Wednesday
Jan072009

You Eat With That Mouth?

Controversy swirled around the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

It was not only a tale of violence and romance, but it dared to contain profane language that shocked the sensibilities of devout people everywhere. Even the hypocrites spoke against it, but the film was released and became a box office smash.

Gone With The Wind was adapted from a Margaret Mitchell novel and released to theaters in 1939, noteworthy as much for its Civil War story as its climactic speech. When Scarlett asked Rhett what would happen to her, Clark Gable’s character responded by saying he didn’t care. Except he didn’t say that, but something much more unforgettable, a phrase often imitated, but one which we shall not reprint here.

Why?

Because it was and is an example of obscene language. Although the word itself is one frequently used in the Bible, the movie’s use of it profaned the meaning.

Since 1939, the door to obscenity that Rhett opened has come off the hinges. Filthy language is present in almost every movie made, save for those few that gain a G rating. Television, movies and everyday conversation are likewise filled with bad words that once would have horrified the hearer and embarrassed the speaker. No more. Only a few words have yet to seep into acceptable conversation and their time will likely come.

The King James Bible employ a form of Rhett’s word, “damn,” fifteen times, each within a context of divine judgment. Man has since decided to adopt that prerogative for himself, damning his enemies, passing motorists, and unpopular presidents. “Damn” is not a word to be used idly, mostly because it pilfers from God his absolute and exclusive right to make such eternal decisions. The inspired apostle wrote, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord’” (Romans 12:19). Damning someone in speech is an example of exacting oral vengeance upon them, hoping aloud for their eternal loss when one should instead be praying and working toward their conversion. “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (20-21).

Our profane lexicon, however, is much broader than Rhett’s singular indiscretion. Words that promote thoughts of private behavior – that which is generally done in the bathroom or bedroom – spoil our language like so much rancid meat. Sex itself is not at all dirty and nothing is more natural than what happens in the bathroom, but flippant reference to such things is either lewd or crude. Often both.

Paul wrote again, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Ephesians 5:3-5).

This proscription goes beyond immoral and covetous behavior to the careless attitude that many exhibit about such things. We hear obscene references to people’s body parts, crude descriptions of their bodies, filthy jokes about private matters. That kind of thing can’t happen without creating or exposing a serious heart malady. “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:20-23). 

The Christian is obligated to “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Ephesians 4:29). Talk that will promote lust, lewd behavior or crudeness can hardly be described as edifying. It instead testifies to a state of corruption in the speaker which seeks to spread to the hearer. “Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump” (First Corinthians 5:6). 

Rest assured that there are acceptable words and situations for all of these substances and activities. Every language, however, also has obscene alternatives and these are the ones which believers ought to avoid. The human tongue “is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10).

Many of these words coincidentally contain four letters. A word that is synonymous with urine and another for feces. And of course, that category includes the sexual f-word that ought never enter our minds. Lately, the word “suck,” used legitimately when holding a straw or pushing a vacuum, has come into vogue as a synonym for declaring something to be unpleasant, but its origin as an oath is decidedly obscene and forbidden.

Numerous words obscenely refer to private parts of the male and female anatomies, both above and below the waist. Our coarsening culture is expanding our vocabulary, but not in a useful way.

Even “Hell” and the aforementioned “Damn,” while biblical words, are more often used in oaths and curses than the scriptural setting. Before we drown in obscenity and crudeness, we must cleanse our hearts of filthy talk, vengeful curses and coarse jesting.