No, scratch that. I used to cuss.
And not just when I was angry or when I smashed my toe, but all the time.
It was so pervasive that it had pretty much become conversational for me. Sometimes, I’d have to actually struggle NOT to curse when I was in situations where it was unacceptable.
It wasn’t my only vice, but it was the one I was best at.
It was so bad that it quite literally became part of my identity. When I was in college, my nickname was a curse word.
I don’t curse anymore. When I surrendered my life to Christ, cursing is one of the things I gave up almost immediately. But, because of my past, I understand how certain situations can push the right buttons and send salty words flying into the atmosphere.
That apparently was the case this week when a New York Times reporter questioned Republican candidate Rick Santorum about his criticism of primary opponent Mitt Romney.
Accusing the reporter of twisting his words, Santorum suggested that if he sees a news story taking his statement out of context, it would be ... um ... bogus.
Only he didn’t say bogus; he said a different word containing a B and an S.
In the media, the outburst has been played (ad nauseum) as a run-of-the-mill, red-blooded American cuss-out.
But this is the same Santorum who has based his campaign largely on making a principled stand on faith-based social issues, especially abortion.
Without the religious-right segment of the electorate, Santorum would merely be a footnote of the GOP primary, long since gone the way of Rick Perry and Jon Huntsman. (Remember them?) The spicy language, then, is a departure from Santorum’s professed Catholic principles.
The question is, how does it play among the faith-based community?
The response, publicly at least, has been pretty much nonexistent. I think it’s because the religious community realizes something we rarely talk about: Christians aren’t perfect.
There’s nothing — repeat, nothing — that keeps a Christian from cursing, lying, stealing, getting drunk or even committing murder. Faith in Christ takes away the penalty of sin. It doesn’t take away the ability to sin.
The book of James in the Bible declares that men can tame beasts of the land, air and sea, but that no man can tame the tongue (James 3:7-8).
It’s why you might occasionally hear a Christian drop the f-bomb (like I heard a couple of weeks ago during a chippy church league basketball game).
This isn’t an attempt to excuse it or promote it or to glorify it, only to acknowledge it.
So does it mean you lose your status as a Christian if you let a curse word slip? Absolutely not.
Cursing doesn’t cancel your Christianity, but it could limit opportunities to share your faith.
Fortunately, Christ’s ability to save people of faith is greater than our sin’s ability to destroy us.
Jesus paid for our sins with his very life. Our gratitude for that very act should motivate us to do good works.
It’s reason enough to choose our words carefully, to work to tame our tongues.
Did I mention that I used to curse?
Managing Editor Anthony Cook is pastor at Christian Fellowship Bible Church. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 256-235-3558, or on Twitter @acook_star.