Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Banning Profanity? Seriously?

A few weeks ago, CCN reported a somewhat surprising and very interesting new law just signed into being by Vladimir Putin. Most of what the controversial Russia leader has done in recent times has not exactly been favorable by most standards. But this time it is a little different and something few would not have seen coming.

The Russian president actually placed a ban on foul language that prohibits swearing at all arts, cultural and entertainment events in the country. The Kremlin stated of the new statute, which goes into effect on July 1st, “If you produce a film with obscene language in Russia you won't be able to show it in a theater.” Also, any books, CDs and DVDs that contain profanity will have to be distributed in a sealed package and will now have a visible warning label attached. There are also various fines involved for those who break the new law with any inappropriate language. While this certainly seems like a positive step morally speaking, it remains most unfortunate that Mr. Putin can’t seem do better concerning the dire crisis raging in the Ukraine.

A question quickly arises about what was just done in Russia. It is this: Could this ever even be attempted in America where the constitution seems to guarantee complete freedom of speech? That question was  addressed in an article by Bryan Fischer on He is the current Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association. Rather than trying to covey his words on the subject, simply click here to read his exact thoughts on the issue.

But one of his primary points was that free speech was never intended in America to protect foul language, blasphemy and profanity. Fischer put it this way: “The free-speech plank of the First Amendment was intended by the Founding Fathers to protect political speech – not profanity, vulgarity, obscenity or pornography.” His article included examples of laws that remain on the books even today that prohibit blasphemy against God and the Scriptures. One from Massachusetts reads:

Section 36. “Whoever willfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing or contumeliously reproaching God, his creation, government or final judging of the world, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching Jesus Christ or the Holy Ghost, or by cursing or contumeliously reproaching or exposing to contempt and ridicule, the holy word of God contained in the holy scriptures shall be punished by imprisonment in jail for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than three hundred dollars, and may also be bound to good behavior.” (By the way, "contumeliously" means being insolent, abusive or humiliating.)

Our culture has certainly drifted  a very long way from the kind of standards this former law declares, have we not? Again, do take the time to read that entire article if you are at all interested in this topic.

But with all of this said, foul language is an absolute epidemic in modern-day America. Any brief exposure to a crowd will typically confirm so. To say that TV and the movies are submerged in it and promote it, would be a vast understatement. But even more sad are the overall language habits of a growing segment of the population – especially the younger generations. I have repeatedly been stunned to hear terrible language from the lips of many kids today, including from girls at very young ages. That was unheard of when I was growing up. Not only do teens and younger now say anything and everything they please, but there seems to be no shame or any regard for anyone in hearing distance. My son returned home recently from a church-sponsored event and was shocked at the language used by many there in that supposedly wholesome setting.

The title of the above mentioned article was, "Russia bans profanity – why don't we?" As wonderful as that may be, it is highly unlikely that it would ever be attempted in a "rights"-oriented nation like America. The bottom line is that any "ban" on profanity will have to be imposed by each individual on him or herself. It would need to be undertaken on a personal level and for personal reasons. And, for the Christian, there are also be biblical reasons to take into account.

So does the Bible anywhere specifically stress or command believers to carefully watch what they say and avoid what they should not say? The answer to that question should be obvious and almost a matter or common sense when knowing the holy character of God Himself.

But for those who may need a proof text, try Colossians 3:8. “But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth.” Then in James we see the tongue of man described as a "deadly poison" that is set on course by hell itself when it is used to curse others. And in Matthew 12:36-37, Jesus offered some sobering words of His own. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." What exits our mouths is of great consequence both now and apparently in the future as well!

So it appears clear what is expected of us all in this realm. But the "how to" is also quite straightforward when consulting God's vantage point on the matter. And perhaps the best starting place is to apply the instructions laid out in Philippians 4:8. “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

It is no secret that what is taken into the mind most is precisely what will exit the mouth most in one form or another. A good example is the little phrase from the computer realm that says, "Garbage in = garbage out". If so, then "meditating" on the right things, biblical things and spiritual things must be priority one. This is particularly crucial to Christians who are expected to be holy in "all manner" of their conduct as is the God they serve. (1 Peter 1:15-16)

Lastly, believers are clearly instructed to attain the high level of consistent verbal praise and words that  are worthy of the Savior who purchased their redemption at a price they will likely never fully grasp – even in Heaven!  

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer." (Psalm 19:14)

Bill Breckenridge

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