By Chuck Griffin
Ephesians 5:4: Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.
Conflicts among shoppers aside, people generally are nicer to each other this time of year. That’s one of the happy side effects of drawing close to Christmas, as the lights and general tenor of the season take effect.
Let’s enjoy it while we can. Projecting niceness—politeness, thoughtfulness, sensitivity to others—is a dying art. I don’t think the pandemic was the beginning of our decline, either. It simply aggravated a growing tendency toward incivility.
Lately, I’ve noticed this tendency extends even into the way companies market their products. There’s a kind of ugliness designed into some brands and packaging. I assume professional marketers peered into peoples’ hardening hearts with their surveys and focus groups and said, “We can make money off this trend.”
For decades, we’ve had products with names and packaging that you wouldn’t want children or teens to see. They were kept away in special stores or catalogs.
What’s surprising is how these products now encroach on everyday places, like the shelves of big-box stores, bookstores and mom-and-pop businesses. I went to pay for my takeout at one of my favorite little family restaurants recently, and was surprised to see at the register a professional display of seasoning products, each item’s name a variation on a crude word for excrement.
I normally let such things go, fearing I’m somehow playing into the stereotype of the uptight or judgmental Christian. That day, I did comment to the young woman who rang up my order that I was glad I wasn’t standing there with a child or a youth group. I was imagining the conversation I would have to have later with a kid just learning to read, or a teenager confused about social boundaries.
Maybe we do need to speak up more, in a gentle way. I don’t want our culture to end up like other places in the world where I’ve seen nudity and bawdy jokes displayed on highway billboards.
More than ever, I appreciate Paul’s exhortation to avoid crude words and actions. By themselves, these social transgressions can seem relatively unimportant. But we have to consider how they slowly poison us, creating patterns of thoughtlessness that quickly devolve into meanness and sin.
Hey, when it comes to crude behavior, I’ve shown my ugly side much too often over the years, and I don’t guard my speech and behaviors enough now. But it’s time for a change, and the image of the Christ Child before us certainly should help.
Lord, in all situations, help us to bring gentleness into the world with our words and actions. Amen.