Thursday, October 2, 2008

"My Gosh" - Acceptable Christian Profanity

I was trying to figure out the best word to describe when Christians use God's name without really thinking about how they may be disrespecting God, either through what is called "Minced Oaths" or using actually meaningful words. Some of the terms this could go by are:

Profanity - irreverent language, blasphemy
Cursing - to swear profanely
Cussing - cursing
- an interjectory word or expression, frequently profane
Interjections - the utterance of a word or phase expressing emotion
- to use profane language
Vulgarity - the quality of lacking taste and refinement
Blasphemy - impious utterance concerning God

So, the terms "Profanity" and "Blasphemy" would seem to apply equally well. Note that I am concerned here about people who actually believe the creator God does exist and that He therefore should be respected. If you do not believe that God exists then of course disrespecting his name should probably not be a problem for you (other than possibly to not offend others who do believe in a Creator).

Categories of Vulgarity

There seems to be four main categories of vulgarity commonly used:

1. words relating to excrement ("potty words")
2. words related to acts of procreation and related body parts
3. words grouping and insulting people by race or other characteristic
4. words disrespecting God and His name

Interestingly, most Christians do not have as much of a problem with the first three categories of vulgarity, or at least they understand that what they are saying is inappropriate. But many Christians have a significant problem using words that, knowingly or unknowingly, may disrespect God. So, in this post I am mainly concerned with the fourth category, words that potentially disrespect God.

Christians potential disrespect for God's name has lead to the society at large more strongly disrespecting God's name in many cases. From a Dec 2000 Poll from the BBC, almost half of the respondents did not even think that using God's or Jesus's name flippantly was considered profanity. And a full 80% thought it was either not profanity or mild profanity, less w
orse than racial or procreation related vulgarity. But if the Creator God actually exists then you would expect that using his name flippantly would be much worse than any other kind of profanity.

Categories of Disrespect
So, what words could be disrespectful to God and how are they categorized? I will list the initial terms/phrases and their derivative "minced words".

1. God's Name as an Interjection
(pain, surprise, fear, anger)
"God": "Gosh", "Golly", “Goodness”, "Egads”, ”Man”, "Dear God"
“God Almighty”: “Gosh Almighty”, "Goodness Gracious"
"Jesus": "Jeez", “Gee”, “Jeepers

“Christ”:Criminy”, ”Crikey”
“Jesus Christ”: "G
ee Whizz", “Jimminy Cricket”, “Jeepers Creepers”, “Judas Priest”, “Gee Willikers”, ”Jeezy Peezy”, “Jumpin Jehosaphat
"Holy Christ": "Holy Cow",
“Holy Cr.p”, “Cr.p”, "Holy Sh..", "Holy Smokes", “Sh..”, ”Shoot”
(related) "Holy Mother of God": "Holy Moly", "Holy Mackerel"

2. Christian Condemnations
(pain, surprise, fear, anger)
“May God Damn you to Hell”: ”Darn you to Heck”,"Darn You", “Dang”, “Gosh Darn”, “Dad Gum”, “Dog Gone”, “Dag Nabit”, "Gall Dang it"
"Go to Hell": “Hell”, "Heck”, "Bloody Hell"
“Go to Damnation”: "Damnation", ”Tarnation
“God rot it”:Drat

3. Christian Expressions of Surprise
“Oh, My God,...?
”: “My Word”, “Oh, My”, “My Goodness”, "O.M.G." (possibly from what Jesus said on the Cross, "My God, Why have you forsaken me?")
"Oh, My Lord,...?": "Oh, My Lands"
“Good God,...?”: “Good Grief”, “Good Golly”, “Good Gosh”, "Good Gravy", "Good Night"
“Good Lord,...?”
“Oh, My Heavens...?”: “Heavens to Betsy”, ”Heavens”
“What the Hell?”: “What the Blazes”, “What the Heck”, "What the...", "What in the world?", "What on earth?"

4. Asking to do something for God
”For God’s sake”: “for Gosh sake”,
”For Pete's sake (St. Peter)”
“For the Lords sake”: “for Lands sakes”
“For Christ’s sake”: “For crying out loud”
“For the love of God”: "For the love of Pete (St. Peter)"
“For the love of Christ”

5. Christian Oaths
“By God”: “By Golly”, “By George”, ”By Jove”, “By Gum”,

6. Other Minced Words

“God’s Hooks (nails on the cross)”:Gadzooks

"Raising Hell": "Raising Heck", "Raising Cain"

"Mother of God"
"God Bless You":
"Bless You"
"God help us"
"Lord help us"

"God have mercy"
"Lord have mercy"

7. Other Trivializing Sayings

sinfully delicious foods
Angel's Food (Sponge Cake), Devil's Food (Red Velvet Cake), Deviled Eggs (Stuffed Eggs)
Jokes with God, Jesus or Heaven in it

The Relevant Bible Passages
There are quite a few Bible passages that talk about how we should control what we say. Some seem to actually be talking about making sure we use sound doctrine and rational arguments (2 Tim 1:13, Tit 2:7-8). The most often quoted passage that is related does apply, but the primary application seems to be in keeping oaths and honestly following God:

Ex 20:7 7 "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.

The most conclusive passage concerning honoring God's name seems to be:

Luke 11:2 And He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come.

Here are some other relevant passages:

Mat 12:30-37 If you continue to believe and say the Holy Spirit is evil, then you are actually the one who is evil and will be treated accordingly; 36 "But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (This passage has to do with calling good evil, but mention "careless words").

Mat 5:21-22 21 "You have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT MURDER' and 'Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.' 22 "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell." (This one seems to rule out Christian condemnations (category 5) when directed at other people).

Mat 5:33-37
33 "Again, you have heard that the ancients were told, 'YOU SHALL NOT MAKE FALSE VOWS, BUT SHALL FULFILL YOUR VOWS TO THE LORD.' 34" But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is THE CITY OF THE GREAT KING. 36 "Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 "But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; anything beyond these is of evil. (No oaths or vows invoking a higher power, rather just promise saying yes you will do something).

Eph 5:11-13 11 Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; 12 for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. (Some things should not be spoken about, and euphemisms may be appropriate).

Eph 5:1-5 1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. 3 But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; 4 and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. 5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (This likely refers to the other three types of vulgarity).

Mat 15:17-20 17 "Do you not understand that everything that goes into the mouth passes into the stomach, and is eliminated? 18 "But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. 19 "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. 20 "These are the things which defile the man; but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile the man."

James 5:11-12 11 We count those blessed who endured You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful. 12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but your yes is to be yes, and your no, no, so that you may not fall under judgment.

James 3:1-12 1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell. 7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race. 8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.

Prov 10:31-32 31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.

Col 3:8
8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth.

Eph 4:29-32 29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. 30 Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. 32 Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

Psalm 141:3-4
3 Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.
4 Do not incline my heart to any evil thing, To practice deeds of wickedness With men who do iniquity; And do not let me eat of their delicacies.

Mal 1:6-8 6 " 'A son honors his father, and a servant his master Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect?' says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, 'How have we despised Your name?' 7 "You are presenting defiled food upon My altar But you say, 'How have we defiled You?' In that you say, 'The table of the LORD is to be despised.' 8" But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?" says the LORD of hosts.

Isaiah 57:15 15 For thus says the high and exalted One Who lives forever, whose name is Holy, I dwell on a high and holy place, And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit In order to revive the spirit of the lowly And to revive the heart of the contrite. (His name is Holy)

Also, note that the Jews have historically had a high reverence for Gods name.

How Should We Then Speak?
The Bible passages do seem to indicate that there is a significant problem here. So, what is the solution? Here are my suggestions:

1. Only say words that have meaning, that you understand and mean what you say
2. For the other three groups of vulgarity, use euphemisms for procreation and excrement words, and be respectful of all groups of people.
3. Practice articulating your thoughts well. Consider taking a speech or debate class.
4. Find some other way to increase your self respect (accomplish something you feel is valuable).
5. Learn a new vocabulary for strong emotion. Find new words to use in each of these categories:

5.1 Surprise
5.2 Pain
5.3 Fear
5.4 Anger
5.5 Emphasis
5.6 Demonstrate authority
5.7 Strong rebuke
5.8 Strongly promise
5.9 Strongly ask

And above all, if you have used those phrases regularly in the past, don't forget to apologize to God for not treating his name with respect. I'm sure, at least in American society, God would be happy to hear people finally turning and giving him the respect that is due Him.


Coulters said...

Excellent thought on the subject of slang curse words in our times...

Becky said...

What a great article. Thank you for the refocus!