My dear friends, with our tongues we speak both praises and curses. We praise our Lord and Father, and we curse people who were created to be like God, and this isn't right. Can clean water and dirty water both flow from the same spring? Can a fig tree produce olives or a grapevine produce figs? Does fresh water come from a well full of salt water? (James 3:9-12 CEV)

The issue isn't that too many prudes listen to radio and watch TV these days. It is that too many "entertainers" seem not to know the power that words have. So they use words to insult, demean, and otherwise harm people.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." That is simply false! Words are not mere sounds caused by air passing through the larynx. Words have real power. God spoke the cosmos into being, and we are in his image in part because of the power we have with words. Words may do more than impart information, for example, and can actually crush another's spirit or stir hatred and violence. They not only incite wounds but inflict them directly.

We could all wish that sports figures, entertainers, politicians, and other public figures would honor the power they have with words. The popularity of shock jocks and confrontational TV interviews bothers me. Left and right, white and black, pro and con — their stock in trade is verbal assault.

"You're a jerk!" says the host.

"And you're an idiot!" screams the guest. (Those are some of the mild and printable exchanges!) And people who tune in must like it or it couldn't generate the ratings that keep them on the air.

Don Imus was taken off the air by MSNBC and fired by CBS Radio because the public got outraged and advertisers withdrew their support — not because of broadcast decency standards. Imus had been touted by the two media powers for his cutting-edge, racy, and irreverent manner. It's too late to take the high ground on this one, guys.

Now XM Satellite Radio shock-jocks Opie and Anthony are at the center of controversy — and additional notoriety — for airing the crudest imaginable sexual comments about Queen Elizabeth, Laura Bush, and Condoleezza Rice. They're only trying to match the audience numbers of Sirius Radio's Howard Stern.

"And you're an idiot!"
The Federal Communications Commission can't resolve the problem. There will have to be enough widespread offense taken at wicked, abusive language that people refuse to buy the music, sponsor the entertainers, or visit the programming of people who have reset the boundaries of acceptable speech.

With our own words, at least, we should remember this biblical counsel:

Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift (Ephesians 4:29 MSG).