10.14.2005

Soap in the mouth

When I was young I had to go to my church daycare. While I was there I was taught many things such as Bible stories, new games, and swear words. Granted, I did not learn the swear words from the teachers; rather, I learned these words my fellow playmates . (And I imagine that they learned these words from parents, television, etc.). So, when I decided to share my "newly discovered language," I was met with an unexpected consequence: soap in my mouth. The reason I am reflecting on this experience is because I found an article that deals with the issue of "swearing." Below I have posted a relevant part of the article:
Okay, I’m sorry I said ‘suck’ in the previous section; I meant no offense by it. But the word is a perfect illustration of a battle being waged in churches around the country that should be stopped. There is really no theological basis for us telling kids to stop using those four-letter words. Scripture does tell us to use our words wisely and not to harm people. But it does not specify a vocabulary. The word "suck," when used by teenagers in particular, carries with it no harmful intent other than to characterize something as sub-par (i.e., ‘I suck at baseball’). Other words are used equally as casually. If the word is not used to hurt, then I believe we should turn a deaf ear.
If, however, the word is used to be hurtful, then by all means, we should intercede. But this is true if it is a swear word or a non-swear word. Kids can use the word ‘special’ with far more venom than any established swear word, so we obviously cannot limit ourselves to George Carlin’s list of seven words you can’t say on television. Rather, it is the intended meaning and effect of words that we must teach about. As Jesus says, it is what comes out of a person’s mouth that makes him or her unclean. This doesn’t refer to a given set of phonemes, but to the spirit behind the words.
So if a teenager says that the teachings of the Pharisees were bulls---, then are they being any less colorful than Jesus when he ranted on at them for several paragraphs? Or, in a more likely scenario, if a teenager accidentally drops the F-bomb in the van on the way to a mission trip, or in the youth room, or even in the sanctuary, is it really worth our attention? We should concern ourselves with things more important than vocabulary. We should embody the truth that it’s not the word choice that is important but rather the spirit behind the words. And we should never forget that teenagers can intuitively smell what our concern over swear words really is: prudish discomfort. If they see us using faith as a means to protect our delicate sensibilities, they begin to see faith as little more than a means to pursue our own comfort. This is the wrong message to send.

Before I respond to this article, I would like for some of you to comment on your thoughts. Here are a few questions to help get your brains churning: Did you agree or disagree with any part of the article? What scripture passages helped lead you to your conclusions? Who determines which words are deemed inappropriate? Are "slang" words different from "curse" words? What type of speech honors Christ? We must be prepared to answer these type of questions. The full article is available here.

1 comment:

abigail anna said...

Thanks so much for hanging out today. I love the two of you so much (oh, yeah, and the little one too). I don't have any clear answers to the questions posed today, but if you want to, you can read what various people wrote under the comments section of the 10/15/05 post on www.xanga.com/unworthyseraphim . (I'm the one with the picture of the building - it's a picture of the Radcliffe Camera - the Oxford University library where I spent countless hours when I was a student there - I really liked it . . . you would have too . . . stunning architecture, low lighting, walls lined with literature and theology books . . . it felt like “home”).