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August 30, 2006



it does suck that things suck.


*Can of Worms Alert!*
What about curse words/profanity? Can those be chalked up to culture or generational gaps? What if someone uses profanity around someone who is offended by it? But the cursing person grew up learning the words as merely descriptive and not pejorative?

In other news...
I came across a sample vision statement for a missional college ministry. Here it is:
3 goals
1) connect with Christ (Bible study, lectio divina, musical worship; reflection time after Sunday worship; discipleship/acctability)
2) connect with others (missionality discussions, community-building events, Sunday worship & church-wide events)
3) find & use your gifts (volunteering within church [variety of ministry opps listed], social justice [variety of available activities are listed], missionality [including finding your circles of influence, loving those around you...])

That's pretty much it. Does this sound like something good?

Matt Adair

Whitney - a few thoughts about the nature of cussin':

1. Cursing seems to be less a matter of the coagulation of particular phonetic sounds and more about the heart driving the words we use. Jesus spoke often about the internal as opposed to the external - and all he was doing was driving home the teachings of the Old Testament. When I was chaplain for my father-in-law's football team in Birmingham, I spent one entire season walking through the Ten Commandments in an attempt to deconstruct the moralism that drives their use in Southern Christianity. When I got to the commandment on cussing (using the Lord's name in vain), I walked in and told them I was going to say two groups of words and we'd take a vote on which group was OK to use and which one was off-limits. The first group were the seven deadly words the FCC won't let you use (and I did say them); the second group was their 'Christianized' versions in which certain letters are removed or interchanged to create 'nicer' words. Other than the belligerent and wise guys in the room, everyone said the second group was the better list of words to use. So I ask 'why' and no one can give me a decent answer besides the fact that the first group were 'cuss words.' So we spent 10 minutes or so talking about the main issue in our speech being the heart driving our words. So to me, it's quite possible to use words that someone might consider to be profane cursing when in fact it is not. And it's possible to say words like 'shoot' or 'dangit' and be far more profane because the heart driving it is responding in anger/frustration to God's intimate involvement in our life that sometimes takes our plans and tosses them aside.
2. Profanity and cursing are inherently God-centered, not person-centered. Meaning the barometer of what is profane or constitutes cursing is the relationship between our words and God. The reason why it's wrong to call someone a dumbass is not because it's mean but because it denies the image of God standing in front of you (no matter how flawed that image might appear).
3. I think that culture obviously determines words that are in or out of bounds. Again, wisdom demands that we not simply look at the 'what' but seek to determine 'why' the word is being used.
4. The biblical concern with offense seems to be not putting a stumbling block in front of people to hinder them from seeing Jesus. This is rather difficult to do corporately because you have a room filled with people with different issues of offense. The scriptures also seem to point this message to older, mature Christians in exhorting them to not use their freedom in Christ at the expense of more immature Christians. What amuses/exasperates me is that many of the folk who don't like certain words that I use are people who should know what I said earlier about the nature of profanity being God-centered and heart-centered. I will say this - there are certain people that I intentionally will not use words like 'sucks' around in one-on-one conversation because I do know that it bothers them. So no hard and fast rule here - my question is why do we use the words that we use? Are we bucking the reality of God in our lives? Are we using them in anger/frustration towards people? Are we merely trying to find ways to describe life?

In terms of the goals you listed for a missional campus ministry, the one thing I'd want to add is an emphatic emphasis (to be redundant) on engaging with the world where God has placed you (where you live, work, and play) as well as giving yourself to the local church. A student should be involved on campus and in the church - the balance will probably never be 50/50 and some are going to lean one way more than the other for various reasons. But if a campus ministry is equipping students for life in the 'real world' than they must prepare them to be the church both gathered and scattered.

Anna P

Listen, I played in youth handbells. Wanna fight?

Matt Adair

Anna - I don't fight redheads. They try to eat people's jugulars, even the ones who don't have one...


I like the perspective you gave on cuss words. It definitely gives me new stuff to think about on that.

As for the addition of "emphatic emphasis" (did you ever work for the Dept of Redundancy Dept? I kid, I kid) to the ministry goals, how would you suggest adding it in? I feel like the balance of church and campus is inherent in the 3 goals, but what sort of something would draw it out clearer? Or would you even agree that the balance is there already?

I don't know if you had something specific in mind or not. But I'd love for you to try to elaborate.

Matt Adair

Whitney - I just find it's easy to miss things that are implied. It should be inherently obvious that students should give themselves to both the campus and to the local church, but rarely does it happen. Several reasons for this, the most prevalent being students who don't think they have time to do x,y, or z (not realizing how much time they actually do have - and yes, that's a stereotype and I know that the students reading this are all exceptions to that profile!) and campus ministries/churches that fill up schedules with so many activities that its very difficult for students to live balanced, holistic lives...

I guess all I'd want to see is specific language encouraging/exhorting students to give themselves away to the campus and to the church.

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