Everyone, including me, seems to be hooked on the new app, “draw something“. it is number one on both the free and paid apps charts in app store. In its first five weeks, it was downloaded 20 million times. Move over Angry Birds!
The app involves drawing a picture, from a choice of 3 (easy, medium, hard), and then sending it to someone else to guess. It’s the mobile equivalent of ‘pictionary’ and its incredibly addictive (at least for the first couple of weeks).
I woke up this morning to find reminders for 17 drawings that I was still to guess. 17 drawings! And the thing is, if you manage to get that list down to 0, which will take you a good half hour, as you draw the final drawing, someone will then send you another one to do.
For someone who needs all their jobs to be done, for things to be neat and tidy and to have no unread e-mails in their inbox, this is a nightmare. It is a game that you will never finish. There will always be another drawing to guess or draw.
It’s so easy to become a slave to something isn’t it?
Whether it be facebook, twitter, an app, or some other social construct, we always end up becoming its slave. It seems to be built into our DNA. Maybe we just like something controlling us. Maybe it gives us a sense of purpose, an identity, something to be part of.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Paul was on to something wasn’t he?
What are we, or our young people enslaved by? What do we constantly need to feed?
Part of the joy of the season of Lent is to remind ourselves that we are not slaves anymore, that we have been set free.
What do you need to be set free of today?
I recently asked one of our older young people to oversee the ‘sung’ worship at the start of our youth fellowship meetings.
He is incredibly talented in all things music but he’s also getting to that age (18) where he could easily drift off from things. That’s not to say that they would leave things, but I always think it’s best to think these things through.
I wanted to give him an opportunity to lead others. To be valued for his contribution.
Since then, a couple of people have come to me because of obscene things on this person’s ‘facebook’ page.
Now, I had been aware that on occasion, this person had used swearing on his page but didn’t think much about it.
But it got me thinking.
More specifically, can language be inherently offensive and should we be stopping young people from using language that we find offensive?
1)Swearing was, in a way, a form of subversion between the middle/ upperclass and the working class.
2)words find their meaning in culture and are culturally bound.
3)the meaning of words evolve: words that were considered swearing a generation ago, are no longer considered that by the younger generation.
So what are we to do?
What I don’t want to do is write off the views of the person who spoke to me. I understand their view. They find those words offensive even if the young person doesn’t. This persons’ views are important.
When God brought the Israelites out of Egypt, He called them to ‘Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy‘ (Lev 19:2).
Many of the levitical laws found in the pages of the OT concern this issue. God asked these people to be set apart. to be different. He wants them to stand out. Jesus continues this idea when he compares the followers of ‘the way’ to salt or light (Matt 5).
So, as followers of ‘The Way’ should we demonstrate our difference to our culture by not using terms that others find offensive? That would be one solution. But then we have to ask ourselves, who is it that finds these words offensive and why do they find them offensive? After all, there are words that others would consider swearing that I wouldn’t. It makes the issue all the more complicated.
Perhaps we could offer a list of words by mutual consent that we don’t say to certain people? I know that at YF or in church there are words that I will not use. No one has said that explicitly but I know it to be true.
“Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming. You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”
Paul is building up a picture of how the church should be. What a true community of humanity looks like. And in the midst of it all he says to rid ourselves of filthy language. But what did that mean to Paul?
The greek is aischrologia which literally means ‘dishonouring words’. The words around it, “anger, rage, malice, slander” are all oppressive words. Things you do or say about someone else to strip them of honour. Words that abuse them. Oppress them.
“filthy language (as it’s translated) is not then simply about swear words. It’s about how we treat one another.
So here’s my point:
the meaning of words are subjective. Language is not inherently offensive. swear words then are only swear words if we define them as such.
to say that certain words are wrong is disingenous. It’s what’s behind the words that I would have an issue with.
If swearing comes from a place of anger, if we are using those words to offend or belittle someone then that is not right. But if we are using them because they are simply part of our vocabulary and allow us to express out views succinctly (as was one of their original intentions) then I do not see that an issue.
Some Practical Thoughts
So what about the young persons use of language on facebook? Objectively, I don’t have an issue with it. If words are not inherently offensive then there is no problem.
because facebook is a public place and people who may be offended read what we say, then I do think we have a responsibility to at least be aware of that.
For me then, moving forward, I think it would be profitable to have a conversation about language and how we use it with the whole YF and discuss together its implications at YF, church and the wider world (both on and offline).
Secondly, following that it may be worth putting together a set of terms that we should not use in certain contexts because of who may be listening/ reading.
Thoughts? Have people done this? Has it worked? Any other suggestions?
“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
The film follows Nina (Natalie Portman) as she takes the lead role in Swan Lake and battles physically and psychologically with the false self. The director (Vincent Cassel) urges her to give in to the false self (although not in those words). To give in to her urges, desires and cravings.
I think about the words of Paul written above. We no longer need to be animals. To be slaves to our desires. Not that desires are wrong. But when they control us, we become less than human.
In Paul’s theology, the old self has been crucified with Christ. Christ’s death on the cross has brought victory over our struggle. A sacrifice has been made for us.
In the Black Swan, in order to rid herself of the old self, blood must also be shed. But it’s her own blood. She sacrifices herself in order to claim victory over her old self.
It seems to be a truth that is found in movies, culture and theology.
The need for sacrifice.
For things to be reconciled, blood needs to be shed.
What’s different about the film is that it is the character who offers the sacrifice. Not God.
I have struggled with the idea of penal substitution being the main focus of atonement in recent years. Or at least the idea of redemptive violence. The idea that blood must be shed for reconciliation to occur.
I don’t think it needs to be like that at all.
What I choose to celebrate is that sacrifices are no longer needed. That victory has been found. That we can be the people we were called to be without the need for blood. Nina was born to be a dancer but in order to find that perfection, blood had to be spilled.
No more. We can have perfection. We can be “like God”. Because of Jesus. Because of his work.
In youth work, it is my role to share this victory. The cross dealt with the old self. That which abuses us, mocks us, tells us we’re not worth dying for.
And with this knowledge, we must live life to the full and be all that we were created to be.
Yesterday morning I was getting myself ready for college. get washed. eat breakfast. do my ‘lent’ time.
i finished my breakfast and added the bowl and empty cup to the pile of dishes that had gathered from the night before. where do they all come from?
I looked at the dishes and thought, “i’d like to do them, but I need to spend some time praying”.
As I sat down to pray something nagged at me.
I had fallen back into the thinking that says spending time with God and service are two separate things. In fact, I believe they are the two sides of one coin.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans he states that true worship is the sacrifice of ourselves to God (12:1).
Doing the dishes so that Katie didn’t have to when she got up was worship to God.
So often I forget that. I divide my life up into little boxes and separate everything. That’s not how it was ever meant to be. My relationship with God should influence everything I do. The Jews had no term for ‘spiritual’. They believed their whole life was spiritual. Your thoughts, your actions, your feelings were all intermingled with God.
And that’s how it should be.
That’s why washing the dishes was my time with God yesterday.