’t have a problem with that.

  11. George Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” should be required listening for all freshman at Christian colleges. Our understanding of language is far too concrete to be beneficial.

  12. Hey Drew… not to mention… Sufjan Stevens’ new album, Age of Adz, has a song where he sings “I’m not F—ing aroung” about 4 times. The rest of the album is completely clean. I heard it and thought…. man, the Christians are all going to ditch him now! What do you think?

  13. @Patrick, I can’t really tell you with any certainty what “the Christians” are going to do. But I sure hope that people don’t ditch him because of that word in that song–I think that would be tragic.

    Again, the aim of our words is what the Lord cares about. I am still trying to figure out that song–the song you are referring to is “I Want to be Well.” But I don’t think he is saying anything profane there so much as seeking to draw attention to the seriousness of a situation that is apparently dire.

    The same is true of Mumford and Sons’ “Little Lion Man,” the point is not to tear down or to corrupt annyone’s ears but the point in that song is to strongly express remorse. In both instances, I am not sure that the expletives are artistically inappropriate (if there is such a thing) as they do are not aimed at someone but expressing remorse and grabbing our attention.

    As I said in my post, what God care about with regard to our language seems to be the intent behind it not the words themselves.

    So here is to hoping that “the Christians” won’t give up on Sufjan, I certainly don’t plan to–I actually think “The Age of Adz” is fantastic.

  14. I totally agree! Plus, anyone who has hung out with people from other countries might realize they drop profanity often without realizing how frowned upon it is. Language is a cultural thing.

    Often I like to ask people if they think cussing is a sin, and most often, people say either, “hmmm I don’t know,” or “YES!” and for the people that seem to think it’s a sin, I ask why? They often use the verse “don’t let unwholesome talk come from your mouth.” I totally agree with that verse! but is the S, F, A, etc. – word unwholesome? It really depends on the context. You can use completely clean words in a certain way that will really tear someone down!

    I still think Christians should stay away from cussing if they want to keep their witness. Non-believers associate Christians with clean language. If you drop the F bomb, people will automatically question if you are really a Christian, because they don’t know any better. BUT, as people trying to live like Jesus, I think Christians should stop judging the people who do cuss, rather than condemning people who do. (condemning people like some Christians are condemning Derek Webb… but that may be slightly deserved.. I don’t know how to feel about him thus far)

  15. I don’t really listen to Derek Webb–not because of the language he uses but because I just don’t like his music–its kinda boring to me–that is just a personal opinion.

    What I don’t like about Webb is that he seems to have a pension for controversy–the most recent controversy over “What Matters More” was self-inflicted in my opinion.

  16. Drew, I think this is a great example of what I was talking about earlier of how curse words can be absolutely fantastic and edifying. It’s from last year’s McSweeneys. You have to read the whole thing, but every time I read it, I’m practically crying from laughing so hard. But where’s the harm in it? I would almost venture to say that it’s impossible to generate this level of delight without these f-bombs. You take any of the profanity out, and it’s not the same piece. It’s not even funny. There’s a time and a place for profanity – it’s not just that profanity is “not always bad”. Sometimes it’s good – very good.


  17. Last year when Sigh No More was released, Marcus Mumford did an interview with the Australian national youth radio station. On this station, expletives aren’t bleeped, so they were discussing Little Lion Man and the use of the ‘f-bomb’. Mumford says they used it because it’s (as his parents now say) ‘the most powerful word in the English language’, and there’s sometimes just no other word that does the job. I understand this, swearing does have that shock value when rarely used. I very rarely swear, and it’s only after considering what I’m going to say, whether it is absolutely necessary and cannot be expressed any other way, and what impression it will give to those around me. The full interview is here: http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/media/s2717954.htm and the discussion on this is at about 8 minutes.

    But sometimes it is hard to know what is and isn’t swearing, especially in a cultural context. Somehow, I have always thought f*** was the worst word ever, until recently people started talking about the ‘c-word’. I never use this word, hadn’t even heard of it as a swear word before, but have had to train myself to see it as ‘the worst possible swear word’, because for some reason (who knows how, it’s not like I’ve led a particularly sheltered life) I’ve never been socially-trained to see it as terrible. It’s been a curious experience, and has forced me to evaluate just why some words are worse than others.

  18. Actually your blog is loaded with four-letter words. The first sentence alone has 7 of them, including the very first word, “what”. Lol!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  19. I listen to and like Mumford and Sons. That being said, which of you can imagine standing before God and him saying “What $%& were thinking about when you did _____?”

    I can’t either. I’m thinking that if Christ wouldn’t use the word, neither should I.

  20. I don’t know if you read the entire article or not but I never argued that Christians should use that word. I don’t, I don’t recommend that others do so. That said, there are other things to consider with regard to language other than the particular words we use when we speak. The Bible speaks to the intent and motive of our hearts when speak more than it does to our diction (Ephesians 4:29, 5:4).

  21. This article has initiated a train of thought I have had for a while in this very subject. I absolutely dislike someone who calls himself a Christian proclaim swearing and cursing to be horrid, and yet treat “non-profane” and yet very unwholesome language as OK. I have discussed this with one of my friends before. I basically said how screwed up it is that if someone abused the Lord’s name, even in a group of Christians, that so few of them would bat an eye or speak out against it, even though it is explicitly stated in the Ten Commandments! Yet if I walked into the room and suddenly said “What the f—!” during a conversation, how many of those Christians would be at my throat? Nearly all of them, because our culture, as well as it has dulled our reaction to cursing, has dulled our reaction to the abuse of God’s name even more.

    On the subject of Contemporary Christian Music, I couldn’t agree more. Most of what I hear does not initiate deep thought or a moral questioning or even a call to arms. Most of them are just pop songs that happen to not be singing about sex and booze, but rather not much of anything at all. An example of these exaggerated double standards I remember is when Anberlin released a cover of the song “Creep” by Radiohead. In the original, he not only says, “You’re so f—ing special”, but also, “What the hell am I doing here?”. Anberlin even censored it and said “very” in place of the f-word but included the word “hell”, and there was so much flak shot at them it isn’t even funny. Honestly, many Christians need to get out from under their rocks- I’d like to believe you can be “in the world but not of it” and still have an informed opinion on why you accept/reject certain aspects of the world at the same time. I hope someday we can all exchange our church’s/parent’s faith for a faith in God that is real in our personal lives.

  22. Great post, I cant believe it took so long for me to read it. So much to say such little space. I have always felt that a word is a word no matter what it means. You put it quite clear when you said people wouldn’t get frowned upon for saying “excrement” yet we do for saying shit. It is foolishness, what made that word a bad one? Where did the f-word come from? If you replace one word with another just to be politically correct, have you made yourself any better? I only take offense to those words when they are out of context, like a space filler. F-this f-that just to ryme a lyric. Otherwise I don’t care.

    I try not to use that language very much because people like to place stumbling blocks under their own feet by following my path. Meaning saying a specific word is not inherently un-Christian or even wrong. But some people perceive that it is, and if you are a Christian, that because you used that word you are a bad Christian. I feel the same reasoning applies to drinking. Some people want to see Christians fail, and if they “think” something is wrong for a Christian because the population deems it so, then it is wrong for Christians. And if a christian does these wrong things, then the lost may not want to be like us hippocrites. But have we really set the stumbling block or did the lost man set the stubling block on himself by making assumptions?

  23. I think everyone’s on the right track. Language is powerful and almost every word can carry with it the power to harm or help. The song by Mumford and Sons is rumored to have been written by one of the band members after he ruined his marriage through a series of very bad decisions. Simply saying I’ve really messed it up this time, instead of f’d it up, wouldn’t really convey the seriousness of the situation in the same way. I don’t believe that word should be thrown around and used in everyday conversation (not because I feel it’s a sin in and of itself, but because it’s just impolite in most settings) but when used sparingly cuss words are the only words extreme enough to convey an extreme emotion or situation. Culture does have a lot of bearing on what words are acceptable. My great grandmother is 82 and still a very active member of the church. She is true to God’s word and doesn’t excuse sin while still loving and accepting the sinner. She is the best example I know of a good Christian woman. She’s also a farm girl. I mean she was born on a farm, raised on a farm, married a farmer, raised six kids on a farm, you get the idea. She always called the boots you wore in the barn your shit kickers. It’s just what they were called. It wasn’t meant to be vulgar. One time I yelled “oh shit” because I’d forgotten something important and she blushed and scolded my use of an obscenity. It’s the same word, but the context is different. The words we use don’t matter as much as the intent and context. Using a cuss word doesn’t make my devotion to Christ any less sincere, but using any word to bring unnecessary negativity, shame, or harm is when I feel a word becomes an obscenity and not very Christ like.

  24. Great post, Drew – and something I’ve dealt with a lot. As a writer myself – doing album, film, book & concert reviews by (mostly) Christian artists, I appreciate good use of language and can ‘understand’ how strong language can help make a point.
    I personally don’t use it. ‘Pretty sure I never will.
    Let’s get past the issue of ‘is it a sin to say this word,’ since I think we’ve covered that pretty well here. My concern is our culture in general and being part of a generation that has no self-control. Always think about the kids. I remember the first time I saw a bumper sticker with 3-inch high block letters that spelled out the F-word. Like any other parent, I was looking forward to the time when my son could ‘sound out’ his first word. Thanks a lot, bumper sticker… My point – and call me an old hippie if you want to – is that the world can be a nicer place. Yep – I used the ‘n’ word: nicer. We can do better. We can be more creative, we can just plain speak better.
    So, my point is that we just don’t really try any more and we don’t seem to care about the quality of the culture we’re passing down to the next generation. Okay – it’s not a sin. Neither is public urination, but let’s not just let it all hang out (so to speak). We’ll ask people not to blow smoke in our faces, we’d rather not be in an elevator with someone who’s belching and passing wind – I’d rather not be hearing the S word and F word all over the place all of the time, either. Besides, for those that argue shock value — hey, won’t the over-use of those terms in every-day conversation destroy that?
    By the way – our gassy friend in the elevator *might* not be able to help it. But – with a little effort and self-control – I think we can help it. We can talk on a better level.

  25. Okay – just watched the Paul Tripp video and he stated his case very well. I loved when he said, “The Bible says that wholesome communication is intended to give grace to the listener.” Wow – a good thing to remember. Grace is cool. Then he said, “wowie zowie,” which always makes me think of one of my favorite musicians – Frank Zappa.
    Frank often used the kind of language I simply don’t like hearing. Some people liked him simply because he used that kind of language. A lot of those people missed the point. In that case, the use of outrageous language and sophomoric humor distracted a lot of people from some really amazing music.

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