Spiritual profanity

Image: Sean Tan

Last night, apparently I cursed in my post. And I got a very thoughtful response by someone who seemed to be struggling with the dilemma — is it wrong for ‘spiritual people’ to use profanity.

Now, I don’t get called out on this all the time, but it happens enough that I decided to turn my response to theirs into tonight’s post. I’m sharing it here because I think it sheds some light on a point of contention in the spirituality realm.

The human/spirit struggle is real. How can we call ourselves spiritual when we fart, cuss, spit, lie, wear white after Labor Day, and jaywalk?

I hope this helps. First, Shelby Fluhr’s response to my post:

I have a question about your openness to cursing. I have been raised by Christ followers, and they always told me using cuss words was wrong. They made sure to point out that it states in the Bible not to let any perverse speech come from your mouths (eph. 4:29) and that the words we speak should glorify God (multiple verses I think?) So my question is: why do you make the decision to use curse words in your writing? As someone who curses and identifies as a Christ follower themselves, I am curious about your opinion on this. Do you think cursing takes away from your delivery of the message or demeans God’s word? Do you think it’s a “sin”?

Thank you, I thoroughly enjoy reading all that you share on here!

I love this response. Seriously. It’s respectful and curious. It challenges in an open-minded fashion. (Either that, or I’m totally getting punked. Either way, I’m just gonna go with it.)

I see this as someone struggling with a very real human conundrum after a childhood spent in a household that taught a ‘certain way’ of ‘being spiritual’.

And here it is… My response…

Hey Shelby… Good question. I get this one every now and then. What’s funny is, I think my language is pretty mild. And it’s getting milder the older I get (and the older my daughter gets, who’s now very good at mimicry). Especially in my writing. I actually don’t enjoy cussing as much as I did when I was younger. Usually, if I do curse, I usually censor the words with an asterisk (I actually think cussing is funnier and more impactful on TV when they bleep it out 😜).

Now, on to your point about the Bible and Jesus and what not… There’s a couple things you should know about me (which you’ll probably come to know if you continue to follow my posts)...

For one, after breaking up with Christianity for some time and coming back to it with open arms and fresh eyes, I don’t take the Good Book literally. I see it as a collection of poems, stories, tall-tales, and accounts written by real people in history that’s heavily colored by beliefs they held in the period they lived. I see it as a document that showcases many years of human consciousness and existential struggle. I see it as a book that can help us explore the highs and lows of our lives, look at things differently, and live better here and now.

I don’t see it as a rule book that some dude in the clouds is using against us while examining our membership to the country club in the clouds when we die. (I’m afraid, if this is who they say God is, I don’t believe in him.)

Secondly, I don’t believe that, just because I write about this stuff on a daily basis, I’m somehow a scribe for God any more than anyone else. I’m human and I write from the human perspective. It’s all I know. I just enjoy nerding out on spirituality and helping people through the medium, knowing it’s helped me through the best and the worst of my life.

Thirdly, where does God’s ‘word’ end and ours begin? I see God as the animating factor to everything. Yes, everything. The highs and lows are only possible with each other. The virtue of not cussing is only possible with the icky feeling of offending people at a family dinner after a couple glasses of bourbon.

Fourthly, in looking at that Bible verse you mentioned (I just peeked at the first one), here’s the entirety of it:

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Ephesians 4:29

Cool. This is what I do. What I do here is build people up. If I use literary pyrotechnics and drop a curse word or two when doing so, I feel totally fine about it and it seems the Good Book is backing me up (although, in other verses, I’m sure it’s not, and that’s okay). Although he’s not on record about it, something tells me Jesus wasn’t scared to use colorful language when he was caught up in the Spirit either.

So here’s my word on this… As long as you’re aligned with Spirit while doing so, I say let it fly, Shelby. As long as you’re not hurting people or yourself, go for it. But if it feels gross, don’t. This means it’s not Spirit-aligned and nothing good comes out of that.

Thanks so much for reading my work. And thanks for giving me a reason to write at some length about this. I wish you the best.

Thanks, Shelby, for your response. Hope you’re cool with me using it as fodder for this blog. I really do think you’ve brought awareness to this issue through your courageous question.

Jonas writes short stories and preachments about spiritual, whimsical, creative matters on the daily here in Higher Thoughts. Get one to enjoy with your coffee every morning by subscribing below.