Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Unholy Can I Be and Still Be Christian?

Last year, Christian rapper Andy Mineo asked the question, "Do you guys really think if a person uses 'profanity' (words we've given meaning) in their music, they couldn't possibly be Christian?" His responses to those who responded to his question were very condescending, ready to crucify anyone who did not side with him. However, there appear to be two problems. One, Andy's responses do not seem to correspond with his initial question, addressing the point of us giving words meanings rather than the use of words our society agrees are vulgar (the difference between formal and colloquial language [colloquialism is the use of slang, profane, or vulgar language]). Two, many of the people responding seem to fail to understand Andy's other responses (the point of us giving words meanings).

Andy points out the fact that we give words meanings and determine what is or is not profane/vulgar by our intentions and usage. For example, the word for a female dog and the word for a rooster and the word for a donkey or mule are not in and of themselves bad words. But we frequently use them as such. Words or phrases considered vulgar in Great Britain are not considered so in Canada or the USA, and vice versa. Different cultures, different societies. Words are just words, but we give them meaning and determine which ones are profane/vulgar given their context and use. However, what is commonly known as "the F word" has no non-profane usage. In fact, the F word is very diverse in its use, being used as a noun, a verb (both transitive and intransitive), an adverb, a preposition, etc. Where it originates from may or may not have meant "to strike," but not a single one of its uses has anything to do with striking something, and every one of its uses is always vulgar. There is not a single instance where you could use the word in a non-vulgar manner. There are other words that have no good usage either, such as the C word used for female genitalia (used in Australia as freely as America uses the F word).

Even if a person's intentions are good, it is still not a wise decision to use common words associated with profanity in one's songs or everyday conversations. Christians are to be set apart from the world. That means our speech ought to be much different from theirs. Our speech is supposed to be seasoned with grace. To be set apart means to be holy. God's Word makes it clear, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear" (Eph. 4:29). Ephesians 5:4 even goes so far as to tell us, "there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks." Christians are not to partake in filthy, coarse jokes.

When Christians start asking questions like, "How unholy can I be and still be Christian?," they might want to examine themselves to see if they are actually in the faith. Christians do not ask, "How close can I get to the line without crossing it?" or "How close can I toe the line without crossing it?" Every culture/society is different, and what is profane to one may not be to another. If a particular culture/society deems certain words to be vulgar, then within that culture/society the Christian ought to avoid the use of such words or phrases. One culture/society cannot judge another based on what is considered profane in their own culture/society. This is where Romans 14 would be wisely implemented by Christians. For example, in many locations around the globe today societies are okay with itty-bitty string bikinis, but in the 50s, 60s, and 70s in most of these same places if you were to wear such a thing, the secular authorities would have arrested you. Just because it is okay within a certain society to do something does not mean it is okay for Christians to do. We are different and we are to be different.

Good intentions do not determine right from wrong. It is not okay for a professing Christian woman to strip if she is doing it to put herself through college or university. It is not okay for a man and woman to shack up in the same house or apartment together if they live in two separate bedrooms until they get married. Remember how the Bible speaks about being lukewarm (Rev. 3:16)? Being grey and living in the grey is akin to being lukewarm. You are much better off seeing things as black and white rather than looking for grey spots and toying with how much grey you can indulge in and still remain a Christian. Remember, God is not mocked. The immoral and impure will not inherit the kingdom of God.

A Christian may struggle with the use of profanity and yet not be disqualified as a Christian. However, when they willfully and purposely make use of it, their profession may be called into question. No unwholesome, filthy, coarse, or vulgar speech should proceed from the mouth of a Christian. Andy did not seem to want to see where his responders were coming from, but his responders did not seem to want to see where he was coming from either. He was not trying to stir up contention, but I think even he needs to think more wisely on this issue than he has, as do many of his responders.