Monday, September 13, 2010
Co-opting the "F" Bomb for the Kingdom!
The constant use of obscenity is a sure sign of a weak mind grappling with concepts that are too big for its vocabulary- Mark Morris
Feel free to quote me. That's right, I said that. I made it up, wrote it down, printed it out and taped it up in my toolbox, in the cabinet shop I worked in, where every body could see it. That's right, Mr. Popular, that was me. I spent my early twenties working in this environment, which was like a total immersion into the obscene, and profane, world of adolescent male behavior. I grew up in a Preacher's house. I heard my dad say “the d-word”, one time, when I was twelve and was certain that he was angry enough to kill one of us in that moment, it was that shocking.
Recently it seems that society has kicked politeness off the bus. We use whatever language occurs to us in the moment. Regardless of where we are, or who is listening. (I am using “we” here in a very broad, “We the People” sort of way) I have heard the “F” word in line at the grocery store, standing in line at the post office—which I could almost ignore, given it was inside the post office-- and once from a very large gentleman of color, as I entered a public restroom. He was on his cell phone, but, my distinct impression was that it was aimed at me, and I nearly did not reach my intended destination before it was too late.
Any student of history will understand that we are in a back-swing against formality, and that this constant use of graphic language and shocking behavior is a reaction to the restraints of the past. You may be thinking, “What restraints?” It is my opinion that It will pass, like all fads, including giant tattoos.
A week or two back one of my former acting students, who is now a married mother of two, posted a link to a video of a song with this caption: “Don't listen to it if profanity offends you” this is like a double dog dare to me, so I follow the link, read a short story about Cee-Lo, the songs author, and boot up the video prepared to “shut 'er down”. The song, which is entitled “F***You” is about a guy being jilted by the girl he loves and watching her tool around town, with her new, improved, rich boyfriend. He had been passed over for a guy with more jack.
Now, honestly, I liked the song, I know that makes me a heathen, puts me in need of repentance and ruins my chance of ever being seen as a role model in many circles, oh well.
Men, let's get real for second. How many of you would not want to use a few choice words on the gold diggin ho who abandoned you and the man who stole your woman? If my wife were swept up under the spell of some rich guy and I saw them tooling around town in his Benz, it would make me want to immediately take everything that was not nailed down to the nearest pawnshop, trade it for as much noisy car audio gear as they would give me, bungee cord speakers to the top of my car and follow them down the street playing this song on a loop wherever they went. No. It isn't right. I realize I should be home praying that she will come to her senses, and her boy toy will find Jesus, and that Jesus will give me the strength not to run him over with my car...
But, like I said, I was immersed in profane language long enough to become nearly immune to it. Now, I don't swear like a sailor. In fact most people who know me have never heard me utter anything more fierce than a “snap” but.. I'd be lying if I didn't say that occasionally a good expletive really hits the spot. An occasional “Hell-o kitty” or “Dam-over the river kwai” have escaped my lips, I am not too proud to admit it.
When I first entered the “Wonderful World of Woodworking” it took about six months for God to convince me that I would not burst into flames or be sent on the Amtrak straight to hell for not correcting every foul word that proceeded out of the mouth of my workmates. I was always asking things like, “Do you really want him to place his oral orifice on that particular region of your anatomy and ...” you get the idea. Most guys avoided me and those that didn't found out that, to carry on a conversation with me, they were gonna need some more words.
I've been thinking about this casual use of the F word, for a while now, and I think I have finally come up with a way to combat it without making everyone think you're a narc. We need to co-opt this word. Many groups these days are in the habit of reengineering the definitions of words to suit their purposes. A few that are well known: gay, choice, sale, savings, and patriot. (as in patriot act)
I think it is high time that we as followers of the one true God and His Son Jesus, on both sides of the political spectrum, took advantage of this tactic ourselves. Here is what I propose. The “F” word was originally coined, or so the legend goes, during the plague in England when brothels were shut down to prevent the spread of the disease. This did not set well with some important people, who convinced the Crown to acquiesce, and leave a few choice ladies of the night open for business. These establishments bore a written edict “Fornication Under the Consent of the King”. Which got shortened to its modern version, known in polite circles as the “F” word.
I suggest that to avoid confusion we simply replace the first word in this acronym with the word forgiveness. Forgiveness Under the Consent of the King, kinda catchy, no? Imagine strolling out to get your mail in the morning.
Neighbor: Good morning, good neighbor. Fine morning, is it not?
You: Yes it is, F*** you!
You could greet just about anyone with this newly reminted phrase. (keeping in mind the new meaning that you are simply expressing God's grace)
The marketing possibilities are endless. T-shirts bearing slogans such as:
Jesus Loves You! F*** You!
You get the idea. Now, of course I am being facetious (that means I'm joking), or am I? I am sure that, if a campaign were thorough enough to redefine the term, it would pass out of public usage post haste, much as the original meaning of the word “gay” has.
While this may be ridiculous to you, (I hope it is and you are not writing me a nasty comment that I will be forced to delete even as I type this), but why is it we focus so much on the meaning of that “f” word while ignoring the erosion of the meanings of a few others like “faith”. We believe that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, is given in measure to each man by God and is a prerequisite of pleasing god, but we have allowed it to be bastardized almost beyond recognition.
A “man—or woman-- of faith” is simply someone who claims belief in a moral code, real or imagined. We are quick to ally ourselves with anyone that walks under this banner.
What about the word friend? I am not opposed to online social networks. In fact I have a list of a few hundred friends myself. (It could be more but I choose not to accept the friend request of every pitchman and ho with a soft-core porn site that blanket invites everyone they can make a connection to) If I'm honest, these are mostly people that I used to be friends with in a past life, or who share a connection through enough other people that I feel like I should remember them, or people who post funny replies, or...
When scripture says, “there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother”, or, “greater love has no man than to lay down his life for a friend”, I don't think that it is referring to a few hundred people that I can find some nebulous connection to. I believe it is supposed to be more than that. At the least, a friend is in the same category as a neighbor, is it not? We are commanded to love our neighbors, in a go out of your way to help out with things you would rather not with a good attitude, sort of way.
Before you hit the delete button and send all of those “friends” into facebook purgatory where they will have to prove themselves worthy of being friended by you, consider this challenge. What if we were to treat every single person on that list as if they were our real, honest-to-goodness, real-life friend. What if we took the time to say Happy Birthday to all of them? What if we made it a point to check their page every now and then, congratulate them on their wins (job promotions, college graduations, birth announcements...) and empathize with their losses (death in the family, house fire, divorce...) What if we rejoiced with those who rejoiced and mourned with those who mourned? Offered to help them move, give them a place for the night, invite them to Sunday dinner, helped them fix their car or fence or marriage? What would happen?
See, that is the kind of concern I think God has when it comes to how we use words. In my opinion he has better things to do than keep score and chalk up debits in some cosmic “cuss jar”. But I think, just maybe, when we use words like, faith, hope, love, Jesus, forgiveness, repentance, righteousness, holiness, the list could go on, flippantly, I think that grieves him more than things like the casual use of obscene language that we get hung up on every day.