He Said a Wordy Dird

By

I’m hesitant to enter into this sort of conversation in an online format. There’s a lot to be said for body language, tone of voice, and the way someone’s heart can pour out of a face-to-face exchange in a way that surprises even the speaker. But I guess I was the one who opened up Pandora’s box (no offense), so I’d better offer a reply, feeble though it may be.

For those of you who didn’t read my post or its comments from a few days ago entitled “What Connects Us All,” here’s a recap. I recommended Once, the independent Irish film about a songwriter, with one caveat: if you’re bothered by the F word, avoid this movie. One brave soul spoke up and questioned the propriety of subjecting oneself to any film that included [expletive] thirty nine times. I’m assuming the commenter knows that because there’s a website somewhere that keeps a tally of such things for discerning viewers.

So the issue is language. Specifically, the foul kind.

For starters, I want to make a disclaimer. I’m not a theologian. I’m a songwriter (mainly). I don’t think that lets me completely off the hook, as pertains to my duty to be responsible for the things I write and write about, but it does mean that I’m going to approach this argument differently than, say, a seminarian pastor would, or any logical, systematic thinker, for that matter. It took me years after Bible college to learn to rest in the fact that God didn’t give me the kind of mind that can hold its own in a theological debate fraught with proof-texting. I just can’t do it. I’ve tried, I’ve failed, and I’m finished with it. But I do have a decent mind, and can reason through things in an Everyman sort of way, or at least I hope so. So if you’re of the systematic theology camp, be gentle with me. I’m still learning. Also, keep in mind that those of us who lose our keys daily and cry at the drop of a hat might have something to teach you, too.

First of all, I think there’s a difference between Cursing and Using Foul Language. We tend to lump them together, but they’re not the same, I don’t think. Cursing, at least in the Biblical sense, has more to do with wishing death and evil upon someone instead of life and goodness; it is meant as the opposite of blessing. According to two concordances, the word “curse” is used in the New Testament only nineteen times, and after a quick read of each case it looks to me like that’s the sense in which it’s used every time. It doesn’t have to do with the use of certain words that society deems foul, but with wishing evil on someone, by using the inherent power of words to hurt and not to heal. Like I said, I’m no exegetical guru, so if I’m reading this wrong, by all means let me know.

I think someone uttering and meaning the words “I hate you” is much more offensive than thirty nine casual uses of the F bomb. I’ll say that again. Words are the overflow of the heart, so words spoken in anger, hatred, and bitterness are far more damaging and dangerous than the flippant use of words that are thought of as dirty. To put it another way, cursing is active; it is the result of energy placed into the utterance. Those who use foul language usually do so out of laziness; they don’t feel like thinking of the right word, so they vomit out the lowest, dumbest form of the vernacular.

That’s a harsh judgment, I realize, because the idea of vernacular, of the cadence of speech common to a place, is beautiful in its way, and should be preserved, and even celebrated. But within the regional vernacular, wherever you are, there will always be a hierarchy of bad words, and everyone will know it, more or less. But that list of acceptable words will change depending on which culture (and which social situation) you find yourself in. I speak differently on the stage than I do in the car with Ben and Andy on the way to the hotel after the show. We’re not two-faced. There’s a level of comfort and vulnerability and healthy irreverence that is rightly reserved for time among close friends. In England, from what I hear, “bloody” is as vile as you can get. Not so much the case in Nashville. The F bomb in Ireland is more like “darn” in the U.S. There’s a sexual connotation to us, but language morphs and words lose and gain meanings over the years. I’m not from Ireland, but I’m pretty sure that the vast majority of the thirty nine uses of the word in the film are of the “darn” variety and not the sexual euphemism kind.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to say the word “fart”. We said “I passed gas.” The word “butt” was similarly off-limits–“bottom” was encouraged. I also remember that we didn’t call it “poop”. We called it–ready for this?–“boopie”. Say that aloud once or twice. Boooopie. It’s hilarious. My parents had a strong sense of which words were okay and which weren’t, and though my brother and I rode right up to the line of propriety in their presence (and leapt across it among our friends), now I completely understand that they were teaching us good manners. They were giving us the tools to be able to function in a society with rules of proper behavior, just like keeping your elbows off the table, and chewing with your mouth closed, and not burping out loud if you can help it (exception: when you’re in the car with just the guys, or if you’re Alison Osenga).

That’s how I’ve approached it with my kids. They heard the S word (for boopie) once and asked me what it was. I didn’t hide from it or cringe when they said it. I just told ’em it was a strong word for poop that wasn’t a good word to say (in most circumstances–being trapped on a rope bridge like Indiana Jones in Temple of Doom might be an occasion in which it is called for). But seriously. They said okay and that was the end of it. I could’ve launched into a diatribe about the evils of the S word, I could’ve forbade them to ever think it, let alone say it, but then if my boys are anything like me it would then be imprinted on their brains forever and they would find themselves saying it aloud when they were alone, for starters. By the time ninth grade rolled around, they’d be addicted.

I admit, there’s a difference between not using foul language and chewing with your mouth closed. Nowhere in the book of James is there any mention of bad table manners being like a restless evil, full of poison. But when you grow up with the assumption that “cursing” is just using any one of a laundry list of bad words–a laundry list that changes with every generation, no less–then you tend to focus on the “foul” words and not the foul hatred in your heart. Isn’t the heart what God’s interested in? Can you get through life without ever using the F word and still have a roiling darkness in your heart? Absolutely. Can you have light and love in your heart, the ability to encourage, to bless, to show compassion to those around you even if your banter with them includes some of the words on the naughty list? Absolutely. Sure, it’s not proper, preferable, or wise to litter your language with unnecessary expletives, but I’d rather hang with a salty sailor any day than a whitewashed tomb. And speaking of whitewashed tombs, that’s exactly what I was in high school. See, I studiously avoided bad words when my parents were around, but my brother and I constantly ridiculed my sisters. We called them “stupid idiots”, we made fun of the things they liked, we taunted them. My sisters still bear the wounds of the words I said to them twenty years ago. But I didn’t cuss! No sir.

Of course, I’m not saying that everyone who’s sensitive to foul language is a whitewashed tomb. That’s not my point at all. If my mom started speaking with an Irish brogue and using words like we’re talking about, I’d fall over dead. Something in the time/space continuum would rupture and dinosaurs in tutus would pirouette across the White House lawn. My mother, God bless her, is carrying the torch of her upbringing and will forever cringe at the word “butt”; I wouldn’t have it any other way. But our friends in Ireland come from a culture that is quite literally foreign to us. Could it be that the F word carries no more weight over there than “stink” does here? And is it possible for me, with the Holy Spirit in me, to watch a film made by these Irish folks and glean the sweet spirit of their heart, or their intent, from the film without being polluted by something that in their culture is innocuous and in ours is at best impolite and at worst offensive? I think so. I know so, in fact, because that’s exactly what happened when I watched this film.

I didn’t wake up the next morning with foul language dripping off my tongue and into my cereal. My kids weren’t cursed six ways from Sunday. No, I had a deep sense of inspiration regarding my calling to write songs. I was reminded of the power of good music. I thought about how good it is to make decisions based on wisdom and patience and not infatuation (you’ll know what I’m talking about if you saw the film). Not to make more of it than it is, but my heart was changed for the better by watching the movie. How can that happen, when they used the F word thirty nine times? Because the Spirit in me–guiding my attentions, my decisions, teaching me gently and patiently every minute of the day–allows me to live my life out of faith and not fear. I have so often shushed the Spirit’s promptings in my life because it contradicted what my flesh lusted for. I have ignored it. I have wished it would leave me alone. But I also have managed to listen at times, and have obeyed. I have learned to feebly trust that I am a new creation, that in some mysterious, wondrous way, God inhabits me. If he’s there in my heart, and I choose (with discernment) to spend 90 minutes experiencing a story told by an image-bearer, what have I to fear? (Remember, we’re not talking about my use of the word, but of my exposure to stories that have characters who might use those words.)

Now, here’s the other side of the coin. I made the disclaimer about the movie because I realize that we’re all at different stages on the journey. We all have unique baggage that we’re lugging around, and some things that you might not think twice about will send me up the wall like a cat in a dog pound. If I had watched this film when I was in Bible college, I would have been offended to my core. I know what it’s like to be sensitive to foul language, and I sympathize. I’m not writing this to convince you to not be offended. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you, seek counsel, be humble, love wisdom, and pray that I’ll do the same. I have come to know Christ much better over the fifteen years since my Bible college career began, and I find that I am much less worried about some things and am much more sensitive to others.

I believe that words have power. They are a gift unique to the crown of God’s creation on earth, and are to be used carefully. The Bible in James 3:6 calls the tongue a “world of evil”, and after many instances of hurting myself and the people around me with nothing more than my words, I’m inclined to agree (it is the Bible, after all). Just tonight after our Bible reading with the kids we compared Genesis 1:1 with John 1:1ff, and talked about how wonderful it is that Jesus himself was the Word by which the world was made. What power there is in the spoken word! What power to heal, to teach, to preach, to love–and what power to tear down, to despise, to kill.

I’m not sure how to wrap this up. It’s 3 AM, and I’m still glad I watched the movie Once. And I still think that it’s okay if you don’t understand how I could enjoy it in spite of its language. I enjoyed sitting on the couch with my kids, taking turns reading through Genesis even more. I’m going to bed, cringing in anticipation of being schooled by you all in the ways of rhetoric and exegesis. So be it.

AP

As a singer-songwriter and recording artist, Andrew has released more than ten records over the past fifteen years. His music has earned him a reputation for writing songs that connect with his listeners in ways equally powerful, poetic, and intimate. He has also followed his gifts into the realm of publishing. His books include the four volumes of the award-winning Wingfeather Saga.


94 Comments

  1. Matt McBrien

    Not a whole lot to say besides – I agree completely. I personally think it has far more to do with the intent meant behind the words than the actual words used.

    Considering that each language and culture has it’s own choice words (and alternatives for the same word, such as boopie), I cannot imagine that James meant that we should not use this finite list of foul words when he encouraged the recipients of his letter to not “curse men who have been made in God’s likeness”.

    I do not, of course, encourage the use of words deemed foul by our cultures, as our appearance to non-Christians can have a heavy bearing on how they feel about us in general. But, that being said, I feel that being exclusionary and hating those who do use foul words is far worse than the use of the foul words themselves.

  2. Andrew C

    All you have said is really powerful. I grew up in a family very similar to yours in terms of the use of language. Somehow, even through college I was very under-exposed to the coarse language we are talking about here. About a year ago I started working for and audio production company and everyone there breathes this type of language. It was a shocker to put it mildly. But I’ve come to the same conclusion that you have laid out here. It’s really good to be challenged not only to examine why we think what we do, but most of the time, the examination ends up back on our own hearts. Ouch! I’m so thankful for God’s grace.

    Thanks for sharing the thoughts, the struggle. It’s been a big encouragement at the start of my day.

  3. Loren Eaton

    Boooopie! I love it.

    There’s also the fact that most of the characters in Once have such thick brogues that Americans won’t likely be able to understand half of the profanity that comes out of their mouths …

  4. Curt McLey

    @curtmcley

    I considered writing a post on the same topic. I am so glad you beat me to the punch, AP. The post was far more articulate and gracious than anything I could have hoped to write. It’s amazingly well written and considered.

    Once made my list of the best of 2007 too. I loved it. But I must reluctantly admit–because I’m not sure what it means–that I was shocked as … uh … heck to learn that there were 39 F-bombs. I would have guessed maybe two or three if pressed for a guess. I do remember struggling to understand the dialect. Maybe I’m desensitized (I see a lot of movies). Maybe I was paying attention to something else, like the story. Who knows.

    There is at least one point of irony in all of this discussion. The very Bible that we read often uses incredibly earthy and violent language and yet is usually what is pointed to when we make a case against profanity. It’s along the lines of pointing to Mein Kampf (if you will excuse the extreme example) and telling people not to be racist.

  5. Brian Baute

    I struggled through this issue when watching episodes of HBO’s The Wire, which probably contains more than 39 f-bombs during each of its 60 episodes. But it’s great TV in so many ways and gives respect and dimension people who we so often caricature and disregard. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, which is a great read even for those who don’t give a boopie about language, fair or foul.

  6. lyndsay

    i’m at work and therefore unable to put 100% of thought into this, so forgive me if any of this is flippant or insensitive. bottom line, i agree with andrew and want to expand on his thoughts or offer my two cents, or whatever. there are things in this world that are stumbling blocks to some and not to others, and i strongly believe that we need to know what ours are so we can try to avoid them. and we also need to know what others’ stumbling blocks are so that we are careful not to set those blocks in their path.

    for instance, my husband loves movies and can watch those with violence (Pan’s Labyrinth, No Country For Old Men, etc) and walk away with a deep message and lesson. i, on the other hand, would have sat through those movies with my head in my knees, probably crying and having multiple panic attacks (no, really…), and would still be having nightmares. i love hearing about the message and lesson he walks away with, but i will never, ever watch those movies, and my husband will never, ever make me watch them or belittle me for choosing not to. if my stumbling block is language – cultural influences or not – i should stay away from movies and company that use foul language, but that doesn’t give me a license to rebuke those who don’t struggle with it, and vice versa. similarly, if i am not offended by certain things, i am not moved to imitate these things or dwell on them by watching something that contains them. i.e. a person can watch Braveheart and be inspired by his love, courage and honor, without at the same time dwelling on and fostering a vengeful, hungering bloodlust. (i use that movie just an example – i actually couldn’t watch that movie either…)

  7. Dan K

    I’m still picturing dinosaurs in tutus on the whitehouse lawn.

    If you think about things, you’re a theologian. Mr Proprietor, you definitely think about things.

    I think you handled your review and this discussion very well. You are 100% correct that online debates lose body language, tone, and 2-way conversing; making them dangerous. If I came across as loving or hating someone over language, I don’t think I do (I may have search my heart on that though).

    If I was visiting my folks and dropped some f-bombs it would only be shocking because it’s not me anymore. They fly with some regularity at the family gatherings on that side. My wife’s is the other side of the coin.

    It is because of the film disclaimer that I will skip over the movie. But honestly I haven’t intentionally sought & watched a movie since the Bee Movie (wasn’t my #1 choice). And prior to that was probably 1-2 years. I love film and a well crafted story that will draw you in for 90minutes to where you couldn’t remember the color of your own hair if someone asked you while watching it. I haven’t had the time recently. I’d rather see Dirty Jobs, Modern Marvels or How It’s Made. If Once made it’s way to TV I’d flip it on knowing it had been filtered.

    Foul language is probably more of a concern for me recently due to a few factors. Daily witnessing pure joy and innocence running thru my house. I walk thru the door everyday and deflect a running headbutt to the groin. My son is trying to hug me but doesn’t know how to slow down (I can’t wait until he’s 2″ taller). I am a gatekeeper protecting their innocence. I must not be the one breaking in the defenses, and right now I’m the most vulnerable. I want them to be children as long as possible and hope I can have your tact and quick thinking when I get quized over what certain words mean.

    At work I am tested daily with factors trying me, asking me to compromise. I enjoy joking, laughing and belonging (who doesn’t). There are conversations and joking rounds that cross my line of decency and I must walkaway. Usually I can say “okay you’re wrecking me now” or “I have to go, I feel my soul being robbed”. I have no hatred at all, I’ll be joking with them again in 1/2 hour. I love my coworkers. I can talk and joke with them without using foul language. They’ve come to usually do the same with me.

    You added the disclaimer because you wanted to make ppl aware of it if they need to make that personal discernment choice. I’ve made a choice based on your disclaimer. Unity in the essentials, diversity in the non-essentials, in all things charity. This is definitely a non-essential. Most believers hold foul language to a minimum in their own speech and have a personal level of how much they’ll tolerate as input from film/friends/music. We can discuss it but it will still be their tolerance level.

  8. Mike

    Could it be that watching Once without the Irish language would be like watching Braveheart without the violence? I have not seen it but will, probably without the wife and definitely without the kids.

  9. John Barber

    I’d like to throw out there that I really like the tone of this forum. It’s rare to find a place online where folks can discuss a divisive issue like this in a respectful way, without calls of intolerance and/or condemnation.

    And I looooooved Once, by the way….

  10. John Barber

    I’m reminded of a few years ago when my (other) favorite songwriter, Bill Mallonee, included a wirty dird in one of his songs. Being a Christian songwriter, with a largely Christian fanbase, it stirred up a bit of controversy. The song was called Flowers and the chorus went:

    We all need new beginnings
    First steps make you better
    Maybe you’re just a prayer away
    From gettin’ your s— together

    I remember at the time thinking (and I till think) about how much more weight that word carried than if he had said “stuff.” That there can be an appropriate time for using that word (and others). It’s when it becomes commonplace that it loses its value and its weight.

    What do you guys think? Is it ever appropriate for a Christian?

  11. S.D. Smith

    This was a wonderful film, and well-recommended. We need to better understand what the Bible teaches about actual cursing and drop a lot of the moralistic, extra-biblical rule making about “four-letter words.”

    As missionary kid in Africa, I noticed early on that different cultures have different “cuss” words, and recognizing the differing power of words in different cultures is not a cave-in to relativism. It is a recognition of reality. Cultural norms and manners are a way of expressing heart attitudes of kindness, gentleness, etc. But applying our particular standards with the force of “God’s truth” without thinking through it is a peculiar arrogance and demonstrates a lack of authentic pursuit of those heart goals of kindness and gentleness.

    Well said, Mister.

  12. Marc

    Thanks Andy for the response. I would love to talk to you one on one. I appreciate you and your heart. Can’t wait for the next CD.

    I will just give you the verse that hits home with me and I sign off of this discussion.
    “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” The Apostle Paul

    Thanks Rabbit Room-ers I have enjoyed this convo.

  13. Keith

    I would like to begin by agreeing with everyone who complimented you on the article, well done.

    There is another issue at stake here, and that is the reality that we live in a fallen world. The only way people without Christ know how to act is like people without Christ. The actors in Once (probably) do not see their language as being particularly wicked, they probably saw it as being more honest to the way they actually live. We as Christians can have two responses to this, either we withdraw and isolate or we engage what is presented to us.

    A specific problem I have seen is in the area of Christian marriages. Some of the best examples (in my personal life) of marriage have been from non-Christians. This should never be the case, but just on the level of how the spouses interact with one another there is a care and tenderness that may not be present in a Christian marriage. Sometimes I wonder if Christian husbands who are struggling to connect with their wives (or vice-versa) would just watch a movie like Once or The Painted Veil or Silence of the Lambs (one of these is a joke) and forget the language or other hindrances and just allow the movie to speak to their relationship if anything would be any different?

    I feel compelled to write here that I know the ultimate fix for relationships or any problem is found in the Bible, but we are all human, Christian and non, and we still interact the same way. All people still have the Imago Dei and maybe non-Christians have something to say about human relationships that Christians should listen to?

  14. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I’m in complete agreement with AP on this, and actually thought, like Curt, of writing a similar post. Again, like Curt, I’m glad AP beat me to it. However, I’m going to play the devil’s advocate here (or maybe heaven’s advocate… who can say?) and bring up a scripture that is relevant.

    Ephesians 5: 4 – 5 says:
    Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.
    Or from The Message:
    Though some tongues just love the taste of gossip, those who follow Jesus have better uses for language than that. Don’t talk dirty or silly. That kind of talk doesn’t fit our style. Thanksgiving is our dialect.

    This verse is the reason why (confession time here) I gave up coarse language and joking for lent this year. It was getting a little out of hand…

    I’m not going to exegete that passage, but I feel like it’s important to acknowledge that it’s in there. But taking the whole of scripture into consideration, I think that what’s always at stake is the heart. For instance (and I pray my wife forgives me for revealing this about her), Once on a family trip we were nearly in an accident and in a moment of passion Taya used the “S” word (I feel ridiculous calling it the “s” word). One of our boys reprimandingly said “Mom!” To which she had the presence of mind to reply, “hey, sometimes that’s the only word that will do, but if you’re using it all the time that probably means there’s something wrong with your heart and then you need to deal with that!” A good answer, I think.

    I had a conversation about this with another female artist I know (whose identity I’ll protect) who is as wholesome and pure of heart as you could hope for. We talked about the value of strong language. In an argument with her spouse, she will drop the “f” bomb to let her husband know, “now this is serious. What I’m talking about is serious and you need to listen to me.”

    I think this is what strong language was meant for – to create emphasis. The problem in our culture is that foul language is so common that we have all but lost this valuable tool of the English language. Consequently, the laws of escalation come into play here when more profanity is needed to achieve the needed emphasis.

    In terms of art (books, music, film, etc.) foul language can be useful, too. Shakespeare talked of how he would use strong language in his characters to reveal the intent of their hearts. So here we are dealing with the heart again.

    This concern for strong language has come up repeatedly over the years when I talk to believers who are suspicious of the sincerity of the faith of a man like Bono who uses the “F” word even though he’s leading the charge to serve the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ. You can confess belief in Christ, talk openly about your faith, you can serve the least of these, but if you cuss, it’s a deal-breaker. I worry that as Christians we spend too much time majoring in the minors (I worry about it because I’m still guilty of it in so many ways). I have too often judged a book by it’s cover, looking at external qualifiers instead of the heart.

    I remember a time I went to play a concert for a college ministry that met in the basement of a church. When I walked in to set up, I saw these guys sitting at a table in the front smoking cigarettes. I thought “how cool is it that this ministry makes these unbelievers feel welcome.” Imagine my surprise then when they stood up and introduced themselves to me as the elders of the church. I felt ashamed that I had judged them as lost because of something so inconsequential as a cigarette. I didn’t smoke, but of course I harbored my own private addictions, white washed tomb that I am.

    Two parting thoughts, for whatever they’re worth. (CUSS WORD ALERT) Christian and author Larry Woiwode commented once in an interview in Image Journal that American Christians “won’t tolerate the word ‘shit’ in their literature, but they allow it in the architecture of their churches…”

    And reiterating something Curt made reference to, here’s another quote:
    “In many Christian book stores, the only potentially scandalous fare on the shelves is the Bible itself, whose seamy stories always manage to get by [the censors], creating the impression that it is the only book in the store not written by a Christian.”

    James Calvin Schaap
    Singing & Preaching
    in Poets & Writers Jan/Feb 98

    Thanks AP, I’m grateful as heck for the thoughtful and gentle way you handled this topic, and even more grateful to add the word boopie into the Gray family lexicon.

  15. Nathan Bubna

    Yeah, nothing intrinsically sinful about crude and/or strong language. The heart is what matters. Even as a ten year old boy, i understood that the only difference between “damn” (not cool with my parents) and “darn” or “drat” was in what other people thought of it. It was the same in my heart and mind. So, it is usually loving for me to avoid words that offend the listener, but like AP says, that list of offensive words changed constantly depending on who the others were (parents, grandma, friends).

    Words are just sounds used to communicate. They are intrinsically meaningless and ONLY find meaning in relationship, just like everything else.

    No such thing as “dirty words”, just sounds that some people might consider dirty in some circumstances.

  16. Theresa Croteau

    I didnt actually read the review of the movie once I got to the disclaimer. We have a rule at our house; we only watch a movie if we all can watch it. I dont think this is the BEST way, but it works for us, and since I wouldnt let the boys see it, for me I didnt read on.
    What I do love it that people on RR can approach topics in love, transparency, and humbleness of heart. Far more valuable to me then any movie. We are called not to compare ourselves with other believers. My pastor reminds our chuch of that often. I am not well spoken like those here so I dont post much, but I do read often. I can totally relate to what Lynsay is saying above, and to the “Jaime meter” which has been referred to before. Thanks AP and RR for something truely rare, loving discretion and toughtfulness.

  17. Ed Eubanks

    Dadgummit, I can’t freakin’ believe you and your stinkin’ dirty mind! You scoundrels and your cotton-pickin’ liberal theology horse-hockey…

    April fools’. BUT I didn’t cuss, now, did I?

  18. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Ooooh! I forgot one thing I was going to say about the relativity of cuss words in different parts of the world. I have a Canadian friend who was teaching me cuss words in French (I know, I know, it’s so sophomoric) and it was interesting to learn that their cuss words are all sacramental. Their worst cuss word isn’t the “f” bomb, but instead is a word that means “tabernacle”. I found this interesting and it seemed that their cuss words were more intentionally profane and sacreligious, and consequently more alarming.

  19. Chris Slaten

    I remember hearing a while back about people boycotting Veggie Tales partly-based on the instructions on avoiding “silly talk” mentioned in Ephesians 5. (That’s all I have to say about that)

    (Separate thought)I always thought this was an interesting quote from a preacher whose name I won’t mention for the sake of avoiding any rabbit trails discussing the controversies that surround him:
    “I have three things to share with you today. First, I’d like to tell you that while you were sleeping last night 30,000 kids died because of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t even give a ****. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said **** than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”
    Someone people on a guy’s blog (whom I don’t know but found while looking for the exact quote) commented on this quote and made interesting points:
    “I think he could have made the same point by saying simply, ‘You’d be more upset if I said a swear word up here than by the fact that 30000 people died….’ But on the other hand, Christ called people a bunch of names too, to get their attention…”
    “I’m sure there was a lot of hoop-la over Jesus throwing a fit at the temple when he drove out the money changers… No doubt there are those who thought his behavior was ‘bad’ and unbecoming of the Son of God.”

  20. DrewSmusic

    Jason – the bit about “church” words becoming curses is specific to Quebec. The words “tabernacle,” “sacrament,” and others are at the top (or bottom) of the foul list there. It’s a product of the silent revolution, the popular abandoning of the Catholic church from the 60s. (Quebec is the most unreached people group in North America. Maybe High School French IS a redeemable thing.)

    The Washington Post shared this last year:
    “Last spring, the Montreal Archdiocese commissioned an advertising campaign that erected large billboards in the city intended to shock and educate. Each billboard featured a word like “tabernacle” or “chalice” — startling swearwords on the street — and offered the correct dictionary definition for the religious term. Such as: “Tabernacle — small cupboard locked by key in the middle of the altar” containing the sacred goblet.”

    I was amused at the thought of billboards across the US with pictures of bundles of sticks, cigarettes, and female dogs.

  21. Mike

    This reminds me of the story I’ve heard often about the preacher who told his listeners that people were dying and going to hell and that they didn’t give a d*#n. But the biggest problem was that they were more concerned that he said d*#n than with people going to hell. Which brings up the fact that if we tell people they are “going to hell” that’s not cussing even though it is cursing them and if we say “hell no” that is cussing even though we are not cursing anyone.

    Yeah pretty much it all goes back to the heart.

  22. Mike

    Dang, Chris I should have read before I commented. Yours is much better. and you can see how stories get changed.

  23. austin

    i agree.
    this movie was on my list to watch before i read your review…and in fact i had picked it up to watch, only to read your review before i did. not only did the movie resonate within me, but i was aware, because of the review, of the language. yet, somehow, 39 times (i can’t believe somebody counted them) seems crazy high. many of the comments here i agree with. freedom in the spirit…the spirit of the heart…i thank god that my relationship with him is not a set of rules but rather a chance to learn and grow deeper within his love and that there is room inside his grace for my failures. although important, let us learn to discern what apply to our own hearts and focus on the intent rather than the “black and white”.

  24. erik

    great post AP.

    i was just curious if you’ve considered covering “falling slowly” sometime in a set? i would love to hear y’all play it sometime. 😉

    grace and peace,
    ecc

  25. Chris Slaten

    Mike,
    That’s really funny. oh, the telephone game. I had to look that quote up because I was afraid someone would call me out if I misquoted it. Too bad we can’t edit our own comments; my second comment doesn’t make sense grammatically and I can’t change it. Torture!

    I like this:
    “Which brings up the fact that if we tell people they are “going to hell” that’s not cussing even though it is cursing them and if we say “hell no” that is cussing even though we are not cursing anyone.”

  26. Seth Ward

    Great post! Space-time elephants-in-tutu bit about split my side.

    Is it possible to watch other people “cussing,” specifically a work of “art” that contains “cussing” and not be accused of taking part in the cussing? When I watch Braveheart, am I participating in the killin’? When you see someone abuse their wife in a movie are you taking part in the abuse? If one is so ready to judge the viewing of “iffy” language that way then one should also be ready to judge anything else that might implicate them in the other sins showering on through the projector lens, or on the boob-tube. I suppose that guideline would also rule out me reading the OT and the last parts of the four Gospels, because they are full of married men having sex with maid-servants, peeping-tom-husband-murdering kings, killin’ and more killin.

    It’s funny that you mention Temple of Doom… my dad (a preacher) always laughs about the time he took us to see Indy and the Temple. When we walked out of theater my little sister apologized to my dad for that very “s” word, even though it contained scenes of pagan rituals and bloody hearts being ripped from flesh… not to mention all the other stuff in that worst-of-the-three-but-still-great flick. (The stuff my dad felt guilty about showing us.)

    I’m am sure that if I watched cussing, in film, all day, I’d probably be influenced by it as well, just like if I hung out with stoners all day, I might be tempted to take a drag. But as for sitting down to watch a film that is about love and the power of music… I imagine, for me, I can walk away and not use the f-word every other word and see beyond the grammar into the heart and power of the work of art. -Neither will I be helplessly speaking with an Irish accent. Regardless, I agree, it is a matter between the individual and the Holy Spirit.

    As for me, it depends on the flick, as far as foul language goes. I hated the f-bomb in the Cohen Brothers remake of the Ladykillers, but I don’t think Good Will Hunting would have been NEAR as believable or powerful without the full spectrum of the Southie street language. But that’s just me. Language alone rarely keeps me from seeing a movie, unless it is poor writing. I’m much less likely to see a flick that has strong sexual content. THAT is the stuff that really stays in my head and should be more worrisome to the fellas than Vincent Vegas’ language or his careless handling of a pistol in a car. I’m much more worried about seeing films with the “f”word being physically realized than the ones that simply use it in dialogue to demonstrate an accurate cultural dialect.

  27. Caleb Land

    Yeah…bottom line, it’s all about the heart. Some really amazing, godly people I now use some salty language and have hearts of gold while some of the most religious people I know would never use a curse word but can sting you with their words like you wouldn’t believe.

    Plus, I thought the movie was actually really moral. At first my wife and I were like, “aww, that ending kind of stunk.” then I started thinking, what did I want? {SPOILER} Her to cheat on her husband and them to have an affair? Ugh…I’ve been watching too many chick flicks since I got married. So anyway, great movie and even better soundtrack.

    I’d also recommend The Frames, the band of the guy in Once, especially their live music. Good stuff.

  28. Marc

    I was done with this convo. but this continued bashing has brought me back. Wow- What started out with a statement that I did not believe that 39 f-words in the course of 90 mins. was a appropriate thing, has turned into something I never saw coming. Never have I seen people so interested in defending swearing…errr….cursing…errr… a “wordy dird”. And for what? Why is this so important that the RR’s would turn out in droves to speak up for filthy language? I just don’t get it. You can’t and I can’t minimize what The Word says nor rationalize our own wants and desires on the matter of language. If I could summarize the myriad of comments, I would say “Pragmatism” reigns supreme. Some of the comments even used scripture and then went on to justify the behavior anyway?!?! AP you wrote that you were “cringing at the anticipation of being schooled” not so my friend…this has been a love fest for you and for swearing. After reading these comments no one disagrees with you, they all disagree with me; I should have been the one cringing! I do believe you all have outnumbered us (and by ‘us’ I mean me) who actually don’t think listening to profanity is a very good idea. I am certainly swimming upstream in the Room, and will continue. And by the way- by making a statement about the inappropriateness of listen to swearing I never was in anyway minimizing other sinful behaviors in movies (violence, sex, etc.) nor was I saying that I have not, unfortunately, watched movies that portrayed sinful actions. However, I was not recommending them to the masses- and that is why I wrote because someone I respect was recommending a movie that I could not see the value of. And yet the masses of the RR are ok with it so apparently, no one cares. This has been an eye opening discussion and I must say am shocked and a little sad but mostly surprised.
    This “horse” has been beaten long enough so I guess I ought to leave it to die.

  29. Nate

    I heard an interesting take on cusswords recently. I think it was by RC Sproul but I’m not sure. He equated it with never taking a shower.

    I think this is a good comparison. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a few letters lined up in a particular order. Nor is there anything intrinsically wrong with not getting under a spray of (hopefully) warm water every (or every other) morning (or evening). But there is something repulsive about sitting down on the bus next to someone who you can tell hasn’t bathed in weeks. (And its one thing if he doesn’t have access. Its different if he chooses not to shower.)

    Now how is an unbelieving world supposed to know Christ? Through the witness of his disciples. And if we go around never taking showers they will think that our God is dirty and smelly. They will think that he is pays no attention to his grooming or whatever. This seems kind of stupid, but come on, if no Christians ever took showers, then who (barring middle school boys) would ever want to follow Jesus?

    I guess you could say the same thing for words. You have to pay attention to them. They are important. I mean, what revelation of God do we have these days? Words. Words are important to God. They should be important to us.

    That said, I think if you get into Paul’s word for rubbish (in Philippians) you will find that it isn’t a lot different than what Indiana Jones said when he was hanging out on the bridge in Temple of Doom.

  30. Josh

    I think it’s dangerous to start throwing around statements about how the “F” word is absolutely wrong in any situation in any country in any culture. To do so in the presence of someone from Ireland, Scottland, England, etc. would be grossly offensive to them because over there the “F” word is not a big deal and they have no social or spiritual problem with it. Over here bloody doesn’t mean an thing to anybody when used in conversation other than the implication that something or someone is covered with blood for some odd reason. So for me to say “bring me that bloody remote” over here wouldn’t raise an eyebrow, but to say “bring me that f—-remote” offend everyone in the room. In places like Ireland saying “this f—- burger tastes horrible” is not in any way a big deal, but saying “this bloody burger tastes horrible” would probably draw some nasty looks. Cuss words are a social issue, not a spiritual one. Every culture has a different set of words and deeds that are or are not acceptable. In india you can’t shake someone’s left had, in some places it is impolite not to burp after a meal and in others it’s totally taboo to do so. In some cultures the word ma’am is rude, but in others it’s rude not to use it.

    Lumping certain words into the “wrong in any all circumstances” category is irresponsible. The problem here in the good ole USA is that “cuss words” have been demonized and overused to the point that they have lost their effectiveness and many people have never been taught to weild them properly. A word like damn is a strong word that conveys certain feeling and emotion better than most others you could substitute. But instead of cuss words being a powerfull literary/oratory tool for adding emphasis and emotion, they have become a taboo that we would rather sweep under the rug, call it evil, and then lambast our brothers and sisters for using them.

    I think a great example of a justified useage of the “F” word is in Bono’s speech during “Sunday Bloody Sunday” on the Rattle and Hum DVD. The part where he’s ranting about the revolution in Ireland that had led to the deaths of old veterans at a remberance day parade. When he yells F— the revolution, it is a outpouring of emotion and feeling that comes out of the pits of his soul. And his use of that word makes it clear that everything in his being is raging against the evil perpetrated on innocent civilians. Nothing else would’ve done his statement justice. Not forget, not stop, not any other word would’ve emphasized his point as well. And truthfully, sometimes offending people with a word is the absolute best way to get their attention.

    Sometimes the responsibility lies on the listener to either get over the offense of a word in favor of seeing the deeper meaning of a speaker’s or writer’s presentation, or choose to focus on how they wish they hadn’t used that dirty word. Nevermind what came next.

  31. Keith

    Marc,

    I don’t think anyone is bashing you for your stance against profanity. I also don’t think anyone standing up for profanity, in the way you are accusing them. The one thing i think this conversation shows is that it is a matter of conscience. Romans 14 is clear that “we will all stand before the judgment seat of God…So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” (v. 10-14) And because of this reality we are called not to judge one another, but that “we should be fully convinced in our own minds of what we believe (v 5).

    Language (I believe) is one of those issues that falls under the conscience of the believer. The Bible encourages us to stir one another on to love and good works, so I don’t see this as a time for you to back out of the conversation. Iron can’t sharpen iron without some friction. God bless.

  32. Greg Sykes

    Although I’m not going to pause long enough to be real effective here, I think Marc could use the encouragement of someone expressing support for his position. I certainly think AP made an eloquent cause for exposing ourselves to foul language on occasion, but it does seem the responses have bordered on cultural relativism and permissive behavior.

    Not to be all theological about it, but many of the thoughts expressed on this page need to be taken to their logical extreme. If so, it wouldn’t just be our tongues that lay in the gutter. Essentially, the arguments expressed here are often the same arguments the lost world uses to protect behavior expressly forbidden in Scripture.

    But, oh well, there is freedom in the Spirit, is there not? And, you know, when in Rome, do as the Romans do. So what are we worried about here?

    Since you can’t see me or hear me via the website, let me be clear — the previous paragraph was dripping with sarcasm.

  33. Marc

    Keith- I appreciate your comments. It just seems that the orginal comment has been met with such opposition and I just can’t wrap my mind around it. I agree with iron sharpening iron and I am very interested in conversing for that goal. God Bless you too.

  34. Adam

    I appreciate the atmosphere here. Thanks AP for making this discussion possible.
    I was teaching a group of 8th graders this morning about the position of our bodies during prayer (stay with me, it connects). They initially and unanimously decided it doesn’t matter. However, after looking at the pattern of kneeling, bowing and “fell on their faces” in scripture, we came to the conclusion, that while God hears prayers whatever our position, the position can matter to US. It doesn’t change God for me to kneel, but He’s not the one who needs to change. It does change me. Does God get mad when i cuss, whether “with evil intent” or among close brothers? No. But He’s not the one who’s heart needs to look more like Christ’s every day. Can my language reflect an attitude of heart that is looking more – or less – like His daily? Certainly. This is not (or at least shouldn’t be) a matter of “how far can we go before crossing a line”. Its a matter of being like Jesus; pursuing passionately whatever changes me into a better disciple and avoiding like toothy cows whatever might lead me away.
    That’s my two cents.

    thanks for all the thought that has gone into these posts. i read them all and learned some good “stuff”.

  35. Josh

    I don’t know Greg, I think most of the issues surrounding language in the bible aren’t really so much dealing with which specific words are OK as much as they are dealing with whether or not you’re building up and eddifying (don’t know how to spell that word) or if you’re tearing down and actually cursing people.

    Like someone said earlier, calling a man a “stupid piece of trash” is a curse. Calling a dog turd you just stepped in a “stupid piece of s–t” isn’t a curse at all.

    I do agree though, that I don’t see anybody ganging up and bashing anyone else on this discussion. For whatever reason, the majority of the readers here just share the same opinion on this subject. And for me, that is a rare thing and I won’t deny that i’m loving the fact that i’m agreeing with most of what i’m reading here. It’s a nice change of pace 😉

    I also want to let it be known that I personally don’t have any problem whatsoever with anyone who doesn’t agree with AP’s original post. If everybody liked and agreed with the same stuff then these discussions wouldn’t happen and how boring would that be.

  36. Seth Ward

    Marc, I actually hadn’t read your comment on the “Once” post so none of my comment was intentionally directed to you. It was simply a response to Andrew’s post. I apologize if I offended you or if you felt attacked. I should have read all that stuff, but… they is a lot of words in them thar comments… so, just lazy on my part.

    I think I can partly answer your question as to why so many people are defending certain words that you and others find inappropriate. From what I’ve read in the comments I gather that most of the people here are artists in some way or another, and the various modes of expression -words, music, painting, etc- are absolutely essential to… survival, (not to be too dramatic) in day to day life. They are how we talk to God, praise God, express our Anger to God and even at Him, (if we are reaaaaaally hurting,) and how we create and communicate our perceptions of the world around us. (I can feel the eyes rolling but just hear me out.)

    In the Christian subculture we (the writer, singer, painter, poet) are taught that there are certain words and expressions that are off limits and that even uttering certain things make us worse sinners. And most artists, after a few years of unhealthy self-righteous suppression, realize that God wants it all. He can take it. He doesn’t care about what you wear, how you smell, or how pretty your rhetoric sounds, or if it lives up to the head-deacon’s standard or the great Baptist Kahuna’s list of words that if uttered, will send you straight to the end of the potluck line.

    He cares about your heart, as everybody here has said, a bunch of times. And when I am in horrible pain or if I’m angry about something, “Lord, I just feel like boopie,” just doesn’t cut it as far as expressing just what is exactly is on my heart. I think at some certain point, we (or some of us) realize that God really doesn’t care about the order of letters that shape the word that symbolizes the object. Dung and shoot (minus the “oo” and add an “i”) both mean the same thing, after all, but to some of us, one of those words sure might express the emotion with much more accuracy, and honesty.

    So, it is freeing to know that God cares about our heart and not some made up rule or hierarchy of words that are considered offensive in the United States of America and are considered ‘R’ rated by the Motion picture association.

    The only scripture that keeps me from speaking them as freely as I feel is the one about offending my brother. Therefore, I wouldn’t say a word that would offend you if I knew it would offend you just like I wouldn’t drink real wine around an alcoholic, or my teetotalin’ mom.

    But I have no problem seeing a film with words you find offensive because you don’t have to go. And as long as they aren’t arranged in such a way that they are idiotic or boring or glorifying sin, I hope I’ll hear and see the picture the filmmaker is trying to paint. And if in the end, I feel it gives a glimpse of God’s love running through our faults, I’ll recommend it. Because that, above all lists of wrong or right words, is what people are longing to hear and believe. I’d also do like AP did, and slap on a disclaimer, depending on whom I was talking to.

    I respect your opinion and admire your convictions amidst a whole bunch of people who disagree with you.

    (Sorry RR folks for the extended yapping.)

    Peace

  37. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    I could just about write a book on my feelings about this topic, but I’m pretty sure I can’t do it without sounding condescending–so I won’t.

    I will say this, that when I watch, read, or listen to something I am tuned to see beauty and truth. If those are not to be found, then it’s not edifying me. If they are, then it is. Once, without any shadow of doubt, contains both of those qualities. Whether a viewer has the discernment to see them is another matter and neither he who does, nor he who does not, should judge the other. A really smart guy said that once, I think.

  38. Mike

    I really can’t imagine any body whose posted here running around using the F-word as a normal part of their language. There’s a reason for that. I think, Marc that we are saying that there is Beauty among the thorns.

  39. John Michalak

    This will be a horrible paraphrase, but I remember of pastor of mine saying once that he’s learned to shout essential truths to the masses, speak debatable truths to the choir, and whisper his opinions on controversial truth to only his closest friends.

    The Rabbit Room, I think, is a probably a mix of these last two audiences, and I think AP’s post on profanity is also a mix between something debatable, and subjective opinion.

    Perhaps that’s why we’re seeing the passion (and stagnation) here. As John Kerry learned four years ago, nuance is often a hard-sell to a random audience.

  40. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Another thought I had on this issue is the different ways that people experience entertainment. Going to movies as a form of escapism is different than going as a means of engagement to the mysteries of your own life. My wife and I, for instance, often watch movies with different goals in mind. She is very deep (and in a lot of ways smarter than me) and we love the same books and movies, but sometimes after a long day with the kids she just wants to unplug and enjoy a fun romantic comedy. On the other hand, I find it hard to relax and enjoy a romantic comedy. I feel like much of the tasks I do throughout the day make me feel disconnected from my inner life, and so when I watch a movie I want it to help me re-engage with my own life. I want it to remind me that stories are important, that maybe even my story is important. I want to see again that in the midst of the all that’s ugly in the world beauty can still flower in unexpected places. I want to cry, to feel, to be challenged to see the world differently. I want to be afflicted. I want to be moved.

    I know that’s not how everybody feels about entertainment – and that’s cool. I don’t expect everyone to be as neurotic as I am about movie preferences. But if you go to movies for enjoyment or escapism then I think vulgarity is offensive. I hate when people use obscenities to get a cheap laugh. However, if you watch movies with the hopes of engaging your own life or Life with a capital “L”, then vulgarity and obscenity become secondary to the heart of the story. David’s adulterous relationship with Bathsheba makes for less than edifying escapist entertainment, but as a story that helps us engage with the truth of God’s grace in the face of our failures, then it becomes beautiful. Depending on how you look at it, Paul saying that he wishes the circumcision group would just go and emasculate themselves is either a crass joke or a bold declaration of the foolishness of trying to please God with our feeble and often misguided attempts at holiness.

    I’m offended by all the obscenities and violence in movies like “The Ladykillers” and “Pulp Fiction”, but not so much in movies like “The Passion” and even “Magnolia” or “The Shawshank Redemption” because there’s a context that justifies it.

    One last example. I have a friend who refuses to watch violent movies and so will not watch “The Lord of the Rings”. I feel bad that he misses out on all the beauty, courage, hope and redemption because of a conviction that in my mind is a perhaps a bit overzealous. However, it’s his choice to make. My only problem with it is that I wonder how he can justify reading his bible with its passages of dashing babies’ heads upon the rocks, etc.

  41. Evie Coates

    @eviecoates

    Amidst the loud “Wordy Dird”-induced uproar, I have been cowering in a cyber corner with my hands over my ears, overwhelmed by the angst. Angst is good, great even; it dredges up the stuff we usually feel more comfortable glazing over or ignoring, but it shoves a large wood splinter underneath the fingernail of this peace-keeping-to-a-fault Rabbit Roomer. The cheap, pacifist, silly retort of “Why can’t we all just get along??” has been itching in the back of my mind, but I know fully that getting along is not the point of the Rabbit Room, and furthermore, it is not what God calls us to when we feel gut-level convictions on matters such as these.

    Other itches in my head that I’ve been trying to reach in order to scratch: What must our Heavenly Father be thinking up there? Is he cheering for one side, saying “Yes, my son, you, you are the one who is right — go henceforth and convince others, at all costs.” Or is he chuckling softly and calling it all semantics? Or maybe he doesn’t care about the outcome at all, but deeply loves our passion and struggle and, well, angst. There are some other itches I will keep to myself, because they are in an unkind sort of tone, of which I am sadly capable.

    But what I really want to do is tell you, Andrew, how parts of your post made me belly-laugh, above the din, until tears flowed. I forwarded it to Ann and she called me a few hours later, still chuckling with that marvelous tone that only Ann has. We talked and laughed loudly over the phone as I re-read parts of your writing. The “dinosaurs…on the White House lawn” line was a unanimous favorite. Thank you, thank you, thank you for having the patience, caring, humor and sweet gentility necessary for tackling such an obviously prickly subject.

  42. Marc

    This sounds so bad after what Evie wrote…but the discussion has been furthered with Jason’s last comment so…sorry Evie.
    Jason, as great of a writer as Tolkien is, he is not inspired, I know there is cultish following for the books and movies but seriously he is a man and it is a story that he made up. There is a real danger in suggesting that stories in man-movies are equivalent in value/ worth to stories in the holy scriptures or the scriptures themselves. These biblical stories are not for entertainment purposes but for profond teaching about who our God is, what He thinks about life, man, sin, love, etc. They are His stories. Are the full of failure and sin, etc? Of couse. But that in know places them on the same list as the movies you listed. The Lord of the Rings may very well teach us some things…but to go so far as to question the consistency of someones position on this matter because he doesn’t watch violent movie but reads the breathed out Word of God is outrageous.

  43. Marc

    Jason—I want to be careful and I probably should have been….more careful in my last comment. (easy to say that now, I know.) I don’t want to attack or bash you—-my comments were meant to say that The Word is on a different plane than any movie. That was my point. I am sorry that I “went after” you, that was inappropriate and disrespectful. Please if you can, read my comment for the point and not my failure to express it appropraitely. Sorry brother.

  44. Nathan

    There really were F-bombs in Once?

    But hey, this is great dialogue. I have a friend who lines up with some of the looser views represented in these posts. We had a heated conversation about language and the use thereof, intentions, etc… My sticking point came when he informed me of his belief that foul language could actually be used to build up or edify others. To be fair, he was speaking in the context of relating to those in areas or cultures where language, specifically the F-bomb, is no biggie, no different than my excessive use of crappy, sucky, or friggin. I view these words in the context of AP’s, that I use them because I’m too lazy to go dig up actual words to fill those gaps. I don’t think they’re necessary and I don’t think they play a role in building others up. I realize even with those words that they can offend others with high sensitivity. When I’m aware of that, I try to use discretion. All said, I don’t view them as bad words. It’s hard for me to view the F-bomb in a non-surly context, but it’s also hard for me to view bloody in a surly context, except to recognize that other people that are not me see it that way. All said, if I’m around a Brit, I might pull back on that one.

    All said, I try to use discretion and act out of the conscience provided to me by God’s spirit, formed in the environment in which He’s placed me. Fortunately, be we in New England, the midwest, Cali, Texas, or Ireland, I think we all get the idea that certain words fall outside the context of proper conversation, and those words will take on different meanings and weights in different environments, and some good Christian discretion is well served when considering their use.

    Knowing this, I can watch and enjoy Once, and let those words fall aside. That doesn’t mean I’ll show it to me f-ing kids.

  45. Randall Goodgame

    @randallgoodgame

    What a thoughtful and gracious discussion.

    I have a friend from Dublin, Ireland that attends our church. I was leading the singing during worship one Sunday, along with a friend of mine, Rachel Lehman. I don’t remember which song Rachel led by herself, but after the service, my buddy from Ireland caught my shoulder and said in his barely discernable Irish brogue,

    “Randall, can you tell me who was that girl singing up there? What was her name? She sounded like a f****** angel! It was so beautiful!”

    After glancing around to see who was within earshot, I told him her name and suggested that he go tell her himself, but he didn’t. I got a huge kick out of relaying that story to Rachel.

  46. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Marc,

    I doubt that anyone here would say that movies are equal to the Word in God-breathed inspiration. Yet movies can have an inspired message, or shadows of an inspired message. Every believer needs to be reading the Word on a daily basis; the Word is our prompt to feed on Christ – it points us to Him. Movies can do that too, to a degree; they can illuminate our lives and give us a broader perspective on what life means.

    Lewis said, “In reading great books I become a thousand men and yet remain myself.” Movies are similar (though to my mind inferior in some ways) to great books. But in a well done movie I can experience the life of the characters which in turn can shed light on my own life. Movies like The Story of Us illuminate how marriages can go bad, and so as I lay in bed going to sleep it can cause me to think of how to better treat my wife so that doesn’t happen.

    Without literature, without movies, without art – if I just have my own relatively small world, I can’t gain a broader perspective; I’m stuck in my one-sided view of things. Ever know someone who doesn’t like movies or music or reading? Their world is often very small and confined to the way they grew up and the small circle of people they know. Movies are a way out of that; books are a way out. And of course, in terms of defining what Reality is, the Bible is the final Word on that subject.

  47. Marc

    Ron- I don’t think we are understanding Jason’s comments the same way. My concern was in the last part when he was talking about his friend. The concept there was prompting an idea that God’s Word has stories of great violence, so if one is will to read that why not watch a violent Lord of the Rings movie. The problem I think we are (I am) having is that I disagree with the notion that a movie like The Story of Us is valuable because of what is teaches me about marriage. I have the God’s wisdom about marriages. I don’t look to secular movies to teach me about who God is, His beauty or His truth. I find that in His Word, or in a biblical truth deliever through a musician on an acoustic guitar singing of a Far Country or a Labor of Love or how our Lord is Holy (And, by the way can I just say that “Love and Thunder” is my favorite AP disc…my favorite disc. period.). I just do not agree that God’s method of proclaiming himself is through a movie that is saturated with Godlessness. I see His Creation, Son, Word, and Children proclaiming Him quite well on their own.

  48. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Evie,

    The tension between “God forgives my sins” and the necessity of living a holy life can create a lot of heat and sometimes very little light. Many people have a lot of security, self-worth, and meaning invested in “my” works, “my” way of thinking, “my” theology. If that false source takes a hit, it creates anger, which is usually a hiding place for fear. The same is true if we have our self-worth caught up in what we do – it makes us fragile and unable to accept criticism without either crumbling or fighting.

    Jesus didn’t fight with anyone to follow Him. He didn’t beg or plead. He just threw seed out there, and let those who heard do with it as they chose. His job was to sow seed.

    When we get that “sowing seed” idea straight, and realize we are not here to argue but to throw seed, it takes a lot of heat out of the discussion. Many times in discussing something with someone with a contrary viewpoint I’m not discussing to convince that person; my objective with him is to see where we have a commonality, and at the same time I’m sowing seed for anyone who is listening. There is no use trying to force others to see it our way – but there is benefit in sowing seed. Sometimes that seed takes root in a person much later.

  49. Marc

    I am re-reading my comment. the second to last sentence says “I just do not agree that God’s method is…” That sounds like I am suggesting that Jason or Ron mean that God’s method is movies…that is not what they said and not I mean. I mean to say that I don’t believe that Godless Movies are not proclaiming God.

    This convo. would be great if we could all meet at that stone brick cottage that AP describe a few months back “Used Books in the Rabbit Room”…remember? Hopefully I would be able to communicate better and would not feel so trapped by this silly keyboard! ARG!

  50. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Marc,

    What it appears to me that you are saying is that there is little or no value in movies that have violence, or sex, or cussing (definitely correct me if I am overstating). Let’s set up a hypothetical situation; let’s say I’m in big trouble in my marriage, that it is very nearly on the rocks. One night a friend comes over and we talk till the wee hours about his failed marriage, how awful it is to get up in the morning alone in a house two hours from his children, what it is like to see his boys and his daughter have another man in the house as a step father, and to know he will never get to be their father in the fullest sense God intended. Let’s say this friend talks about all his failures as a husband, and how so much of it was due to misunderstanding what his wife needed, and her misunderstanding him?

    Let’s say we don’t bring a single word of Scripture into it. All he does is share how awful his experience is, and how he desperately desires for me to avoid the pain he is in.

    Let’s also say my friend cusses constantly and drinks half a pint of Jack Daniels during our evening together.

    Would this conversation have any benefit for my marriage?

    I would say it would have more benefit in my case than hearing someone quote, “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church.” Because it would fully explain to me the nature of misunderstanding, un-love, and living according to the flesh rather than from the Spirit. It would illuminate the Word and show it up in a deeper light than as a command to do something. It would show me through his experience what un-love produces, and raise in me a desire to love more deeply.

    That’s what great movies (and books) do for me. They shed light by letting me in on the experiences of others. I’m not talking about movies that glorify evil, but those that give us something worthwhile.

  51. Marc

    I need an editor or a proof-reader or a typer…

    I should have written…

    ” I mean to say that I don’t believe that Godless movies are proclaiming God” (notice the absence of “not” before “proclaiming”.) Sorry.

    This is aweful.

  52. Pete Peterson

    @pete

    Define “Godless movie”. I think it’s belittling God to assume he’s not to be found in them. One of the most compelling movies I’ve ever seen is Magnolia. The film is full of ‘Godless’ people that are incredibly foul and wracked by sin. The the movie demonstrates from a very biblical standpoint the incredible power of love and forgiveness, and in contrast the destructive nature of sin in its absence. The writer/director, P.T. Anderson is not, to my knowledge, a Christian. I think it’s foolishness to assume that the film he made is not inspired. It is in my mind, the very definition of inspired because God breathed into it something more than he could have created on his own.

    I don’t recommend the movie to everyone because some people aren’t prepared for the language and content. But for those that have trained themselves to see what is good, pure, and righteous this is one of the most spiritually satisfying movies they can engage with.

    By contrast, something like a Left Behind movie or The Nativity is nothing short of a spiritual vacuum to me that contains almost nothing good at all, no spiritual meat to chew on, and certainly no inspiration. For others, they are probably well-fed by them. I don’t pretend to understand why, but I certainly can’t fault them for finding revelations of God where I do not.

  53. Sue

    I’m late to the party, but would like to add my voice. I, too, was raised in a very strict Christian home and planned on raising my children similarly. 3 sons and many years of Christian school for them later, I’m grateful for a school and former pastor that has encouraged them to not withdraw from culture, but rather to engage it. Something that has helped me to stop gasping every time I hear one of “those words” are Christ’s words, ” He said to them, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” Hearing bad language doesn’t defile us; using it does.

    That said, if we take in a diet of movies, music, and books that routinely use such words, we are much more likely to have them slip out of our own mouths.

  54. Marc

    Ron- I appreciate your genuine interest and you have made a good point and I am thinking. Maybe I will respond later, if I have something else to say but to be honest I have some thoughts and disagreement but I don’t know if it is consistent or well thought through yet.

    Ron do me a favor though re-read Jason’s comments. That is really where I am coming off of. I am considering your comments, consider mine. Thanks Ron.

  55. Ron Block

    @ronblock

    Marc,

    I’ve just reread Jason’s comments – and believe me, I do consider your comments and the other side of this discussion. You are concerned with holiness, and that is good – yours is a call to a holy life. The discussion is in the details of what that means – how we get there – what holiness looks like. Too long the Church has turned “grace” into “Jesus died to pay my sin debt so I could be forgiven” and then the Christian life looks like this: Try-sin-repent-try-sin-repent-try-sin-repent-try-sin-sin-sin-sin. Paul didn’t set up Romans 7 to be a picture of the normal Christian life – it’s a stage of effort whereby we attempt to use our willpower to “be the new man.” A stage – and then we move on into reliance, trust, faith in Christ Himself rather than in our own human strivings to be holy.

    Truth is paradoxical. Our humanness and temptability are handles for others to relate to us, and us to them. In a movie, the frailties of humanity are displayed. Those frailties are windows into my own, and cause me to see more deeply (if I receive the movie rather than using it as mere entertainment) the issues in my own life.

    As a believer, I have the ultimate Answer to those frailties – God’s strength is perfected in our weakness. When I watch a great movie my being resonates with questions and answers. They stir me to ruminate on my own life. I recently watched RV with my inlaws, and thought, “Man, I’m not going to be that guy – spending all his time working and then ending up with a teenage daughter who hates me.” It made me think about my relationship with my daughter (even a silly comedy like that). It made me want to spend time with her, to breathe “You are beautiful and loved and I’d-kick-anyone’s-butt-who-messed-with-you” into her very being. That’s what movies do for me, because I receive the movie – I receive the intent, and I let drop anything (like cussing, illicit sex, anti-Christian bias, etc) that is rotten food.

    The other way – of finding badness and wrongness – well, I did that often enough. It doesn’t edify in any area of life. Doesn’t mean we don’t honestly see what’s there. But we extract the good from it and leave the rest. This same thing can be done with books. How many Christian books are written debunking Christian teachers as heretics without balancing the debunking with a chapter or two on what they’re getting right?

    I receive music the same way. I love Skynyrd – I love the guitars. I don’t have to like the lyrics to “What’s Your Name” or let them influence my life.

    But again, this is me. This is me from where I sit, after a few decades of Christian life, up and down, God crashing my self-worth in the mid-nineties, and continuing throughout the years to destroy the lies I’ve believed, the fears I’ve had.

    Others will not have this exact same experience. To anyone – live your convictions, and yet be open to God’s changing power.

    Pete,

    I too was annoyed with the vapid textures of Nativity and also the lameness of A Night with the King (about Esther). I would love great Bible movies, but excellence in mass market Christian art…well, that’s a whole other topic.

    Edited for brevity (ha-ha, he chuckled humorlessly) at 3:27pm

  56. c.Lates

    Pete,

    Two things:

    First, when you said, “…God breathed into it something more than he could have created on his own,” the “he” is referring to PT Anderson right? Not God? Because if it’s God, then that’s a dangerous place to go with that. But it is getting late and my reading comprehension is quickly diminishing.

    We need to be careful when interpreting things in our own way. I agree that art can move and inspire us. Tolkien’s “Silmarillion” totally changed the way I look at the Old Testament. But we must always be aware of the original intent/meaning of the creator of the artwork. I don’t want to put words into your mouth by saying this, but for us to say that this is what a movie means to me, regardless of what the writer’s original intent was, takes away the writer’s intent and thus the original meaning of the piece.

    Now back to the foul language issue: I wouldn’t say that just because you use foul language you’re a pagan, just like having pristine language doesn’t bestow God’s favor upon you. But we must be careful whom we are influencing with our words and actions. Notice how I included actions. This post has all been about language (which was the entire purpose of it) but I think a non-Christian would forgive a cuss word (not that I’m supporting public profanity) more easily than a sinful act (pick one, it doesn’t matter). And those of us who are leaders/teachers, whether in a church, on a stage, or in an art gallery are greatly more responsible for our words and actions because of our influence on those who follow us.

  57. Josh

    I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again. Growing up in small mississippi towns, I have come to realize that (around here at least) the only feathers that get ruffled by cuss words and the occassional sip of alcohol are usually church folk who claim to already be Christians. The ones who are just not religious or have much contact with the church generally couldn’t care less if you cuss or drink a beer now and then. As long as you’re genuine and real, they’ll listen to what you have to say. If you take on the persona of the stuffed shirt frumpy “church man” then they’ll tend to get defensive and can’t wait to argue with every word you say. If you are able to sit down and just talk to them like a human without using church language or coming across as “holier than thou” then you’ll get to actually have a meaningfull conversation most times.

    Now, would this work if you’re going around getting plastered in the local watering hole then standing up on the bar and waving a bible around screaming “let me tell you about the ultimate party animal…. His name is Jesus”… I would certainly hope not…

    And it’s also perfectly fine to not like cussing, drinking, smoking etc. and still be a very personable, easy-to-talk-to, non-condescending person. What you have to avoid is coming across as “too righteous to associate with the ones who don’t know our rules”. And i’m sure that every one of you who have voiced your displeasure with cussing, etc. are probably this kind of person. (not the too righteous type, the one befoer that).

    The point of this discussion is to point out that when it comes to something specific like language there really isn’t an “absolutely wrong in all circumstances for all people” category. Cuss words don’t phase me in the least because i’ve grown up around it. There are a lot of good salt-of-the-earth folks where I grew up and where I live now and the cuss with every other word. They do it because they just don’t know any better really. They don’t do it with the intention of cursing their brothers or going against God’s law, they just talk that way.

    One of my favorite stories i’ve ever heard goes like this: A grizzled old lumber jack type guy from the Mississippi Delta accepted salvation and got baptised in one of the local churches one sunday several years ago. Upon being raised out of the water he turned to address the congregation and this is what he had to say to them, “I never thought God could actually love a sorry sum bitch like me, but i’m so thankfull that He does”… He was expressing his gratitude in the best way he knew how. Overcome with emotion and gratefullness he just said what he meant, just like little children are prone to do.

  58. Adam

    I wrote a thesis for my Postmodern Theology class at Fuller Seminary on the Theology of Profanity. You can find it online at http://tallskinnykiwi.typepad.com/tallskinnykiwi/2008/01/theology-of-pro.html.
    One of my arguments is that profanity is a form of rebellion – and for the last couple of centuries we have lived in a culture of “shame” in regards to bodily functions and sexuality. But this era of profanity is drawing to an end because we are not as ashamed of those functions today as previous generations. Today’s true profanity is focused on race, because there is an overwhelming sensitivity in our culture towards offensive and non offensive language regarding race. Just my two cents.

  59. Marc

    Hey Adam- good point about post modern thinking affecting our view on profanity. The link to your paper is not working for me…would like to take a look at….

  60. Peter B

    Josh: Yes. Paul became all things to all men, that by all means he might save some.

    Jason, regarding your “what kind of movie” comments: I think you just taught me something important about my wife and how our daily experiences affect our taste in movies (among other things).

    Marc, thanks for being part of the discussion here. This is a deep, many-faceted issue that strives to find the balance between faith and works, and explores what it means to enjoy freedom while being concerned for the health of weaker brothers.

    Ron, great example. I don’t always agree with your comments, but perhaps when I’ve grown a bit more, I will.

    AP, thanks as always for providing such interesting fodder for discussion (I’m referring to boopie and dinosaur tutus, of course). Also, I must mention that your Sigur Ros post makes much more sense in the context of Dark Sea topography. I still don’t cry at the video, but perhaps I see your connection better.

    And thank you of course for providing this wonderful Tyrannus’-house forum. The discussions here are #*&%! amazing.

  61. Kathy

    Before I post this, ditto AP’s disclaimer… I’m not trying to be argumentative, just putting out an idea.
    I’ve actually been thinking about this subject lately on my own… I’ll agree that the vast majority of the issue is an issue of the heart. And yes, we have personal freedom in the Spirit to go where conscience and God’s word lead. But shouldn’t the main point of the cursing question — or any question for that matter — be, “let me live in such a way that no one could be hindered or compromised in their pursuit of holiness?” If we are able to say or do certain things without sinning, but the culture watching us can say, “Why are you doing _________? I thought you said you follow Jesus,” then might we need to re-think the use of that freedom?

  62. Seth Ward

    Adam, that sounds like a great paper. What an interesting thesis! I talked to an Ethics prof. buddy of mine who knew Stanley Hauerwas. He said that on a visit to the seminary where he was doing his DMA, Hauerwas cussed like a sailor to the staff but assured the startled staff that he would not disturb the delicate equilibrium of the young and sensitive Seminary students in his up-coming speech with his normal language. It makes sense that Hauerwas, being the current champ of Christian ethics, was reacting or rebelling to the set of Christian social standards and took the opportunity to shake-up the staff a bit.

    As far as race and culture, it is odd to me that Christians have zero problem with Huck Finn – a beloved book chalked full of the worst word in the English language, (N-word) yet they’ve got all kinds of issues with the other ones most commonly found in films.

  63. Josh

    Kathy I think maybe a better course of action for someone confronted with such a question would be to take that opportunity to educate the person in question rather than conform to what people who don’t know anything about christianity simply assume it’s supposed to look like.

    If it were me, i’d explain to them the concept of moderation if the issue happened to be drinking. (by the way, i’m presbyterian so that’s where my thoughts on drinking in moderation come from) In the case of language i’d probably tell them something very similar to AP’s original post. However, if a non believer happened to catch me in the act of doing something that is absolutely contrary to the faith that I claim then I would definitely have to apologize and repent of my shortcomings.

    (no longer addressing Kathy at this point)

    I think it’s much more important to emphasize and explain what freedom in Christ means and looks like rather than to continue to run away from it simply because the people around us who aren’t a part of the body of believers don’t understand. There’s a lot they don’t understand about our faith. Jesus himself commands us to be holy as he is holy. He was always around people who could cuss with the best of ’em, drink you under the table, sleep with anybody that says please, and fight at the drop of a hat. By our churchy standards today, someone who spent their time with people like that would probably be the subject of statements like “well I just have to question his sincerity about his faith if he chooses to spend all his time in an environment that is anything but edifying and uplifing and glorifying to God’s commandments”.

    You know, the culture we live in also operates under the assumption that Christians shouldn’t even be around non believers at all.

    Why would Christ give us this freedom and then not allow us to use it?

  64. Josh

    Ok i just realized “use” was a bad choice of word… Maybe would’ve been more accurate to say “why would Christ give us this freedom and then tell us to run away from it every time we come across someone who doesn’t quite understand what that freedom means”

  65. Tony Heringer

    My wife feels I use the word jackass a lot because its one Christians can get away with here. She’s right and after reading this you may think “Well he’s a jackass, so I give you leave to think it now and move on to the next post.

    🙂

    Well, I’m not able to read through this entire list of replise this morning, but I’d say it was overdue to get into this thorny topic. Of what I did read, I’d like to say to Andrew, great description of vulgarity vs. profanity. I especially love this line:

    “Those who use foul language usually do so out of laziness; they don’t feel like thinking of the right word, so they vomit out the lowest, dumbest form of the vernacular.”

    Jason and I spoke about this in relation to Bono. I’d be in the camp that doubts Bono’s profession of faith, but for more than Bono’s constant use of the F-word (see my post on the Bono bio for more on that topic). By the way, if you saw Good Will Hunting, you’d notice that the F-word is culturally used in the good old U.S.A. too. When speaking to a friend of mine who grew up in that area he noted that it was just the way they talk there. Hmm, must not be wrong in the Boston area either.

    Now, let’s take this quote from Jason as it is the crux of the issue from my perspective:

    “In terms of art (books, music, film, etc.) foul language can be useful, too. Shakespeare talked of how he would use strong language in his characters to reveal the intent of their hearts. So here we are dealing with the heart again.”

    I agree. Strong language reveals our hearts. The sin in my heart is revealed when I use profanity (i.e. taking God’s Name in vain — which includes the cursing or condemning of others) or when I use vulgarity (I’ve used all the words in my culture and a few others at one time or another).

    I am not in agreement that Bono or anyone of us has greater liberty due to our place of origin. Per Ephesians 5, we have no liberty here for coarse language. That’s not being harsh or narrow minded, that is being biblical. Once sin has been named, you can’t un-name it or excuse it as cultural. That is terrible exgegsis and dangerous for our hearts.

    Whether it is shocking to a culture or not, it is still wrong. It is one thing for a child or someone ignorant of the essence of the word to use it. It is quite another for a person to knowingly use it.

    For example, during the Y2K time of life I worked with a guy from India. He was new to the U.S. and was fluent in proper English — probably a century or two old English– but fluent. He said to me one day, “I’m going outside to smoke a fag.” I gently said, no my friend, you are going outside to smoke a cigarette. If you say what you just said out loud in this town (Atlanta) you are liable to get shot. 🙂

    Now, going back to Andrew’s point on this post:. I’ve no problem seeing films that have, as Monty Python puts it, “naughty bits”, even though I’d prefer not to and for most part don’t see these types of films (see my post on No Country For Old Men). However, if I’m to connect with the culture in an effort to fulfill the Great Commission, I find it important to be aware of the art of the culture along with all other topics that will help me engage it. This involves taking in this art fully from time to time.

    However, I would prefer to see our artists take a higher road. If we hold to Andrew’s point that profanity is “the lowest, dumbest form of the vernacular.” Then it is incumbent for redeemed people to bring to bear on the artistic community a call to a higher standard in the use of vernacular. If not the Christian community, then who will do it?

    This is a very hard thing to do because, those apart from Christ are dead spiritually. In fact, apart from the work of the Spirit it is impossible. The spiritually dead are not going to be sensitive to this topic at all. In fact, in this “post-Christian” culture we’ve seen it become more licentious, not less. This is the natural cycle for a fallen world.

    It certainly was Israel’s pattern from generation to generation. Going from the Exodus to Judges you see a culture that goes from obedience to disobedience with greater frequency and harshness to where the book of Judges ends with “an every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

    Ireland was a country overcome with paganism until Patrick was called to bring Christ to that nation. That English boy brought freedom to that land. Generations later his memory is a footnote celebrated with green beer – how sad, but perfectly in line with the nature of fallen men and women.

    As Christians, we are called to be discerning and be very careful not to take our liberty as license. One thing is for sure, the Bible promises we will reap what we sow. My use of profanity and vulgarity is a natural thing coming out of my ever present enemy – my flesh or sin nature. Here’s Paul’s take on it, I pray we all take heed of his words to us:

    Galatians 6:7-10 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that naturewill reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

  66. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    Well, this topic has maybe been beaten to death while I’ve had three days of travel at the outset of our Spring tour.

    To be honest I’m getting a little exhausted over this discussion – frankly because of what I sometimes feel is over zealous nitpicking. Now, I haven’t slept in three days and I’m sitting in an airport after my flight has been cancelled which means I’m likely to miss my next concert, plus I had a car accident before leaving home, so I might be a little grumpy 🙂

    But I want to clarify. I’m reading over my post again and I honestly can’t see how it could be construed that I was putting a movie like the Lord of The Rings on par of significance with the holy scriptures. Come on, now. My point was about context. Violence in one story can do damage to our hearts, violence in another story (as in scripture and in the context of God working his will) is inspiring and edifying.

    All I was saying is that I was sad for my friend who miss out on what I deem inspiring and ennobling stories because of what I see as a double standard. If the bible were made into a movie, it would be rated R at the very least. Consider the story of Judah who propositioned his niece who in his drunkenness he took for a prostitute. Later when he found out his niece was pregnant he called for her to be stoned to death because of her adultery. She shows up with his staff revealing that it was he who impregnated her. Yikes! That is not a tidy Sunday school story. There’s not even a moral at the end! It’s only edifying in the context of the larger story of God’s grace and activity in scoundrel’s like Judah.

    I contend that you can discern the same kind of sense of grace and activity in extra-biblical stories. Even in a movie like “Once” (which is quite an amazingly moral film! It baits us, wanting us to hope that they sleep together.)

    I’m of the opinion that God is bigger than we make him out to be. If he isn’t, than he’s not God and only another of our human inventions. I also believe the Psalmist who says “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it…” I believe that God uses anything and everything he wants, since it’s all his anyway. I believe that all truth, beauty, and goodness are God’s domain. One of the things that delights me the most is the way God unexpectedly shows up in the least likely of places, even in the way he shows up in the longing for him expressed by those who may not even know him. As a young boy who didn’t know the Lord it was one lonely night that God spoke to me through Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. I’m not going to debate this. I was there, I heard him, I responded, I gave my heart to him, and I’ve devoted my whole life to ministry since then.

    Because I believe these things, it is with great joy and wonder that I sit and watch cuss-laden films like “Magnolia” or even the very controversial “Breaking The Waves” and end up on my knees in worship with tears streaming down my face. (Is it dirty water I’m drinking? I could see where some people might think that. Instead I understand our role on earth to be sanctifiers. We have inbuilt water purifiers in us. We are called, I believe to be be co-redeemers with Christ, meaning we do our part in God’s redemptive purposes here.)

    Most “Christian” entertainment on the other hand leaves me feeling cold and wondering if the Christian enterprise is for real or not.

    Michael Card, a devout man who loves God’s word, talks about the virtues of stories, saying that sometimes we need to lose ourselves in other’s stories in order to find our own. Jews and Christians are known to other faiths as the people of the book. We are a storied people and God reveals himself through stories – most notably our own. Our story has a plot, and I for one thrill to stories in books and movies that help put me in touch with my own story and the part I get to play in God’s story. All of our stories kneel before his. Actually, I rather believe that all stories are being made a part of his story. It is indisputable that stories have value. (granted there are specific stories that may not have value in particular, but I’m speaking of stories in a broad sense)

    what is disputable is what stories have value for you.

    There is a well established theology concerning what is called “common grace” which in part refers to people who are gifted but who are not believers. We don’t off-handedly dismiss their work, but we thank God in wonder for the fact that rain falls on the just and unjust alike.

    Again I’ll quote Michael Card who recently told me that you never want to finish the bible’s sentence’s for it. You should never do that. The word should always surprise us, and if it doesn’t anymore then it’s probably time to find another translation or perhaps a new approach to bible reading. Again, one of the things that excites me most is when God “surprises” me by showing up where I least expect him. Like when Tom Waits in a bar-room brawler voice rasps “There’s got to be more than flesh and bone, all that you’ve loved is all you own…” Or Cormac McCarthy’s remarkable exploration of hope and tenderness set against the bleak post apocolyptic back drop of his pullitzer prize winning novel “The Road” or Aimee Mann naming the human condition after the fall with the lyric “baby there’s something wrong with me that I can’t see…”

    I know it’s not for everyone. In fact, it wasn’t always for me. But this is one of the ways that God speaks to me now. Now don’t jump on me and say that I need to rely on God’s word to speak to me. Of course I do. That’s a given. I assume that since this is a site for the most part populated by Christians that this is assumed by all of us. But does God also sometimes reveal himself by other means? Obviously, scripture is the most reliable revealer of God’s character and purposes, but even the bible talks about how he makes himself known through his handiwork. (Another way I believe he reveals himself is through our own story. If our life is a story then there is a plot and every twist and turn might possibly be interpreted as a story that God is telling to us).

    In my personal reading, I read a non-fiction theological book followed by a novel (including bible reading time every morning). The value of this is that what I learn in my theological books I get to put to use and excercise discernment with in the novels I read. It sharpens me.

    Ugh, I’m exhausting myself writing all of this… Especially since I feel like I’m clarifying and bringing closure less than I may be opening more cans of worms. … So I’m going to sign off.

    One last thought, though, is the earlier idea of cussing as rebellion. That is an insightful thought and useful here. In my experience, the use of cuss-words among believers is often a kind of hand shake or “gang sign” that represents a rebellion against formalized religion, like a way of saying “this ain’t your father’s Christianity”. It’s a way of saying, “I’m not legalistic or hypocritically self-righteous, I’m free in Christ to cuss.” As misguided as that might be, there’s something kind of endearing behind it. It’s a way of staking your claim that you want the real thing and you’re going to disregard what you deem as meaningless hang ups of the previous generation’s faith expression. It may be immature, but at it’s best it’s an attempt at being real, at challenging pious notions of what is crucial about Christianity – and what isn’t.

    I’ll tell you this, and judge me if you will, but a Christian who drops an occasional harmless cuss in my presence is often someone I feel like I’m safe around – someone I can share my struggles with. It’s shorthand for communicating “you don’t have to wear a mask here, if you’ve got ugliness that you need to unload, you can do it here. Maybe it’s a form of AA where when a Christian cusses it’s like them saying, “hi, my name is Jason and I’m a sinner…”

    Well, there I went and opened up another can of worms about Christians going beyond being able to watch a movie with cuss words to using them. Sorry…

  67. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I just reread that post – I hope it didn’t come off as ugly at all. I love good conversation – as iron sharpens iron, right?

    I’m going to blame American Airlines for my missed flight and play the grumpy card….

    With sincere love,

    JG

  68. Tony Heringer

    Jason,

    This concert you are missing, is it the one tomorrow night in GA? If so, then my feeling that driving an hour and a half to Carrolton to see the show is confirmed 🙂

    You post is good not grumpy — especially for a guy whose flight is cancelled. Loved the Michael Card references, that guy is amazing.

    My pastor delivered one of the best messages on sin a few years back by comparing our small groups to AA meetings. To be healthy followers of Christ, we should be clear that like Paul, we are the “cheif of sinners” — sin addicts if you will.

    Which is why I always find it amusing when a non-Christian will apologize to me for swearing or they’ll say “pardon my French” (never got that one — at least not in America, I’d get it if we were in England :-)). Anyway, I too tire of this topic, but “let us not grow weary in doing good” because the only way we can do that is in the power of the Spirit. That’s a good thing!

    I’ll pray you make it to your next stop safe and less grumpy.

    Love,

    Dopey, another [expletive deleted] sinner

  69. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I was working on my post probably the same time Tony was working on his, and as I read mine right after his (where he refers to me) I was afraid he might think that the statement “this topic has been beaten to death” was directed at him – just wanted to let Tony know that wasn’t the case! I already picked on him too much on the Bono post, so I’m trying to be extra nice to him from here on out 🙂

    No disrespect toward other recent posters, either with that comment. I just meant as I read through all the thoughtful posts that the topic almost seemed like we had covered all the bases and the comment was more about how I was afraid that I might be beating a dead horse…

    I’m posting way too much here, so I’m going to go back to lurking again. See what idle time in airports can produce?

  70. Josh

    Tony: What’s this Bono bio you mentioned a couple of posts back? I’d like to see what it’s all about

  71. Michael Floyd

    Mike said “I really can’t imagine any body whose posted here running around using the F-word as a normal part of their language. There’s a reason for that. I think, Marc that we are saying that there is Beauty among the thorns.”

    I can’t imagine most people involved in this discussion “running around using the F-word as a normal part of their language” either. Yet, it seems most on here are fine with the language issue. Not necessarily in support of it, but okay with the fact that it is used so frequently. Why is this? Is nearly everyone saying “I’m okay with it, but I would never do it”?

    I have long believed that actions speak louder than words in almost all situations. Most of us say we don’t condone the use of profanity, but in my mind, if I buy a ticket to a movie that is full of “bad” stuff, I am fully supporting it. Maybe we should practice what we preach? Perhaps we shouldn’t be watching certain (most) movies? The action of not going to a movie that you know is full of “bad” stuff speaks volumes.

    he billions of dolalrs collected by the movie makers is a clear signal to keep it coming. As a Christian, I find it very mind-boggling to know other Christians don’t have a problem with this. I personally think a lot of us are looking for a way to ratinalize why it is okay for us to be “entertained.”

    While I certainly do try to see everyone else’s point, this is one pill I simply cannot swallow. To simply say that you “overlook” the bad parts in a movie is pure nonsense to me. Is that the justification? The fact that you “overlook” the bad stuff?

    Someone else said ““Those who use foul language usually do so out of laziness; they don’t feel like thinking of the right word, so they vomit out the lowest, dumbest form of the vernacular.”

    That may be the case in many instances, but it certainly isn’t the case all of the time. And even if it is the case, it doesn’t make it okay. Why do you think the film makers include so much of it. Is it just to portray how we are lazy and dumb? Why do you suppose so many people think this type of language is funny, especially when used in comedy? Even though it is more commonplace than ever, why do we say things like “this movie may contain coarse language”? Well, we know why that is – so the television stations can cover themselves legally. Cover themselves from what?

    I’m sorry. There are very very FEW places where the f-bomb is appropriate, if any. It’s just a sign of the times. Stop trying to justify its use and stop trying to make yourself feel less guilty for accepting its widespread use.

    I’m with Marc on this one.

  72. Peter B

    I was going to bring this up earlier, but it would have provided a divergence from what already promised to be a lengthy discussion. However, the issue has since been addressed, so I’m back… hopefully with love in my tone, and if not, please feel free tell me so as you forgive me.

    “Taking the Lord’s name in vain” does not refer to profanity or obscenity… at least not in any special way. Think about it for just a second: why in the world would “s@$#” ever be construed as a misuse of God’s name? This is — in my opinion, you understand — one of those artifacts of colloquial (in this case, probably American) theology that the rest of the world would likely find absurd.

    When we claim to be followers of Christ, we hold up his name. The word “take” that Moses wrote there is the same verb used of the priests when they would wear the ephod out in front of the people. They were bearing this peculiar piece of clothing as a visible reminder of God’s purity and power.

    As bearers of his name, we take it out and put it on display, and say “this is who we are”, with the intent of bringing glory to that name and calling others away from the false names they bear, into fellowship under the one name in heaven and earth by which they may be saved.

    That’s the intent. All too often, we carry the word of truth under our arm and speak lies, put the fish on the car and speed through a stoplight, finish singing praises to him who is love incarnate and walk out of the church to speak harshly to our spouse, our children, our brothers and sisters. And when someone sees that, it’s worse than useless; it turns people away from the one who would draw all men to himself. We have taken that beautiful, life-giving, precious name in vain.

    Even as I write this, I know that my heart has this problem daily. It’s probably why I’m less than enthusiastic about sharing the unbelievably good news that Jesus died for sinners; I know my own life will probably rat me out as one of those sinners in short order… but then again, shouldn’t that be reason enough for me to fall on my face in tears of gratitude? I’m confusing myself here, probably because I’m not broken enough to get this in more than an intellectual sense. Or maybe it’s because I’m just so tired. You can pray for me to either end, if you like, and check in on me in a few months to see if I’m getting it any better.

    I do look forward to meeting each of you in person, sooner or much later as our Lord permits.

    (also, Ron, when I said what I said earlier, it was in more of a nitpicky way and less of a “your major doctrinal points are wrong” way… again, very probably my own immaturity getting slowly stomped out)

  73. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I’m not sure if this is what you’re getting at, but either way this is a thought I had earlier. I don’t know of anyone turned away from the gospel because of a Christian who used profanity. Mostly, I’ve only known religious people to be offended by profanity.

  74. Josh

    I second Jason on this one… I’ll also add that if unbelievers (or anyone for that matter) are under the impression that christians are what they’re supposed to look to as an example of how to live, then somebody is doing a very bad job of preaching the gospel somewhere. We are Christ’s image bearers, but we are by no means the example that the world should strive to be like. That honor belongs to Christ alone and we would be remiss to imply anything else. We are charged with preaching His gospel to everyone (including other christians) and we are responsible for striving to live up to His example in our daily lives. But as far as being the example that “the lost” should look to, we are not.

    I’ve noticed over the years that when Christians are talking to eachother, they’ll say things like “i’m not the one you should look to for an example, look to Christ alone for that” in regards to issues on behavior and such among Christians. However when it comes to issues of our witness to unbelievers, suddenly we start telling eachother that we should watch what we say and do because we’re Christ’s representatives and we’re supposed to be an example. Sounds kind of lop-sided to me.

    What bothers me about this is the fact that we are so quick to point to Christ alone as the example among other believers. But we refuse to take this same message to unbelievers. Wouldn’t it make a lot more sense and glorify God so much more if we took the message of Christ as the ultimate example of how to live life to the unbelievers as well as the believers?

    Wow this is a massively huge discussion that could still go off in a million ther directions. I was about to get off on another tangent that could’ve been yet another diversion, but I’m not going to do that.

    I’ll just say I agree wholeheartedly with Jason Gray. If anything, profanity will usually help bring down the defenses of a person who is not religious allowing you to actually have a real conversation with them. Most times it only ruffles (i just realized i don’t know how to spell that word) the feathers of “religious folks”. Most of the time that is.

  75. Peter B

    Jason, that wasn’t what I was getting at, but it is worthy of consideration.

    Also, looking back, it seems foolish to have written “Moses wrote” when we’re talking about the verbatim command of God himself from the mountain. If I’d said this about any other part of the Pentateuch, it would have been no big deal… you’d think I’d know better.

  76. Jason Gray

    @jasongray

    I just read what I wrote again and wanted to clarify that I’m NOT saying that if you happen to be offended by profanity, then you’re “religious” in the worst sense of the word. I didn’t mean what I said as that kind of a blanket statement.

  77. Eric Chandler

    A little late to this debate, but I’ve waded throught all of the comments and can’t help but add my own. I agree with many of the points being made here, but will have to agree with the spirit of AP’s point. What I would like to add is the fact that although the Bible doesn’t give us a list of wordy dirds, it does command us (one of the big ten) not to use the Lord’s name in vain. What never ceases to amaze me is the fact that there will be a collective gasp at an f-bomb, but using the Lord’s name in vain can fly all night on the network television, and very few even flinch.

  78. Aaron Roughton

    Sorry so late to respond, but I just thought of that scene from Elf where Buddy says he’s a cotton headed ninny muggins. The elves gasp as the room falls silent. We’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of that term, as well as the phrase “son of a nutcracker!” Who knows how many elves I’ve offended. I’d better head over the shoe factory and apologize.

    Is this relevant to the discussion? Maybe not. Oh well, no ones reading this anymore anyway. At least my plan for being the last to comment on every thread is still in tact.

  79. Lawrence Salberg

    Holy muckraking and shenanigans, Batman!

    You got it dead on, Peterson. You know the worse kind of movie? Those little “G” and “PG” movies marketed toward our children that are full of sick sarcasm, snippy comments towards parents/authority figures, and hateful, backbiting comments by the so-called “characters”. Can I get a big Amen?

    And speaking of language and movies, I’m always amazed that Christians will wrestle and torment themselves over whether to see a movie or not based on those super-nerdy websites that count every curse word, flash of skin, shot fired, and punch thrown. Heavens to Betsy, Figuro! Can we not find something better to do than count cuss words and slang? If you want to see a movie, go see it and keep your relation with the Lord the predominant thing. Don’t ask a bunch of Christians to give you a review and agonize over it.

    Two key points: My parents, to this day, rue the day I recommended Dances with Wolves to them because you see Kevin Costner’s butt, er, bottom, in the movie when he takes a bath in a lake. They felt the scene was unnecessary and ruined the entire movie – perhaps all movies, since I don’t think they’ve watched one since – and seem to think my conscience is seared beyond remedy. If it offends you, don’t watch it. If it causes you to stumble, avoid it like the plague. But don’t blast everyone else who liked it and got something out of it.

    And what about Star Wars, the greatest movie(s) of all time? A few dangerous lines, depending on your worldview, that I use all the time in normal conversation. Or normal, as I see it, anyway:

    “I have a very bad feeling about this.” (negativity, casting aspersions)

    “Stupid fool! He’s using an old jedi mind trick!” (fool, raca)

    “Put that thing away before you get us all killed”. (making threats – although I view it as ‘promoting safety’)

    “That’s no moon, it’s a space station”. (said when someone points out the moon to me – possibly a smear on God’s creation)

    “The force is strong with this one”. (Reference to “false gods”)

    “I find your lack of faith disturbing”. (Questioning/Judging another’s faith)

    “What a piece of junk!” (Said upon seeing a friend’s used car – and could be construed as slighting God’s blessings).

    So, in summary, everyone lighten up. As for the F word, I’d like to at least congratulate anyone who uses the original F word instead of that blasted hybrid – freakin’ – which is used by a ton of Christians without thought. If you are going to sin, sin boldly. Just as if you are going to smoke, buy Lucky Strikes and go all the way. I simply have no respect for someone who smokes Ultra-Light Menthol Virginia Slims. C’mon, people! That’s just weak!

    I don’t allow my kids to say “O My Gosh” (or “Omigosh”, as Pluto would say) since I think it’s just a slang version of “Oh My God”. And yet I say “Good Lord” way too much. Hey, we live in a fallen world people.

    My favorite criticisms were when Christians told me that I shouldn’t promote Braveheart (still my favorite movie) because of the F-word, which, although it’s used only a few times, it’s clearly historically inaccurate to include it, and because their is a quickie nude flash of breast, along with certain reformed marriage issues. And as Andrew points out here, I’m careful to respect the comments and critiques of those concerned folks, but then I laugh hysterically after they round the corner. It’s a movie filled with blood-curdling killing, beheadings, gay jokes, wholesale slaughter and brutal torture, but that’s NEVER brought up. Only the F-word and a female breast silhouette.

    Me thinks we have lost our minds as a church. I can almost see a madman entering a church and killing people one by one – and some “wise guy” complaining about his use of foul language over and above his killing of innocent people. Ugh.

  80. Aaron Roughton

    Sweet…My plan to…uhhhh….trick someone into reading my comment and responding by pretending to want to be the last one to comment…uh…totally worked!!

    Seriously, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s never get involved in a land war in Asia. The other thing is never to go against a Sicilian when death is on the line. Or the last comment. Are you Sicilian? I yield.

  81. Tony Heringer

    I don’t think you know what that word means! Still a favorite and one that is shown at the Christian shool my kids attended (a funny thought when you consider the final confrontation with the six finger man!).

    Sorry for the very late post to Josh we were out on Spring Break, but if you are still lurking out there reading the posts to this thread that has meandered way too long, the Bono post is here: http://www.rabbitroom.com/?p=425#comments

    This particular topic is now a running joke betwixt Jason and I. But, it is what I like about wandering into this little “Web pub”. We can ramble on from the profound to…pie which are round not square.

    Be God’s,

    Tony

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