The other day, Margot, aged 4, wanted to hold the refrigerator door open for me. She said, “Let me, you fuck.”
This was followed a day later by her chuckling admission to Hannah that Eloise is indeed a “butt fuck.”
We do not make it a habit of using the mother of all curses around our children. Neither do we pair it with “butt.” But she has been rhyming with “puck” lately for whatever reason, so it was bound to happen.
In telling others about this, I began to think about what I will say when the inevitable question arises, “Well, what are you going to do about it if it becomes a problem?” And I’ve started to wonder what we’ll do when she’s 13 and stubs her toe or whatever.
This got me thinking about my own dirty mouth, my friendship with all you bastards, Hauerwas’s patrimony among most of us, my departure from the evangelical church, and the like.
I haven’t chased it down too far, but I think our response to any questions about our filthy mouths will have to include something about witnessing to the world that Christian morality amounts to more than politeness. Margot might drop the F-bomb in the strangest settings. During the fridge incident, we were meeting with James’s future godmother. She would have been scandalized, I think, had she heard Margot. But perhaps the greatest scandal is a life called moral as a result of poor manners avoided.
The Christian moral life had better find a deeper purchase than a lack of card playing, dancing, drinking, smoking, and swearing.
For most of us on this blog, I think this goes without saying. But I wonder if our filthy mouths might be something of a flag to wave: a way of saying to the world that we are not Christian because we want to be polite or well mannered or agreeable (and so, in the end, milk-toast when the moral truly matters). In a world where people are still bought and sold, children murdered, the elderly abandoned, and all the rest, I take my laissez-faire attitude about my potty mouth to mean that, morally, I’m to be busy about other things.
ON THE OTHER HAND, there is no upper limit to virtue. So perhaps my argument will come to naught when I finally accept this idea.