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Telling Secrets

faith, fatherhood, and culture

Pruder Than God

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

When I first began to attend my church, one of the pastors was ultra-reformed of MacArthurian proportions. Let's say that he and I didn't quite agree on a number of theological, and consequently behavioral, ideas. But one of the great questions he did ask to kick off his sermon was this: "What do menstrual rags, dog s**t, gratuitous descriptions of desire, and graphic violence all have in common? Right. With all of these things and more contained within God's inerrant and inspired Word, why do His people continue to maintain higher expectations of taboo language, imagery, and content than He does Himself? Why do we try so hard to be more prude than God?"

There is of course the Pauline injunction to not cause your weaker brother or sister to stumble--to abstain from things that you feel free to do when someone else feels it is a sin. I grew up being strictly taught to avoid the APPEARANCE of evil; whether or not I was actually doing evil was moot. Same goes for saying only what is edifying, in everything giving thanks, etc. There is so much wisdom and grace in these teachings and it provides a good heart check to agitators like me.

But, on the other hand, we focus so much on the Gospel of Paul that we forget that Jesus himself did not follow these behavioral rules to the letter. Sure you can argue that Jesus really did only say edifying things and that he did only things that weren't evil, but tell that to the religious leaders of the day who considered much of what he did sin. Or to the poor Canaanite woman who he called a dog and refused at first to help.

Paul too used common and crass language--even the "s-bomb" of the day--to convey his more intense thoughts. I love to envision Paul getting all riled up as he addressed each congregation. Some say that the thorn in his side wasn't anything physical at all--it was probably his obnoxious personality. You can hear it spewing forth in his letters.

And yet the vulgarity, the commonness, the gratuitousness--all of it is still Pneuma-tic.

This is a tired issue but it remains a hot one for those choosing to follow Christ, especially from the more conservative part of the subculture, because at its core is the question of grace and love--to each other and to a hurting world.

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  1. Blogger Petronia said:

    Read this today and thought of this post. I think this particular phrase triggered my memory of Pruder than God: "God will scandalize us all when we finally behold His mercy - for, I assure you, His mercy will be beyond human imagining." I think Dostoevsky's passage parallels (?) your thinking in that these kinds of choices/behaviors are not justified, but there is something to be said of the mystery of God and his mercy...

    Am I way off?

  1. Blogger Lori Lynn said:

    You gave me something to think about as you always do. I agree with you on so many levels. I've been studying the book of Matthew and though I find that Jesus was often offensive, he also says that we will be held accountable for our words.

  1. Blogger Connie Brzowski said:

    I was raised in a butt-is-a-naughty-word family. I married a wonderful man with a mouth in need of many bars of Irish Spring who (surprise!) loves Jesus desperately. Therefore, I can't say crap without wincing, yet have no problem hearing much worse.

    Big problem when I started writing fiction. My characters tended to rant in a most glorious fashion.I edit out all but a few on the second go-round.

    I'm still wrestling with this as I think a few colorful words sprinkled about bring realism to a story. During my last critique, I was told that dadgumit was actually the worst because it's a substitute for ______. She did not fill in the blank. Honestly, I had no idea what she meant and decided her mind might need Irish Spring more than mine.

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