Sunday, September 28, 2008

From the Heart: WHAT did you say?!

As I proofread these posts before they go up, it occurs to me how they might sting. While I do not intend to be overly critical, by it's very nature this subject will sting those who are guilty of apathy or worse, guilty of actively participating in it. I hope it is understood that this series is not meant to tear down, but to point out a very real problem and hopefully offer a very real solution. With that said...

(originally posted 3/2006)

Over the last week, I've read "this is my blog" several times. In one context it was sort of said in a snarky way as if to say "if you don't like it, LEAVE". In the other two contexts it was said to remind people that the blog owners have a standard to uphold and there would be NO profanity or off-color language used there at all. The thought occured to me in both of those cases 'why does a Christian blogger have to remind his or her (primarily) Christian audience not to cuss in the comment section?'. It's a most disheartening sign of the times. Reflection of the times... if you will indulge me that title.

Can you imagine going to your Grandma's house and having to be reminded not to cuss in front of Grandma? How about your pastor taking the pulpit and one of the men in the church stopping him on the way to whisper "remember Pastor, there will be no cussing in your sermon today"? How about teaching a Bible study on Tuesday night in your church, and having one of the ladies slip you a note that says "now Mary, remember we don't use profanity to teach our lessons!".

Yesterday I wrote that the Christian blogging community had gone mad. I was only partially joking with that statement, but if you routinely surf "Christian blogs" you know exactly what I mean. Christians who cuss. Honestly it's simply UNTHINKABLE, and yet it’s our reality in modern Christianity. To remind a Christian not to cuss, is to me like reminding your children we do not drink ammonia. Or to remind your husband he shouldn't slug you in the face when he notices dinner isn't ready on time. Or to remind yourself that sticking a gun in the face of the bank teller is conduct unbecoming a Christian witness. These things are just a given - and so should be Christians not using, and abhorring the flithy language of the world, to make their point.

Or is that really the case? Is it a given? Quite recently I was having a discussion with a friend about this and he said “I can’t believe we actually have to have this conversation”. I thought to myself that if I had a dollar for every time I’ve said that same thing, I’d be so stinking rich that Bill Gates would green with envy every time he heard my name. Now that might be stretching things a little bit, but the point remains that I’ve also been quite taken aback that this is even a topic that has to be addressed among the household of faith. Obviously it is a topic that has to be addressed because somewhere along the way, we (the collective body of believers) have dropped the ball, become far too tolerant and accepting of worldly things, and this is the direct result.

I like analogies so I’m going to use one here. It’s also summer time and many of you have backyard pools. I’m referring to the above ground pools that you put up this time every year, then drop in the hose to fill it up. If you’ve been using this same pool for a few years, you already know (roughly) how long it takes from the time you turn the water on, until the pool is filled. You also know, maybe because you’ve done it, that if you forget to turn the water off at just the right time, you’re going to end up flooding your backyard.

We’ve essentially done the same thing in our local churches. Many will argue on the ‘when’ or the ‘why’ it even began, but I assure you it did in fact come primarily from the fine, wannabe philosophers that chose to entertain relativism - folks that can’t even agree if there is a final standard of truth, and if there is, what it is. That particular worldview came in, in large part, on the wheels of the ‘emerging church’ movement. I recall reading once that folks latch onto relativism because it gives them a sense of physical or emotional gratification, and then that in turn provides them with the defense or the excuse to do whatever they want. Put another way, its simply an excuse to indulge the flesh and do, or say, whatever they like.

Does that sound familiar to you in any way? It certainly will if you’ve ever had a drawn out discussion with a Christian who makes excuses for their own cussing, or that of others. Often times you can even hear them reciting the very heart of relativism in their defense, even if they don't actively profess to hold to it. That's how pervasive this trend has become, and it's not something you or I want to be ignoring and pretending doesn't affect us, or our churches.

While the primary or most dominant source or influence might be up for debate, it is however inarguable that simply not enough Christians spoke out against it in the beginning. Not enough pastors took it head on from the pulpit. Not enough speakers addressed it in their messages. There was not a unified voice among evangelicism that said NO, this is wrong and will not be tolerated. Indeed there were in fact many individuals who picked up on it right away and said “what is this we’re putting up with, in our churches??” but unfortunately they were in the minority, and went unheard for all intents and purposes. They are in what certainly appears to be the minority for sure, now.

Thankfully however, some of those individuals are pastors and they delivered that message from the pulpit and have continued to hold their churches to a higher standard all along. Praise God for these men of honourable character that do not bend with the modern trends, or make excuses to act like the world. They are a rare gem in our day, and I think we all know this.

Sadly however, many Christians assumed it was just a fringe group of rebellious young people or new believers that didn’t know better yet. Others tried to see the “good” in what was being said aside from the obscene and/or vulgar language, and then began excusing that language away in defense of the good messages found within. Still others were of the deluded and invincible attitude and declared "this wont happen in MY church" and even made comments to the affect of "I don't know why you waste time on this, it's a passing trend and won't affect Christ's church in the long run". Interestingly enough, some of the people that I know that said such things two years ago, are now outraged that such conduct and irreverance toward God's word is in their very own churches. They're certainly speaking out now.

We made excuses and/or looked the other way, and the end result is the same as if we’d neglected the hose in the pool. Only in this case it’s our local churches that in many cases are being flooded with this same relativistic mindset where cussing is just a normal part of speech, for a Christian. We didn’t speak up and speak out to stop it when it began, and now we get to deal with the flood, only this flood is one of vulgarity, profanity, irreverance and intolerance of any believer who is rightfully offended by such raunchy speech.

So in reality, while the idea that we even have to address this now might be stunning to some people, we really shouldn’t be so surprised because we did see it coming, we just didn’t do anything about it in the early stages of it. That was our biggest mistake.

The question is now: will we continue to excuse it and/or look the other way, hoping it will magically go away or get better, or do we take a bold stand for the truth of God’s word and be an exhortation to others to clean up their act, and raise their own standard to the same level of that of God’s word?

When I was a new believer and struggled with my own speech, I was abundantly blessed to have been in a church where this kind of language wouldn’t have been tolerated for one moment. In many ways it was a very legalistic setting, but at least in this regard they had it right on the mark. The standard for our speech is God’s word, not the way of the world.

I believe that’s the solution. Individuals and churches that take a strong stand for the standard of God’s word, as it pertains to our personal conduct – language included.

So while it may seem strange at first to see “no cussing in the comments” on Christian blogs, with primarily Christian readers and commenters, I find it rather refreshing that there are fellow bloggers and fellow Christians out there that are willing to say that, and mean it. I believe we need more of that.

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Romans 12:2)

When Christianity doesn’t sound any different than the community of unbelievers we live in, you know something is very wrong.