Culture & Society · The Tongue

Thoughts on Richie Incognito and Selective Social Censorship

I don’t know why, but I am constantly amazed at the audacity of selective social censorship. In recent days, one National League Football player by the name of Richie Incognito has come under blistering condemnation from an outraged society for using profane and politically incorrect language in conversations with a fellow Miami Dolphin teammate, Jonathan Martin.

What makes the public condemnation of Incognito so offensive to me is that the people who appear outraged are the very same people that encourage and produce the vulgarity found in a number of other venues, to include the vulgar lyrics in some rap music or the rampant perversion on display in movies. Consider one recent example from the new release, The Counselor, in which the leading actress has sex with (not in or on) a car.  

The people who finance movies acting out vile scenes of immorality, the minds that produce and promote trash talking actors and rappers, are, in many cases, the same people condemning Richie Incognito. (And on what moral basis do they feel compelled to condemn Incognito? Of course, it’s not on Bible grounds, mind you). It is all too much. Christ’s words here come to mind: “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

One quick anecdote. I was visiting with one person recently who said how offensive and inappropriate it was for Incognito to use the “n” word. But, the irony is, this same individual has no problem freely using the “f” word in casual conversation. Curious. And so it is that individuals justify in themselves what they condemn in others.

Against this bleak backdrop of social hypocrisy, Christians have an opportunity to distinguish themselves, while being a witness for Jesus Christ. The New Testament offers guidelines for Christian speech as well as behavior.

First, the speech of a Christian is to be characterized by simplicity and truthfulness thereby avoiding the need to use an oath. James 5:12, “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.”

Second, the speech of a Christian is to be characterized by grace. Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

Third, the speech of a Christian is to be characterized by the absence of indecent and offensive language. Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.”

When the Christian asks, “What would Jesus do?”, let another question be asked in every situation: “What would Jesus say?” To ask this latter question will be to arrest the temptation to be pressed into the mold of the world and engage in vulgar, insensitive, and harmful language.

Aesop, the ancient storyteller, told this fable: Once upon a time, a donkey found a lion’s skin. He tried it on, strutted around, and frightened many animals. Soon a fox came along, and the donkey tried to scare him, too. But the fox, hearing the donkey’s voice, said, “If you want to terrify me, you’ll have to disguise your bray.” Aesop’s moral is simple: clothes may disguise a fool, but his words will always give him away.

Once, when Peter spoke, people knew he had been with Jesus. May the same be true of us in a positive way. When we speak, let the world know we have not been pressed into its mold of profanity and vulgarity. Rather, let the world know we, like the apostle, have been with Jesus.

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