On Cursing and Christianity

By Tom Westerholm

Why do Christians find cursing so offensive?

On my way to work on Sunday (yes, I work on Sundays, sue me…I’m broke and I’m in college), I was cut off by an elderly couple taking an post-church cruise around town. I slammed on my breaks and threw my hands in the air, screaming a phrase that rhymed with “What the truck.”

I never use euphemisms. I curse. A lot. If you follow me on Twitter, you may see it a little. If you know me in person, you will see it some more. And if I consider you my friend, you eventually become impervious to the onslaught of profanity.

Don’t worry, I won’t curse on Cardboard. I recognize that there are venues where cursing is inappropriate. When telling my church about the mission trip I took over spring break for example, I will refrain. As a matter of fact, on the mission trip itself I refrained as well (except when I was driving through Dallas). I rarely curse in front of my parents and never in front of my grandparents. In fact, most of my foul language takes place when I’m alone and I stub my toe or hit my shin, or around my friends.

Some might say that I need a new group of friends. But I would suggest to you that we curse around each other because we are comfortable. A kind of community is created by cursing. If I curse around you, I know that we are comfortable enough to share a moment of levity. Let’s face it: profanity can make a situation funny, and my friend Don knows that I don’t actually think that his head is made of feces.

One tangent: I avoid “Jesus Christ” and “Goddammit,” when used in exasperation. I understand the difference between cursing and taking God’s name in vain. But words like “shoot” (not actually shoot) and “fudge” (not actually fudge) are ambiguous to me.

But the real reason cursing doesn’t bother me is this: I don’t mean it when I swear around my friends. But the moments that I DO mean it are the moments I’m at my most human. We curse when we are angry, or upset, or sad, or unhappy. We curse when we are in pain. Why do we feel the need to sanitize our suffering? Our humanity is dirty, unhappy, and profane. If our language reflects that, I fail to see how it’s the worst thing in the world.

If it offends you, I’m sorry and I encourage you to let me know. I won’t let it continue in your presence. Just know that if you hear it, I’m probably comfortable around you.

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2 thoughts on “On Cursing and Christianity

  1. Pete says:

    why do christians find it so offensive?

    perhaps the bible is relevant.

    Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

    Ephesians 5:4 Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

    Matthew 12:37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”

    it’s tough to be in this world but not of it, if we act like everyone else… it has nothing to do with being comfortable

    • I definitely agree that acting like the world to be comfortable (ie: to conform) would be wrong. I’m certainly not saying that we should act like everyone else to make OURSELVES more comfortable.

      I’m saying that the community that can be created by rough language can be a way to connect with others. It can be a way to reach out and include others, and make THEM more comfortable. Sort of as a way to say “Hey, I know you well enough that I can say this around you.” If that makes sense.

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