Go ahead and call me a prude. Label me as puritanical if you like, an old-fashioned Bible-thumper, a fossil, an antique. Bring on all the insults you can muster. Say what you will. I still believe profanity is profane. I still believe that certain words should not be used in everyday, public discourse. I still believe that higher standards of communication correlate with higher standards of behavior. And I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way.
To be sure, I believe that a cutting remark or a harsh insult can do more damage than dropping the F-bomb. And I understand that, in the course of life, people will speak freely, and for many, that means using profanity and vulgarity.
I’m certainly not advocating a snowflake mentality when it comes to vocabulary, meaning that if you say one word I find offensive, I will melt. Not at all. I’m simply talking about standards. About being honorable. About reducing the amount of profanity and vulgarity that has become so pervasive in articles and headlines and tweets and posts. Am I crazy to feel this way?
A few years back (I can’t remember exactly when), I was listening to sports radio in my car when I noticed the host using the A-word a lot, something that struck me as odd. Was this always legal, or was it a more recent development? Not long after that, I heard the same word used repeatedly on a sports-related show on TV. For me, this didn’t enhance the shows or increase my esteem for the hosts.
Not long after that, I began seeing the S-word in online sports columns and articles. “When did that happen?” I wondered.
Now, with the president’s alleged “s–-hole” comment, some networks are using the word multiple times in a single hour, and some publications, which initially refused to spell the word out, are spelling it out in full. All this in a matter of days.
At the same time, Cinema Blend reported that, “Saturday Night Live Dropped An F-Bomb And An S-Bomb On NBC Censors.”
Will this somehow make us better as a people, as we cast off restraint and speak our minds? Or will this contribute to the vulgarizing of our culture? I say the latter.
President Trump is hardly the first president to use a vulgarity (meaning, behind closed doors, or at the least, away from a mic), but this is the first time it seems the whole nation now feels empowered to be obscene. Why? And why was it that many Trump supporters cheered him on when he dropped the F-bomb early in his campaign? What’s to celebrate?
And while our communication has been getting more profane, it has also become much more explicit sexually. It’s not enough to report that a woman alleges that a famous man assaulted her. We must hear the details of what they did and how they did it.
In the past, such salacious reports would have been found in the crassest tabloids, if not porn magazines. Today, they’re part of our daily news intake.
Surely, this desensitizing is hurting us more than helping us. Surely, we do better to leave certain things unsaid. (For the record, I’m glad that this epidemic of sexploitation is getting exposed. I’m simply questioning whether the general public needs to know every detail.)
But it’s not only a matter of words. It’s a matter of images as well.
Again, I can’t place the exact year, but I remember seeing a picture of someone nude from the back, posted on a normal news site. I was shocked. Since when did this become legal? And as the years go on, it seems more and more flesh is being exposed.
Do I believe that there are other issues far more important than exposing too much flesh? Of course I do. But that doesn’t mean we ignore the profaning and downgrading of our culture. And how in the world are we going to win the war against the sexploitation of women when their nearly-naked bodies are displayed online for the world to see, virtually 24/7 (and with their consent, at that)?
There is something positive to decorum, to etiquette, to modesty, and that’s why in public, certain behavior is deemed unacceptable. You can’t go walking down the streets of your city naked (at least, not in most cities in America). You can’t sit in a restaurant and shout out F-bombs without being asked to be quiet or to leave. In many jobs, you can’t show up to work out of uniform. In other jobs, you can’t show up dressed immodestly.
Why? Workplace decorum. Workplace standards. Workplace integrity. These things matter. Is there no place for this online and in the media?
Certainly, I don’t think the solution to this problem is forcing behavioral ethics on everyone. And again, there are far worse problems than too much profanity and too much nudity in the media and online. (How about the way people savage each other online?)
I’m simply saying that less profanity and less nudity is better than more profanity and more nudity. And since everything reproduces after its own nature, I’m concerned to see where we might be headed next. Am I the only one who feels this way?
As for fellow-followers of Jesus, here’s the gold standard for us: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as dearly loved children. And walk in love, as the Messiah also loved us and gave Himself for us, a sacrificial and fragrant offering to God. But sexual immorality and any impurity or greed should not even be heard of among you, as is proper for saints. Coarse and foolish talking or crude joking are not suitable, but rather giving thanks. For know and recognize this: Every sexually immoral or impure or greedy person, who is an idolater, does not have an inheritance in the kingdom of the Messiah and of God” (Ephesians 5:1-5, CSB).
Maybe we can’t stop the world around us from being worldly, but we can certainly step higher ourselves. Our calling is not to join in the ever-encroaching darkness. It’s to shine brightly like lights.