10.14.2022 – Why We Need Salty Language

Last week president Biden traveled to Florida to view some of the damage done by Hurricane Ian.  During the course of the trip, Mr. Biden met several survivors of the devastation and talked with local officials about what might be done to assist in recovery and rebuilding efforts.  Among the officials with whom he talked was the mayor of Fort Meyers Beach. A hot mic from one of the news crews covering the event caught part of the exchange between the president and the mayor.

As they talked, the president tossed one of his famous f-bombs with an oddly mafia-esque tone to it.  The mayor laughed and agreed with Mr. Biden by taking the Lord’s name in vain.

While the White House declined to comment on the exchange, the mayor, basking in his 15 minutes of fame, was more than happy to say more.  “We’re both Irish Catholics,” he told reporters. “We’re both devout Catholics. But every once [in] a while a little salty language comes out.”

This is not intended as political commentary, nor do I mean to busy myself with the pastoral concerns of another branch of the Christian family, but either I need to learn more about Catholic devotion, or the mayor may have been mistaken in his exegesis of the Scriptures.

I am at least somewhat qualified to offer thoughts on the Bible’s understanding of salty language.

The text the mayor may have been citing is Colossians 4:5–6.  The Apostle Paul is encouraging the believers in Colossae to live their faith in their daily lives a in world where they were a definite minority.  “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time,” he writes.  Then he adds, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

As the apostle defines it, then, salty language is gracious and sensitive to the outsider, certainly not bothered by the presence of a hot mic.  I would think devout Catholics, like all good Christians, should aim for such salty language.

In his apparent confusion, though, the mayor may have mistook the Apostle and assumed the salty language he commended to the Colossians was the salty language of the English idiom having to do with the “colorful,” that is expletive-laden, speech of sailors.

Probably an honest mistake.

Partisan politics aside, Mr. President and Mr. Mayor, you may want to think of gracious speech rather than expletive-laden speech the next time you choose to use salty language.