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Profanity – Should we use it?

January 15, 2007

Chris just posed the question about profanity, and whether or not we should use it. One of the interesting things about this is John Piper’s recent article about his using profanity at the Passion 07 conference (is this a precursor to New Attitude? Hmmmmm . . .), where he expresses regret for swearing in that particular instance. Wayne Grudem responded, and the response was published at Desiring God. Here’s the part that stood out to me:

Using the words commonly thought to be offensive in the culture seems to me to be sort of the verbal equivalent of not wearing deodorant and having body odor, or of going around with spilled food on our shirts all the time. Someone might argue that not wearing deodorant or wearing dirty clothes are not morally wrong things in themselves, but my response is that they do give needless offense and cause others to think of us as somewhat impure or unclean. So, I think, does using words commonly thought to be “obscene” or “offensive” or “vulgar” in the culture generally. Plus it encourages others to act in the same way. So in that way it brings reproach on the church and the gospel.

I remember a long time ago you mentioned to me that when you were in jail for Operation Rescue you listened at night to the talk of prisoners in the cell block, and how their talk was just filled with vulgar bathroom language and sex language. It struck me at the time how a person’s purity or impurity of speech is often an indicator of purity or impurity of heart. (ESV Matthew 12:34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.)

I really like the last part, about a person’s purity or impurity of speech being an indicator of their heart, and I think that is generally on target.

A number of different words can denote the same thing but have different connotations, some of them recognized as “unclean” or “offensive” by the culture.

urination: taking a leak, pee, “p—”
defication[sic]: poop, “cr–“, “sh–”
sexual intercourse: sleeping with someone, “f—”
rear end: backside, “a–“

Again, this is a great point.  It isn’t vulgar to say “he’s sleeping with someone.”  That’s seen as a description of the act.  To say the same thing using the f-word is seen as obscene.  We need to be aware of that with all of these words.  I’m not sure I’d blank out crap, but all the other words on here I agree with.

All this to say that our speech is an important part of our witness, and there are words and phrases we should never use because of the cultural connotations.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Michael Q permalink
    January 15, 2007 11:17 am

    Nice start to your blog guys!!!

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