I’ve noticed a funny thing in the past 10 years, amidst the onslaught of the ’emerging church’ and the (relatively American) need to be different, even among Christians. Some of these youngsters, Christian hipsters (such as myself) have almost entirely done away with the Christian ‘mask’ leftover from the 90’s and indeed, much earlier. In fact, this Christian sense of propriety can be traced back to the Pharisees (read the Gospel of Matthew. Yes, all of it).
It’s probably safe to assume that once Christianity was popularised, and even before, that the common, social understanding of some religions was simply as a list of things you do not do. Even today a lot of people who don’t identify with a faith would describe popular faiths in the same way, as a list of things you don’t do. This is obviously a twist of the truth, since faith is mostly an addition to life, rather than a subtraction from it, but this common understanding must come from somewhere. I would suggest it comes from the ‘mask’ of goodness—the tendency for people of faith to succumb to social (rather than doctrinal) pressure and expectations by suppressing their otherwise human tendencies.
This is where this article’s rather poor title comes in, because cursing is the perfect example of this. I’ve heard more curse words from Christians in the past 10 years than I have from those without a faith. Why is this? Are they ‘backslidden’? How sad. But no, they’re not. They’re on-fire (as it were). Possibly because I am naturally in the company of said hipsters, and probably am one myself. I am not into trends or fashion so much as I am progress, but nonetheless, this is true, and I suspect it’s simply coming out of a need to tell the rest of the world look, we’re not wearing our masks anymore and pretending to be something we’re not.
So here’s where I stand, for what it’s worth.
I curse sometimes. Not like a sailor or anything, but sometime I curse. Remember, I’m just using cursing as an example, since you can’t deny it’s such a classic ;-)
I understand the felt-need to show the rest of the world that I’m not like those Christians from the 90’s. It cannot be denied that many of my friends and other modern Christians feel this as well. We have a bad reputation to get rid of—the reputation that we’re (trying to appear to be) perfect, better than you, because we never do anything wrong. We all know by now this is not the way to make friends, let alone introduce someone to Jesus. People are not stupid, no matter what the marketeers would have you think. People see right through any masks, and they don’t like it when they have to do it. I don’t blame them. When I have to work my way through someone’s mask I hate it. It’s annoying. It’s fake.
That’s the real clincher for me—it’s not real.
Nobody likes someone who’s not ‘real’. Who’s got time for that nowadays? Not I. It’s so 90’s itself. I am offended when I see an Abercrombie & Fitch advert promising me that I will get an 8-pack if I buy one of their shirts. It insults my intelligence. I am not 8 years old. I’m a grown-ass man and I don’t have time for your bullshit. Stop wasting my life. (or something like that, right?)
So this is not rocket-surgery. It’s kinda dumb to ‘shit’ this and ‘fuck’ that just to prove you’re not a Christian holier-than-thou asshole, but honestly, people. Can’t we just go through our merry days without being subjected to your need to prove to me you’re not that Christian asshole?
But not every Christian who utters a profanity is that asshole. Not all of them. And it’s not hard to spot. If you’ve got half a brain you can tell if someone’s ‘real’ or not. Cursing is not ‘cool’ any more than smoking crack is ‘cool’. Personally, I understand curse-words as being not much more than super-adjectives. I’m not for any more than I am against them. I don’t really care. What really matters, as the bible says, is what’s in your heart, and I don’t think a curse word is a red-flag that you’re ‘back-slidden’ or whatever the hell you want to call it. Honestly, can I just say it? Get a life.
Funny factoid: personally, I curse the most when I’m fired up about God. Go figure.
For me, I’m much more interested in authenticity. I’m not that arrogant, but I don’t really have much time for people who are trying to impress upon me their vision of themselves. I’m interested in real people, not an act or a disguise. I want to be a real person. If I offend someone by doing it, that sucks, sorry. But I’m not going to pretend to be someone I’m not, and the simple fact is that some curse words are in my vocabulary, for better or for worse, and they’re very useful. They’re not meant to hurt anyone, but I suppose just like a pen can be used as a weapon, it’s all in your motives—what’s in your heart.
The moral of the story is, try to be who God made you. He didn’t mess up. There was no glitch in the assembly-line equipment when you were hand-made. But we’re people who are constantly trying to become more and more the person we were meant to be—but we’re not there yet. Don’t pretend to be there. But also, don’t prove to everyone you’re not pretending to be there. The only person you’ve got to prove anything to is God himself. Not me or anyone else. Just be yourself, especially if you’re trying to be who God made you to be.
After some exciting feedback to this post, there are a few things worth clarifying. Above, I wrote “If I offend someone by doing it, that sucks, sorry.” This obviously comes across as though I won’t let anyone challenge me on what I believe, which is not a good way to live. Sorry for the confusion, anyone who knows me knows that I’m completely open to being challenged. The reason I’ve put it this way here is because of another quite simple belief I have:
Several years ago during my journey with God I realised I was missing out on some things. There were a lot of things I was reading in the Bible which weren’t matching up to what I was hearing in Church. There were a lot of times I found myself believing that I had simply misinterpreted something and/or just wasn’t smart enough to understand it. I’m not saying I’m always right, I’m not, but I realised that this practice of doubting myself was a reflection upon who I believed myself to be, which in turn, was a reflection of God created me to be, and it was wrong. I realised that by assuming I was in the wrong every time I saw a discrepancy I was inadvertently compromising the foundations of my character, and my chance at becoming more like the person God intended me to be. Something had to be done.
What I found was that I actually had a few things I believed in which weren’t easily shaken. Just basic things like Jesus being the Son of God, believing in His provision, and the like. I realised the things I believed in the most were things I had learned through experience, rather than taught. There were things I believed in which were unshakeable. I needed to learn to trust that God was working with me directly—not through my pastor, or my friends—but directly with me. I needed to learn to trust that God was teaching me, and that His teachings to me directly took precedence over the things my pastor or friends were teaching me. I had to make a choice about what I believed in every aspect of life and theology.
This practice has lead me to understand this issue in a particular way; that there are two types of beliefs:
- Things you believe to be true through either experience, or God, or both, and
- things you think are probably true but should be open to learning more about.
The issue outlined in this article, for me, falls under option #1. This is something I believe through experience, and as such, I am not open for that much discussion on because I have already made up my mind. I’ll never turn down a rational conversation, but it would take some strong arguments to sway me from any of my “option #1” beliefs. This happens to be one of those, which is why I sound like I’m not that interested in being argued with on it, unless of course you’ve got something interesting to say. So sorry for sounding arrogant, I am to some degree, and I apologise for that. But I have to know where I stand on many issues, and unfortunately I’m on the rather unpopular side of the fence on this one.
I’m also not suggesting you should not allow yourself to be challenged on things—indeed we all should, it’s a fundamental part of how we learn and grow. But I am also encouraging you to know what you believe. Make decisions based on good information and experience, and using your wisdom, choose your side and stick to it. Choose wisely, but it’s important that you do choose.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about”
Is that so? Well let me explain a bit further. As I briefly mentioned in the post, this is quite an American issue. This is an issue seen widely among “emerging” and/or “post” Christians between 25-45 in The States. I am currently living in Britain, and I have not seen this issue here at all. I have also not seen it in the Swedish church, nor in the South African church. Apart from those, I cannot say. So if you’re just completely lost on this one, you’re probably not from around here and that’s okay. Consider yourself a bit more widely versed in American-Christian subculture, and sorry for wasting your time.
Isn’t this just ‘shock value’?
Well, maybe, but it wasn’t meant to be. My purpose for writing this post was to illuminate a very real issue which stems from our misunderstanding or indeed entire ignorance of our identity in Christ. If you are shocked, sorry, please try to get past any offence and get the point—the point that we should know what we believe, and we shouldn’t try to prove anything to anyone other than God, unless, perhaps, it is our love toward one-another. But also that people are just people, and God is bigger than our little offences, and Jesus probably hardly ever had a bath, and wasn’t as shiny as our Western churches would have us believe, and yet He still managed to successfully save the world.
My heart is that we would become a free people—free from the fear of man, and consciously aware of the power that lies within God’s intention in our own unique designs as people. I look forward to your feedback, and I wholeheartedly thank you for taking the time to read this article.