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Homosexual rights activists gain influence in public schools (10/17/04)

Church’s prayer births children’s ministry (10/17/04)

Partner program revitalizes dying church (10/10/04)

Church music festival attracts variety of visitors (10/10/04)

Churches urge compassion for alienated smokers (9/19/04)

Youth ride wooden waves in church parking lots (9/12/04)

A/G, COGIC join forces through inner-city campus (9/12/04)

Christians respond to victimized women and children (8/29/04)

Growing slavic church shares new facility (8/29/04)

Couple embarks on capitol prayer tour (8/29/04)

ADHD requires multifaceted treatment approach (8/22/04)

Small congregation grows — by planting churches (8/22/04)

‘Under God’ stays in Pledge of Allegiance, at least for now (8/8/04)

Church reaches out to those feeling loss (8/8/04)

Churches act pre-emptively to reduce risk of abuse (7/25/04)

Credit cards ensnare record number of Americans (7/25/04)

Church helps out with donated CD, recycled buses (7/25/04)

New wave of pastors minister to emerging adults (7/18/04)

‘Walking Witnesses’ raise thousands for missions (7/18/04)

Healing center offers alternative medicine (7/18/04)

Growing number of Hispanics impact economy (7/11/04)

'Busy' couple finds time for compassion ministry (7/11/04)

Hand-copied Bible leaves 40-year legacy (7/11/04)

Pastor ends hunger strike when strip club promises to sell (6/27/04)

‘Military survival kit’ requests inundate A/G (6/27/04)

Fourth of July outreach draws thousands (6/27/04)

Drivers warned to steer clear of distractions (6/27/04)

Pastors face more counseling demands (6/20/04)

Church uses touch of ‘flavor’ to reach community (6/20/04)

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home (6/13/04)

Runner raises $5,200 for Convoy of Hope (6/13/04)

Euphemisms tempt Christians to conveniently shed sin, guilt (5/30/04)

Funds for Easter play buy groceries instead (5/30/04)

Identity theft threatens millions of Americans (5/23/04)

Spanish speakers face challenges, opportunities in United States culture (5/16/04)

Health experts implore Americans to get fit (5/9/04)

Leaders say Christian faith stems recidivism (4/25/04)

Riders feel at home in Orlando sanctuary (4/18/04)

Churches try to keep human touch with new media (4/11/04)

Christians see Passion as ministry opportunity (3/28/04)

Tutoring improves lives, opens doors for evangelism (3/21/04)

Cybertheft costly — especially for Christians (3/14/04)

A/G women seize new ministry opportunities (2/29/04)

Investment in early spiritual maturity reaps rewards (2/22/04)

Christian families respond to foster care opportunities (2/15/04)

Childless couples grapple with emotional roller coaster, faith challenges (2/8/04)

Few men seek help from abortion grief, guilt (1/18/04)

Women who answer God's call provide valuable local ministries (1/11/04)

2003 PE Report stories

Frontline Reports

2002 PE Report stories

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Outrageous self-expression often starts, stops at home

By John W. Kennedy (6/13/04)

It’s fashionable to blame the media for the increasing foul language and rudeness present in American society, but experts say parental guidance and personal responsibility are key to stemming the tide of incivility.

The Federal Communications Commission has imposed record fines this year for indecency on radio and television shows. Partially in response, TV networks now routinely delay awards shows to ensure that obscene words are bleeped. Likewise, reality programs sometimes are filled with conversation that has been censored.

But such suppression of vulgar verbiage hasn’t stopped the pattern heard in everyday speech. Nowadays obscene words are emblazoned on everything from greeting cards to T-shirts.

“Vulgarity is a form of rudeness,” says author and speaker C. Leslie Charles of East Lansing, Mich. “Common courtesy is on the endangered species list.”

Rap music, motion pictures and premium cable TV shows have expanded the purview of what passes for normal conversation in public, according to Charles, 61. She is concerned that many children have become deadened emotionally. She notes that television and film scenes she finds revolting often elicit chuckles from her teenage grandchildren.

“We’ve lost our shock value,” says Charles, author of Why Is Everyone So Cranky? “We’ve become inured.” Charles believes once a person shows a lack of respect toward others it has a fallout effect. Such people are quick to complain about their spouses, jobs and bosses.

Those no longer too concerned about watching what they say occasionally cross the line into more aggressive behavior. Verbal arguments about being passed while driving, a neighbor’s barking dog or cutting into line at the supermarket have occasionally escalated to violence and even murder.

In the brave new ill-mannered world, cussing is no longer a private activity. Many people make no effort to curb their coarse speech on the street, at school or at a sporting event.

At a growing number of college basketball arenas, groups of fans scream obscenities at opposing teams with impunity. University officials usually wring their hands, claiming they can’t restrict free speech.

“Kids are using vulgarity more at school, and they’re using it at a younger age,” says Timothy Jay, professor at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Jay has written five books on profanity that teach respect and responsibility, including What to Do When Your Kids Talk Dirty and What to Do When Your Students Talk Dirty.

Despite peer pressure, Jay, 54, says each individual has a choice of whether to participate in coarse conversation. Many young people use different standards for their language depending on whether they are with their parents or with their friends, he says.

“One reason why kids swear more in schools now is because they are less likely to get punished for it,” Jay says. “When schools are fighting drugs, sex, gangs and vandalism, language is low on the list.”

Not so at Jerome Elementary School in Saginaw, Mich. At an assembly every school morning, officials reinforce good behavior that emphasizes peacemaking and respect.

“The general trend toward rudeness in society oozes into school, but it starts at home,” says Hilda Rodriguez, 47, principal of the 300-student school. “If the home has values, the children will model what’s before them.”

Even if a child is allowed to misbehave at home, rules must be followed at this grade school. Pupils aren’t allowed to make threats, hurl insults or intimidate anyone. Why? Such behaviors can have a spiraling effect, says Rodriguez, who attends Harvest Assembly of God in Saginaw.

Ken Kuschel, a licensed professional counselor in Aurora, Mo., says Christian adults who use indecent speech are a poor influence on more than just their children.

“When others overhear the language it detracts from our witness,” says Kuschel, 51. “The world expects Christians to be perfect in their words and manner.”

Kuschel tries to manage anger in the often-heated exchanges he hears at Lifecare Family Services. “Anger doesn’t resolve anything, and once words have been screamed they can’t be taken back.” Kuschel, who counsels many troubled teens, says although children usually copy the speech they hear at home, at some point they must determine whether they will fall into the same pattern.

“Jesus said out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks,” he says. “Our words are able to portray much of what our thoughts are, and in essence who we are.”

Words hold the power to hurt for years, according to Charles. “We need to take what we think and say much more seriously,” she says.

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