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 an expletive. And I understand that, in the course of life, people will speak freely, and for many, that means using profanity.
I'm certainly not advocating a snowflake mentality when it comes to vocabulary, meaning that, if you say one word that 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 an expletive 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. And this didn't enhance the shows or increase my esteem for the hosts.
Not long after that, I began seeing another expletive in online sports columns and articles. "When did that happen?" I wondered.
Now, with the president's alleged explicit 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 [expletive] and an [expletive] 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 profanity (meaning, behind closed doors, or at the least, away from a mic), but this is the first time that it seems the whole nation now feels empowered to be profane. Why? And why was it that many Trump supporters cheered him on when he dropped the expletive 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 expletives 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 beloved children. Walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us as a fragrant offering and a sacrifice to God. And do not let sexual immorality, or any impurity, or greed be named among you, as these are not proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse joking, which are not fitting. Instead, give thanks. For this you know, that no sexually immoral or impure person, or one who is greedy, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God (Eph. 5:1-5).
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.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is His latest book is Jezebel 's War With America: The Plot to Destroy Our Country and What We Can Do to Turn the Tide. Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.
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