On Cursing and Controlling Your Mouth (James 3)

"Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body. . . From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so." - James 3:1-2 and 10.

I've been working the last few months to push back on the cultural things that are stuck on me when I read the Bible. I'm a white American with a particular history and I'll never be able to read the Bible without that viewpoint affecting my understanding. There are, however, certain things that have become obvious to me as part of "evangelical" culture that I have little patience for anymore.

For clarity, when I say "evangelical" here I'm using it disparagingly. If "evangelical" describes the Christians who are okaying the behavior of a pussy-grabbing Donald Trump. And if "evangelical" describes the people who are fine with gun violence and racism that is pervasive in America right now, if that's what "evangelical" is, then I'd liken it to phariseeism. If, by our claim of loving God, we are no longer loving others and oppressing many, we are pharisees. The very people Jesus has zero patience for because they were cursing people in the name of God (all with a thick veneer of religiousness). But further depth would require another blog post.

From my "evangelical" worldview I have read James 3 my whole life and understood that there are certain four letter words that I should never ever use. How can I praise God and say "shit" with the same mouth right?

Except sadly, that's missing the whole point. A pastor who uses the Bible to hurt others is the one who is being called out by these verses. The person who finds someone in their hurting and should be entering in and loving them, identifying with them, caring for them, mourning with them, but instead they say, "What sin is there in your life that's causing this horrible thing to happen to you?"

That's a curse. Because saying, "Damn Steve, this is a shitty shitty situation. I'm fucking angry for you." Is loving. It's not cursing. Four letter words are not the end-all be-all of cursing. "Steve, maybe this happened to you because you're not tithing enough, or God is punishing you for something. If you were a better Christian Steve, then this wouldn't be happening." The best curses often come with religious undertones (or even blatant religious speech).

My evangelical worldview has caused me to read this chapter for years and years and miss completely what it's saying. I was caught up in the minutiae of American evangelical tradition instead of reading and understanding the heart of thing.

It's embarrassing frankly.