Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Evangelical Swearing = Living on the Edge (for an Evangelical)

I have often wondered why so many Evangelicals of my generation or younger seem to think that swearing is cool. They weren't brought up that way; it was not part of Evangelical culture a generation ago. Apparently it is new, exciting and "transgressive" to a certain sub-culture of people who apparently are trying to prove that they are not to be associated with Evangelicalism, even though, truth be told, they really are Evangelicals down deep. Shhh!

If they were really wanting to be "transgressive" wouldn't they have tatoos and HIV, be involved in a homosexual relationship and refuse to use a condom - or something like that? But swearing? I mean that's it? That is your great "transgression?" A couple of cuss words here and there and the occasional F bomb? That is all that distances you from Jerry Falwell and James Dobson? That is the only difference between you and a Navigator staff worker? I can hear it now: under torture you yell out "Yes, I admit I have an NIV Study Bible. I confess, I go to church more than once a week. OK, I even admit that I have memorized the Romans Road. But - I can cuss up a storm. Please let me go!"

I think an anthroplogist would view it as an identity marker, that is, as a way of saying I'm not in that group, I'm in this other group over here. It is kind of like circumcision for a Jew or rosary beads for a Catholic or being in favor of abortion for an East Coast Liberal. It is a way of differentiating oneself from certain stereotypes and cultivating a certain image. It is also, perhaps, part of the growing up process.

Or maybe you are a pacifist and you want to act tough. I understand why Stanley Hauerwas has to cuss like a drunken sailor. He is a pacifist from Texas so what else can he do?

Personally, I find it boring and boorish, but that's just me. Maybe it is because I was brought up in a home where every third word was a swear word and high school and my first few jobs were all exactly the same. The novelty wore off a long, long time ago. In fact, I still find it novel and interesting to hear someone who can express himself with a larger vocabulary than those who use one of 10 English swear words 20% of the time, (which is why I find reading David Bentley Hart with my dictionary open is so much fun!)


Halden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grant said...

I wonder at times whether those evangelicals who cuss are trying to establish an identity in what they are not. That is, they cannot be x, because those who are x do not swear. The swearing and cussing become a means to an end and not the actual point of issue. In so many disputes (theological and non-theological), positions become polarised once the battle lines are drawn. There is no nuancing allowed - you are either one or the other. Each side becomes defined by what they are not.

Who are we as Protestants if we have nothing to protest against? Even you yourself are finding greater affinity to the leadership provided by John Paul II and Benedict XVI.

The greatest risk in identity by negation is when that which we define ourselves not to be, redefines itself. Our identity then ceases.

Craig Carter said...

One would hope that being a Protestant is about more than protesting! But I fear you are right; for a large part of Protestantism, (Liberal Protestantism), protesting something is their raison d'etre. Of course, that means that they are parasitic, rather than creative.