Blue Like Jazz movie hype

When I saw this website about the Blue Like Jazz movie and discussion over use of profanity in the movie, I found myself slightly amused by how heated these kinds of debates can get online. From my vantage point, if you feel strongly against viewing a movie with foul language, don’t watch it! That’s probably insensitive of me because most of us have a set of our own hot button issues and this one just isn’t mine. If I don’t think I’ll feel very good about something I’m contemplating watching or listening to, for the most part, I just stay away from it.

However, people that are debating the issue may be concerned with the principles behind what’s happening in our culture and wondering how this might negatively impact Christians. That can be a genuine concern, I think. I recall earlier in the summer reading some posts about the controversy over Derek Webb’s new release and then again, as I skimmed the posts, I wondered why we can go back and forth about this so much in the body of Christ.

Profanity is clearly considered inappropriate behavior in scripture. Perhaps some use the argument that it is employed to emphasize a point and therefore justify the means for the end result. I think some Christians just aren’t as convicted about swearing and hone in on other issues as major sins.

In my own evaluation, although I can see why it is used in some contexts, I don’t believe that ever changes the fact that we’re called to be holy and a standard of holiness doesn’t leave much room for profanity. One of the dangers of foul language is the banality of things that we should treat respectfully. We invite ourselves and one another to divert our eyes from seeing the world as God sees it and rather to trade that image in for one that is crude and amusing at someone’s or something’s expense.

Yet, I think the lines on what we choose to watch, listen to, and participate in are drawn differently for individuals based on their careful consideration of scripture and their own hearts before the Lord and need to be drawn more conservatively in large groups of Christians where there may be weaker brothers, young Christians, or unbelievers present.

For myself, I believe that even if sometimes depictions in media using profanity might seem funny or ‘realistic,’ if I search out that part of me that is entertained, I think that there is even a small rebellion towards God behind it and I don’t really like what I see upon further reflection.

What about media at the pulpit?

This morning, I was reading a response to Piper’s thoughts on the use of drama and movie clips in preaching.

I’ve thought about this a bit before from time to time. It isn’t something that I think is easy to pin down in detail in words alone. If I head to make an educated guess about how Christ would respond if He was physically roaming the earth and teaching us through His life and in parables, I don’t think He’d directly answer this question, but rather say something to turn the question on its head and get us all reflecting upon our heart motives beneath whatever side of the coin we fall on.

Clearly, I think it’s safe to say we do run the risk of dumming down a message if we are not careful in the way we use media at the pulpit. I can recall one seeker service I went to years ago that was more like a concert…that left me unsettled personally, but I don’t think that means you can never draw upon contemporary examples from media in preaching.

One ‘problem’ we face perhaps in making interpretations today is that when Paul was drawing upon common knowledge for his audiences in the churches, it was philosophies and literature that He was referring to. There is some research that seems to suggest that we read less now and view things instead and that average folks have less of a common knowledge of classic texts, literature, and philosophy. It’s been replaced with popular interpretations that skim the surface of these deeper works. So, how far can that new application be taken? It seems that the false philosophies people are drinking in are often viewed now rather than read, or that if they are read, it is by the means of some technological device. To what lengths can we go to reach the masses without diminishing the gospel?

Piper supports drama, but indicates he wants it separate from the pulpit. Well, what value then, does drama have? What are the boundaries around the use and purpose of drama? Can it have any meaningful impact on our spiritual growth?

Admittedly, I can personally take several steps back from these questions and say that I believe that drama has had a significant, life-changing effect on some of the people at my church. Drama isn’t the medium that reaches me most. I like words. I like books. I’d rather read than watch TV or play around on the net. However, increasingly, I’m in the minority on this and even in the context of the church. Again, how much should we stretch out to where people are at to draw them in?

Friends, this is a tough question from my perspective. I don’t want to detract from the power of the Word itself and the work of the Spirit. Yet, I don’t think I’m in a position to declare that churches are doing a second rate job at the pulpit if they use media. I think some of them are, but not all of them.

I also think that there is something to be said for the difference between ministering to spiritual babes and the spiritually mature. This looks different at times when it is being done effectively. One size fits all ministry at a church won’t work that well unless everyone is on the same page. New Testament churches appear to have had people with a variety of gifts and spiritual knowledge, depth, and maturity. Our churches will, too.

These are just a few thoughts that I consider.

Do you have further thoughts or considerations?