Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Missiological Comment - Swearing

One big part of the emergent conversation is about missiology - the study of how to communicate the gospel cross-culturally. I actually have a degree in Christian Ministry which is half bible and half missiology. The idea is that the culture of the church we have now was designed for a culture that existed 30 or 40 years ago in the case of many evangelical churches (parents of baby boomers), and 15-20 years ago in the case of seeker sensitive churches (baby boomers).

But since then, over that last 20 years, an entirely new generation has grown up, and they have the distinction of coming of age at the same time we are quickly transitioning from modernity to post-modernity. So not only are they a new generation, but they "coincidentally" happen to reside on a line of cultural divide that is greater in significance than the mere generation gap experienced by previous generations. In other words, the generation gap between the "modern" parents of baby boomers, and their children, the "modern" baby boomers is far smaller than that between those "modern" baby boomers and their "post-modern" children.

If that is true, then the missiological task of understanding this new cultural context and how to communicate the simple gospel and set up churches within it, is a greater, larger, more significant task, than it was for the mere generation gap between recent generations.

So, for example, here is some raw field data to help with the missiological task: in my church gatherings, there is a lot of time where people are free to talk and share ideas in open dialog. I have been keeping track over the last 5-6 weeks since we have gotten a little larger, and so far every single week, at least one swear word has been spoken out loud in the group during dialog. I am talking the shit word, and the fuck word (in order to be technically accurate in my missiological observation).

In addition, as I tried to explain to my Mother and my very dear friends who I have known since I was 16 and who both cringe when I say even the crap word; almost all the Christians I know who are culturally engaged, creative, educated New York style Christians, including pastors and elders almost all swear on a regular basis within our own cultural group. We would refrain if we were around older people, certain mixed sex groups, or out of towners, but amongst ourselves, the occasional word that used to be a swear word, is now just a word that gives a special emphasis in certain situations that helps communicate a more heightened point, and is a totally accepted and normal part of our vocabulary.


Zeke said...

Swearing, drinking, going to rated-R movies, having gay friends... opposition to these have become the tithing of dill and cummin for American evangelicals, obsessed with appearances but less concerned with the absolute iron-clad oft-repeated commandment that we must love each other as ourselves.

Cindy said...

Since I have a young child I don't often partake of the casual swear anymore. However, if I've come to know John the Baptist as well as I think I have, we can probably rest assured that whenever there was a good swear word to be used, he made use of it.

jeff said...

Okay, okay...
You said New York style Christians.

Is that NY Mets or NY Yankees??? because there IS a difference!

Anonymous said...

TONE: Loving with the posture to be thought provoking.

So... Is it okay then to offend your Mom (a believer), or friends who are offended by such language and do not have the same perspective as you? Are you and your NYC spiritual/religious leader friends always careful that no other believer who would be offended, are not around? Is there even a real concern about that or do you roll your eyes inwardly at being called on it? If love for everyone and especially other believers as Jesus and Paul emphasized as a priority, then are you living a life or love and excellence (notice the HUGE difference between excellence and legalism)?
Is there anyway to put love, holiness, missiological lifestyle, and swearing together? Maybe? I.E. "I fucking love you man!"
Is it offensive to a non-believer and would they even notice if you did not swear? Would that put a wall between you that would keep someone from the kingdom? If there are no positives from swearing other than for the sake of emphasis in conversation, in which there are MANY other tools to use, and there ARE MANY NEGATIVES including offending other believers and possibly unbelievers (since not all unbelievers swear), then why do it?
The John the Baptist swearing example is pre-pentecost, dealing with a 'shock and awe' form of evangelism specific to the Jewish legalistic mind and community. Do you actually believe Jesus would swear in any situation if here on Earth today? I would welcome examples of that (yes we could all think of funny ones, so spare me). Are we to be 'Ambassadors of Christ', or 'Little Christs'? Just food for thought, especially in a situation where you are struggling for some voice/legitimacy in the Church... pick your battles strategically.
...with much love...