Profanity and the Christian Fighter Pilot
One of the more clear-cut vices in the fighter pilot culture is profanity—including the use of God’s name in vain—which is rampant in the fighter pilot community. Profanity punctuates the hyperbolic bravado of every fighter pilot’s speech. Some consider it a requisite to being a fighter pilot, much like the Navy cliché of “cursing like a sailor.” Fighter pilots who do not curse do exist, though they are a rarity. In several cases I even knew fighter pilots who attended church regularly with their families but still used vulgar language. The temptation for any fighter pilot to use profanity will be strong, particularly if it was present in his past. Also, refusing to use profanity is difficult even for a strong Christian for one significant reason: constant exposure. Regardless of a Christian’s personal actions, the fighter pilots around him will still use profanity in their language and casual conversation. The continuous, daily bombardment of profanity leads to the greatest threat to modern Christianity: desensitization. When the words cease to be shocking it is only a short time before they don’t even seem to be wrong—when they no longer seem wrong, it is easy to accept and then start using those words.
One key way to prevent desensitization is to not be silent while others curse up a storm. Remaining silent conditions a Christian: The first time he hears profanity, he wants to say something but doesn’t. The second time he notices but doesn’t feel the need to say anything. The third time, he doesn’t even notice. Desensitization to a point that he no longer feels offense or embarrassment at sin is not a good thing; this same lack of shock and shame was listed by God as a reason for His punishment of the nation of Israel (Jeremiah 3:3, 6:15). Silence condones the actions of others, but worse, a Christian may inadvertently learn to accept the language he hears. Sometimes it takes a new Christian showing up and expressing shock to make an accepting Christian realize he has become desensitized to sin.
While not all situations will be appropriate for a response, a quick reproach is a good way to communicate displeasure with profanity and prick the conscience of those who use it. For non-Christians, a brief and witty conversation that critiques profanity may establish the foundation of a relationship. For Christians, I’ve liked the pithy quote that “profanity is the sign of a weak vocabulary,” but the Biblical ordinance that praise and cursing should not come out of the same mouth is supreme. James says,
With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water (3:9-12).
James points out that profanity and vulgarity are inherently inconsistent with a Christian character. Profanity from a Christian is inexcusable. Under no circumstances should a Christian allow himself to use profane language or make excuses when he does. As James said, Christians should refrain from profanity because they praise their God and “kiss their mother” with the same mouth. More importantly, they should refrain from profanity because it’s incompatible with their Christian nature; profanity should be no more a fruit of a Christian’s life than olives the fruit of a fig tree. The Christian fighter pilot’s lack of profanity is often the single greatest distinguishing factor between him and other pilots—and it is frequently the first doorway to the opportunity to witness.