My Delaney is 13, and all girl. She is gentle, soft-spoken, beautiful. Yesterday, as she headed off to the field to play her last soccer game of the season I told her what I tell her before every game- “That’s your ball.” I want her to play more aggressively, to not wait for the ball, but to go to it. She hustles, works hard, and is learning that it is indeed her ball.
Later in the game, right in front of me, Delaney’s little girl cousins, and a set of parents, another little girl, playing aggressively for the other team, believing the ball to be hers, found herself on the ground, frustrated and without the ball. She stood, and announced, incredulous about one of Delaney’s teammates- “She f#*%@ing tripped me.”
I was, of course, aghast and appalled, speechless even. The mom next to me asked the girl if she kissed her mom with that mouth. Which got me to thinking about that mom. It’s absolutely true that we are all responsible for our own sins. It is likewise true that our sins tend to beget more sins. What kind of a mother raises a little girl that talks that way? I suspected the kind of mother who speaks that way herself.
After more consideration, however, I have come to suspect that this little girl’s mother may have a reasonably polite tongue, but whose discernment muscles have atrophied away. I suspect the little girl is actually being raised by pop culture. Movies, music, television, video games have all shaped the discourse of those who consume them. We speak what we hear. When what goes in our ears is a sneering, cynical, angry stew, what comes out of our mouths is sneering, cynical, angry words.
Someone once noted the hypocrisy of television executives who trudge down to Washington and appear before Congressional hearings, promising that all the sex and violence doesn’t impact people’s behavior. These same men then meet with advertisers and promise that commercials can change people’s behavior. The forty minutes of programming won’t change a thing. The twenty minutes of advertising will change everything. They can’t have it both ways.
The truth is we are responsible for what we do. No one can stand before God and declare, “NBC made me do it.” The truth is, however, that media matter, and even our most sophisticated worldview grids do not make sludge safe to drink. Our discourse has grown coarse because we drink from the sewers of pop culture.
We spiritualize our self-poisoning, because we are poisoned. We think we have to be hip to this new band, or play that video-game so that we can be relevant, so we can reach the lost. The truth is, the lost are reaching us. As Charles Swindoll once said, “If you drop a white glove in the mud, the mud doesn’t get all ‘glovey.’” The world doesn’t need us to become more like them. “Gritty, edgy, real” is just Christian for “geek who wants to fit it.”
We don’t need salty language to be salt, nor dark language in order to bring light. We need instead to speak the language of heaven. To learn to speak that language, we need to learn to hear it- to read God’s Word, to sing His Psalms, to meditate on His promises. Then grace will flow from our lips.