Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Civility, Language & Pornography

Let’s face it one of the lamentable sides of the internet and social media is the easy access to information and images that are neither helpful nor necessary. In fact, they are just downright hurtful and injurious in ways we are sometimes unaware of at the time we are reading or viewing it. We rightfully and with good reason warn against the pornography saturating our culture today! Yet, do we realize how subtle an enemy Satan is? Are we really that concerned about pornography? I only ask because we find it so easy to watch so-called respectable television, movies, and advertising whose content glamorizes immodesty using both visual and verbal stimulation, without ever saying a word.

It seems to me one reason our culture is indifferent to the pornography, which permeates it, is because of the language we accept and use in public discourse. This is even true of Christians or maybe I should say, especially true of Christians. I digress momentarily to admit my bias, I am that guy, who from the pulpit is barely comfortable referring to the healthy consummation of God-given desires in marriage as anything but “the act of marriage.” On the other hand, I don’t cringe or want to hide under the pew, every time I hear another preacher use the legitimate phrase sexual intercourse. In fact, I have even used the phrase myself a few times from the pulpit, but I am so uncomfortable using it I generally prefer the phrase “the act of marriage.” Please! do not extrapolate, or in any way misconstrue, from the comments in this paragraph that I am saying, "if you use 'sexual intercourse' in the pulpit you are contributing to the porn culture." I have only said, what I said, in this paragraph to admit my bias and I am not making that bias in this context, the standard for anyone else. I am just acknowledging my personal sensitivities.

In my mind, I am able to grant some latitude to writers and speakers for the language they use to describe or express certain things though I may find it objectionable (especially, when they are not a Christian, that doesn’t make it right, it just says I have no expectations from them). However, I find certain language highly offensive in PUBLIC DISCOURSE. There are far too many rich and wonderful words in the English language for a really talented, hard working, writer or speaker to choose from, which makes the use of crude, coarse, and vulgar vocabulary unnecessary. Such use of that type of vulgarity to me is a clear sign of laziness and ignorance. I understand to some extent the use of such language in the mouth of a character in a story. I don’t like it but on some level I get it, but even that does NOT make it right. 

Here is my concern. I see Christians who freely post things on social media that use vulgarities of every sort to make what they allege is a good point. It is not just crude vocabulary they use but it is the street descriptions for various bodily functions of men and women who engage in the act of marriage. I just read this morning an article a Christian posted regarding men (I refuse to identify the article) with the disclaimer that they liked the article and thought it good for everyone even though they could have done without the profanity. Really? Rhetorically, I am asking, what difference does your disclaimer make?

I realize one is not saying the language themselves BUT they are allowing such street language to be used. However, the fact they think the overall point is good for everyone ignores the fact that the verbal and/or visual stimuli being used by the writer or speaker to make his/her "good" point IS harmful. Apologizing beforehand for the immodest language or visual you are posting does NOT absolve us of having put the said immodesty in the mind and heart of those who read it. Since when does a"good" point ever have to use vulgarity? Since when have the ends (good point) justified the means (vulgarity)? How about a reality check here? “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:28-32)

Again, this applies to pictures I see Christians posting as well. I live almost equal distance from the beach now as I did growing up in Southern California. I love the beach! I go to the beach. I spent a week at the beach this Summer for vacation and still feel like I don’t go as much as I’d like to go to the beach! You know what? Just because I love the beach and go to the beach I don’t feel the least bit compelled to dress or act like everyone else on the beach. Furthermore, there is enough beach that we can find a relatively secluded and remote part of the beach without too much trouble. However, if you choose to do otherwise when you go to the beach, please, don’t post pictures of yourself at the beach dressed like everyone else. God calls us to be different from the world, not minimally different BUT radically different! Jesus told his disciples, “You are not of this world, as I am not of this world.” (read carefully, John 17:14-17; 1 John 2:15-17) Jesus did not expect the world to love his disciples any more than He expected them to love the world or any more than the world loved Him! As dangerous, toxic and violent as the world is Jesus did not ask God to take us out of the world but to keep us from the evil one! Do I need to say any thing else? 

Have you considered that until the presidency of Bill Clinton “oral sex” was not something that was much in vogue in public discourse in America? Yet, now we hear innuendos, allusions and outright direct references to it in advertising, movies and television and we are made to laugh about it. In public discourse or social media, it is but a short step from talking and laughing about it openly to giving tacit approval of it in a context of immorality, whether we use verbal or visual stimuli. If you can talk about it, laugh about it, and/or make jokes about it, in the public square, why can’t you watch it being performed? Surely, you do not think one is less harmful to your spirituality than the other? If you can use the street language, for the act of marriage in public discourse as an exclamation, or to make fun of someone, or as an adjective to describe some emotion then, why can’t you view actual images of the act in various media forms (videos, pictures, movies  etc.)? Sadly, our ability to tolerate sin prevents us from mourning it. (1 Corinthians 5:1-2)

Consider the context to the passage in Ephesians 5:3-7, where Paul writes to Christians. Ephesus was the city where the temple of the goddess Diana was located. A religion for whom prostitution and immorality were acts of worship, by which the very culture of the city was defined. Thus, Paul would write, “But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Did you notice the close connection between sexual immorality and vulgar speech (vv. 3-4)? Look again, at vv. 8-12, and see the connection, “…Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret.”

I realize this political season of 2016, has further corrupted the civility of our culture in ways that we don’t even realize as of yet (just as did the political times of Bill Clinton’s immorality). Metaphorically, the anger and hostility of terrorism can be seen in the public discourse relative to how candidates treat each other. It can also be seen in social media by how angry we get and how we treat each other in our disagreements. There is little, if any, serious critical thinking that goes on in arguments on social media. Among us, as Christians, this ought not to be! (James 3)

I will close with two things that can help us avoid the pitfalls of posting anything could be considered ungodly or out of character with being a Christian. 1. Spend a minute in prayer talking to God about it. 2. Spend the thirty seconds it takes to listen to Paul’s instructions, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:7-9)  (https://www.biblegateway.com/audio/mclean/esv/Phil.4)

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