Dunedin, New Zealand, my city - my people

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

"Oh dear...."

At our drop-in centre one night there was a fight brewing. One of the guys' friends, also a bit drunk, was trying to calm things down. He kept repeating at the top of his voice, "No fighting you two, this is a "f"ing church for God's sake!" (He said the full "f" word but I don't want my blog to be flagged) We of course were trying to calm things down, but got the giggles at the irony of these words. I have had reason to have conversations about slang, swearing and bad language with people. If I got hung up on bad language I would not be able to do our drop-in centre work nor the workplace chaplaincy that I do. In both places it is just there whether I like it or not, though generally at the drop-in people modify their language. Once I was taking a trainee minister around the fire stations. I warned him that at the station we were going to the officer used the "f" word in every sentence. I said that in spite of that he was a caring, responsible and intelligent man and that you really have to learn to look past the outer package to the person inside. Well I was deeply disappointed. The officer in question was on his best behaviour and never used the word once!

I can understand people preferring the niceties of correct and "attractive" vocabulary. I try to do that. But there is something inside that has me asking what really is important? Is the outer wrapping important or the inner heart and being? Some of the most self-centred, destructive and divisive people I know never swear. I know some people who can say "You bastard!" and you know that you are loved. I know some good "Christian" people who can say "Oh dear!" and you know that you are being judged and put down! I prefer not to swear most of the time but I don't get hung up on it. I can imagine the apostle Paul writing, "You may never swear and always use the correct language, but if you have not love your language is filthy, of no value and useless." Life is full of conundrums isn't it?

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