When life is frustrating or brutal – do your swear in your prayers?
Peter Manseau writing in Religion Dispatches wonders:
Do people often swear when they talk to God?
Such was a question raised at a recent meeting of the New Directions in the Study of Prayer initiative of the Social Science Research Council in New York. The salty phrases used to frame the discussion that followed earned hearty chuckles from the anthropologists, psychologists, and religious studies scholars gathered to consider innovative ways of examining a very old subject. Nervous titters aside, it was taken up briefly as an intriguing line of inquiry: Are there any common determinants of the kinds of language used in prayer across cultures? What factors influence the registers of address chosen within a given devotional setting? To put it plainly: Is it always a problem to say “f***” when you pray?
As it happens, this last point is not just a matter of academic concern. Recent questions taken up by the armchair theologians at Yahoo Answers have included Can I be forgiven for swearing at God? and Does swearing at God count if you say it in your mind?, while similar quandaries seem to vex those inclined to seek more orthodox advice online.
Last summer, “swearing in prayer” became the subject of a somewhat heated exchange in the forums of the Catholic Answers website, Catholic.com, the goal of which is “To Explain and Defend the Faith.” Not quite true to this mission, the trouble began when an apparently innocent search for explanation was met with a rigorous defense.
The psalms and laments ask God’s wrath on enemies — any Hebrew scholars see swearing in them?
For forthright prayers in the face of joy and/or tragedy and frustration with systems of oppression read the blog “leave it lay where Jesus flang it” by a priest serving on a reservation in South Dakota.