Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This could be a lot better, but it was more or less a stream of consciousness. Ironically, this kept me from actually talking about the event that triggered this post.

I make a lot of enemies. As a Christian, I struggled with this fact for some time. I spent a lot of time trying not to have enemies - even to be friends with everyone. I was motivated partly out of a desire to be nice, and partly out of fear. I was bullied a good bit growing up, and have no desire to ever return to that miserable state. Worse yet, I may become one (I come too close for my own comfort with certain friends as it is, but that is a whole other topic).

I will skip over the various ways I tried to stop making enemies for the sake of brevity and interest. Suffice it to say, every attempt failed. A little while ago, I came to a realization that put my mind at ease. We are not commanded by God to have no enemies. We are called to love our enemies. I need not like everyone or even want to spend time with them. I need to love my enemies.

This drastically shifted my means of approaching life. For one thing, I no longer feel guilty or like something is wrong with me when I love someone the wrong way (or when they have that effect on me). I need keep two things in mind when I am among my enemies: I must treat them as I would a friend and neighbor, and I must strive to want this. Ultimately, I hope that I will love my enemies by nature - to truly love all of humanity. Right now, I stick with what is reachable: to manifest love towards those I would call enemies.

I may be blowing my own horn here at the moment, but I think I have better definitions of "friend" and "enemy" than the rest of the culture with which I interact. I do, sadly, call some people friends who I do not consider to be real friends. By cultural standards, they are: we hang out, share our thoughts, and even have fun together. But for me, that is not a friend. A friend involves love, trust, and connection. There are many people with whom I spend my time simply by coincidence - on my own, I would never contact them or seek them out. I would not confide in them anything beyond my surface thoughts, I feel no connection, except by geography, and I cannot say I love them in any meaningful way (though I still try, as with enemies, to love them as neighbors).

True friends, in my mind, are peers in every way. Someone you can respect, through differences in interest and ability alike. Someone who respects you in turn. Someone from whom, at least when you are alone together, you would not withhold any secrets of your own. Indeed, keeping any secrets between friends should pain both you and them, because you would want to share. And most importantly, there should be a real, unmistakable connection, such that you could not stop being friends if you wanted to.

Enemies are opposed to these in some ways, but very similar in others. The most notable similarity is that you have no choice - this person who is your enemy will be your enemy whether you like it or not. The greatest difference is trust - you will not want to share anything with this person, and may resent them when they try to earn a share of anything in which you are invested. That is why it is so great a challenge to love your enemies. You must pain yourself, give of yourself to the one you feel certain must hurt you. And you must accept it when he does, and trust him again. This does not mean you must actually help him hurt you or those you care about, but we, as Christians cannot let fear of being hurt stop us. We must love those who may hate us, and do our best to endure the repercussions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


***Warning: This post is not only about swearing, but includes "inappropriate" language***

Okay, I'll admit it: I swear too much. Growing up, I didn't swear. And I don't mean I rarely swore, I mean that I never intentionally swore before I came to college. My freshman year, I had a roommate with a somewhat foul mouth who also liked to watch comedy central. Even more than public schooling, this whittled away at my resolve to keep my speech clean. So, despite the fact that in college I could be fined for swearing, I began my excursion into the vulgar my freshman year.

I will take a moment here to make a clarification. There is "swearing," "cursing," and "cussing." Outside this paragraph, unless otherwise specified, I am using the terms of "swearing" and "cursing" to refer to "cussing," that is, vulgar language. However, in actuality, swearing refers to taking oaths, and cursing refers to putting a curse on someone. Both of these are explicitly condemned in the Bible. Many misinterpretations of scripture come from people applying the "cussing" definition to swearing and/or cursing. I hate the equivocation, and would not use these words for this purpose, except that I hate the word "cussing" even more, and I am too impatient to say "vulgar language" in every instance.

My language freshman year was therefore worse than it had been in my entire life, but still fairly tame. The words left a strange taste in my mouth. It was unusual to me to think that I was using these words. On the whole, I kept it under wraps, in part because I was so new to the idea, and in part because few of my friends swore. However, my friend group shifted sophomore year, and I developed a mouth like a sailor, which I have kept to the present date. I have tempered my language in the past school year, and I still hold my tongue around authority figures (more out of respect for their authority than for fear of reprisal).

***Mature language begins below this line***

All of this, I tell you so that I can tell you what I think of swearing in general. I, like many people, rank 'bad words' in a hierarchy. I have a very different ranking from most, however. I have no idea why "shit" cannot be said on television, for example. I consider it simultaneous among the least severe, and least useful. Also ranked among the minor curse words for me are the two "b"s. The second tier for me includes "fuck," as well as any of the more vulgar references to reproductive anatomy (the "c"s, as it were). Taking the Lord's Name constitutes the top tier - I will not even here write them. Top of the top tier is g--d--- (I hate when people do that with spelling, but I know of no other way without breaking my own requirements). "Piss," which some people count as a curse word, I do not, putting it rather on par with "crap." They aren't elevated language, but neither are they truly swearing.

This leaves what I refer to as "the floaters": Hell and Damn. When I think about them, I consider them practically top tier, insofar as they have theological implications. However, when I swear myself, I use them with bottom tier frequency. What I've ultimately concluded is that to use them literally as curses is inappropriate on the grounds of the Biblical command not to curse (which refers to casting curses, not just vulgar language). Using them as non-curse swearing is acceptable however. Thus "what the hell?" and "dammit" are acceptable, while "go to hell" and "damn you" are not.

Why do I not just say "no swearing at all"? Simple: I do not believe there is any reason for such an assertion. The Bible itself contains words and phrases which were culturally as inappropriate as what we today consider inappropriate. There are verses about letting no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but if this were genuinely a sinful act, then the Bible would not have used such culturally sensitive language. Thus, either that is a piece of advice not bearing the weight of a command or it has some other meaning. I confess I have not looked closely into it. Perhaps someday I will and I will stop swearing altogether. I will say that those who can say what they want without swearing are better off than those of us who swear, and I am working to become such a person. But I am not there, and I do not think it is a moral so much as intellectual and practical pursuit to strive to reach that point.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Heir of a Worldview

Do we inherit our views? Are we cursed to live as a sum of those individual views shared with us by those we come to know? Or is there some chance of something more? There are those who tell us that we would even inherit those views which we come upon on our own by means of experience: they become ours by mere endowment. This view disgusts me in the same way that I imagine most people must be revolted by the idea of living without free will - it is not that I have any evidence against it, I simply find the idea abhorrent (As a side note, I do not have this issue with lacking free will: I believe we have it, but would be totally fine if we did not).

The problem is, the idea of inheritance to me implies that it belongs rightly to someone other than myself. For all my love of heritage and legacy, I could not bear to think I had nothing but these. Rather, I would say that we sometimes (I would not dare say how often) do not simply pick up the ideas of those around us. Instead, we observe many ideas, decide on the one that seems truest, and claim it for ourselves. We might even need to wrestle the idea into submission, making them surrender to our other views and adapt as necessary. In this way, cannot our views be truly our own?