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FIRST-PERSON: When people use profanity

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)–I saw a film about high school sports not long ago. In it a lady used the N-word to describe one of the black players on the football team.

For me, hearing that epithet is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard, but I realized it had been used effectively to expose an intolerant mindset.

In 1995’s “Dead Man Walking,” Sean Penn, playing a death row inmate, also used the N-word. There, it was a descriptive component, revealing the rage and ignorance of Penn’s character. In fact, when a screenwriter uses that word, invariably it is done to show the bigotry of the user. Still, it is not a word frivolously used by filmmakers.

There are just certain words you don’t say in films, because they are offensive to the audience. So why, if we are so disturbed by a word that belittles a human, do we readily accept the use of the Almighty’s name followed by a curse? Or why is the name of Jesus Christ, mankind’s redeemer, used in movies as an outburst of frustration?

For sure, Hollywood has much to answer for, but I’d like to explore the reason people in real life profane God’s name — even those who profess a relationship with God through Jesus, His Son.

Now, you’re not going to like hearing this about me, but truth be told, I have shouted such disrespectful oaths myself. In my frustration, I can remember ignorantly ranting against the Creator’s seemingly obliviousness toward the direction of my life. Then there have been times when some poor miscreant on the road suddenly endangered my life, forcing me to quickly apply brakes or swerve to avoid collision. Suddenly, Jesus’ name was shouted, sometimes calling for His protection, other times not so spiritually.

I told you that you wouldn’t like hearing that about me. To seriously, yet impiously address this subject, however, I felt I must be self-revealing. That said, let me assure you that in each case, I immediately apologized to God and our Savior for the irreverence. The question remains, why was His name used in that manner? Was it due to spiritual immaturity, or because I hear it so often in the movies? I think those would be easy answers. I’m not sure they are the only reasons.

Why doesn’t man react to an objectionable situation by taking the name of Buddha in vain? Why do we not say, “Oh, for Muhammad’s sake”? Meaning no disrespect to followers of other religions, but could it be that it is man rebelling against the one true deity? From what I understand, those worshiped in other religions are seldom defiled in the same manner. Man’s ultimate defiance is always aimed at Jehovah, God, and the only sinless man who ever walked the earth, Jesus. Disobeying the Fourth Commandment verifies mankind’s spiritual tug-of-war.

There’s a constant battle between man’s earthly nature and his spiritual one (“I know that nothing good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out,” Romans 7:7:18). But, as we grow in our spiritual walk, we learn to carefully govern the tongue (“If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check,” James 3). During our spiritual journey, we wisely become fearful of that side of the Creator that demands reverence (“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Proverbs 1:7).

I desire to replace sinful ways with love for our Heavenly Father and a compassion for the body of Christ. I’m sure you feel the same, whatever your shortcomings may be. But between now and the day we unceasingly embrace His commandments, isn’t it good to know that God, in His mercy and grace, forgives the repentant heart.
Phil Boatwright is a film reviewer and editor of The Movie Reporter, on the Web at www.moviereporter.com.

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  • Phil Boatwright