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Theology of the Cross and Profanity

Dave Horstkoetter has plunked up a disturbing YouTube video of a neocon hack opining that Christianity and torture are just all hunky dory with one another. No surprise there of course. What is surprising is the fact that the whole discussion over there has turned into a goofy little kerfuffle about whether or not it’s really “Christian” to denounce endorsing torture while…uttering the F-word. 

Leave it to us Christians to make conversations like this.

However, in the interest of settling this debate once and for all, I have a syllogism for us. Given that nearly all Protestants and certainly all evangelicals affirm Luther’s theological genius, especially his famed “theology of the cross”, let’s start there. Thesis 21 of Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation states that “A theologian of glory calls evil good and good evil. A theologian of the cross calls the thing what it actually is.” I’m sure we can all agree on this point. Thus…

P1: Theologians of the cross ought to name things, events, and persons in accordance with what they actually are.

P2: Some things, events, and persons can only be truthfully described as fuckdragons and assclowns.

C: Ergo, the use of profanity is not only permissible, but essential for anyone who claims to be a theologian of the cross.


  1. Amen, good sir. I have no doubt that Luther himself would heartily agree with your sentiments.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 12:56 am | Permalink
  2. Arni wrote:


    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 1:31 am | Permalink
  3. I swear, the appearance of sanity by quibbling in an insane world is the definition of insanity.

    And theres nothing like a little crusading piety to knock Jesus off the road to the cross. Maybe I should’ve said “get behind me Satan”? Thats not cussing, right?

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 2:47 am | Permalink
  4. roger flyer wrote:

    Frickin’ right.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 5:55 am | Permalink
  5. D C Cramer wrote:

    If you replace “persons” with “actions” in P1 and P2, then I’m with you all the way.

    Much violence is committed in this world when certain persons are reduced to fuckdragons, assclowns, cockroaches, vermin, etc. Affirming people’s essential personhood is necessary to speak truth in the world, especially in conversations about torture, etc.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 5:56 am | Permalink
  6. N. Dan Smith wrote:

    Hey, let’s not forget to affirm cursing when one’s thumb is struck by a hammer!

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  7. saint egregious wrote:

    As far as I’m concerned, the best theologian in the business on this one is George Carlin, and his seven words you can never say on television is the finest 7 minutes theology of the dirty Word ever uttered.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  8. Amy Moffitt wrote:

    Thank you so very much for this fantastic post. I couldn’t agree more. Re: the use of profanity in prayer, I would also contend that if I’m completely fucking frustrated with something, God knows this. It makes no sense for me to mince around the fact that I’m totally pissed off at some shit.

    That being said, everytime I use profanity in prayer, I do end up apologizing to God for being so crude. I think that’s because I’m Southern.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink
  9. Roshi Doshi wrote:

    Ditto to all this.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 10:34 am | Permalink
  10. dave wrote:

    I agree, although I think D C Cramer makes an important point about affirming someone’s personhood, especially in a discussion about torture.

    I don’t think David can be accused of that here, however, and I think an initial response of “fuck you” to someone who affirms torture as Christian is appropriate (or more than that).

    This discussion oddly reminds me of some of Thomas Reid’s comments regarding skepticism.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 11:43 am | Permalink
  11. That specific culturally offensive words are somehow sinful is a joke.

    And when I hear the proxies in their place I much laugh.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 3:37 pm | Permalink
  12. parishioner wrote:

    Uh . . . I know this was filed under “humor,” and “feeling disgruntled,” but . . . can you stand a little seriousness on the subject?

    I have to say I’m with Cramer. Speaking as someone who is trying very hard to no longer refer to Mark Driscoll as an assclown, I’ve been reflecting on Jesus’ warnings about calling your brother “Raca,” etc.

    In praying about it, it seems like the issue is one of love and relationship and humility before the cross. Jesus didn’t call people names, he named their sin. When they didn’t own their sin, he used word pictures which described their sinful behavior–”brood of vipers,” “whitewashed tombs.”

    I’d like to think that “assclown” is an apt description of Driscoll’s sinful behavior, but I suspect God is rolling his eyes at me and waiting for me to stop pointing to Driscoll while saying, “I thank you God that I am not a sinner like him!”

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 5:04 pm | Permalink
  13. Marvin wrote:

    You might want to check out Andrew Sullivan’s quote of Wallace Stegner on profanity. For Stegner, the frequent use of profanity is “the sin of false emphasis, which is not a moral but a literary lapse, related to sentimentality.” Which gets to your other point about “Christian” values in churches.

    Nothing sentimental about torture, however.

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 6:03 pm | Permalink
  14. Halden wrote:

    I also agree with Sullivan’s evaluation of Stegner, though: “But a well-placed “fuck” can illuminate.”

    Thursday, March 19, 2009 at 6:28 pm | Permalink
  15. Dan wrote:

    …but if I choose not to use such superlatives in my expressions of frustration, pain, anger, hurt or joy, celebration, ecstacy, or just everyday conversation (or their proxies, Steve;-)) … ya’ll won’t toss me out will you?

    Friday, March 20, 2009 at 7:30 am | Permalink
  16. Dan wrote:

    “ecstasy” sorry for the typo! #%# it!

    Friday, March 20, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink
  17. I probably don’t really have to say where I stand on this issue.

    Friday, March 20, 2009 at 9:06 am | Permalink
  18. jt* wrote:

    Ah, yet another group of Christians arguing going on about swearing, and I can’t help but think we’re missing the point.

    Kudos to Parishioner for looking a little deeper.

    Monday, March 23, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

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