Sobriety, n. Synonyms: earnestness, graveness, gravity, intentness, serious-mindedness, seriousness, solemnity, solemnness, staidness
“Sobriety.” Commonly, the word connotes being clear-headed, not clouded by the influence of alcohol.¹ In a more strict verbal sense, though, the word means more. The Cambridge English Dictionary proposes that a legal judge might be known for his “sobriety.” That usage speaks to seriousness of mind and perhaps fair judgment. And human judgment regarding what is terribly serious is precisely my concern here.
You might have seen police sobriety checkpoints for drivers, and perhaps people outside their cars, not passing the check. What about a sobriety check of our speech? Some so frequently speak serious words carelessly that one must question their spiritual sobriety, their judgment about serious matters. Now, conscious of the notion that, when one points a finger, there are three fingers pointing back at the self, I’ll admit this here: I am given to extreme verbiage of other sorts, and I check my own word use from time to time, too, increasingly trying to reserve superlatives for the situations that call for them.
Rarely a day goes by that I don’t hear or read a very serious word used lightly, in some quip about a comparatively unimportant matter. A software blogger might not respect the notion of eternal fear (see right), and that’s not all that unexpected. On the other hand, professing believers who habitually use the words damn, hell, and God flippantly have some thinking and changing to do. We who believe in God ought at least to be thoughtful in using these words. Although we have no right to expect such use from the nonbelievers around us, the standard of behavior for us believers ought to be sober, serious, substantive use of words/concepts directly related to God and eternity.
A 5th-grade teacher once said to me, and I quote it exactly, “D_ _ _ you, Brian, you know, you ever heard that before?” (I had inadvertently gotten in his pathway.) I can remember his inflection and how his bearded face looked to this day. Perhaps he was miffed at something else, or perhaps he was just a shallow person. Regardless, no one should ever want any person to be damned. What damnation means existentially, eschatologically, and/or cosmologically is up the the Lord. All I need to affirm is that I, like God, must never wish damnation for any person. On the other hand, sin is damnable and will ultimately be damned if not forgiven by God.
Now, the profane use of the word “God.”
As shown above, strictly speaking, profanity is not really about potty-mouth; it’s about God. The Ten Commandments’ injunction not to take the LORD’s name “in vain” is well-known, but I’ve come to understand that the traditional, surface-level reading of “in vain” is off-base. Regardless, believers ought not to be drawn in to the common, low use of the word “God” that’s so common in pop culture. Yes, it’s just a word, and words are just symbols, but I quickly lose respect for the profession of Christians who speak that way. Careless, irreverent uses of words for the Deity always, always, always jar my consciousness.
This post was much longer, but I’ve deleted good-sized chunks and barely scratched the surface. No one needs to hear me go on and on about this. I’ve shared only a few anecdotes and comments.
I expect this essay to be passed over by those who don’t call themselves “Christians.” That is understandable. It is sad, though, that these thoughts won’t resonate with many of those who do profess Jesus as Christ.
¹ To a recovering alcoholic, the word might mean “finding peace with yourself, with life and its ups and downs, developing the discipline to remain sober, and abstinence.” https://blackbearrehab.com/blog/what-is-sobriety/, accessed 6/1/20