How to Resist the Vulgar Society
These days, if you want to be heard, you have to be daring. And that usually includes putting another person or group of people down in a ghastly way.
People smarter than me are discussing the ludicrous double standard in entertainment. (If you say something offensive and you lean right, you’ll pay the price; if you say something offensive and you lean left, you’ll be given a pass or even applauded.) But I’ve been thinking about something else. The fact that people of influence say these vile things and we hardly bat an eye.
Yes, we recognize that what they said was technically wrong and offensive. But the fact that they said it doesn’t really surprise us. Because we live in a society that’s normalized vulgarity and hostility. This is a big problem.
The Cult of Offending Your Enemies
Today, the thing to do is push the boundaries. It doesn’t matter if you’re a conservative or a liberal, or even a Christian.
In right wing circles, all the cool kids are drinking “liberal tears” out of ironic coffee mugs while angering “snowflakes” with brazen political incorrectness. Need proof? President Donald J. Trump. Even his staunchest supporters acknowledge that he’s said some offensive stuff. To put it lightly. In fact, that’s what drew many to him. And now they’re happy to follow the trail he’s blazed for them.
In conservatives’ quest to push back against a culture of political correctness (that admittedly has reached stupid heights), many are tempted to say increasingly shocking, over-the-top things just to prove they can. If liberals are offended, good. That may even be the primary goal.
In left wing circles, all the cool kids are brainstorming insults they can throw at Trump, his administration and right-of-center people in general. (Republican-Nazi comparisons are old news.) They wring their hands and grasp for smelling salts when Trump or a right-winger says anything they can label grotesque. Then they turn around and spew venom right back. When their target is on the right, no standards of basic decency apply. And it’s all okay, they tell themselves, because we’re so obviously in the right and those idiotic right-wingers are so obviously in the wrong. They don’t deserve common decency.
Christians on both sides fall into these traps. Often they pepper their points with foul language. Maybe to flaunt their freedom in Christ to do so. Or to try and fit in better with all the cool kids. Either way, regular words don’t cut it anymore. You have to be more than edgy to get people’s attention. You have to go there.
Essentially unfiltered platforms like Twitter only encourage this lack of discipline. There are millions of voices to compete with, so if you want to be heard, you’ve got to be daring. Too often that includes ghastly putdowns.
A Higher Standard
If you’re looking for some grand-scale solution to this cultural problem, I don’t have one. All I can do is remind myself and implore my readers to hold ourselves to a higher standard.
We can debate ideas without attacking persons. We can stand firm in our convictions without being hostile. We can criticize people without stooping to filthy language, vulgar name-calling or racial slurs.
And when someone attacks us, calls us a dirty name or otherwise acts uncivilly, we don’t have to respond in kind. I’m hot-tempered by nature. Starting in high school, this became one of my favorite proverbs and most needed reminders, and it remains so: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Our culture won’t change overnight. Celebrities certainly won’t. There will still be maddening double standards to contend with. Vulgarity will still invade our ears and our eyes. It’s unavoidable. But we can start a small revolution by refusing to participate. In our hearts and in our conduct, may decency, charity and words of life reign.