I think the current furor began earlier this year when it began to circulate that John Piper, theologian par excellent, used “profanity” in a message at Passion 07. I wrote about it here. Then there’s the “cussin’ pastor,” Mark Driscoll who leads Mars Hill Church. Mark and many of his lead team apparently use some language that might be deemed offensive, especially here in the Bible Belt. However, his church consistently reaches those previously “unchurched” and bears remarkable fruit.

Piper later apologized for his language and said,

On the one hand, I don’t like fanning the flames of those who think it is hip and cool to swear for Jesus. That, it seems to me, is immature. On the other hand, I want those hip people to listen to all I say and write, and I hope that the Lord may get a hold of them and draw them out of immaturity and into the fullness of holiness. But it backfires if one becomes unholy to make people holy. I suspect there was too much of the unholy in my heart at that moment.

Profanity is a non-issue in much of our culture today, but for the disciple of Christ, scripture indicates that even our language needs to be submitted to the scrutiny and fire of holiness.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. (Ephesians 4.29)

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5.4)

Of course, you see secular shock jock Don Imus dismissed earlier this year from his job for ill-conceived comments. However, former Dallas Theological Seminary head and pastor/author Chuck Swindoll was also dismissed from a VCY radio broadcast for using “vulgar” language (including buns, heck, crap, balls).

Now tallskinnykiwi’s blog has an engaging commentary about much of the fussin’ about cussin’. He offers three observations:

  1. In Premodern times, the most offensive words were excommunicatory in nature.
  2. In modern times, which is where many people still live, words that cause most offense affront our personal and private sensibilities.
  3. In our postmodern times, as the voices of the margin dwellers and powerless have been given consideration and brought to the center, it is exclusionary language that causes most offence.

I know we’ve already commented extensively on this blog on this issue, but here’s an additional thought: Why does this issue continue to make sound waves across our culture?

Some of my thoughts are:

  • In order to effectively communicate, I think perhaps that you must certainly consider the culture you’re in before opening your mouth.
  • One should never push the bounds of what is considered offensive on a regular basis or risk losing your influence on the culture you’re trying to reach.
  • Even in cultures which permit or allow language that might be considered vulgar in other cultures, one must still consider whether it’s wise to “go there.” After all, in today’s global communication network, what you say travels aorund the world, on blogs and through podcasts. Wouldn’t you want your words to have as much power and impact in all cultures? Why neuter your influence by the use of language that is unnecessary?
  • Young and immature Christians as we all are, we tend to seek to find “substitutes” for profanity. I continually hear the use of the word “freaking” which seems to be a sub-in for f**king. I find myself saying “darn” or even the more Gomer Pylish “dadgummit,” which are also replacements for damn.

I guess the larger question is “why?” Why do we even feel the necessity of inserting such exclamations into our speech? And how should the follower of Christ seek to communicate? Does the need to be “relevant” or “connect” with the unchurched really demand that one alter one’s speech?

On this day...