Cursing Like Jesus: Theological and Pastoral Considerations for Cursing in Church Open Access

Jones, Laura Elizabeth (2012)

Permanent URL:


There has been a recent and growing trend in biblical scholarship to call for the reclamation of the imprecatory and/or lament psalms in the life and worship of Christian churches. Often pastoral concern for the marginalized is particularly cited as the stimulus for reappropriation of these psalms in the life of the church. In addition, theological concerns about the nature of God are raised, inasmuch as neglect of images of God's violence represents a theological deficit. It is my aim in this paper to build on the foundation laid by biblical scholars to sketch the contours of a theological and pastoral model for reappropriating cursing psalms in Christian worship. I will employ an interdisciplinary approach, utilizing the insights of Christian ethicists and practical and systematic theologians to explore the insights offered by these biblical scholars and their implications for theological ethics and pastoral care. My goal is to complexify the conversation by considering the ways that the multiple spaces/layers of social power that function simultaneously in congregations affect how these psalms might serve to expose injustice and facilitate ethical responses. My particular focus is the movement towards surrender of vengeance to God, and how (or whether) this movement relates to constructive ethical action. I will explore some ethically problematic ways of constructing a theology of surrender, and draw on the theological categories of the imago dei, imitatio dei, the trinity and the incarnation to construct a nuanced theological ethic based on surrender, discernment and imitation of Christ. The purpose of such an ethic is two-fold; to aid congregations in employing cursing prayers in worship without thereby undertaking the fulfillment of curses as a Christian ethical responsibility, and to consider practices by which communities might receive rage, move toward surrender of violence, and also discern constructive, ethical responses to injustice. I will also utilize the work of Christian ethicists to consider the relationship between rage and ethical behavior in order to illuminate how a healthy discernment process might look. In conclusion I will offer some practical suggestions for embodying these theological ethical principles in meaningful ways in congregational life.

Table of Contents



The Problem of Cursing Psalms in the Canon

Cursing Psalms as Giving Voice to the Marginalized
The Psycho-spiritual Benefit of Catharsis and/or Surrender of Vengeance

Theological Insights of Cursing Psalms


Understanding Vengeance as God's and Not Ours

Sketching a Christian Ethical Model: Imitatio Dei?

Towards a Christocentric Theological Ethic of Surrender


Receiving the Rawness of Rage

Facilitating Surrender of Vengeance

Rage and Discernment in the Christian Life

Towards Practices of Voicing and Witnessing Anger through the Cursing Psalms

About this Master's Thesis

Rights statement
  • Permission granted by the author to include this thesis or dissertation in this repository. All rights reserved by the author. Please contact the author for information regarding the reproduction and use of this thesis or dissertation.
  • English
Research field
Committee Chair / Thesis Advisor
Committee Members
Last modified

Primary PDF

Supplemental Files