The Desolation of Cultural Smog

by Kirk Spencer

00 TheDesolationOfCulturalSmog 856I recently heard a preaching talking about how Christians must “breathe” the cultural smog. It is true that the mass media has created a smutty atmosphere as of late, however, for some reason, the metaphor made me think of the fire-breathing dragon in the movie “The Desolation of Smaug.” His heart (or belly) glows with fire before it spews forth from his mouth. And this imagery made me think of Jesus’ words about how the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. Our mouths are smokestacks and our tongues are like flames of fire. The cultural smog, in which we must live, flows from the burning brimstone in our own hearts (and bellies).

And nowadays we carry flamethrowers around in our pockets (as well as Big Brother’s Cameras and Narcissus’ Pond). We can record words in both video and audio format to share with others. We find ourselves under the private media microscope. Our private world is shrinking. We wonder who may be looking and listening and recording. For, once electronically captured, our idle words do not remain in “idle.” They are put into gear and driven around the world. They are whispered from the roof of our mouths to be shouted from the rooftops (and satellites). It is becoming more likely we will not have to wait until judgment day to give an account for our idle words.

We might have the constitutional right to speak out of the treasures (or refuse) that fills our hearts; but these percussive waves, once upon the air, have a life of their own. Once spoken, we cannot get them back. We have a right to free speech, but not the right to a captive audience (so we have no right to heckle). Nor, it seems, do we have the right to avoid an audience. We must take responsibility for all our percussive waves… for all the smog we create with our breath. We must face the consequences. The ancient wisdom returns in the modern world: There is life and death in the tongue. It is a flame that can set the world (and our lives) on fire. Words may not be able to break our bones, but they can break contracts, and fellowship, and bank accounts. And don’t forget that words can break hearts (which will not heal like bone). Not only that, but our words expose and express what is in our hearts—they are the fruit that shows what kind of tree we are.

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