Monday, October 31, 2005

Cussing LITE ?

The Tennessean has an interesting article about the slang kids today use. Actually, my generation uses a whole host of words that one interviewee deemed "tacky," rather than profane.

This article is what helped the Holy Spirit further convict my friend YellaJacket about his use of the word c**p and others. His decision, and his discussion of the article, sparked a hallway debate about the related issues: the uncouthness of our society and the further degeneration of our culture, what makes a curse word a curse word, and what should a Christian refrain from saying.

I think we can all agree that our society has allowed uncouth behavior to become acceptable, even desirable. What started this trend? Shall we blame it on our parents and aunts and uncles---the Baby Boomers and Flower Children? Makes sense to me. Previous eras didn't buck the system and scream against "the establishment" as much as the 60s did.

The adults of previous eras still held up adulthood as an admirable state to reach. One was expected to grow out of childhood. Certain privileges were reserved for people of certain ages, and certain activities were allowed only within the confines of marriage (sex, having and raising children, owning one's own home).

Today childhood and adolescence are lifted up as the golden years. The years of maturity are only praised among the senior citizens, when one wants to sell something to them, like Centrum Silver ('cause "it's a good time to be silver"). Madison Avenue has exalted youth, rather than maturity, and now even adults are electing to maintain behaviors and attitudes that generations before, adults would have renounced as they grew up and matured.

This attitude and these values, together, cause, or at least facilitate, the degeneration of our speech. We no longer hold children accountable to our expectations of them. We are told, and then accept the message, that we are too hard on them, that we must be more understanding, we must be more tolerant, we must not dampen their spirits.

It is not the spirit of being a child that rears its ugly head in a child---it is the human nature, the flesh nature, the sin nature, that rears its head. That nature is in each and every one of us. Not some. Not a few. ALL!

Are we to encourage rebellion? Are we to encourage unrestrained thinking, speaking, and behaving? No! Adults are supposed to train the children in the ways that they are to go as adults---to teach them to begin NOW to think, speak, and behave in ways that bring the favor of God and of other people.

In the case of their speech, what does it matter what a child says? Isn't a word just a word? Well, no. Curse words demean the things to which they refer...whether to a sexual act or to full sexual intercourse (sexual acts are designed by God to be sacred the sense that it is set aside for a special purpose: the joining of two human souls and procreation [yes, pleasure is involved, but it is not the sole purpose, nor the highest]) to defecation or any number of human activities. Curse words involve vehement, even violent, emotions. It is really not the word itself that makes it profane. In theory, we could use any combination of letters and make it a curse word. It is the meaning the word carries, the thing to which it refers (and demeans), and the emotion behind the usual usage of the word--the combination of these things that make the word a curse word. You could also say that connotation has much to do with it.

Yet, I don't think that explains all. Why do we use the particular curse words that exist nowadays? Well, my theory is that we use them because their sounds are harsh, and those harsher sounds seem to express the level of vehemence in our feelings. Isn't there a difference between saying, "Oh, shoot!" and "S**t!!!" ? Yes, there is. I feel it in myself. One expresses stronger anger or frustration than the other. And when I say, "Shoot!" with the same vehemence I would usually say with the other word, well, it's the other word I'm really thinking in my head.

I mean, think about the worst curse word of them all---the F bomb. (And if there is a worse curse word, I don't know of it.) Why is it so beloved as a curse word? Perhaps it is the beginning sound, which one must press one's upper front teeth to one's bottom lip to make [notice that the position of teeth and lip is very like a facial expression of frustration], and the ending sound, which one must extend one's lower jaw and pull back one's upper jaw, keeping the mouth open slightly, to make [this position is like a facial expression of anger]. The sounds of the word are explosive and harsh---and it puts a violent "spin" on the action it originally described.

Is it any coincidence, now, that the F word has become an adjective, moving beyond just being a rather profane way to express sexual action? This word, sex, and violence are inextricably linked. Even if we are becoming more and more desensitized to its use in "everyday" speech... {UGH!}

So what does a Christian do? Are we to be concerned only about what is actual profanity, as defined by God, or must we also be concerned about what "polite society" deems uncouth and unrefined? Should a Christian be refined? Certainly not if "refined" means haughty, cold, and unapproachable. But if one's behavior is dignified because it flows from a reverence and regard for God, from a valuing of human beings and a desire to make others comfortable (which is the purpose of courtesy and manners), then a concern for being dignified, couth, and refined is certainly a godly one. But if it is about self, about maintaining one's reputation (and considering others as beneath oneself), about being "better" than others, THAT is not godly.

I don't think that Jesus was so concerned about being so-called "refined." Besides, back then...there was so much dirt and grime everywhere---how could you be THAT refined in the first place? But Jesus would not have been sarcastic to the point of being hurtful to others. He would not have been a cynical person. Maybe He could be described as a realist AND an optimistic person, but since He also is all-knowing God and not just a mere human with extra powers, optimistic or pessimistic isn't even an issue---He knows what's going to happen. He doesn't have to speculate and decide the worst will happen or hope the best will happen. He will be victorious. He already is victorious.

Jesus was and is confident, in the sense that He knew who He was and knows who He is. God needs no one else to prove who He is. He is "I AM that I AM." He is sufficient unto Himself.

So God is not arrogant...because there is no one above Him. And arrogance is thinking more highly of oneself than one ought. God is God.

God alone knows when gentleness or firmness is needed with one of His creations. Jesus was gentle with His words but also firm (dare I say, harsh at times?). He had compassion on people, but He also told them like it was. He sees the heart as it truly is, beneath our heaped-up extra guilt or beneath our self-delusional pride.

Jesus said, "The mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart (Matt. 12:34). ... What comes out of the mouth comes from the heart, and this defiles a man. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, sexual immoralities, thefts, false testimonies, blasphemies. These are the things that defile a man (15:18-20)."

So...we Christians should check our minds, our hearts, our mouths, and our entire lives---is what we are thinking, saying, and doing flowing out of attitudes of love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, forbearance, perseverance, humility, praise, gratitude, compassion, boldness, goodness, patience, peace, kindness, gentleness, soberness, and self-control? Or are we letting the flesh have sway? Are we thinking, speaking, and acting out of bitterness, anger, jealousy, wrath, envy, hatred, self-pity, pride, suspicion, revenge, foolishness, lack of restraint, greed, lust, gluttony, and drunkenness?

Through Jeremiah, God says, "The heart is more deceitful than anything else, and desperately sick---who can understand it? I, the LORD, examine the mind, I test the heart (Jer. 17:9-10)."


Anonymous said...

Christianity is a thought based religion, more so than any other religion practiced by man.

Matt 15 includes a discourse from Jesus on defilement that radically changed mans understanding of how spiritual purity is viewed. Man assumed that defilement (ones soul becoming profaned) occurred when man engaged in a evil action. Matt 15 shows that the intentions of the heart (thought life/desires) not the action is what defiles man. This passage is used to approve eating of non kosher foods for Christians, which is fine, however it also places a much greater burden on the Christian to discipline his thought life and take control of what happens in his mind.

Cuss’n, which is what the tread is about, is another form of an undisciplined (sometimes spiritually weak/immature) mind. We have to think it before we say it. I know folks will say it just slips out. Maybe that is true on occasion, but you had to let the thought form in your mind and become a habit before it could be automatically processed out you mouth.

“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”

That is a much harder teaching than any other I can think of, one that I fall woefully short of daily.

Anonymous said...


Your thread topic is so close to my last three Sunday school lessons that its spooky.

Elena said...

Res, I love how God threads the parts of our lives together into one garment of praise!

Your comments brought up another related point---that people read the Bible and do not delve further. They do not seek to discover the whole counsel of Scripture on a matter nor do they examine themselves before God. (I am just as guilty.)

I think it is essential to the walk with God not to just read the Bible but also to study it, to seek application, to bring it to bear upon the guidance and knowledge offered by other sources.

For example, what we have learned about nonverbal communication is valuable to bring alongside the teachings of God about our attitudes, our speech, and our behavior, particularly as it concerns relationships among people.

AND I believe that now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon Christians to examine the long-cherished "American ideals" to determine which ones are God-honoring and which are self-exalting. Achieving "the American dream" at the expense of one's soul or at the detriment of others is to embrace a nightmare and to choose the path of destruction.

/tim said...

Elena, many thanks for the link on this one. I've tagged you from my blog...

If you can't say something nice...