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Lights, Camera, *bleep*

Lights, Camera, *bleep*

            When someone asks, “Why would you spend your money to hear bad words?” they’re asking a loaded, unanswerable question. They’re stacking the deck in favor of their own view of the real or imagined conundrum and then daring the fool to play their hand against the house’s five aces.

            To begin with, no one is spending their money to hear bad words. It is highly improbable that the reality proposed by the questioner in question, that is, one in which middle-class Americans drop their hard-earned cash upon the Formica countertop for the express purpose of being audibly assaulted with a complex myriad of inappropriate language, exists. People generally pay for things like a compelling story, intriguing plotlines, extravagant effects, or several good laughs. While they are fairly certain to encounter varying amounts of coarse language and bleep-able words in their pursuit, let us dispose of any notion that they pay for these encounters.

            While we’re at it, let’s just ban that sentence from the conversation altogether. If you’re of a mind to challenge someone on their choice to go and watch a film in which is found a large population of “words that get you banned from Sunday School,” ask it in a bit more honest fashion than that. Scampering quickly to the supposed moral high ground doesn’t foster debate or conversation. No child ever has a worthwhile conversation when they rise-up to challenge the mandates of their bespectacled, spinster teacher in her starched, black hose, and that’s the paradigm you establish when you ask that question. Purposefully or not, you paint yourself as the morally superior person in the conversation, thereby leaving your friend/opponent/target to wear the “morally questionable” label before the conversation even takes place.

            Instead, try something like…asking the person about the film itself rather than immediately jumping to the number-score it received from kidsinmind.com in the “Profanity” category. Most films (quite possibly all films, but there is the possibility of the outlier) are not the sum of their profanities. In fact, many films have characters and situations and plots and stories and all sort of other fascinating aspects (some, not all. Bear that in mind.) Perhaps ask about these types of things to begin with and the result may be more of a conversation and less of an inquisition. More than likely the theater patron in question was compelled to attend the film for some reason beyond “going to watch a movie with lots of bad words so as to upset my Christian friends.” This reason might be a suitable starting place for a conversation.

            Lastly, if and when you do bring about the vast quantity expletives to which your acquaintance has exposed themselves, it would do well to recall that while the Bible certainly espouses the idea that Christians are to “let no corrupt communication proceed” from their mouths (Eph. 4:29) and to “put off…blasphemy and filthy communication,” (Col. 3:8) this is not equivalent to hearing such things. In fact, there have been reported cases of people hearing many, many, many bad words in their life and never, ever repeating them. Unless your friend is a four-year old, there is a fair-to-good chance they are in possession of such things as “self-control” or “discretion” or other mental and spiritual functions and disciplines that inform them that not all behavior can or should be replicated. To be honest, when you take such a tone or strike such a pose, you’re treating the person as if you think them incapable of knowing the difference between what is and is not appropriate, what is and is not right. You’re not just taking the moral high ground; you’re claiming your hill, building your defenses, arming your weapons and then declaring that to be the aforementioned area to be defended or overtaken and, take it if you dare, suckas!

            There are people who prefer to be bombarded by as little foul language as possible. Some people also feel it wrong to support films in which there is an over-abundance of cursing, swearing, or general potty-mouthing, and that is their choice. There are others who are of the conviction that needlessly exposing themselves to certain levels of coarse communication damages their witness or hinders their walk with Christ. These are valid preferences and legitimate concerns and convictions. What they are NOT are God-given, biblical mandates. And when they are treated as such it stymies encouraging, constructive conversations that could take place in favor of the slash-and-parry of verbal combat. In doing so it replaces the good and necessary sound of iron sharpening iron with the grating and unnecessary screeching of nails on a chalkboard.

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