There are approximately 1,980 words after this. This blog will take the average adult reader between 6–7 minutes to read.
I knew when I bought the domain “shittywomen.com” that it would be a turnoff for some. I knew when I dropped the eff bomb for the first time on my blog that some people would not be happy.
I knew these things before a barrage of readers let me know that they couldn’t take me seriously because of the language I use. I knew these things before I got messages and comments questioning whether I was a Christian or not “because she uses profanity” I get at least one message/comment/complaint on every blog I publish with the word “fuck” in it about my use of language. I knew that some good Christians would struggle with my use of certain words. I knew they’d bring up Colossians 3:8 and Luke 6:45.
I want to address my use of language in hopes that if people understand where I’m coming from, and the why, they might be less offended. Maybe not. Probably not. After I’ve explained myself, if you’re still offended, might I suggest not following/reading my blog—if you think it’s sin, stop consuming it.
From a technical standpoint, the URL I chose, shittywomen.com, to the obscenities I use, my choice of words is strategic and intentional. By day, I work in content marketing. I write a lot of words on websites, blogs, and social medias with the intention of showing up in search results.
It occurred a while back that in this day and age of the internets, perhaps we can take some “ends of the earth” Great Commission principles to our search engine optimization (SEO). Christian blogs index high in search results for words like “Jesus” and “Christian” and “Church”—but can they index for “fuck”? Can I sneak into the search results of someone looking for porn? Can they index for people asking Google why women are so shitty? By using “obscenities”, I can show up in corners of the internet—bring Jesus to the corner of the internet—that other Christian blogs can’t, or don’t.
This is by far the least of the reasons why I use the language I do.
I want my voice to be authentic. I’ve lived most of my life editing the words in my head before they came out of my mouth—and I’ve always felt like a liar because of this. I want to be honest with those who read this blog.
But—neither one nor two matter if I’m actually sinning by using those words—so let’s address that.
THIRD (and by far, most complex):
I don’t actually think it is always sin to use any specific word—conversely, I don’t think any specific word is safe from being used in sin. Let me explain… (no—it’s too much—I’ll sum up)
Scripture was written long before English existed. English emerged as a Germanic language between 500–700 years after Jesus walked the earth.
So when all those verses—Colossians 3:8, Luke 6:45, Ephesians 4:29—were written, not only did the language we’re addressing this “sin” in not exist, but the original authors weren’t even using our alphabet. If these verses are specific to specific language, given that it’s all New Testament, they are most assuredly specific to Greek.
The issues those verses are talking about—and, I believe, every verse in Scripture—are applicable no matter what language or alphabet we’re using. Sin and worship are pan-linguistic. What is a sin in Greek is a sin in English is a sin in Cantonese is a sin in Russian. There are over 6,500 spoken languages and 46 different known alphabets in the world today—and the whole of Scripture applies to all of them always.
In terms of sin (and worship), sentences are just arbitrarily arranged words—and words just arbitrarily arranged letters—and letters mere arbitrary shapes.
Language evolves over time—what was offensive 500 years ago in English is largely not anymore—what was offensive 30 years ago is either not offensive by now—or on it’s way to being not offensive. Words change. Language ebbs and flows and recedes like a tidelands river. For example, the word “nice” in Middle English, meant “foolish” or “stupid”. Or—maybe you (American English speaker) refer to children as “cute little buggers”—and while that’s a “mild swear” in the UK—its origins actually trace back to a descriptor for anal sex. So—when did these words stop being sinful, and start being acceptable? Or are certain arrangements of these specific temporally arbitrary semiotic indicators (letters) sinful at certain points in history and in certain geographic locations, but not others?
I think, when we look at language considering an all-time universal perspective, it becomes absurd to think any specific words have any sort of sin value. Sin predates known language. These verses that people throw at people who use certain words predate the existence of those words.
Sin wells up from the heart (as does worship)—and proceeds from the members of the body, whether it is the hands, feet, eyes—or mouth. By the time sin hits our language processing center of our brains—we’ve already sinned. And yes—it is important, once that sin hits our language processing centers in our brains—that we repent and exhibit self-control (a fruit of the spirit) before it reaches our tongues, or fingertips. I don’t want to discount that…
But—again—I don’t believe specific arrangements of temporally arbitrary semiotic indicators (letters) hold any inherent sin value. It is the human heart that sins. As I mentioned at the very beginning of this section, I don’t believe it is always a sin to use any particular word (e.g., fuck), and I don’t believe any word is safe from being used in sin (e.g., love). I do think some words are certainly harder to use without sinning in certain epochs and cultures (e.g., “cunt” in modern American English)—but I believe language is always ebbing and flowing. “Fuck” here in the PNW is widely accepted as a modifier to express added intensity or passion. It is commonplace.
One phenomenon I’ve noticed as people have inquired about or admonished me for my language is their geographic location. Every single person who has spoken against my language lives in one of two US regions: The Bible Belt south, or the Midwest. A few astute observers have noted that they’ve seen the trend that Christians on the west coast—and specifically the PNW—are more “liberal” with the words they use. So there is something regionally cultural going on here—the words that I use liberally in my prayer requests with my small group, at work, and in church—are seemingly offensive to my brothers and sisters that live in a different cultural context.
In early 2012, I had the worst boss I’ve ever had. He was deeply misogynistic, took all the credit for the work I did, and threw me under the bus when things went wrong. For the few months that I worked under him, my brain-speak was a constant flow of things like, “You fucking idiot.” “I hate him.” “Diiiiiiiiiiiiiick.” These words never came out of my mouth. After a while, I began to hear that still small voice of the Holy Spirit say to me, “Kim. That man is created in my image. Yes, he is sinning against you—but you are sinning, too. You cannot strip him of my divine image—and your attempts are sinful and idolatrous. Repent.” So I began to actively pray as I sat there at my desk next to this man, “Jesus, renew my thoughts. Transform my mind.” Soon after I began experiencing that conviction, I got laid off.
The day after I got laid off, I had friends over for dinner. As I was cleaning under my stove burners after they left, I slipped and smashed my hand into a sharp part of my stove—cutting the side of my finger wide open. In my pain (and with my apartment windows wide open) I screamed “fuck” with all of my might. I was alone. I was bleeding all over the place. I thought for sure I’d need stitches—and I had just lost my job—so medical bills were not high on my list of things to acquire at that time.
And as soon as I screamed the word “fuck” a rush of peace swept over me and I knew the God who had had nails through his hands was there with me. No conviction—just comfort, peace. The God who was scourged and hung on a cross for the thoughts that never even escaped my mouth about my boss—just days/weeks earlier—was there in my own pain as blood dripped all over.
So—why would I experience conviction when the word didn’t even escape my mouth—but not when I screamed it for my neighborhood to hear? Is the Holy Spirit inconsistent? Does he change? No.
Conversely, I’ve experienced great conviction over words—ones that’ve both escaped my lips and ones that were left trapped in my head—that had no “obscenities” in them. Some of this includes attempts to strip a divine image bearer of their Imago Dei. Some of them include lies and manipulation—even lies that sound good, like telling someone who I do not love that I love them. Some of them include gossip. And good Lord, if we want to talk about “unwholesome talk” that is rampant in the church (both men and women), let’s talk about gossip. Words, no matter what they are, can be used to cause deep wounds—or encourage and worship.
At the heart level (let’s go back to that cultural geography thing)—there is no difference between “fucking idiot” and “bless his heart” in the way southerners use it. We’re both assuming the least of a co-divine image bearer, and asserting our own betterness.
I remember at the conservative Christian college I went to the kids that grew up in the Bible Belt would give people “The Christian Finger”—which is just holding up the pinky instead of the middle finger. (Uh, and they were very shocked when I held up my middle one in response.) What’s the difference when your heart is saying, “Fuck you, divine image bearer.” There are a plethora of “Christian swears” and they’ve always left me wholly befuddled.
Language, I believe, when it comes to sin and worship—is wholly arbitrary. We can sin and worship with the whole of language—with the whole of any language—at any point in history. Is it sinful to say “The current state of the world is fucked up.”? Is saying that more sinful than saying, “I love bread.” If we’re comfortable with the fluidity of the word “love”—one of the words used to describe and define God, and the passion that drove him to the cross—we should be comfortable with the fluidity of the word “fuck”—a word that has no definitive value in terms of describing God or salvation through Jesus.
I fully understand that not everyone is going to be as linguistically “liberal” as me and my brothers and sisters in Christ here in Seattle. I’m not intending to force you to start using words you’re uncomfortable with—but I hope you’ll at least consider what I’ve written—sit with it for a while before you respond. I am glad to talk about this—glad to discuss it—but if you have some sort of knee-jerk guttural reaction, please wait—ruminate—before you respond. Slow down with your use of language to admonish, praise, or correct—especially on the internet.
Finally, consider Romans 8:26 that mentions the Holy Spirit interceding for us when our own grief is being expressed in “groanings too deep for words”. The language of the heart—where sin and worship reside—are far deeper than the arbitrary, temporal, and and evolutionary semiotics of developed language. We speak an unspoken heart language before words in our own earthly tongues are formed.