When Christians Attack – My Sad Truth

BullyThis is my sad truth. I know that by my fifties I should have outgrown my desire to be cool, but, I haven’t. There it is.

Probably, growing up as an uncool teen through the seventies left lasting scars. I like to blame Jesus for that but I had plenty of other weirdness going on even apart from my devotion to Him. He is not what made me uncool but loving Him sure didn’t help. I made my choice young to pursue Jesus and not coolness but the temptation sometimes appears on the front lawn of my soul like an outbreak of dandelions, seemingly overnight.

This time I was reminded of my lack of cool by another Christian blogger’s Facebook defense of her practice of swearing. She’s a cool Christian blogger with a much bigger following and she uses language when she feels like using it. Because of this, she’s likely developed a ministry with people I won’t reach with my words so that’s something I applaud. Peace in the valley and all that. I love Anne LaMott’s writing and she curses, too, when the context calls for it. Again, she’s popular and reaches hearts I won’t. Power to her. (I confess my envy and move on.)

I’m certainly not above swearing. I swear sometimes in my daily life. If someone cuts me off in traffic or in an occasional moment of frustration or anger, I swear. Still, I don’t believe it’s the best choice for a Christian, not from a legalistic standpoint but from a heart place. The Bible says that from the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. I want Jesus to so completely own my heart that the overflow isn’t foul language. I want to grow in self-control, in love, and in patience. I’m not there yet but by grace, I hope to improve.

On the flip side, I feel no judgment for others when they swear. We live in a curse-filled world. It’s almost a first language for some people. I can hear past it to what they’re trying to say and that’s usually my focus. I don’t think I have to swear to minister to them. I can be real and authentic without resorting to coarse language. I don’t usually notice foul language in movies because I’m focused on other things. Plus, language is an evolving thing. I use words in everyday language without a second thought that would have scalded past generations. They don’t emerge from a foul place in my heart.

Still, it’s hard for me to imagine the usefulness of cursing in blog posts. Writing isn’t impulsive, each word is a choice. So consciously choosing to curse on the written page isn’t my thing. I’m doomed to be uncool. I’d like to leave just leave the matter there. Some Christian writers curse, others don’t. Some are called to reach one audience, some another. I wrestle with my temptation to coolness but that’s a familiar conversation between God and me. I know the drill.

What bothered me about this other writer’s Facebook rant is that there were statements of judgment made by commenters that anyone who questions why Christians would swear just “don’t get it” and “with human trafficking and poverty, why would any Christian take the time to express concern about swearing.” That sounds like wisdom but it’s a form of Christian bullying. (not by the blogger but by followers commenting.)

A couple of people tried to ask why we can’t care about both human trafficking and refraining from coarse language. The commenters swarmed over them like hungry piranha. Accept our swearing or you aren’t our kind of Christian. That was the message. Meekness isn’t welcome here. We’re bold, bad-mouth believers. That didn’t sound cool it just felt like bullying. I wanted to comment but I had flashbacks to high school days. It didn’t feel like anyone was really listening. I didn’t want to listen either, which is why I didn’t comment.

We need to be careful about bullying behavior in the church. It’s too easy and it’s unloving. Between Christians, bullying can happen by scolding and legalism but it can also happen by mocking and by promoting an exclusive coolness. We need to embrace beach-193786_640our freedom in Christ but we aren’t meant to fling that freedom in people’s faces.

In Christ, we’re capable of being passionate about stopping human trafficking AND concerned about what we communicate with our words. One concern doesn’t override the other. God felt both worthy of mentioning in His Word. Cursing others doesn’t just happen through swearing but also by bullying.

I believe the bloggers and writers who choose to curse in their writing are doing it in the name of transparency and out of a love for their readers. They are reflecting who they are now, entirely loved by Christ, and God works through the entirety of their message. And, I believe there needs to be a safe space in the body of Christ for people to come just as we are. Swearing isn’t the worst thing a person can do. If a swearing Christian blogger creates a safe place for others to read about Jesus, I say go for it, woman. But create a safe place and not a place that allows a different version of bullying.

I write transparently about my own struggle to be cool, my fight to be exactly who I am even if that isn’t cool and I believe God will work through my words, too, if I’m faithful to Him and to His design of me. Even if I don’t swear.

And just as I’m tempted to swear or to chase coolness instead of Christ, so I am sometimes tempted to bully other believers into seeing things from my perspective. It’s an ugliness of spirit that emerges from a place of fear or a desire for my rights or impatience with others and really, there’s no place for it in the church because it’s unloving.

I guess, all I’m trying to work out here is a simple message – let’s be careful out there, loved ones. Let’s love one another whether we swear for Jesus or refrain from swearing for Jesus. Let love rule our hearts and our mouths so the overflow is all about Him.

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13 Comments

    The Conversation

  1. Thank you for such an honest post, Lori! Curse words slip out of my mouth that I wish I hadn’t said but, most often, they swirl around in my head without being said. That’s not any better.

    To pull a verse slightly out of context, Paul says that God’s power is made strong in his (Paul’s) weakness.I believe that, in my weakness for mean words God’s power is shown as my tendencies lessen.

    “I want Jesus to so completely own my heart that the overflow isn’t foul language.” I’m with you!

  2. Victoria Clark says:

    This is so good! I might add that as Christians we are encouraged to “avoid even the appearance of evil”, and to consider the consciences of our weaker brethren “lest they also be tempted”. Like you (and probably many other believers) when provoked I occasionally let fly with a…(ahem!)…”colorful metaphor” so I’m not prim and prissy when I hear one from someone else. But as a bold and sassy practice, I would question the attitude from which it springs. I believe one can be authentic without being deliberately vulgar, if that’s what it takes to reach another for our wonderful Lord.

    As believers we are all people in process, on the continuum of spiritual growth and maturity. The ultimate goal is to be like Christ, and that surely includes now only how we speak, but how we disagree with those whose practices and viewpoints differ from our own. If reproof is necessary, we are adjured to gentleness in so doing. Your response to these critics is both civil and spot on. Well done!

    “In essential matters, unity. In disputable matters, harmony. In all matters, charity.” Works for me!

  3. Edith says:

    Jesus managed to reach all sorts of people– cool, uncool, sick, well, rich, poor –without swearing. Nor was He judgmental about anyone, swearer or not though he did say not to. I appreciate your honesty. My teen years were marred mostly by confusion. I knew I loved Jesus but you’d not have known it by my walk, talk or thoughts. I wanted so to belong, but I really don’t think I knew to what. I always admired those who were so firm in their faith. Still do, more since now I am one, too.

  4. Katherine Waite says:

    “May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14

  5. Linda says:

    Nice post. And as “they” say… you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. 🙂

  6. Joanne Urbany says:

    Ephesians 4:29.

  7. Joyce says:

    Wow…tough one. When I was in the Army I used to swear like a….well, like an Airborne Ranger (why should I let the Navy have all the kudos). I dropped more F Bombs than what fell on Dresden during WWII. But once I finally turned my life over to Christ and I realized how damaging it was to my witness. I took to heart what Paul said about not letting “coarse talk” come out of my mouth. Not that it doesn’t play around in my head at times, but I think there’s a bigger example to be set, especially if you ARE in the public eye. Now, I still have many friends, even Christian friends, who swear frequently. I don’t look down on them or regard myself as somehow a better Christian because I choose not to swear, but I do think like others have commented, it really is a heart matter.
    And I really can’t agree that as a Christian writer who is somewhat popular that, because people are reached that somehow makes it o.k. As if to say, “well, my ministry is to the foul mouthed and I become foul mouthed so as to show Christ to them.” Like it is a play on what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 9. I don’t think he meant that in becoming “like a Jew” it meant he encouraged sacrificing for sin or in becoming like “those not under the law” he engaged in drunkeness or debauchery. I think we can too easily make it an excuse for continuing to sin or…as you said…trying to STILL appear cool to everyone else. Kind of like that “I am a Christian, but I’m not like THOSE Christians” video that’s been circulating.
    We’re always so afraid of being accused of being judgmental, even though the epistles tell us that we need to examine everything and we are to admonish each other. So I don’t think telling another Christian “hey, that really is NOT cool” is a bad thing. Now they can take it or leave it, its up to them. But even Jesus said in Matthew 18 “”If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.”
    I just sometimes think we play to fast and loose with our freedom in Christ and we try to use the excuse that we’re winning others to Him by acting more like them rather than more like Him.
    Just my opinion. I think you are probably more gracious than I am about this. But it’s a very good topic to bring up and discuss.

    • Good word, Joyce. Because I was wrestling with my own sin of envy, I felt it was the wrong time to exercise judgment on someone else. I do believe that swearing is a sin but I don’t doubt the motives of those writers. I believe the body of much of their writing that I’ve read points people to Christ. Thank you for this insightful comment!

      • Joyce says:

        Lori, I must apologize because I feel like my response missed the point of your piece here, and that was about not bullying those who disagree with us. Believe me, your point was not lost on me. It is something that I have to be careful about. I’m rather “passionate” when it comes to topics of faith and politics. It’s probably a good thing that I express myself through writing because that gives me time to erase and re-word. If they came spilling out of my mouth…well, at 55 I’m in no shape to take out someone in a fist fight. But words can be just as damaging as fists. I probably erase more “fists” than what I actually say in response to something — but everyone once in a while I’ll land a blow. Sometimes it’s warranted and other times it’s not. More than once I’ve had to return to apologize.
        I was bullied as a kid as well, though not because of my faith, but simply because I didn’t fit in exactly. My problem now is that I have to guard against thinking more highly of myself than I ought because I guess I’m considered one of the “cool” people now. I tend to think my words carry more weight than they probably do. So I have to be especially careful not to become prideful and become the bully that I resented all those years ago.
        So thank you for this posting as it’s a great reminder to me that I can easily become the thing I hate.

        • Sounds as though we wrestle with the same things, Joyce. I also turn 55 in April, btw! I appreciate all you share. Thanks for commenting! I posted an apology blog today that expands my thinking on this entire topic.

  8. Carla says:

    I love your humility, Lori. We love you!

  9. Rosa says:

    I am a writer and blogger too and I strive for transparency. In real life I curse. I grew up cursing and was not raised in a Christian home. It is a real struggle. I will say, however, that the cursing bloggers don’t tend to add value with their words. The reason I genuinely struggle with cursing is because it is a sin. Otherwise there would be no struggle. I could go on happily cursing as I did in my pre-Christian days. That being said, I cannot put pen to the paper and make the choice to put those words to the page. I cannot. I can hear cussing any time I want to, I don’t need it from the Christian blogosphere. Especially if you have to commit a sin to give that to me. There are many other words in the language that will accurately convey what is you’re trying to say. I write about my sexual assault, depression, teenage drug use and the fact that my family disowned me when I became a Christian: all without foul language. We know that Peter, Isaiah and others had a struggle with foul speech, but the Bible didn’t include these words, in order to, you know, keep it real. Just sayin’.