Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Acceptable English

Clayton Potter served a church in the North Texas neighborhood where I lived. He described his boyhood years, between thirteen and nineteen, when he engineered for threshing crews in the grain fields of Denton County. When a team of mules balked on the bundle-wagon, or the grain separator broke down, or the pulley-belt came off, or the engine died, or the chuck-wagon arrived late when changing locations, Clayton encountered “first-hand exposure to fervent and sincere profanity and obscenity” erupting from “the lips of real artists!” Adolescent that he was, he tried to emulate them!

We are sometimes told, sdays Clayton, "that we should be ‘relevant and realistic’ in the Church. Yet, after opreaching many years, he realized, “Not a year in thirty years of pastoral ministry but what I’ve had to deal directly with people trapped by alcoholism, homosexuality, drug addiction, immorality, adultery, and what-not. Sometimes my heart has been near-to-breaking as I shared their anguish and tried to bring the redemptive ministry of our faith to meet their need.”

“I don’t believe I’ve been over-sheltered from the facts of life at the more primitive levels!” he adds. Yet, these people, suggests Clayton, “did not have to use coarse, profane or obscene language to tell me their difficulties or to convey their feelings. I could understand what they were trying to tell me and what they were feeling when they used plain and ‘acceptable’ English. They could not have added clarity with crudity” (emphasis mine).

Were I to resort to anything so juvenile, continues Clayton, “there is no doubt in my mind I could produce considerable shock if next Sunday I described the crucifixion of Jesus by saying in the pulpit, ‘Those blankety-blank, double-crossing so-and-sos framed Jesus with a bum rap and may their (censored souls burn in hell…”

In doing so, he would be reporting some of the Christian message and he would also be conveying feeling. But, how much would he have enhanced or clarified the Christian message, which has survived more than two millenia couched in the language of modesty. “It might be considerably debased,” he concluded.

The question is, do we really believe that we should equate crudity with Christianity, or that gentility is unable to convey Christ’s message adequately. As a matter of fact, how much does our conversational crudity, vain vulgarity, and obscene profanity enhance our ability to problem-solve or create friendships, or build bridges over impossible controversies?

I am weary with the coarse, crude, profanity, and the often obscene language that fills our airwaves,movie houses,and now fills Living Room TV screens. It only becomes the more wearisome when protruding into Christian circles. And if you dare protest, you are told, “But, it has a message!”

It may have a message, but it may not be the message intended. It may reflect more intellectual laziness and emotional immaturity, than verbal ability with words and communication skills. Few things are worse than an empty mind occupied with fevered feelings, leftover garbage, and decay. What was it Goethe said? “By nothing do men show their character more than by the things they laugh at.”

It is true that we live in an age of information, but what does our information communicate? From Warner’s World, at walkingwithwarner.blogspot.com

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