The Allure of a Foul Mouth: Curse Words and the Church

imgres-3These days it seems like everybody uses curse words. Although those that monitor the usage of these words in the media call for censorship, they allow just the right amount of letters to slip out of the bleep so that the intended audience can have some idea what the word is supposed to be. This type of censorship reflects the attitude of the culture that it’s in. If a large amount of those that live within the culture were bothered by the usage of these words then the censorship committees would be hard-press not to bleep them completely, or better yet, rework the dialogue so that there wouldn’t be a need for bleeping.

The existence of a censoring committee is evidence that a large part of the audience is concerned about words. The committee would not have existed and any attempts to create one would have been strongly protested if a large majority of the audience was fiercely against it. The majority of the audience is not anticensorship and if they are, they are not passionate in their conviction. However, over time it seems that the committee has become more lenient in what it allows. The partial bleeping of certain words and the removal of some from the bleeping list–that is to say they are not curse words, or that they are acceptable curse words–are indications of the progressive leniency of the committee. It is only able to do so because a lenient audience allows it.

In its day to day interactions the audience uses a vast array of curse words. A curse word is used when one wants to degrade another, to express anger when something goes awry, or as an adjective in a sentence. It seems like there is no end to the type of ways curse words can be use. It has gotten to the point that if you don’t curse you stand out as an anomaly. The reason that this is possible is because the underlying drive that pushed not only the explosion of curse word usage, but nudity and the telling of what use to be classified as “private business,” is the self-expression mentality.

The mentality goes beyond simply being yourself. It’s about allowing the world to see who you are without care for what is considered right and wrong, no sense of morality. Everyone reveals things about themselves to some degree. It’s natural. However, this mentality allows for the extreme: the revealing of everything without care for the opinions of anybody else. It allows for rebellion to be glorified and to be viewed as how things ought to be.

What happened over time is that the mentality has also grabbed hold of most of those that it initially was reacting against. So now it’s not really a reaction, its a norm. Part of the norm is the constant use of curse words. It is in this environment that the Christian is found. Lo and behold curse words are heard more than ever on the lips of Jesus’ followers. Is it for the better or the worst? It’s easy to get an answer within the confines of a faith community. But how do young Christians sort their way through this complex environment?

The existence of a faith community entails not only that those within hold to the same beliefs but that those beliefs are reflected in their lifestyles. There are Christians that don’t curse. This does not mean that they’ve never said a curse word. It means that they rarely curse. They hold to the view that using foul language is wrong so they don’t use it. They tend to be more cautious with what they say and therefore choose their words carefully. They are viewed as anomalies for their rejection of the everything goes communication system.

There are Christians that curse. Some of these don’t want to do it and are struggling. Others are not really concern with stopping and feel that it’s completely acceptable if they use some choice words here and there to get their point across. Making the distinction between those that are struggling and those that don’t care is important because Christianity recognizes the inward struggle of the believer between what is right and wrong. Whereas foul language may be an issue for one, it’s not necessarily an issue for another. The one that it is not an issue for shouldn’t feel superior.

The Christian can’t allow cultural environment to alter classification on what is right and wrong without significant thought. Whereas on one hand the culture applauds those that mingle Christian views with itself, it is quick to identify certain behaviors as unfitting for those who profess Christianity. One of those behaviors is cursing. If you were to ask non-Christians: do Christians curse? They would say yes. If you were to ask them: should they be cursing? They would probably answer no.

The reason that a Christian should not curse can’t be base on wether or not the culture thinks so. It should be base on the meaning, the impact, and the intent behind the usage of the word. If this concept is difficult to understand it is because there exist a lack of exposure to biblical teachings on speaking. The teachings speak against the anything goes approach. Perhaps this is the reason why they do not receive sufficient attention. This automatically puts Christians at odds with their surroundings. They are then face with conforming to the biblical stance or going the way of all the earth.

How do we help young Christians? We need to teach them what the Bible says about speaking. Adults need to be aware of their speech. There is a dual effect when teaching and living flow together, They shouldn’t only be told about it, but they should see it. Perhaps part of the failure may be that a large amount of Christian adults are now cursing and so those that come after are simply following in their footsteps. Sometimes what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

The allure of the foul mouth will keep calling. This contra-Christian, rebellious, mystical way of being will attempt to sink its teeth on any Christian who dare to stare longingly. It’s time to show the better way of communicating. One in which countless neglected words in our languages are use to communicate effectively.

 

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Applying Before Analyzing: A Common Problem

It goes without saying that Bible study is a necessity for Christians. It is not only use to initiate one into the worldview of the faith, but also to deepen one’s ability to evolve that worldview through the continuity of study. This does not require that one neglect the command to “occupy till I come” (Luke 19:13) in order to enclose his/herself in  ivory towers with those who, because of their biblical knowledge, are recognized as elites. There is no call to a monkish lifestyle in which an anti-modernity stance — involving the demonization of modern technology, clothing, etc. — is taken in order to perfect one’s knowledge of the Bible.

Now, in case some may be confused, which usually happens despite disclaimers, taking a step back from the hustle and bustle of modern life is profitable. Shutting down our technological devices in order to experience the sound of silence will do more good then one may suspect. The allure of “flossing” — used in the street to mean showing off what you got — drives us to expenditures that will only result in economic slavery to creditors and further resemblance to the Luciferian spirit of pride. So the far-right of Adventist conservatism does have a right to be concerned and to feel the need to withdraw at times.

Let’s get back to the topic. Since most will never go to a seminary and be instructed by seasoned theologians on the art of biblical exegesis, it behooves us to pay particular attention to recommendations that arrive in hopes of correcting common problems. Any proposal to provide a full exposition of the problems here is preposterous. However, one can reflect on a particular problem that is common in that it is one that many make, and that it is recurring to those that make it.

It is applying before analyzing. That is to say that often time Bible students contemporize a passage or a verse without analyzing the original situation. There are many reasons why this is done and one can’t assume to know them all. It may be that some are going through trying times and, in their haste to comfort their soul with inspirational words, read certain meanings into the text that may or may not be there. Of course there are some texts who’s meanings are pretty clear and thus most people who are within those situations usually go to those texts and therefore may not be in grave interpretive danger. However, this manner of dealing with the text is, in less trying times, used as the normative way of interpreting.

There are many who can further their interpretive ability but refuses to do so. This may be due to laziness or simply an attitude of indifference. There are many who are contempt with the way they have always done things and therefore calls to modifications will fall on deaf ears. As much as information is available, it is rarely used. Instead it is glanced at and quickly pushed to the side for the next, resulting in a lack of contemplation — which may be the real root of the problem. The problems that all these have caused so far is unfathomable.

How should these problems be address? That is easier answered then applied. There is always to be found in the pews of the church a coalition of the willing who will answer the call of handling scripture better. No one is perfect in this task, however, one should possess the urge to improve, if it is indeed believed to be the word of God. It is better to take time and be right then to rush and be wrong. The coalition of the willing should be taken by those who are knowledgeable in the art of interpretation. It is not difficult, however continuous application of it deepens one’s understanding of scripture.

In these teaching sessions, which should be done in warm and friendly environments, there should be explanations and examples given concerning how one should interpret and what have been the results of misinterpretation. Emphasis should be place on the need to allow the passages, as is, to flow through the mind of the readers until they become well acquainted with them. the objective is to be thoroughly familiar with the original passage. The next step would be to determine what is the Christo-centric principle that is to be found within that passage. Then, if one chooses to apply this passage to a contemporary situation, they can reflect on the original context and be able to determine if the principle is applicable and how it is applicable.

Burning the Qur’an: How to Further Fuel Radical Islam’s War with the West

All the world wonders after Islam, so it seems. As if the controversy over the mosque wasn’t enough, a pastor by the name of Terry Jones has become the personification of American hatred towards Islam. Jones, with his congregation, is planning to have a burn the Qur’an day on September 11–the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the pentagon and the world trade center. Though many religious leaders, the white house, and Gen. Petraeus have spoken out against this act, Jones seems unswayed and is determined to carry it out.

The most immediate impact of this decision is the danger that pastor Jones has placed himself and his congregation. The heavy weights of terrorism are probably applauding his decision because it supports their agenda–they would like the Muslim street to believe that Islam is at war with crusaders from the west. Therefore, I don’t believe that any retaliation would come from them. However, there is the possibility that there are some other minor elements in the terrorist movement that may be eager to avenge the Qur’an’s burning. Not to mention, the average peace loving Muslim would not be to fond of the idea, to say the least.

As a Christian pastor, Jones’ proposed action can be viewed by Jihadist as a mean of solidifying the reality that they claim to be living in. Since the Jihadist is in a holy war it would help if he had someone as active in the war as he is. Up to now, they have been locked in mortal combat with the American army. However, the American army doesn’t have a clear religious affiliation–though Christianity is projected unto it. Since Jones is providing that, the holy war seems more like a reality.

Jones shouldn’t be viewed as a lone ranger. He is a expressing the feeling of many Americans towards all things Islam. Americans may not be willing to admit it, but they have become extremely intolerant towards Islam. America has had negative experiences with religions before, however, their experience with radical Islam has push them to the point where a majority of them are willing to deny well-t0-d0 Muslims–at least to our knowledge–a place of worship because of location.

The public outcry against the burning of the Qur’an is not as loud as the building of the mosque near the WTC, even though the former is clearly worst. This suggests that the idea is somewhat comfortable to the minds of Americans. They are not as bothered with the rights of others as they are with issues that they view as directly affecting them. Well, they are mistaken in their analysis because this does directly affect them. If this kind of behavior persist, America will begin to look more and more like the chaotic middle east. In a way it would be reverting back to its pre-civil rights days, with a majority–though they didn’t promote the wrongs that were done–were indifferent towards what was taking place.

Indifference towards wrongs is a disease that weakens morals and solidifies bigotry. One may arrive at a place that they never intended to simply because of indifference. In a nation as diverse as America indifference towards the isolation and demonizing of a particular religious group should strike fear in the hearts of all religious institutions. If it could be done to one, it can be done to another. All that’s needed is a radical faction operating on its own agenda.

The religions of the world are systems that certain factions of humanity have adopted in their quest for God. Though I don’t believe that all roads lead to the same God, I do agree that it’s the same one they are looking for even though they may not know it. Therefore indifference towards the rights of others to search through their accepted mean says a lot about the system that a majority of us in north America have adopted. It’s hypocritical to tell Muslims about the Christian God when we stay silence while their Bible is treated in such a manner. Hate filled evangelism is the stuff of Nazis.

What should we do now? How about having a public outcry against the burning of the Qur’an. Then America will look more like what it claims to be, a place in which all religions are free from harassment even though they have dangerous factions. The sins of the few are not the sins of the majority.

The Wisdom of a Ground Zero Mosque

If you haven’t heard about the mosque/Islamic center debate then you must be hiding under a rock. Ever since the proposal–a mosque and center to be located near ground zero–has been made public, those who are pro and con have found themselves lock in verbal combat seemingly to the death. The controversy over the mosque has greater significance for the faith world then most realize.

Politically speaking, Democrats, who probably would have been quick to speak up in favor of the mosque under different circumstances, have brought down their microphones to the levels of silence. They have gone as far as distancing themselves from Obama, who last Friday, though he deny that he was referring to this specific debate, declared that Muslims have the right to build a religious center in lower Manhattan. This was certainly not a moment of political brilliance from the president but it was one of pure honesty, something utterly lacking in the politics of today.

The Republicans, having aligned themselves with two-thirds of voters that are not in favor of the center, have begun to hammer away at this as if it is of pivotal importance to the welfare of the nation. Well, perhaps it is. However, so is everything else that is ignored, like the border. It’s very difficult to tell when politicians are concerned about the issues for the sake of them or for political ground.

I’m pretty sure that what you really want to hear is my perspective on the issue. Let me be direct and state that I’m against the building of the center in that area. My first reason against such a proposal is not because I’m anti-Muslim and so on, but because I think the level of attention that this issue has gotten will bring out individuals who will seek to use the center as base for their ploys. I’m fully aware that the mastermind behind the mosque has a good reputation, but there is only so much you can control.

The terrorist, who wants negative publicity in order to terrify the American public, would probably love to blow up a center like that. Not only would such an act struck terror in the heart of Americans but it would make it very difficult to trust any moderate Muslim. I say this because it would be very difficult to prove unequivocally that the Muslims who are behind the building of such a center are innocent in the event that something bad should take place. Thus, anyone from the Islamic faith who rises up with an idea after such an event would be looked at with great suspicion. Is it worth it? I think not.

I know that some people view it as a strictly religious right issue, but it’s more complex then that. There is no Islamic law that states that a worship place must be erected in this area, therefore caution should be used in the suggestion of such things. Americans are not ready to revel in the idea of a society that embraces all religions, though we would like to think that we are and that we do. We are only willing to deal with religions in which the elements don’t pose significant threats to the fabric of our society.

My second reason for aligning myself against the building of the center is because a majority of voters are against it. This is largely due to their emotional tie to the events on 9/11, which brought about large trust issues. Since I have already stated that there is no reason why the mosque must be in this area, I can go on to say that those who are behind this project should be mindful of the opinion of the majority. They are taking an unnecessary risk that can prove to be hazardous to the already fragile relationship that exist between the American public and the Muslim world.

Will you agree with everything that I’ve just written? Probably not. However, I think it is important to factor in these things in our national debate. We all know full well that it’s not about the reputation of those who are behind this project, it’s really about the sensitivity that Americans are feeling towards a particular religious group. It’s sad, but that’s the reality. It’s a sensitivity that they are not willing to admit. They are afraid of Muslims because a group of radicals blew up the WTC. Though most Muslims condemned the act, they are still looked at with great suspicion.

I am for building Mosques near ground zero, but I question and disagree with the wisdom of doing such a thing at this time.

A Sermon on the Canaanite Woman

It is always a wonderful and blessed experience to go to the house of the Lord on the Sabbath (Saturday). Yesterday, I heard a sermon by a good friend of mines on the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15. It was an encouraging sermon, outlining the importance of persevering in our requests to God, and having faith that He is able and will do it despite what is confronting us. It’s a message that was necessary for a people going through hard economic times and other challenges that the community at large may not be aware of. In this first segment of my Sermon Talks series, I present to you my reflections on the story of this woman.

If you have a problem and you hear of someone who can solve it, would you go to him? Well, I don’t know about you, but I would. Apparently, the Canaanite woman, who had a daughter suffering from demon possession, heard about such a man. Whoever told her about Jesus must have done it in such a way that she, a Canaanite, whom the Jews despise, was convinced that she had to seek this man and that He was able to bring deliverance (Matt. 15:21). Her decision should remind us of something we don’t recall too often, and that is Jesus’ ability to bring deliverance.

Demonic possession is considered a thing of the past by many, even Christians. We have dismissed the supernatural aspect of things and concluded that it is limited to ancient times. The truth is, just because we don’t see people yelling and screaming doesn’t mean that they are not possess. When Satan entered Judas at the last supper, there was nothing strange about him or else the others would have noticed. The disciples thought that Jesus was sending Judas out to buy things for the coming feast (John 13:21-30). Demon possession may show physical manifestations or it may not, but it is real.

In her opening cry to Jesus there are some phrases she uses that are worthy of note. She asked for “mercy,” and she called him “Lord, Son of David” (Matt. 15:22 NIV). Her appeal for mercy is an indication of her belief that Jesus the Jew is able to have compassion for a Canaanite woman. Her mention of his Davidic lineage is an acknowledgment of Him as the Messiah, a point that Matthew brings up over and over again in his gospel. However, these phrases didn’t generate a response from Jesus.

Many of us would have given up at this point. I know I would have. I have no patience for sitting around and waiting for things to happen, I consider it to be a waste of time. But can you imagine how ashamed she must have felt when she received no response? How many times have you prayed, hoping for a favorable answer, but instead you heard the silence of God or been unable to tell what He is doing? It didn’t stop there for the Canaanite, it got worst. The disciples were getting annoyed with all the pleading and gave Jesus their opinion of what He should do (Matt. 15:23). Her problem didn’t concern them, they were only interested in getting rid of her.

Twice Jesus responded as the disciples would have responded. He told her that His mission was limited to the Jews, which is a dismissive statement since she wasn’t Jewish (Matt. 15:24). She was being disqualified because of something that she had nothing to do with, where she was born. But she didn’t quit, she worshiped. Remark that this worship takes place after a statement of unworthiness, not after deliverance. Have you ever been told or felt that you were unqualified?

Jesus’ next response is the one that would have done the most damage. He said, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs,” inferring that she was a dog. Had enough? That didn’t get her to leave. Instead she came back with one of the most wittiest replies, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (Matt. 15:27 NIV). This is a true analysis. The Canaanite woman had persisted in her request and Jesus, who was so overwhelmed by this woman’s faith in Him, granted her request. That very hour her daughter was healed (Matt. 15:28). This miracle is not limited to the first century, we can have this powerful experience with Jesus in our lives today if we would only press on.

The disciples’ advise to Jesus, and His responses to the woman, have led me to the conclusion that Jesus spoke as He did to teach the disciples a lesson about compassion, faith, and the inclusiveness of deliverance. Not only did He use a Canaanite to give them a lesson on what real faith looks like, but He helped her faith increase by the challenge that it faced. From that experience she gained even greater confidence in the power of God. Sometimes God uses the experience of those that we think are not worthy to teach us important lessons.

The lesson on faith and compassion is crucial because in the following narrative they are evident in Jesus’ statement to the disciples concerning a hungry multitude (Matt. 15:29-39). The statement seems to have been a test to see what they would say. The disciples are not the only ones that need to learn these lessons, we need to learn them too. We should be a church that encourage each other in persevering in our request. When we read a story, it’s easier to place someone else in the role of the villain than ourselves.

Was the church motivated after the sermon? Certainly. I, for one, am going to answer the call to persevere in my request and have faith that God’s hands will move and deliver. There is something real in Christianity and His name is Jesus, He is able.


Notes

Sermon Talks is a series of my reflections on sermons heard over the weekend that are not preached by me.

The picture above: Christ and the Canaanite Woman – c.1784 Germain-Jean Drouais

The Resurrection of a Son of Man

Ted Haggard image by the Daily News

Ted Haggard, former pastor of the 14,000-member New Life Church who was fired due to his “tour de force” with a male prostitute, has shocked the world once more by announcing his intent to return to ministry. This time, Haggard wants to start a non-denominational church at his home. He is reported as saying, “This is my resurrection day.” Quite a bold declaration for a man whose image receives heavy airtime on the internet within the confines of articles mocking his sexual exploits.

Even with his wife by his side during his announcement on Wednesday, Haggard still could not bring forth the pomp and splendor that is associated with what a Christian would call a “resurrection.” What will become of this endeavor? Only time will tell. What I do find disturbing concerning Haggard’s announcement, based on the reporting of it, is that he only mentions God in reference to how a marriage should be, but not as the one who called him back to ministry, or the one who helped him get his life together (Associated Press). In fairness, this analysis may be incorrect due to the fact that the media does not always report all that is said.

Haggard’s return to ministry is not the end of the world. Nor is the very idea of it occurring with success, an impossibility. After all, the Christian Bible is replete with tales of sordid actions pose by men of God who were able to move in the right direction after those events–i.e. Abraham, Samson, and David. The history of a man is best understood after the fact. Unless there are recent incriminating statements or actions by Haggard, commentaries criticizing his intent and likelihood of success are premature. I have never been a supporter of Haggard’s eisegetical use of the Bible, but I’m willing to see what he does this time around. It is better to be judge for what one does then for what one might do.

Faith commentators will be quick to note Haggard’s failure, allegedly, to integrate Christ in his news conference. Anyone who seeks to re-enter the Christian faith world after a devastating scandal needs to acknowledge complete reliance on the God of the faith. I have yet to see this from Haggard and my skepticism concerning his preparedness is especially based on this.

That being said, Haggard should be conscious of the fact that his actions tarnished his image to the point where he is not recognized as one capable of being a spiritual leader. Measures must be taken to prevent even the similitude of back tracking to his former ways. The fact that his new church will be open to all–even homosexuals, with an emphasis on “broken people,” creates a paradoxical environment. However, in an ecclesiastical institution, that is and must be, the norm.

*The image of Ted Haggard on the front page and above this article is taken from here.