Jon Kennedy's 'Postcards from
Trash talk and the company we keep
Jonal entry 1063 | August 6 2008
Just one beggar trying to help his fellows find bread....
Last week we looked at 1 Corinthians 5:9-6:11, the passage from a New Testament letter by the Apostle Paul in which he teaches:
This passage presents a specific case in which individual followers of Jesus are to judge (or make note of; "mark") the behavior of their fellow church members and decide whether to accept them as brothers and sisters or keep their distance from them as corrupting influences. We looked at the passage as an important confirmation (one among many in the New Testament) of the teaching of the church on sexual morality. The warning, to "not even eat with such a person" seems to clearly teach that sexual immorality and the other sins ennumerated are grounds for barring anyone engaging in such practices from the Lord's Table (Communion, the Eucharist).
Looking more deeply, I think this passage is also a source of the Christian community's long-standing aversion to "trash talk." For how is the individual church member going to know about another member'sor would-be member'smorality? Notorious sins (like living as though married but not) may be known throughout a community, but more commonly the conversation of new followers are the main clues about their character. If they idolize money, success, or treat lightly the lusts of the flesh, you'll soon know it if you get acquainted. Later in this same letter to the church in Corinth, Apostle Paul teaches that "evil communications corrupt good manners," (1 Corinthians 15:33).
And in another of his letters, Paul tells the church in Ephesus: "Let no corrupt communication come out of your mouth, but that which is good and edifying, that it may convey grace to those who hear. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you have been sealed to the day of redemption" (Ephesians 4:29-30). Trash talk, then, is not only unedifying, it corrupts its hearers. And in the teaching of Jesus, He says dirty talk corrupts those who talk such things themselves. Matthew's Gospel quotes Jesus: "That which goes into the mouth does not defile a man, but that which comes out of the mouth is what defiles him," Matthew 15:11, and "those things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and they corrupt the man," Matthew 15:18.
Our post-modern times and their ubiquitous mass communications media are in many cases as dark and given over to evil as the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus and Paul, and even at times surpass them. There is nothing new under the sun, Ecclesiastes says. Surely when it comes to trash talk, nothing in the ancient world could compete with the talk on subscription (and late-night free) Cable TV channels and the R-rated movies, and what is heard on those channels is also commonplace on crowded sidewalks and not even unheard-of during church coffee hours.
GREAT THINKERS OF OUR TIME...
"Researchers have discovered that chocolate produces some of the same reactions in the brain as marijuana. The researchers also discovered other similarities between the two, but I can't remember what they are."
---Matt Lauer on NBC's Today Show
"I haven't committed a crime. What I did was fail to comply with the law."
---David Dinkins, New York City
"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
Shields, during an interview to become