Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Doing our duty to clean up the doody

As kids, we would be disciplined for being a “potty mouth” if we used a bad word. As parents, we are quick to discipline our children if they label a playmate as “stupid.”

But as adults? Oh boy, take cover!

It’s a presidential election year. How can you tell? Just sniff the air and smell the doody! Boy, howdy.

Suddenly what was rude and wrong for us as kids becomes both our duty and right as grown-ups, so we think.

Growing up to be dirty

As a child at Sunnyside Elementary, there were always “dirty” jokes floating around on the playground. Most often these jokes included the words pee-pee and poop. At the mere mouthing of the words, we would giggle helplessly. We didn’t know any better.

If an adult overheard us – especially if we ever repeated the jokes within earshot of our parents – kapow! The hammer, metaphorically, came down.

We were told that this kind of talk was not nice. Basically, we were taught that nice people didn’t talk naughty. Real ladies and gentlemen – aka, big boys and big girls – didn’t use such language. Gutter language was not something we were to aspire to.

Later, I learned that when I grew up and became an adult I would be free to engage in “sophisticated” and “adult” humor, as long as mom never found out. I also learned that “sophisticated” wasn’t about being refined or civil – quite the opposite.

So, basically, as children we’re taught to be more mature and grown-up in our behavior and talk, while as adults we’re “free” to revert to childish potty-mouthing and name calling.

In fact, as adults, we perversely view using foul language and engaging in obscene humor as being cool, classy, and oh so with it. Now, being nice is considered prudish and that’s somehow a bad thing.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Putting away the pee-pee talk

Part of the process of growing up is to mature. Becoming mature means growing in wisdom through experience, while letting go of childish thinking and behavior.

The Apostle Paul put it like this: “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NIV).

Ironically, for many, adulthood means indulging in childish behavior on steroids. The jokes get coarser, the attacks on others get barbier, and we feel free to fling invective at each other like wild animals flinging their feces.

Sadly, this becomes increasingly true during presidential election years as we express our God-given freedom.  This is especially evident with hate-mongering being passed off as satire and humor.

Freedom without responsibility is chaos.

Paul stated it nicely in 1 Corinthians 10:23-24: “‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’ – but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others” (NIV).

In other words, just because we can doesn’t mean we should. You know, the ends do not justify the means, and that sort of thing.

Mean-spirited humor is all about shutting up the “other side” and getting our own way. It doesn’t care about the good of the other one whit.

Vulgar and obscene language also tends to be abusive and self-serving. We hurt ourselves and others when we use hateful, vile, ugly, and dehumanizing “adult” language.

Doing so is nothing less than an attack on the image of God in which we are all created.

Bending culture with better behavior

True maturity is marked by restraint and wisdom. Proverbs 17:27 explains that, “A man of knowledge uses words with restraint, and a man of understanding is even-tempered” (NIV).

As followers of Christ, we must set the adult example for the rest of the childish world. Paul provides guidance through this command:
“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a man is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God” (Ephesians 5:1-5, NIV).
Unlike those who don’t know any better, we are not to allow our faith, worldview, and behavior to be shaped by the likes of Jon Stewart, Bart Simpson, and other elements of our sinful culture.

Instead of wrestling in the sewers with those who disagree with us, we are to be salt and light influencing our culture to be better.

After all, sticks and stones may break our bones, but words can deeply wound us.


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