A few words about ‘bad words’

I recently came across a social media post from a minister who sent his young son to a conservative Christian summer camp and was disturbed to learn upon his return that all the other campers “swore like sailors.” According to his post, the boys told his son that the Bible says swearing is fine, and the camp counselor declined to take a position on the question. I’m not naming the camp because I know I only have one side of the story, but the vignette is not particularly surprising, as many Christians increasingly view concerns about foul language as mere legalism or political correctness. Given the Bible’s deep concern with what comes out of believers’ mouths, it is worth considering whether being “the salt of the earth” excludes language that is, well… salty.

One challenge when talking about swearing is that it comes in a few flavors, not all of which are created equal. Some swearing is a direct violation of the Third Commandment: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain” (Ex. 20:7). If you are invoking the name of God to highlight the frustration of stubbing your toe or the excitement of winning your fantasy football bracket, you are breaking the Third Commandment. Period.

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