Is swearing a sin?
I can’t resist anymore, I’ve got to link to this rant. Being the ecumenist I am, I love reading a good livid seethe. And this time a colourfully languaged Alastair (of the superb adversaria – one of my favbourite blogs) was on top form giving a conservative Wright-is-an-evil-heretic-heading-for-Hades type critic a probably deserved bitch-slapping all the way back to planet ‘false accusation’. But be sure to read it and decide for yourselves if Alastair was fair.
I generally cannot take criticisms of Wright seriously if the given accuser doesn’t know his theological arse from his elbow, nor if the language gets too exaggerated (i.e. cf. here). I once heard a critique of Wright that prefixed the tirade with the claim that Rowan Williams is a druid, ergo Wright must be theologically unsound! Not only is such obvious fanfare bollocks irritating to read, it is singularly unhelpful.
But Alastair used a rude word! Namely, he employed the word ‘bullshit’. Of course, I was not expecting this language from such an angelic theologian. Alastair goes to the trouble of linking to another post involving the use of the word, and he discusses maters in more depth in the comments. But first a few profound thoughts about the word: it is like the already dubious ‘shit’, but the ‘bull’ prefix functions like ‘very shit’. ‘Bullshit’, ergo, would mean something like ‘very shit shit’. Shocking!
His language reminds me of the argument proposed by Brain Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat’s in the fascinating Colossians Remixed. Commenting on Col 3:8-9 (‘abusive language’). They argue that Paul was not calling believers to a modern ‘bourgeois passivity and middle-class politeness’ (cf. pp. 164-68). While the use of ‘fuck’ as a punctuation mark can also be understood as the sort of ‘abusive language’ Paul targets, the matter, they argue, is wider and not always relevant to the occasional use of an expletive.
‘If we want to find abusive language and identify the discourses of violence of our time, we are terribly short-sighted if we don’t look beyond the obscenities of the street or the schoolyard. It is in the double-speak of corporate executives, the spin of politicians, the come-on of the advertisers, the cultural lies of the pharmaceutical companies and the biotech firms, and the false humanistic optimism of the cybernetic revolution that we meet abusive language in this culture’ (p. 166).They go further. Against such lies as named above, they argue that ‘sometimes we need to employ strong language [as they argue Paul does in the first chapters of Colossians] in the face of such lies’, citing with approval the poet Bud Osborn’s words:
‘say shout for lifeSo, is swearing a sin? W and K would argue that it depends. Furthermore, they insist that the church tolerates offensive language far worse than a simple expletive.
shout with our last breath
shout fuck this north American culture of death’ (p. 167).
Labels: Idle musings