The Epidemic of Profanity

Profanity is nothing new.  Vile, filthy language has existed  probably as long as hammers and thumbs have been around.  The difference today is how widespread it has become.  The phrase “cussing like a sailor” is now meaningless as politicians, celebrities, colleagues, neighbors and even children utter language that would likely make a sailor blush.  What is behind this sewage spewing from the mouths of so many?

1. Some of it is for pure shock value.  Because the taboo has been relaxed, some are emboldened to curse when a microphone is in front of them.  It almost always draws a laugh and/or nods of approval from the likeminded.

2. Cursing is now the chic way to express yourself.  Wanting to appear fashionable, everyone jumps on the profanity bandwagon.

3. Many are learning it at home.  It isn’t uncommon to hear a parent cursing in front of their children in public.  When it is normalized by parents, it will be repeated by their offspring.

4. Profanity often spills out when emotions are running high.  Emotions override reason, so the excited speaker tends to express himself without reflection or care.  Certain politicians especially seem to have be adopted this language to stir up emotions against their opponents.

5. Cursing is a true reflection of who we are.  Much of society feels disenfranchised and victimized for one reason or another.  Feelings of alienation, bitterness and vengefulness gush out in vitriolic language. 

Profanity finds its way into the minds and vocabulary of those who are devoid of the goodness of God.  King Saul, a model of carnality and faithlessness, is the quintessential example here also.  Hear the King curse his own son Jonathan, who is depicted as one of the most principled and godly men of the Old Testament:  “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!  Do I not know that you have chosen the son of Jesse to your own shame and to the shame of your mother’s nakedness?  For as long as the son of Jesse lives … you shall not be established, nor your kingdom.  Now therefore, send and bring him to me, for he shall surely die!” (1 Sam 20:30-31).  Cursing and rage go hand in hand.

Christians cannot succumb to the normalization of such vile language.  Resistance does not begin at our lips but in our hearts:  “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil.  For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Lk 6:45).  I find it hard to believe that people who are fulfilled and content under the watchful care of God would deliberately choose to express themselves with raunchy words that pervert body parts and functions, illicit sexual activity and the holy name of God.

Instead of cursing, we are to “let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers … let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice” (Eph 4:29, 31).  “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting” should corrupt our speech, for we of all people should be able to distinguish between that which is polluted and that which is pure.

Profanity is the language of the shallow trying to appear sophisticated; it is the intimidation of the bully; it is the immature mind trying to take a short cut to relevance.  In truth, profanity is a sorry display of mental dullness and insecurity, a childlike mind throwing a verbal tantrum to be noticed or get its way.  And a Christian who uses it betrays his or her distance from the settled mind that God wishes all His children to display.