swearing

My oath

Our WCF classes have proven to be fun and exciting. Which is a surprise. We were up to Chapter 22 tonight – “Of Lawful Oaths and Vows” – it’s pretty controversial, because it prima facie contradicts instructions from Jesus in Matthew 5, and James, in James 5.

Things got heated. In a pretty good way – but raising a couple of points that I’ll post separately…

I’ve got to say that at this stage I’m with the Westminster assembly on this one. I think oaths are ok – despite the face value instructions not to swear them.

Let me explain.

In Matthew 5 Jesus is talking to the Pharisees – who have completely, and terribly, misunderstood the heart of the law. That’s the problem Jesus has with their approach to everything – from adultery to generosity.

Their problem with oaths is that they’re swearing but trying to get out on technicalities. So they swear on heaven, on Jerusalem, on anything and everything but God, because it gives them a way out. So Jesus tells them that’s not on – but he doesn’t rule out swearing an oath by God – nor does he in Matthew 23, where the issue comes up again. In fact, a natural reading of Matthew 23 (verses 16-22) is to see Jesus encouraging the Pharisees to swear their oaths by God rather than working around the issue with stupid technicalities.

Deuteronomy 6:13 tells Israel to take their oaths “in his name” – not in the name of the kingdom, Jerusalem or the hairs on one’s head.

My understanding of the Matthew passage is that the Pharisees are to aim for honesty (let your yes be yes) so that complicated oaths with easy technical get out clauses are not needed. And when Jesus says “anything more is of the devil” it would seem to be referring to anything designed to obfuscate.

Then the James 5 passage is a direct quote of this one, so should be understood the same way.

I can understand the other side of the argument – but I’ve got to say I’d be pretty comfortable swearing an oath on God’s name to tell the truth provided I then did, and pretty uncomfortable if I swore that and didn’t so not swearing seems to be the safer option anyway…

What say you?

Retard retardent

I overuse the word retard. I understand it’s offensive to many people. I just like the way it sounds. Phonetically, rather than contextually. It’s such a dismissive and insulting word. Apparently it’s so insulting that it’s no longer politically correct to use it to describe people who are actually retarded (technically, literally retarded)… I didn’t know that. Now I do.

Here’s the problem with reinventing the wheel – as spelled out in one of those Slate articles…

But any psychologist will point out that changing the name is, in the end, folly. Whatever new term comes into favor today will seem insensitive, or worse, tomorrow. A nation of 10-year-olds has pretty much exhausted the pejorative power of "retarded" and is eagerly awaiting a new state-of-the-art insult. (The AAMR actually went through this before: In 1973, it switched its name from the American Association on Mental Deficiency to its current appellation because "deficiency" implied, well, deficiency. And retarded, at the time, did not.) The current frontrunner, "intellectual disability," even contracts nicely to ID, which can become a cousin of LD (for learning disability), which served as a choice epithet among the circles I ran in in fifth grade. Steven Warren, the president of the soon-to-be-differently-named AAMR, admits that whatever term his organization comes up with, all the little boys who have crushes on little girls and so call them "retarded" will be quick on its heels. In other words, the AAMR will almost certainly be going through an identity crisis again in 20 years, just to stay ahead of the game.

This also ties in nicely with my little treatise on swearing from a few weeks back.

On Swearing

I don’t often swear, nor am I offended by it. Simone’s latest post has some choice words in it (choice not in the New Zealand sense but in the “offensive to people who don’t like swearing” sense).
She speculatively mused on Twitter that this might offend some people. It probably will. And using such language will always do so. My thoughts on swearing are probably best expressed in list form…

  1. Swearing is not always “unwholesome talk”
    Language changes with time. “Bugger” would have been incredibly offensive 50 years ago, it’s not now. But saying inappropriate things about one’s mother will always be “unwholesome”. Language moves and evolves. It’s stupid to have hang ups about particular words.
  2. Swearing is about intention, not about content
    One thing I’ve never really understood is people who take a moral stand against swearing but use a substitue word like “sugar”. The intention is exactly the same. Who cares if one word means faeces and the other is a product of refined cane – swearing is about intent. You’re just as guilty either way, you may as well not look like a self righteous prude while being guilty.
  3. Swearing is usually grammatically and contextually innappropriate
    Honestly, the words that we most commonly “swear by” are pretty lame and can only be applied appropriately in limited circumstances – they describe body parts, bodily functions, excrement, and the act of procreation – there are only limited circumstances where these words can be used appropriately. There is an interesting, but highly offensive, documentary cartoon floating around detailing the myriad uses of the “f” word – that show that its definition has been allowed to creep too far. I’m all for swearing – provided the usage is justified both situationally (for shock value/catharsis) and the word usage is correct
  4. Swearing for the purpose of offense is wrong
  5. Swearing for the purpose of expression is lazy
    There are better words available. Use them.
  6. Swearing in the presence of those offended by swearing is wrong
    For Christians swearing is a food sacrificed to idols deal – it’s not wrong in and of itself but it’s wrong because people think it’s wrong

Lost in Translation

The “Where the bloody hell are you?” campaign went down like a lead balloon. So tourism boffins in Spain will be a little worried after this little slip up. From the Spanish Prime Minister. When announcing a new campaign.

“”There is a big increase in the number of Spanish tourists heading to Russia, the number is at 500,000, we have therefore decided to sign an agreement to stimulate, to favour, to f—,” he said, pausing briefly before ending the sentence with “to support this tourism”.”

Apparently the Spanish words for “to support” sounds very similar to the alternative he used.

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