After looking at cussing from the perspective of a writer, I thought that I’d look at it from the perspective of how my faith impacts it. When you get down to it, the Bible doesn’t have a lot to say about cussing. A lot of it boils down to two verses:

“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.” Ephsesians 4:29 (NIV)

“Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.” Ephesians 5:4 (NIV)

Unwholesome talk could be defined in much broader terms than we would feel comfortable with (in regards to what it means to even our most casual conversations): slander, gossip, all other manner of malicious speech, and even sexually charged language (such as double entendres). Another definition of profanity goes something like this: to take something that is high and to trample it underfoot. I’m not going to sit here and parse what I mean by a profanity or a curse. The bulk of what I’m talking about is cussin’, pure and simple swear words. We live in a rated-R world and we have a rated-R Bible, even though a lot of the language is often cleaned up.

In terms of colorful language in the Bible, indeed it is there, and translators do tend to soften it, at times. Examples:
-2 Kings 18:27 in the King James Version, 1611, reads:
“… they may eat their own dung, and drink their own piss with you.”
– milder rendering of “piss” appears in the New Living Translation, 1996, it reads:
“…drink their own urine.”
-Philip. 3:8 in the King James reads:
“… I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”
(Dung is translated “rubbish” in the New Revised Standard and “garbage” in the New Living Translation.)

Nonetheless, translators do not always soften colorful words or illustrations. For example:
-At times Jesus used “colorful” illustrations to make his points, as recorded in Mark 7:19 (NLT) “Food doesn’t come in contact with your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then comes out again.”
-In the Hebrew Scriptures, God gave the prophet Ezekiel an interesting recipe: “Each day prepare your bread as you would barley cakes. While all the people are watching, bake it over a fire using dried human dung as fuel and then eat the bread.” (Ezekiel 4:12).
-I understand that one of the strongest swear words in the Jesus’ day was “rhaka” which means, in softer language, “worthless” or “idiot” Another curse word was “moros,” meaning “absurd blockhead” or “stupid.” Jesus used both profane words in this context: “I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire.” (Matthew 5:22 -Message Bible)

The idea here is not the use of the words themselves, after all even Jesus did use them, but rather the intent behind their use. It is all about context and audience. Additionally, in terms of everyday “colorful” language that is not meant to curse or demean another person I can find no Biblical prohibition. But, then again, it is all about context and audience. The word “appropriate” comes to mind. Jesus was always appropriate.

Another example would be found in the Song of Songs. Not to be too crass, but I doubt that a woman’s “navel” is what the author meant to never lack “blended wine”.

I have no real point, by the way. I study the Bible like I do foreign languages: learn the swear words first. Language is funny. Words mean things. My rule of thumb has been one of context and intent. I’m not here to scald sensitive ears. I’m one who wants to communicate to people and let’s face it, some folks stop listening once you drop the f-bomb. However, I recognize that strong times call for strong language. Golly gee willikers doesn’t cut it for dialogue when bullets are flying by soldiers in the trenches. I also hope to be a good enough writer to not have to lean on cuss words as a crutch.

I sometimes tell folks that I don’t cuss because I have enough words in my vocabulary to be able to express myself. But I’m often an ass.

I don’t have time to always check the comments all the places where this rant is posted. If you want to make sure that I see it or just want to stop by and say hi, do so on my message board. I apologize in advance for some of my regulars.