Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kings Kaleidoscope and the Use of Cuss Words

There is a great debate with Christians these days over the use of cuss words. Of all the things we can argue or disagree about, it is the use of our words. Is it appropriate for Christians to use them or not? Some would say depends on the circumstance while others say no.

We have heard stories of preachers using cuss words in their sermons. I personally not heard a sermon where the preacher cusses but I do have a friend that has been called the cussing evangelist because he has been known for using a cuss word or two in his sermons. There were stories of Mark Driscoll, during his preaching ministry at Mars Hill Church, dropping a f-bomb during a sermon.

The debate has become a little more, for lack of a better term, intense recently, but this time is pertains to the worship band Kings Kaleidoscope. Last week, they released an album that featured a song called, "A Prayer," where not one, but two f-bombs were used in the song. Here are those lyrics with the word edited out:

Will I fall or will I misstep?
Will I fall or will I misstep?
Will I call you with my last breathe?
Will you be there for me after?
Will I waste inside the silence
Where the fear is f***ing violent?
Wicked sinner thrown to lions
With no hope on the horizon
Will I fall or will I misstep?

If I fall or if I misstep
If I fall or if I misstep
If I call you with my last breath
Will you be there for me after?
Cause I'm wasting in this silence
And my fear is f***ing violent
I'm a child thrown to lions
Is there hope on the horizon?
If I fall or if I misstep

There have been some disagreements over Kings Kaleidoscope's usage of the word in this song. Some praised it, others rejected it, while others are on the fence wondering if this was appropriate or not. One person, who is a member of a worship band, said he hates when a Christian band cusses to become more edgy, raw, and authentic. Basically, he was not approving the song, but when on to say that he does cuss, however, he is mindful of his surroundings. That sounds like a little hypocritical like the preacher condemning gluttony yet looks like a sumo wrestler.

What was the purpose behind the song especially the usage of the cuss words? Spirit You All recently did an interview with Kings Kaleidoscope's frontman, Chad Gardner regarding their new album when the question about "A Prayer" came up:

Spirit You All: About half the Kings Kaleidoscope's fanbase is about to have a stroke because Beyond Control's second-to-last song, "A Prayer", has two f-words on it. Can you share the vision behind the song and the meaning?

CG: [laughs] Well, first I would say I think that for people who haven't actually listened to the record, or listened to that song, just listen to those last three songs in a row, and I think that it will be self-explanatory in terms of what is going on there. The short answer is, that song comes from the deepest part of my gut and my being, and the fear that I face throughout my life - I've had really severe anxiety disorder my whole life, and that's been a major part of my struggle and story. That song is about the fear of running from God or that God will turn his back on me and I will end up apart from him in hell. And the actual lyric is something that is from my journal - I don't know how everyone else has conversations with God, but I have very vulnerable conversations, and God already knows how afraid I am. I usually figure it's good for me to pour out my soul to him, and that's what that song is.

The choice to keep that original version, which is straight from off the top of my head, really, as well as the edited one... It took me a long time, and I really sought counsel and had a lot of conversations with pastor friends of mine and family. At the end of the day, that song is not going to impact somebody who has never felt that way anyways. So that song is there for people who have felt like me. And I know fear and Satan and death - the voice of all of that is not poetic, it's not thoughtful, it's not patient. It's aggressive and demanding and terrifying. And that's what came out of my heart because that's what I was hearing, and so that's what I chose to leave it in the song. It was to say, look, this is the reality of how we feel sometimes, and this is the reality of how God responds to that. And I just want people to know that that is life. It is freaking scary, and God talks to that and he speaks to us right where we are. At the same time, I know other people have different convictions theologically on language - obviously I don't have that conviction, otherwise I wouldn't have released it. [laughs] But I really respect that, and I know some people want to just buy the CD and be able to play it in their car without their kids hearing it. Some people have told me, "I don't care if my kids listen to that song at all" - the unedited version. But because I respect people, I want to have a different version for them, and that song - it's not really about that word, it's about the meaning and the bigger context, and I think if anything I'm trying to be vulnerable and have different types of people be able to engage with that song in a powerful way.

So I came to my label and said, "Okay, I think that I want to release a version of a song with an f-bomb in it. I want to do it in the most respectful way possible." [laughs] They were like, "What in the world?" Because most artists are trying to do shock jock or something, but there's none of that vibe for me. I'd say, I'm not trying to change anyone's mind about it or convince anyone of anything. I'm just trying to be honest and vulnerable. I think that's important in art, and important as a Christian. If there's any place that I can share my story and my testimony for what it really is, it should be the church at large. And that's what I'm doing.

While some may get Kings Kaleidoscope was not trying to be like some bands that cuss in almost every song, the debate is whether or not Christians should use cuss words. The Bible does tells us that obsence talk and unwholesome talk has no place with God's people (Colossians 3:8; Ephesians 4:29). Yet we also see in the book of Psalms the use of strong language such as asking God to wipe out the enemies of Israel. Jesus called the religious leaders of His day, brood of vipers and hypocrites. The Apostle Paul called those of the circumcision party, dogs who mutilate the flesh (Philippians 3:2). The term dog was not the same as today's, "What's up dawg?" It was not a nice term to be called and it was the same word the Jews used towards the Gentiles.

Think about your prayer life. How many times have to spoken to God about things you would not say to your pastor? Have you ever called a fellow believer who made you angry a S.O.B.? Has your language in prayer been strong as your approach the throne of grace? Some of you might say, "I would never say anything like that to God," yet you would cuss out the person who cut you off on the highway.

Here is the other debate, would you ever use this talk in public? In my dealings with people I would never drop f-bombs on people or use any other obsense talk with people. When my kids have asked me about the usage of a word, I tell them not to use that for whatever reason. When I am talking with a non-Christian, I expect them to cuss. When we speak with them, we should not be offended because they don't know what the Bible says about unwholesome talk.

Now, here comes the big question, was Kings Kaleidoscope wrong? I am sure they were wondering the same thing based on the interview. Chad did say, they sought council from pastors as well as family. I am not sure what was said, but I am sure there might have been some disagreements. I get the message the Kings Kaleidoscope was trying to communicate in "A Prayer," but I personally would not have used that particular language. I know this song will never be played during youth group meetings (Try explaining that one to your pastor).

While I would not have used that language, I am not throwing a stone at Kings Kaleidoscope either. I am not calling for Christians to boycott them because that would solve nothing although Christian bookstores might pull the album from their shelves which is nothing new for them. Christians who say they were wrong yet they cuss are no better than the religious leaders during Jesus's earthly ministry. I heard there is another version to that song which does not contain the two f-bombs. So, if you were offended by "A Prayer," there is a cleaner version of it.

If Kings Kaleidoscope was wrong in the usage of the explicit lyrics in their song, I know there is grace and forgiveness from God the Father and I believe their fans will extend to them forgiveness as well. By no means, should any of us question their faith in Christ. If you have read or listen to any interview with Kings Kaleidoscope, they are pretty solid in their faith and theology. Just because you may not agree with them in the usage of explicit lyrics, it does not mean they are less of a Christian.

I encourage all Christians to allow the Holy Spirit to examine their hearts when it comes to their language. Pray that God will give you wholesome words to say which "is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear" (Ephesians 4:29). King David prayed, "Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips!" (Psalm 141:3) as well as, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer" (Psalm 19:14). Let this be our prayer to when it comes to the words we say.


  1. Here's where my view lies in this:
    While we are to come to God in realness and openness, we are also to come to Him in respect and "fear" (which is so much deeper than respect, not to be confused with "afraid"). He is the One who created us, who has the ability to decide our final destination, who sent His Son to cover our sins. I find the use of the word in this song disrespectful to not only God but also the listener. Do I cuss? Very rarely and I am convicted when I do. Why? Because it comes from a lack of self control and because of the verses you mentioned above about unwholesome talk. I never have done it in prayer. Discussion on this in a worship leaders group on FB turned rather heated as people took sides.

    While I can understand the point he was trying to get across, I also can see that this was well thought out, not an accident or slip of the tongue. This was a well planned use of an explicit word that obviously can be conveyed without the use of the word (as shown in the clean version). So why put it in there? Who is truly benefiting from the choice to put it in there? How many will think "well, it's ok that I do it since he did it"? We are called to be holy. To be separate. To be transformed. This hurts testimony and witness. Truly it does. It also causes division and is a stumbling block within the church - which we are specifically told NOT to do. This was a lack of wisdom on their part.

    1. Thank you for sharing that. I agree with you completely. Your wisdom has blessed me.

    2. Agree. It was a planned attempt to shock for the attention of doing so. Writing as one who struggles with being entirely pure in speech myself, and loathe doing so when I slip, this song has no value to me personally/spiritually. The songwriter misunderstands the holiness of God, and reverence.

  2. Nessa,
    I respectfully disagree with you. I get where you are coming from. I was raised in the church, I am a pastor's kid, and now I am a pastor myself. Growing up I would have never cussed. My image was too important to me. But in college God broke me. There was a guy who lived in dorm right next to me and he cussed constantly. I judged him for it. I talked down to him and I considered myself a "better Christian" because I wasn't like him. One day, while I was journaling and reading my Bible God started cussing at me. He was upset with me. He was upset with my pride; a pride that was getting in the way of me having relationship with Him and the people around me. It shocked me at first. It shocked me speechless. God shouldn't cuss right? That's not appropriate right? Matthew 23 is a shocking chapter. In it Jesus calls out the Pharisees and teachers of religious law for their pride and idolatry. He uses strong language. He is blunt, honest, and offensive. This chapter ruined me. He was calling me out in this chapter.
    I know how strange this sounds but the first time I cussed was in that quiet time with God. God taught me how to cuss. I know this is not for everyone. I respect people who don't cuss if they feel like God doesn't want that in their life. But for me what God didn't want in my life was my pride. He wanted me to use strong language when it was appropriate. I still get annoyed when people use cusswords because they don't have anything more creative to say. But when there is strong emotion I use strong language to convey that emotion.
    To me, this song is an incredible witness. It shows that we can come to God with everything we are and that He meets us there. The church is starving for this kind of honesty. I am starving for this.

    1. That is not in alignment with the word of God. The enemy comes like an angel of light. That was a counterfeit spirit twisting the word of God. Always test the spirit because the enemy knows the word too. I pray God will show you the truth. God bless you! ��

  3. Its better to have a solid view on art as well as theology when approaching a question like this. I feel the tension. The fword is recorded and thereby organized to listen to. You dont organize the hardship that makes you scream fuck etc to God. Its not something to remember, but to forget. On the other side, art should always show truth. And thats what they did. To keep this experience from the listener, the fword included, would be a violation of truth. Sin is not in what you say, but in your heart. And I am sure these guys have a clean conscience and good heart.

    After all, Im glad to hear Im not the only one screaming these things to God in my deepest fears and pain. It really helps me. And that christian communion and where healing begins.

    To many worshippers are fake. And christians seek an experience in it, while their real life is given to God. I'm so glad to see that christian art is getting better, being more real and this song is a great example.

  4. Jesus says, "Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks." As usual, Jesus was concerned about the root of the problem and not just the symptom. The real problem, therefore, is not the utterance of the foul word, but what would be inside of someone that would make them utter such. And we all have moments of weakness. We all have some darkness in our heart, that during our moments of lacking self-control, overflow into our speech and actions. But there should be some thought of shame and repentance for such outbursts. There should be contrition for such missteps. And then as John said, we should confess to the God who is faithful and just so that we may be purified from all unrighteousness. I know many pastors... and none that would justify the use of the f-word in a sermon, a song, a poem, or in daily use. Saying they sought the counsel of pastors means little unfortunately, when it is not hard to find a handful of pastors that will permit anything.

    And what about causing little ones to stumble? Are we justifying our foul mouth? Are we giving license to those listening to similarly sin? Most certainly expect better from our brothers and sisters in Christ and our own families. I would be appalled by my wife or children ever using this language for ANY REASON. Where we came from is a great part of our testimony. It is a great part of the gracious and merciful nature of God. But we do not focus on our dead previous life or our regretful occasional sin. Instead, we should glorify our redeemer and restorer.

  5. As someone who used to cuss a lot, I can tell you that this was discouraging to hear. I love Kings Kaleidoscope and I think their music is creative and well needed to show the diversity of the Christian genre of music. BUT the usage of that word in that song was very detrimental for me. Maybe a year ago I got a conviction from God that my language needed to be cleaned up, just like it says in James, your tongue is like a rudder, where it goes so goes the ship. I hate that I can only think of that word now when I think of that band. I think that what they did had good intentions, but the side effect is that as a person recovering from a “potty mouth” is being tempted where they least expected. And I know I’m not the only one, people listen to christian music to hear something Holy and good. And the MEANING of that word has nothing to do with God, if we’re honest. I stopped listening the some of my favorite artists to take this type of language out of my diet and so I switched to alt Christian. Little did I know that the battle wasn’t over. This band has really let me down, they’ve replaced their respect for God with their love for “art”, and that I will never understand.