Profanity – What it Really Means

When Jeff comes home from work, he often expresses frustration over his classmates’ profuse use of profanity. Many of them are former military (not that that should be an excuse) who are used to colorful locution, so much so, that the teacher has to tell them to “be on best behavior” when the class is out on a public service project. The language is a burden for someone who does not wish to slip into that style of speech.

Apparently, in many Emergent church circles, it is cool to be “free” to swear like everyone else. That article is a satire, but here is an instance of someone who is proud of their, uhhh, chosen freedom. [Warning: yes, profanity is used the the articles and comments.]

Am I prude? Bring it on! Because, what I am about to share with you will surprise and possibly shock you out of that dirty mouth of yours.

From the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

Main Entry:
Middle English prophane, from Middle French, from Latin profanus, from pro- before + fanum temple — more at pro-, feast
15th century
1: not concerned with religion or religious purposes : secular2: not holy because unconsecrated, impure, or defiled : unsanctified3 a: serving to debase or defile what is holy : irreverent b: obscene vulgar4 a: not being among the initiated b: not possessing esoteric or expert knowledge

Or Verb:

1 : to treat (something sacred) with abuse, irreverence, or contempt : desecrate 2 : to debase by a wrong, unworthy, or vulgar use
Or Webster, 1828 Version:
PROFA’NE, a. [L. profanus; pro and fanum, a temple.]

1. Irreverent to any thing sacred; applied to persons. A man is profane when he takes the name of God in vain, or treats sacred things with abuse and irreverence.
2. Irreverent; proceeding from a contempt of sacred things, or implying it; as profane words or language; profane swearing.
3. Not sacred; secular; relating to secular things; as profane history.
4. Polluted; not pure.
Nothing is profane that serveth to holy things.
5. Not purified or holy; allowed for common use; as a profane place. Ezek.42. and 48.
6. Obscene; heathenish; tending to bring reproach on religion; as profane fables. 1 Tim.4.Profane is used chiefly in Scripture in opposition to holy, or qualified ceremonially for sacred services.

PROFA’NE, v.t. To violate any thing sacred, or treat it with abuse,irreverence, obloquy or contempt; as, to profane the name of God; to profane the sabbath; to profane the Scriptures or the ordinances of God.

1. To pollute; to defile; to apply to temporal uses; to use as base or common. Ezek.24.
2. To violate. Mal.2.
3. To pollute; to debase.Lev.21.
4. To put to a wrong use.

So…Words have meanings; they are not toys to amuse you. If you have faith in the Bible as the communicated Word of God (or faith in the Incarnation), Words Mean Things.

If you can claim anything as holy, you must, therefore, claim at least one thing as profane. To believe in the profane is to believe in the possibility of God. Fracture this delicate connection,  you receive relativism and no hope of Hope.

God certainly thought Words Mean Things. He gave a commandment about the verbal mis-use of His Name. Jesus backed this up with telling us that even calling our brother a fool was a [rightly used] damnable offense. Of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.

The real source of profanity is from the human heart. Get the source pure and the stream will flow bright and clear. Let it be defiant, and you will love all sorts of profane things.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Soap!


4 Responses to “Profanity – What it Really Means”

  1. 1 Ginny January 24, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Wow! That is really good. Thanks for the informative article. 😀

  2. 2 Joey January 26, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    I agree that profane words are unbiblical. I do not think that it is safe to stereotype the Emerging Church movement as one that fully embraces profanity.

    The problem with post-modernism is that it often times becomes synonymous with poor (labeled “progressive”) theology. While I tend to be rather open-minded in regards to controversial elements of theology, I understand fundamentals and orthodoxy enough that I’m conservative enough to get by.

    There’s a level of tolerance I believe that believers of all types need to have for profanity, else we can’t be relevant to the culture around us. While it’s wrong to partake in sin, we can’t be so standoffish that we miss opportunities to share the gospel due to our disgust. This is an element of postmodern Christianity that I appreciate- embracing culture with its obvious flaws, understanding that we are just as flawed.

    I appreciate your thoughts.

  3. 3 cbrunette January 26, 2008 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Joey,

    I believe there is a place for tolerating profanity from those who are not in Jesus. [See Cara Michele’s excellent response here:

    There is also a place, like for Jeff, to say to his classmates that he doesn’t like the language they produce and please tone it down. In a classroom or workplace, I believe this is an acceptable request. People will respect you for it and show their maturity or mock you and show their true unregenerate nature. Either way, being salt makes others sting sometimes. It helps with their cleansing and healing. This isn’t being irrelevant to the crowd; it is being who we are, a called-out people.

    Oh, yes, note that I said in “many” not all Emergent churches in my piece. There are some fabulous folks in that strain of protestantism, but, I fear, their voice might be lost to those who prefer to shock your sensibilities with swear words than with their original take on faith practice.

    Welcome to my blog, and feel free to add your comments, I appreciate your contribution!


  4. 4 Kristen January 28, 2008 at 7:53 am

    I like that phrase “Praise the Lord and Pass the soap”

    That is cute.

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"I can't say I don't believe in your God, but I don't believe He meant the world to be as it is." ~Nicholas Higgins. North and South.

"I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It's when you know you are licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what." No idea where that last quote came from, but I like it!

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