Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column.
By Michael J. Brooks
My generation remembers the TV serial “Dallas” featuring the oil-baron Jock Ewing family. All the mischief was done by corrupt son J.R., but son Bobby was the luckiest Ewing. He married three beautiful women, including April (Sheree Wilson, who later married “Walker Texas Ranger!), Victoria Principal, and Priscilla Presley.
“Dallas” gave us the “cliffhanger” episode every spring that kept us interested until fall. The most well-known cliffhanger was “Who shot J.R.?” This mystery inspired a very collectible political pinback featuring Ronald Reagan from a Western movie holding a six-gun. The caption reads, “I shot J.R. I despise bleeding-heart liberals!”
I heard about a new Western serial and watched a few episodes during my recent COVID isolation. This series has a ranch, a patriarch, and an evil spawn, too. A friend alerted me to expect shocking language, and he was correct. One word is the most frequent and profane. The word deals with God’s gift of marriage, and this cheap word cheapens this gift. And God’s name is constantly taken in vain. In the episodes I saw, I never heard anyone ask God for wisdom or thank him for his kindness.
Even the children in this series have foul mouths for alleged comedic effect.
I suppose the plot escaped me, shrouded in the continuous and shocking profanity. At least President Nixon had the decency to use “expletive deleted” when he published his Oval Office taped conversations.
In an article entitled “Why Do People Swear” on psychcentral.com, the writer cites researcher Timothy Jay who suggested cursing is like sounding the horn in our cars—it can mean different things, including anger, joy, frustration, or surprise.
I remained at the intersection for two seconds after the light turned green last week and the driver behind me blasted her horn. What was she saying? I can only imagine that it wasn’t very nice.
“Taboo words,” as Jay calls them, can be a substitute for violence, and this is a good thing. We’d rather be cursed at than assaulted. But Jay said these words can also be the springboard for hate speech, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and obscene phone calls.
Jay further noted we make word choices due to the company and situations they’re in. Thus, he insisted, we exercise control over our speech.
Since this is true, the obvious question is, why not choose not to use profanity?
The Bible commands we never take God’s name in vain, and Jesus said “yes” or “no” should suffice. The Apostle Paul cautioned that our speech must always be full of grace.
The new year is a good time to humbly ask God to help us use our speech to honor him at all times.
Reflections is a weekly devotional column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church in Alabaster, Ala. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.