*This* is Filthy Language? June 4, 2009

*This* is Filthy Language?

Pastor Ed Young, who once told his congregation to sex it up for a week, doesn’t like pastors who swear just to be “cool”… (Hello, Pot. Meet Kettle.)

The reference is to people like Marc Driscoll, a guy known as “The Cussing Pastor.”

Young’s examples of swearing include such horrendous words as:

  • Sucks
  • Pissed
  • Screwed
  • Hell
  • Damn

Umm… right.

He wants pastors to use “encouraging” and “healthy” words. (Like “Hell” and “Damnation”?) He says you can more effectively communicate this way.

He’s wrong.

First of all, you are a more effective communicator when you use language your audience understands. If they use “bad words,” you may get your message across more powerfully if you do the same. (At least when you want to be seen as “one of them.”)

Secondly, those aren’t the swear words people use these days. They’re just a regular part of the language. The pastors who use them may not be “trying to be” anything. They’re just talking the way they normally do.

As George Carlin reminded us, there are no bad words. Bad thoughts and bad intentions, yes. But words are not bad. Why not ask church members to think carefully about their negative thoughts instead of worrying about how they express it verbally?

To quote Kevin Hendricks at Church Marketing Sucks:

Ed Young may think “sucks” is a swear word and be offended I use it. But my grandmother would be offended by a seven-day sex challenge…

… Perhaps the church needs to be less judgmental of one another and get worked up over more important issues.

One more quote seems apt here, this one from evangelical Tony Campolo (speaking to Christians, I presume) :

“I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

(via Church Marketing Sucks)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Renacier

    The video clip in that last linked article is pretty good stuff. Unfoundedly optimistic, perhaps. But this Campolo guy seems like the kind of Christian I wouldn’t mind knocking on my door at 8 am.

  • Rachel

    Thankfully there are people like Tony Campolo who helps knock the focus of christianity onto issues that really matter.

    I am a believe myself, and I dont get offended at all at swearwords or “foul language” (as they call it). It is just a way for that person to express him / herself with their vocabulary. Besides, language has been changing over and over for thousands of years. I believe it is the intention with which you say the words that actually matter (just like someone can say something perfectly “proper”, and still you can sense the strong pressence of spite and loathe behind it))

    I never understood why so many religious people get upset about it. Maybe it’s just that many have been brought up into thinking it has a great influence, and that it can somehow reflect on who they are as people.

  • I think swearing and religiosity are orthogonal. One can be an atheist and not like swearing just like one can be religious and not like swearing. The converse is also true. Personally, I’m not a big fan of curse words and rarely use them.

  • Jason R

    ahh. Good old fashioned word framing. Words make all the difference. Lets take a look at Zechariah 14:2 and some different translations.

    GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
    I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem for battle. The city will be captured, the houses looted, and the women raped. Half of the people in the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people won’t be taken from the city.

    King James Bible
    For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

    Young’s Literal Translation
    And I have gathered all the nations unto Jerusalem to battle, And captured hath been the city, And spoiled have been the houses, And the women are lain with, Gone forth hath half the city in a removal, And the remnant of the people are not cut off from the city.

    As you can see the softer words in some translations ease the reader and soften the underlying context of death, rape, pillaging. Religious communication is a tricky beast in all 666 ways.

  • Are you sure there are no bad words? I think “nigger” is kind of bad.

  • I watched the clip, and I’m not sure that the man is claiming that words like “sucks” and “screwed” are “filthy language”. I think he’s merely suggesting that there are more elevated ways to get one’s message across.

    One’s choice of words sends a message (obviously!), and part of that message is the speakers regard for the audience. Personally, unless I’m dealing with people I know intimately, I avoid using language that could possibly be disrespectful or disturbing. It’s just common courtesy, although that is becoming less and less common nowadays.

  • sc0tt

    Shoot, I hope video blogging while driving doesn’t become popular; it’s freaking dangerous enough out there without drivers distracting themselves with that.

  • Red

    I do not seem these words as ‘filthy’ but I do see them as maybe offensive, or at the very least, offensive and unnecessary.

    I recently tried to go swear free for 30 days and did not do so bad. I found many alternatives to the words I used previously. That proved interesting in and of itself. But I am not a Christian and do not care for foul language, and yet my sister cannot speak without using foul language.

    I remember Bill Cosby called Eddie Murphy once asking him could he tell a joke and it still be funny minus all the colorful language? Now, could we talk, still sound intelligent and not use swear words? By all means, in fact, I think it shows more intelligence by not having to stoop to feeling you ‘need’ to swear.

  • zoo


    I watched the clip, and I’m not sure that the man is claiming that words like “sucks” and “screwed” are “filthy language”.

    Even if this particular person isn’t, this is what I was raised with, the whole list. Also “pee” and “freak”, and probably others if I thought about it a while longer. I remember the adults didn’t even want us to use “awesome” when it was popular because apparently that should be only used to describe God [because the word belongs to him alone and he has a monopoly on causing awe, right?].

  • The Campolo quote is excellent, and one I remember well from my days as a Christian.
    He is right on the money. Of course, he was considered one of those “liberal” Christians by many of my fellow congregants at the time, so of course we looked down on him as not being a “true Christian (TM).”

    Looking back on my past beliefs sometimes makes me sick.

  • billybee

    I was flooded with joy….that I don’t have to worry about this kind of crap any more.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    While I agree that the idea that these words consitute “filthy language” is silly, Tony Campolo’s quote strikes me as an irrelevant switch-and-bait. That logic works to deny the validity of any complaint. Unhappy that a state official in Spokane said terrible things about atheists? How can you be upset about that while thousands of children are dying every day from starvation or disease? Wow, you really are a terrible person.

  • numsix

    Warning: Long build up to small comment…

    I went to a Catholic school from K-13.
    In grade school, K-8, you were punished if you were caught swearing, and in High School it depended on who caught you. Strangely, the Priests would tell you it was wrong, and to use polite language; the other teachers would give detentions.
    At my High School we were taught to be polite in public, especially around people you did not know or did not know well. This I think should be practiced more. Politeness does not hurt anyone. Now if you were around after hours, sports or clubs, etc. swearing was used and no one really cared. It was more about intent. Someone who swore just because was seen as possessing less that average intellect; swearing when things went wrong, or you got hurt etc. was seen as normal use of the language.
    We were asked – OK, maybe told, but politely 🙂 – at pep rallies that we represented our school and to present ourselves accordingly.
    This has helped me in now that I am older and work in sales. I generally do not swear. I do not care if others do and really can cut lose if I am inspired; but, to be swearing in my work environment is not professional and can cost you.
    So, swearing who cares if you do, more importantly is when/where you do.

  • My mother used to say to me…

    “Don’t fucking curse like that around the house. Where the hell did you learn that from?”

    I used to bite my tongue, then one day, I told her to look in the mirror, and she never said it again.

    IMHO, there are some things which can only be expressed properly with curses. Yes, I know I have a really foul mouth according to local people, but whatever. These people should go to the streets of NYC for a day – if they are as uppity about cursing as they claim to be, they’ll have a heart attack by 9:01am.

    I do really like the quote from Tony Campolo, it sums it up quite nicely. I give props and respect to people who tell it like it is.

  • Polly

    I was once arguing with a casino slot manager about aq machine that had suddenly locked up right when we won. I referred to the “damn” slot machine.

    He actually said: “Don’t use foul language.”

    I said, “‘damn’ is considered cursing by you?!?”


    HA! A verbally prudish casino, go figure!

  • I would disagree that in order to communicate effectively to a culture that uses curse words, you must curse yourself.

    I think bad language is exactly that…bad language. There are enough words in any language to effectively communicate.

    Especially as a parent of children who are beginning to repeat most words/phrases they hear – I won’t condemn people for using them, but I will greatly appreciate and support those who don’t.

  • llewelly

    The only belief stupider than the belief that certain words are ‘filthy’ and should therefor be censored is the belief that words like ‘screw’, ‘flip’, ‘frig’, ‘frak’, etc, are different from ‘fuck’.

  • I dislike swearing not because it is swearing but because so many people use words like “fucking” and “Jesus” as placeholder words. We have a plethora of appropriate terms for almost any situation and I despise the constant use of the same few words. It portrays a singular lack of vocabulary.

    That said the occassional use of expletives for emphasis is a magnificent use of language. My chief objection is the ubiquity of certain words when there are viable and more descriptive words available.

  • mattincinci

    danger of using offensive language to communicate the gospel? LOL ok its EVIL

  • ChesterBogus

    The thing that annoys me with people saying, “Oh, we have enough words in English to…” Or, “Using swear words limits your vocabulary.

    Whatever. The problem with this logic is that, if you stop swearing, you limit your vocabulary. Not the other way around. If I say, “I’m not going to say ‘fuck’,” then I’ve just limited my vocabulary by one word.

    You might say that there are plenty of words that are appropriate to the situation – yeah. Swear words are the appropriate words for when you are angry, when you want to emphasize something, when you want to…

    There is no reason whatsoever to limit your vocabulary and remove swearwords from your daily usage. What word is better than, “Aw, shit,” when something goes wrong? How could you possibly suggest that there is another word that fits the category “exclamation for bad events”?

    Your car is broken: “Zounds!”


  • ChesterBogus I think you’ve missed the point. When the same words are overused as fluff and filler they lose impact and just become noise. A well placed “fuck it” or “screw you” can add wallop to a phrase but if every other fucking word is fucking fuck then what’s the fucking point of fucking using the fucking fuck word for fucks sake? It becomes boring repetitive drivel and loses any vehemence or power that the word holds in itself.

    If a word can be said to have power that is.

  • Polly

    fucking point of fucking using the fucking fuck word for fucks sake?

    Fuck! You missed a fucking apostrophe. 🙂

  • CybrgnX

    I know that it is just a form of shortcut to use the word swearing in such a casual manner. But this is the problem with debates because very one mis uses the words.
    It is IMPOSSIBLE for an athiest to blaspheme, swear, or curse as these do not exist. And fucking profanity is confused with the word fuck because of sloppy usage by sloppy minds. Profane is nothing more then talking about ordinary things, and profanity is talking about ordinary things in church. Everything else, cunt, fuck, shit, etc is nothing more then ‘I don’t like that speech’ crap.

  • Jonathan Weyer

    So, I guess Paul was wrong when he said,

    “I consider my righteousness skubalon, which means, basically, shit. Phil. 3:8

  • Mark C.

    “Sucks, pissed, screwed, hell, damn”

    I grew up in an environment where “pissed” would always be a cuss word, “hell” would be if uttered in a way not actually talking about the (mythical) location, and “damn” would pretty much also always be considered a cuss word (except possibly when saying something like “he’ll be damned to hell”, though “condemned” would always be acceptable). “Sucks” and “screwed” would almost attain the same status for some people, such as my paternal grandmother.

    On a forum I go to, I mentioned that a particular video game has only one instance of a cuss word (“damn”), when the series has historically not had any and been kid-friendly, and that I thought it was put in there not for good reason, but simply to make it appear to be for more mature audiences (and for shock value). Someone came back at me by being shocked that I consider “damn” a bad word. Well, around where I live, it is. But as a USian (Canadians and Mexicans are American, too, after all), I don’t see any problem with “bloody”… a word that the British apparently regard as a “bad word”.

    Perhaps a good indicator of what is or isn’t a “bad word” would be to go see what isn’t allowed to be said in elementary schools (not including words like “sex”, which adults don’t want children to know about for other reasons entirely).

    Words are just sounds used to communicate. None are bad or good intrinsically, but only appropriate and inappropriate in context (social and otherwise). I have no problem using these words, but I always tend to use what is acceptable in whatever social context I’m in. I’m not going to use any variant of the word “fuck” around my grandmother, for instance, or around my nine-year-old sister.

  • Shirley G. Platt

    It is NOT what goes IN the mouth – it is what comes OUT of the mouth that defiles a person.

    Would we use questionable language if we stood before the Lord, if He was physically present?

error: Content is protected !!