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Profanity & the Christian Moviegoer

  • Phil Boatwright Baptist Press
  • Published Dec 04, 2003
Profanity & the Christian Moviegoer

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — "Bend It Like Beckham," "Seabiscuit," "Master and Commander" — each of these films presents a positive message, an uplifting theme or just downright exciting movie fare. Unfortunately, each also contains the profane use of God's name.

Should this now-common practice of including profanity in nearly every film make movie-going off-limits to Christians? And should Christians continue to remain silent about the abuse of the Third Commandment?

First, let's define profanity. Over the years, all crude, vulgar or obscene language has been lumped under the heading of profanity. However, in the New Webster's Dictionary, Modern Desk Edition, the one I've used since 1976, obscenity is not the true definition of profanity. According to that edition of New Webster's dictionary, obscenity is defined as "objectionable or repugnant to acceptable standards of decency or morality; indecent; pornographic, offensive in language or action," whereas, profanity is described as "irreverence toward God or holy things."

The use of profanity is a sign of contempt for God. "You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name" (Exodus 20:4 NIV).

Society, and often the church, points a finger at the exploitive amounts of violence and sexuality in movies, but these are only symptoms of what ails our entertainment mediums. It is irreverence to God that is the real disease.

Consider for a moment: If you go to a surgeon and detail the symptoms you are suffering, the doctor doesn't just treat the symptoms. If he does, the malady will re-manifest itself. The symptoms tell him what the problem is and guide him in the treatment. Therefore, if the Bible truly is the inerrant Word of God, is it too simplistic to suggest that the core problem with today's standards is a disregard for God's commands? And although we have been turning a deaf ear to the media's usage of blasphemy for quite some time, should we continue to do so?

Should our standards be different from those written in ancient times? Now, I'm not referring to the customs of that age, but rather God's instructions? Would the misuse of His name still make the top 10 list of do's and don'ts? To say God would change His commandments is to suggest He made a mistake.

So, the question remains, should we attend movies containing profanity? Well, what my faith enables me to do or prevents me from doing may differ greatly from someone else. I have been able to get important messages or even be uplifted by some films that also contained a few misuses of God's name ("Mr. Holland's Opus," "Dead Man Walking"). But hearing God's name followed by a curse or Christ's name used as an expletive always grates on me. In times of frustration, I have uttered words in my life that I regret, so I don't say this out of piety. If words are the summation of the heart's thoughts, then surely people who constantly misuse God's name are contemptuous of His nature. When someone on screen misuses God's name, it says something about his character.

Whatever your feelings concerning the box office support of movies that contain profanity, let's never become as desensitized to those desecrating expressions as have many in the media. Don't let His holiness become meaningless to you. "Friendship with God is reserved for those who reverence him. With them alone he shares the secrets of his promises" (Psalms 25:14, Living Bible). "The Lord confides in those who fear him, he makes his covenant known to them" (Psalms 25:14, NIV).

© 2003 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

Phil Boatwright is the editor and film reviewer for The Movie Reporter, a monthly film guide from a Christian perspective. For further information visit his website,