This past week, Renée and I were watching a comedian’s Netflix special. What struck us both was how filthy some people think language has to be in order to be funny. Now, I am no choir boy to be sure, and have slipped myself on more than one occasion. Besides, salty language in a novel, TV show, or movie just sometimes reflects reality. However, if you cannot tell jokes without repeating the “F” word every sixty seconds, you’re just not funny. Why do we do it? Does a story become funnier when liberally sprinkled with profanity? I loved Jack Benny, Rodney Dangerfield, and Johnny Carson. The up and coming new comic when I was a teenager was Steve Martin. None of them felt the need to swear and they were hilarious.
One could say the same for music. I remember in 1973, when Jim Croce released the song “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” The chorus includes the line “Baddest man in the whole damn town.” That was considered very controversial. If only it had stopped there, but alas, it did not over the next fifty years. I just don’t really understand it. I played in a band myself for fifteen-plus years and wrote over one hundred songs. Not once did I ever feel the need to use profanity in my lyrics. Why? Sadly, today, especially in some genres, the song without vulgarity is the exception rather than the rule.
Now, I am not suggesting any sort of censorship or boycotts. I am simply asking the question how does profanity improve communication in any way? For believers, the Bible clearly instructs us in Ephesians 4:29, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.”
After all, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 12:27, “All of you together are Christ’s body…” As the body of Christ, we are Jesus’ hands, feet, and mouth here on earth. Can you picture Jesus using the “F” word? Ever? Sure, He says “Hell,” but He is talking about a specific destination.
Jesus and Satan have a discussion as to who is the better programmer. This goes on for a few hours until they come to an agreement to hold a contest, with God as the judge.
They sit themselves at their computers and begin. They type furiously, lines of code streaming up the screen, for several hours straight. Seconds before the end of the competition, a bolt of lightning strikes, taking out the electricity. Moments later, the power is restored, and God announces that the contest is over.
He asks Satan to show what he has come up with. Satan is visibly upset, and cries, “I have nothing. I lost it all when the power went out.”
“Very well, then,” says God, “let us see if Jesus fared any better.”
Jesus enters a command, and the screen comes to life in vivid display, the voices of an angelic choir pour forth from the speakers. Satan is astonished.
He stutters, “B-b-but how? I lost everything, yet Jesus’ program is intact. How did he do it?”
God smiled all-knowingly, “Jesus saves.” See? No need for curse words.
I know in this day and age we really cannot escape profanity. It surrounds us. We can refrain from joining in though. May our words always be good and helpful. May we be the people whose words always build up, encourage, inspire, and uplift.
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