Speech Therapy


“But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken.” (Matthew 12:36)

Of all the Bible’s warnings, threats, forebodings, portents, and harbingers of impending judgments, this is the only one that really freaks me out. I can deal with looming wrath for hypocrisy, sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissension, faction, envy, drunkenness, and orgies. They are sins that I can keep track of. (I don’t think I could attend an orgy without noticing.) But the promised reckoning for the indiscretions of my mouth is cause for something akin to mild terror.

For crying out loud, my whole religious career is based on a cache of calculated, carefully calibrated careless comments. Yes, I know the Biblical admonitions: “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man unclean” (Jesus); “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths” (Paul); “Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place” (Paul again); “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (James); “Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil” (Peter). With a chorus of critics like that taking pot shots at me, there’s not much of a chance that I’m going to come out of this with a Pulitzer.

But give me a freaking break here. How is it that Paul, in one place, can rail against unwholesome talk and, in another, go on record as wishing that the circumcision-obsessed Judaizers of his day would completely cut off their own dicks? Gee, that’s edifying. And let’s not forget our venerable Old Testament prophets, like Amos, for example, who refers to the lovely ladies of Samaria as fat cows. Even Moses, the world’s “meekest” guy, isn’t above commanding that “a bastard shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.” Even Jesus himself isn’t shy about graphic content. In explaining why food doesn’t make a person spiritually unclean, he points out the obvious: “What goes into your mouth passes through the stomach and is crapped out into the sewer.” And back to Paul for whom anything compared to knowing Christ is so much “shit.” (Look up the Greek yourself, bucko.) If earthy language offends you, stay away from the Holy Scriptures—or at least get a kids’ Bible.

The key concept for Jesus seems to be “careless,” which in the Greek means “inactive” or “idle.” A careless word is a word without legitimate purpose. It is mindless, soulless chatter, claptrap with without redeeming objectives. When Paul advocates dick removal he’s deliberately using language that offends those who should be offended while affirming those who should be affirmed. Jesus often employs the same strategy, whether as a parable or direct indictment, without a bit of remorse. I love it when they ignore their own rules.

So I’m reassuring myself that I’m safe because I use edgy language on purpose. I deploy four-letter homilies for a good reason. My words are active and aggressive. They are decidedly not idle. I am an artiste, doggone it, a maestro of livid lingo, a freaking genius of idiomatic bravado. I am Word.

Does this make me feel better? Are you kidding? I’m dancing naked in a minefield. I’ve got so many strikes against me it’s going to take God half of eternity just to read through the damned list. And that’s just the stuff I actually utter out loud. God have mercy on me for the well-thumbed lexicon stashed away in my head.

I am so in trouble.


3 Responses

  1. Yeah, I know how you feel. Anyone with any amount of wit should be shaking in their boots. I know I am. Dang, I hate that verse. I mean, really! EVERY word? Dang. And I assume the verse includes typewritten words as well, so just passing notes isn’t going to help at all. Toast. We are all toast but for the grace of God.

  2. Fred, I don’t worry about that issue as much as the hand gesture you created at North Side that one amazing day!

    Smile smile

  3. If you remain silent before God, as you demonstrated a while back, and your facial expression reveals what you would have liked to say, does that count too? Are deaf/mutes exempt? Is there any way around this?

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