The Controversial Case for Profanity

 

I  guess you could call me a recovering curser. Not one to appeal for a supernatural calamity type of evil curser. Rather the profane, get-your-mouth-washed-out-with-soap-by-your-mother when you were a kid kind. My late mom wouldn’t have approved when on July 13, 2012, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC policy permitting broadcasters to be fined for profanity on live TV finding the regulation unconstitutional. I’ll bet residents of Middleborough, Massachusetts, didn’t approve either. Early in June, they were so fed up with public profanity that they voted to impose a $20 fine on anyone ticketed for the offense. The violation appears to be limited to individuals swearing frequently and loudly. But it was protestors who made their voices heard loudly on June 26, 2012 by hosting a public protest against the pending statute. Reportedly, most of them weren’t even from the town of just over 22,000 residents which is located less than 40 miles from Boston.

For me, profanity is personal, because using colorful expletives became an entrenched habit early in life. Besides Mom’s Ivory soup, when I was only 19, the owner of the restaurant where I waited tables, reprimanded me for my foul mouth. Being an educated and successful businessman, I listened intently as he corrected me by saying, “Intelligent individuals know how to use their vocabulary to express their emotions without resorting to obscene words.”

But after finishing college while employed as a corporate representative for a large manufacturer, my supervisor seemed almost amused by my vulgarity. It was in the early eighties, and I was desperately trying to make it in what was then a man’s world. I used obscenity as a defensive weapon to balance my gender inequality, and to create an impression. Regrettably, I must have been creating the wrong impression, since I never moved up the corporate ladder. Let’s be honest are you awed by a female whose salty language could make the late comedian George Carlin blush?

Speaking of Carlin, I did walk out of one of his shows back then. He was doing his famous monologue where he lists one bad word after another, making people laugh hilariously. Yet for the first time in my life, I was enlightened to the fact that a lot of dirty words are simply references to female anatomy. Being a lifelong champion of women and being one myself, I couldn’t support degrading the very sex I had tried diligently to defend.

Yet it’s been decades since I let those four letter words fly freely. My endeavor to curb my wayward tongue started when I became a Christian believer almost 25 years ago. There were Scriptures that convinced me that spouting obscenities was probably not attractive as a Jesus follower. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be.” James 3: 9 & 10 NIV

For those of you, who want to know how far you can go before it becomes sin, I think that Ephesians 4:29 in the New Living Translation is pretty clear, “Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.” If that verse is not convincing enough, take a look at Colossians 3:8 NLV, “But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language.” The term, “dirty language” is referred to in the Bible’s King James Version as “filthy communication.”

According to The Preacher’s Files [preachersfiles.com], “In the Greek language, the phrase, ‘filthy communication’ means foul speaking, low and obscene speech.” More than two decades ago, in respect to my newfound faith, it took a concentrated effort requiring vigilance and time to liberate me from my potty mouth. For months, I bit my lower lip constantly to avoid swearing, shocked by how frequently I cussed like a sailor.

Fully rehabilitated, and moonlighting as a prerelease speaker at North Central Correctional Institution in Marion, Ohio, more than a decade ago, I was surprised when an educator negatively commented about my lack of expletives. Following my lecture, the public school principal said, “When ‘John Doe’ comes to speak, he uses the ‘F’ word, and the prisoners can relate.”

“I know the ‘F’ Word,” I said with sarcasm. “But I don’t use it, because I thought we were trying to teach the inmates to aspire to a better life.” Inwardly, I was disappointed that someone trained to instruct others, thought we should incorporate their bad habits into our delivery to communicate more effectively. Besides, everyone knew that “John Doe” was paid thousands for his speeches, while I barely made three figures.

Recently, I’ve noticed that even clergy sometimes seem to think it makes them appear more relevant if they throw in a few four letter words occasionally. Of course, I don’t think most folks in ministry would venture into the “F” bomb terrain, but apparently a British priest did. I read the account of a vicar in northern England who used the infamous word on his Facebook page. The Church Report shared the story on May 25, 2012, “Priest Apologizes for Unholy Language on Facebook.” Seriously, Father, what were you thinking?

As a transformed gutter-mouth girl, I’ve been on both sides of this argument. Only one expletive away from a relapse, I’m biting my bottom lip again, but this time it’s over the outcome of Middleborough’s ban. This new ordinance is under scrutiny from the American Civil Liberties Union as a possible violation of the First Amendment regarding freedom of speech. The ordinance also had to be filed with the Massachusetts attorney general’s office by July 11, 2012, and then there would be a possible 90 day review period to review the bylaw’s constitutionality.

Interestingly though, the ordinance actually decriminalizes public profanity which has been an illegal, but rarely enforced offense in Middleborough since 1968. The recent demise of the FCC policy probably sets a precedent that the First Amendment protects people’s right to cuss up a storm. But how about a little common courtesy in public? Maybe we could designate a “foul language only” section in community settings and eateries. Although if my former boss was still around, I’ll bet he might have a little chat with patrons about their deficient vocabulary, if he caught them swearing in his restaurant.

Christina Ryan Claypool is an award winning freelance journalist, inspirational speaker, and author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors. Contact her through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.

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Three Cheers for the Farmers’ Market

It’s been a rough summer for farmers. Record drought and sweltering heat are taking their toll across Ohio. Despite this fact, you will often find me shopping at the Great Sidney Farmers’ Market. Like last month, on Saturday, June 30, 2012, when high winds and torrential rain had wreaked devastation the night before. Yet the faithful vendors were selling their produce, baked goods, crafts, flowers, and other goodies. That morning, I loaded up on bright red tomatoes, succulent green cucumbers, sweet onions, ripe peaches, and a few loaves of banana, cornmeal, and rhubarb bread. After all, that evening we would be celebrating my mother-in-law’s birthday. I hurried home to prepare her favorite cucumber with onions, sliced the tomatoes, and packed some specialty bread for the trip.

Later that day, still without power at my mom-in-laws, we ate grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. The garnishes, cucumber and onions, and freshly sliced peaches were my contribution to the family feast. My sister-in-law ravenously ate the juicy tomatoes until they were all gone. She apologized by asking, “We don’t get tomatoes with flavor like this so early in the season. Where did you find them?”

Where I find everything else, that’s delicious. At the Great Sidney Farmers’ Market which is celebrating its thirtieth season this year according to Maureen Smelewski, the director of the Downtown Sidney Business Association. With a setting featuring the historic courthouse, cascading fountains, and majestic trees, the market’s vendors have told the downtown director, that “…it’s one of the prettiest locations you can find to have a Farmers’ Market.” The faithful farmers, crafters and bakers are there every Saturday morning from 8 a.m. to noon around theCourthouse Square from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October.

Long-time vendors, Tom and Tammy Brown were set up Saturday, June 30th, too, even though their farm had sustained heavy damage from the storm the evening before. Their machinery building was destroyed, two Maple trees were downed, and roof damage was caused by the gusting winds. The Brown’s 400 acre farm includes 20 acres of produce. It’s located on St. Rt. 33 between Wapakoneta and St. John’s. Despite their loss, they came, “… [Tom] had picked the produce. You have to do something with it,” said 53-year-old Tammy who is also the executive director of Mercy Unlimited, Inc. serving Eastern Auglaize County.

“Tom gets up at 3:30 a.m.[each day]….the produce needs to be picked within 24 hours…to be fresh for the consumers,” said Tammy who has been a farmer’s wife for over three decades. Most often, their leftover product is either donated to Lima’s Our Daily Bread Soup Kitchen or to the food pantry at Mercy Unlimited. Tammy’s 55-year-old husband has been farming since the early seventies. He has also been a dedicated part of the Great Sidney Farmers’ Market for almost 25 years. Their five children grew up assisting their dad at the market with Tammy helping sporadically.

To Marlene Smelewski, individuals like the Browns are integral to the event’s success. “They have been a part of planning…I have 14 core vendors who are part of that group,” she said. The vendor roster boasts a total of approximately 45 merchants now, with some renting more than one space. Almost at capacity, but the event’s organizer says there are still available rentals for growers, crafters, bakers, etc.

The history of the market is sketchy, although it has always been held at the square. Smelewski believes that it began 30 years ago with, “A few different farmers with carts, and a few Amish women [bakers].” The market just evolved. After all, when everything else in the world goes awry, it’s comforting to buy fresh produce, mouthwatering jam, or delicious baked goods. “A lot of people who visit the market, rely on them to be there every weekend,” Smelewski said. The vendors, “….seem to enjoy the camaraderie and interaction with customers and each other…it’s become kind of a family.”

Tammy Brown likes the fellowship, but she also has a passion to educate others about making healthy food choices. “It’s important for people to know where your food comes from, to eat healthy and eat local…and I love sharing ways you can use it,” said the Auglaize county merchant. “It’s a tradition that people look forward to,” said Maureen Smelewski. “I’ve made it such a huge part of my life. It’s something I hope goes for another 30 years…it’s one of those rare gems we’ve been able to succeed and keep going.”

How about three cheers for the Farmers Market? If you have one in your community, why not support these wonderful folks who make it their business to feed us? Or better yet, since area farmers would need a miracle to salvage their crops, why not say a little prayer for them. After all, when they have a tough season, these stalwart cultivators of God’s Earth just hope the next one will be better.

This column originally appeared in the Sidney Daily News on July 20, 2012. Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Visit her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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The Reality “Ask the Pastor” Show

 Living in this chaotic world, if we’re honest, we have to admit that we all have problems. “Friends, when life gets really difficult, don’t jump to the conclusion that God isn’t on the job.” (I Peter 4:12 The Message Bible) God’s always at work. However, it’s important to remember the famous public service announcement from the Emergency Broadcast System, “This is a test. This is only a test….” but we also need wisdom concerning what we should do in the midst of our tests.

Personally, I learned a lot about asking for advice during the years that I worked as a producer and reporter at WTLW TV 44 in west central Ohio. At the time, I occasionally assisted producing or hosting the Ask the Pastor TV program. Folks would call in to pose questions about theological issues, but more frequently they were trying to find solutions to their daily dilemmas including: financial problems, addiction, grief, loneliness, etc. by seeking the expert spiritual opinions from the panel of local pastors.

Asking for counsel takes humility, because we have to admit that we don’t have all the answers. There has to be an answer though, because Jesus himself said, “…In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33

Besides, clergy are very busy people, they can’t be expected to be on 24 hour call concerning our need for counsel. Although the Bible says, “Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.” (Proverbs 11:14) Of course, the ultimate book of wisdom is the Bible, and it’s where we should look first. Often though, we require someone with some skin on to enable us to understand God’s Word about our situation.   

That’s why I would like to introduce the concept of the reality Ask the Pastor Show. We can all be part of it, by seeking advice from the “wise” folks God places in our lives. It’s important to emphasize the word, “wise,” because we should seek counsel from confidential individuals who have been successful in the area that we are struggling with.

The bottom line is; if your marriage is in trouble, seek guidance from somebody of the same sex who has a healthy marital relationship. If your teen is on drugs, find a former addict who has become a productive member of society, and ask them how they broke free from addiction. Or if your business is in the red, talk with a successful entrepreneur.

The professional arena has long instituted the policy of mentoring relationships. For example, in the academic world it is standard practice for a new public schools superintendent to be assigned a mentor. My husband, Larry Claypool feels he hit the administrative jackpot in his early days as a superintendent when he was assigned an adviser who had years of educational experience.

Whenever an urgent situation occurred, placing my spouse on uncharted territory back then, he asked his mentor for advice. “Even when you have a decision already made, you call. Just to make sure it was the right decision,” Larry said. “It’s just like being a disciple, because a seasoned teacher imparts his knowledge for the good of someone else,” added my spouse who is now an experienced public schools superintendent himself who takes time to counsel young administrators.

Jesus knew all about mentoring people. He had his hands full with his own motley crew of followers. He had to teach Peter to control his temper, Thomas not to doubt, and James and John to quit seeking positions of honor, among other issues. 

I once heard Kenton, Ohio’s New Hope Fellowship pastor, Jason Manns, say that he believes, “God usually places individuals in our lives that He uses to disciple us in our Christian walk.” I agree, but we have to be cautious, that we don’t miss God’s voice through those close to us.

Familiarity can stop us from receiving what we need to hear. We discount the message, knowing firsthand folks in our inner circle are flawed human beings like ourselves. That’s why James 1:19 tells us, that “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” Of course, we do have to guard ourselves from ungodly counsel, because. “…Bad company ruins good manners.”  (I Corinthians 15:33)

But if someone is a faithful believer, who wants God’s best for us, we should be willing to listen. If their counsel doesn’t line up with what you think your Heavenly Father is saying, put it on the shelf for awhile. Allow God to bring His perfect will to pass. Most importantly in the Book of Proverbs we are told to, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart;…listen for God’s voice in everything you do…He’s the one who will keep you on track.”

Christina Ryan Claypool is an Amy Award winning journalist and evangelistic speaker. Her husband, Larry Claypool is the superintendent of Ohio’s Hardin-Houston Schools. Information about her book, “Seeds of Hope for Survivors” is available through her Website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com or through www.amazon.com .   

 

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God Can Heal a Cutter’s Cry for Help

 “There is no new thing under the sun,” records the Book of Ecclesiastes. So, it is with cutting, a little talked-about self-injurious behavior. “Self-injury is the act of deliberately harming your own body, such as cutting…[it] is an unhealthy effort to cope with negative emotions..” according to the http://www.mayoclinic.com.

How should believers equip themselves to address this growing problem? To explain, “Millions of teens are involved in self-destructive behavior,” according to a March 2007 article by Susie Shellenberger in Focus on the Family Magazine. Some experts estimate that about 75% of self-mutilators are female, but males cut, too. Sadly this behavior hits closer to home than we would like to admit. At church services and Christian ladies meeting where I speak, there is sometimes a mom asking prayer for a daughter who cuts, or a friend worried about a teenage friend who cuts. Infrequently a cutter herself will ask me to pray for her. Of course, she doesn’t reveal she cuts, she just cries and hangs her head and wears long sleeves regardless of the temperature. However, I recognize her, because my own left arm bears the scars from once raw razor blade slashes made four decades ago as a hopeless teenager. “People who hurt themselves are denying the truth that they are God’s handiwork. They believe they’re useless; they feel they have no significance because someone has used or disregarded them. They’re unaware of the greater purpose God has for them,” writes Focus on the Family’s Shellenberger.

Besides, when you are hurting traumatically on the inside, whether from past abuse or perfectionism, it can seem your only release from the emotional pain is to hurt yourself on the outside. Research has even indicated that the chemicals released during cutting have an analgesic property temporarily giving the victim a feeling of calm. Cutting is mentioned several times in the Old Testament. For example, Leviticus 19:28 says, “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead.” In his Explanatory notes, theologian John Wesley writes, “Cuttings in your flesh – which the Gentiles did both in the worship of their idols, and in their solemn mournings.” While, Deuteronomy 14:1 states, “You are the sons of God you shall not cut yourselves…” Apparently, thousands of years ago, God didn’t want his children to cut themselves anymore, than He does today. Yet Jesus once said, “They that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” [Luke 5:31] Jesus didn’t come to condemn the world, rather to save the world, and sometimes we must be saved from ourselves.

Coping techniques, like cutting and other self destructive behaviors including eating disorders and drug and alcohol abuse can eventually become deadly addictions. God can free people miraculously when we pray, but He normatively uses a gradual pathway of freedom from habitual/addictive behaviors. For example, Dr. Thomas Holmes of Covenant Ministry Services, a Christian Counseling Center in Lima, Ohio, suggests that those addicted to self injury wear rubber bands on their wrists. When the temptation to cut [or to engage in another self-destructive behavior] becomes intense, Dr. Holmes suggests simply snapping the rubber band. Although, this will temporarily create a minimal amount of pain, it will also cause the person tempted to regain control. Combining this technique with Christian counseling, and praying for God’s intervention, along with accountability to a spiritual mentor can be helpful in battling self-injurious behaviors.

A valuable Website for information and support about self-destructive issues, along with depression and suicide can be found at http://www.twloha.com. [To Write Love on Her Arms]  The physical scars are only a reminder of the deeper emotional pain that troubled teen is battling. If you or someone you love is self-injuring, remember there is hope in the God who can do anything but fail. But you have to take the first step, and be honest about needing His help.

Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and evangelistic speaker who is the author of the book, Seeds of Hope for Survivors. Contact her through her Website at http://www.christinaryanclaypool.com

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