“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain.” – Exodus 20:7 (NASB)

Cursing has become very interesting. There are more bleeps on public radio than there ever used to be. Podcasts like “Pod Save America” use curse words with great frequency. The “f” word joins the “bs” words as the reigning queens of the curser’s vocabulary, with both referring to matters bodily and/or sexual as though they were disgusting. It’s hard to know how a word gets to become a curse word. I would have thought curse words had to damn something.

My own grandmother was a terrible curser. When she got really angry, she would say that something was “a bs.” Being a native German speaker, her misplacement of the article was understandable. It was almost like she was elevating the use of the word “bs” to a formality. My beloved husband excels at embarrassing me at dinner parties by tossing the “f” bomb about two-thirds of the way through most meals right after the arrival of the second glass of wine.

Does cursing take the name of God in vain? I don’t understand what the bodily slurs of “f” or “bs” might be saying for or against God. Aren’t they a kind of cultural comment and not a theological comment? Demeaning sexual intercourse or going to the bathroom seem idiotic more than wrong.

My congregation desperately needs an elevator to access our worship space. Our communications staff discussed an “oddvertising” idea: to get creative by adding a curse word to the campaign. Would that attract folks who appreciate the use of modern vernacular in the life of faith? Or would that be taking the Lord’s name in vain? 

Are spiritual/religious people really against cursing? Or are we against people being damned? 


We do so much, Great God, in vain. Help us to bless, not damn, in our speech. Amen.

ddauthordonnaschaper.jpgAbout the Author
Donna Schaper is Senior Minister at Judson Memorial Church in New York City. Her most recent book is I Heart Frances: Letters to the Pope from an Unlikely Admirer.