Setting aside the issue of free speech, it is tempting to support and applaud Russia’s new ban on swearing. According to REUTERS, “A Russian ban on swearing in films, plays and books came into force on Tuesday (July 1, 2014), a policy designed to appeal to conservatives but which Vladimir Putin’s critics condemned as a further move against free speech. Under the legislation that was passed in May, films containing ‘foul language’ will be banned from wide release and books with swear words will have to be sold in sealed packages with obscenity warnings. Theaters will not be allowed to stage productions containing obscenities according to the law, which imposes fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($1,500) for each infraction.”
I have often wished a way could be found to enforce a ban on swearing in American films, plays, and books, for swearing denigrates a person and is a corroding force in the culture of society. In some movies the profane words are so prominent you have to wonder why a screenwriter was paid, for it takes no creative talent to use profanity. It is revolting to be reading a good novel and discover gratuitous profanity inserted throughout that does nothing to enhance the plot or mold the character. In summary, there is no compelling reason to insert profanity into the social consciousness of society.
It is especially distasteful for a Christian to use profane language, for the law of the life of the Spirit in Christ Jesus does now allow it. The Christian is not a guttural animal without thought, dignity, or class. The Christian is a child of the king and embraces a higher standard of dignity in word and conduct. Therefore, Christian, “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man” (Col. 4:6).
There was a time in America when good parents would literally wash the mouth of a person with soap when they heard their child use a profane word. To modern ears, this technique of behavioral modification sounds cruel and barbaric, but it was effective and many a grown man and woman remembers how their parents made their speech more wholesome.
The argument is immediately made that any attempt to guide a nation’s speech leads to a slippery slope of state censorship. That is a spurious argument because state censorship already exists, even in America. For instance, it is illegal to cry out “Fire!” in a crowded theater, causing panic whereby individuals can be hurt. There are words which are banned from the Public Radio Networks. All that is well and good.
It should also be noted that allowing profanity in films, plays, and books breeds more profanity and vulgarity. The closing line of the 1939 classic movie Gone With the Wind allowed Hollywood’s leading man, Clark Gable, to utter the first curse word on screen. The nation was culturally shocked at the time, but it is not shocked any longer. Even in movies marketed to children, the most disgusting dialogue can take place without any regard for the young people in the audience, let alone artistic talent.
If a person can offer a compelling argument for using profane language that assaults the senses and offends the imagination, I would be intrigued. The truth of the matter is that it is impossible to defend the indefensible, and this is especially true for a Christian.
The heart of God’s people, the heart of good and decent people, should think twice before they use the world’s profane language in a pseudo act of bravado and maturity. There is no humor in profanity. There is no self-esteem. There is nothing in profanity that is honoring to God or that will exalt Christ. There is nothing that can be said in guttural words that suggests the Christian is holy and righteous. There is nothing in profanity that pleases the Holy Spirit. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so by redeeming speech. Use it for the glory of God and the good of the children, knowing that an account will one day be given for every thought and word. “But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation; Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy” (1 Pet. 1:15-16).