Posted by: Douglas Mehling | December 1, 2007

Using profanity for a good cause?

The other day in a discussion forum, someone shared this quote from a speech made by the well-known theologian and sociologist, Tony Campolo.  Campolo began his speech by saying “I have three things to share with you today.  First, I’d like to tell you that while you were sleeping last night 30,000 kids died because of starvation and diseases related to malnutrition.  Second, most of you don’t even give a ****.  What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said **** than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.”

Here is what I said in response to that quote:

I must say that while the Campolo quotation does make a profound point, I would disagree about the underlying message presented. It is not necessary or right for preachers and theologians to use principles or methods that are in opposition to the character of God such as profanity, even if it does convey a point in a remarkable way. I know that from this response I sound like I am of the same mentality as the audience that Campolo was addressing. Yet, I am deeply concerned about the plight of others, and this concern does not take a backseat to whether someone utters profanity. But that does not mean profanity is acceptable. I’m sure that God was pleased that Campolo was trying to get people concerned about the needless suffering and death of children, but I wouldn’t say that he was pleased that he made the point in the manner he did. And why should we not be upset when a theologian speaks like this in addition to being upset about the plight of 30,000 kids?  Let me make it clear, I am not getting hung up about profanity. I am concerned about anything that is in opposition to God’s character that we attempt to use to promote his kingdom. And I could point to a million other examples besides profanity.

So what do you think?  Am I totally off base here, or is there actually a problem with what Dr. Campolo said?

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Responses

  1. I agree with you Douglas. While I applaud the Doctor for pointing out that 30,000 people died from malnutritian while we were sleeping last night, I think the impact of that should stand on its own and doesn’t need the curse words to add validity or emphasis. On the other hand, most people will hear that stagerring statistic and will not do anything about it. That fact may have driven the Doctor to curse.

  2. Doug,

    It’s an interesting question… I can understand the concern of this Dr. as he felt a desperate need to shake his apatic audience by the ears any way he could to hopefully motivate them into some action, any action that might in some samll way save a child. (the profound statement you mentioned)

    We’re not previded to what motivated him here, maybe some bad dream he had? :o) Smile Doug! It’s a joke…

    But what you have done here is brings up the age old question, “does the end justify the means?” Or maybe, “do two wrongs make a right?” or maybe I’m missing something…

    A few years ago I was visual skipping thought some magazine and was stop cold when I came to this one full page ad pleading for help for starving children.

    The ad showed a thin child with almost no cloths, filty, flys on his face and a swollen stomach indcating he truly was a malnurished. It was a heart wretching photo.

    On the oppsite page was another full page ad, this one was for Las Vegas deplicting all the excitment, indulgances and bright lights the city had to offer. All the fun!

    As I held the magazine in my hands it was like a cross roads sign in a way, which way would I go? Page left, should I go help a child or take page right and indule myself in personal pleasures and forget the rest of the world?

    I was stunded that any publisher would allow those two ads side by side in this manner. What a stament it made!

    But, it doesn’t seem that Las Vegas has gone under due to that event and there are still starving children in the world so maybe it was just me.

    I can imagine however that some layout person for that magazine probably got a sharp reprimand after the ad sponcer from Las Vegas ad called in a complaint. He/she may have lost a future promotion, a bonus, a client, who knows…

    But here’s the point I’d like to make. In the ad blunder I’m sure someone came down hard on the layout guy for his “error” of judgement.

    Mannagement was focused on his “mistake” if we can call it that. This deverited the spot light away from the really big problem, the needy children.

    Here too, the Dr’s good intentions are over shadowed by his “error” of judgement. If he errored, so be it.

    As Larry has pointed out we should applaud this guy for taking a stand for these poor souls. But we shold not allow ourselves to fall back on our apathetic lorels and become immersed in passing judgement of “how it should of been done”.

    When we do, we loose site of the big picture and only see the little speck.

    I don’t see a problem with what the Dr. said, nor do I see that the way he said it is important enough to redirect our focus.

    Well, anyway that’s what I think and, as a disclaimer, maybe I’m really off base.

    I remember in 1st chapter of Job, Satan is telling God that Job would curse him if he wasn’t under His protection, then Job’s wife telling Job he should “curse God and die”. But I don’t remember anything else from the Bible that would make a big difference here, however, I’m going to look into that… sorry, I didn’t realize this would run so long… take care Doug!

  3. Interesting story….I think he could have made the same point by saying simply, “You’d be more upset if I said a swear word up here than by the fact that 30000 people died….” But on the other hand, Christ called people a bunch of names too, to get their attention…

  4. Trever has a point… I’m sure there was a lot of hoop-la over Jesus throwing a fit at the temple when drove out the money changers… No doubt there are those who thought his behavior was “bad” and unbecoming of the Son of God.

    Hey Doug, email me your email address, I’ve got an idea you might be interested in.

  5. Here is my thinking. If I was sitting in a worship service and the preacher said a statement like that I would pobably sit up and take notice of what he is so passionate about. Hopefully the preacher is not known for that kind of thing so it would be shocking like he intended. He is probably sick and tired of a congregation that is only worried about themselves and what is going on in their own little world that he felt like he needed to make a point of their heart condition. In every church you have people who just can’t get over certain things, but like I said these are usually the ones who are only concerned about themselves. These people are also the ones who get upset when the sermon goes long, or when someone picked the wrong color to paint the bathroom, or think if someone in the congregation can afford a new suit, or heaven forbid, a new car; well he is obviously not giving enough money. They just think it is their job to police everyone in the church. You can’t win with these kind and that is probably why the preacher said that. I would say Amen and preach it! Every once in a while we all (including me) need to hear just how self-centered and hard hearted we are and what we are really here for. I’m really not an angry person, I promise. Have a great day Douglas!

  6. Hey Douglas…seems like I remember somebody saying that if you posted something controversial, you’d get a good conversation going… 🙂

  7. Wow, how exciting to get so many good comments and different perspectives. Thanks for your input. It sure makes doing this blog worthwhile.

  8. Douglas…

    Micah 6:8 has been a favorite text of mine for some time…
    “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

    I think the verse touches on both aspects of this conversation: loving mercy (concern/action because 30,000 kids died last night) and humility before God (whether our words honor and glorify the Lord). I think that you’re right on, Douglas, about God caring about both issues. Personally, I couldn’t use profanity (however good a cause) and have a right conscience before God, and could wish that Campolo viewed it the same way I do. However, his relationship with God is likely at a different/stronger/weaker level than someone else’s. (There’s also the issue of his greater responsibility because of his sphere of influence.)
    My personal opinion is that if I’m going to spend thought/time/energy/resources being concerned about Campolo’s profanity, I need to ask myself what kind of thought/time/energy/resources I’ve spent showing mercy to the poor, fatherless, widows, and needy people around me. Thanks for the discussion…

  9. Allison, I really like what you had to say. Makes so much sense. I do congratulate Compolo for caring about the poor. His methods do not motivate me at all, they are really distracting, but the message does stir me regardless.

  10. In reply to all comments above, espeically Allison’s & Rita’s, you’ve hit the nail right on the head here. His method was obviously a distraction or we would not be having all this blogging! :o)

    I really enjoyed reading your comments and while I’m glad Doug would never stoop to using profanity for it’s shock value, I’m also gald he’s written bolg on the bigger part of this picture, the most improtant part. The starving children…

  11. i was told to check this statement out on what the theologian said , and i noticed that every one seemed to be devited in two groups, most on the plite of the 30,000 children not on the charcter of the teacher.there is no excuse for profanity especially if your in the public eye, and even more so if your a christian teacher. i beleve the real underline problem is the lack of godlyness,in our churchs,institutions universities,and homes.this morning my wife and i saw on the tv a church service where they were having a communium service and the preacher was dancing and singing the service as a blues man and the congergation was (moven to the groven) on the other channel was the td jakes show,then a screaming preacher on the other channel,what spirit are they of? (2 tim 3:5) Jesus was meek and spoke plain,
    and his word cut deep to the marro of our minds, no other spake like that man.(EPH 4:29)(EPH 6-)(JOHN 7:46) and if we are of the same spirit then we will have the same afect.not worldly speech.as for the 30,000 children Jesus said the poor you will always have with you,so the poor is another subject. i think the reason this teacher brought this subject up in this class is a politically correct reason which is a big problem with the world to day.so when we mix pc with religion it will burst the bottle.(luke 5 ;37-39)

  12. OK. So we all agree that using profanity should be avoided, but feeding the hungry is really the most important thing here. Or are we just willing to blog about it? I challenge everyone who reads this Bolg to make a difference. How can we put our money (even though we may not have any any spare money laying around)where our mouth is? I am sure most Americans will spend enough on Christmas presents to completely do away with hunger. I heard the other day that 30 Billion would be spent in the next 3 weeks. I don’t think there is any hope that we can change that but those of us on this site who are now aware of the fact that that many children died in one night (and I am sure that statistic is for every night) I believe will be held to a higher accountability level now that we know. Most of us could stand to miss a meal or 100 (I’m talking about myself). Remember, Jesus also said whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me and whatever you do not do to the least of these, you do unto me. Douglas, how do we as professing Christians do our part? Whats the best way to help?

  13. very interesting, but I don’t agree with you
    Idetrorce

  14. Dr Campolo’s point is deliberately provocative – and his point is proved by this blog, which is dedicated to the fact not that 30,000 children died last night (again), but that he said “$@17” in a sermon.

    So he said a bad word. Big deal.

    Speaking as a European Christian, it almost beggars belief that you could be more concerned with a swearword than thirty thousand corpses. Of children.

    Hold that mental image.

    Just for a second.

    Thirty thousand dead children.

    Corpses.

    Next to that, who cares about a naughty word?

  15. here is what i think. That quote presents a powerful point. Profanity is over rated, some people do worry more about the quote “bad language” the man is using than about the 3 thousand children who died. what does this tell you about our country?

  16. As one who seeks to have my entire life guided by the principles of Christ and his kingdom, profanity will always be unacceptable. It is always used in a vulgar sense, and is always looked down up on in every culture as a sign of unrefinement. A relationship with God should lead to a refinement in every aspect of our lives, including our speech. So from a Christian standpoint, I can never say that profanity is overrated. It will always be incompatible with Christian thinking. Now, I think it is unfair to say that in our concern for the use of a speaker’s profanity we are less concerned about the plight of suffering children. Who says we are not concerned about their suffering? I believe Dr. Campolo intentionally chose to make a statement that would shock people and perhaps make them angry. Thus he would apparently succeed in making them seem like they were overly concerned about Jim uttering profanity. He presupposed that his audience did not care about the suffering of others and then tried to make them feel guilty about being concerned about something they should rightly be concerned about. So Dr. Campolo could be commended for concern about the poor and suffering, but his methodology for getting others to be concerned was quite unfortunate. As a fellow preacher, I’m disappointed that Dr. Campolo would speak in such a way. A minister of the gospel must always reflect Christ, and use of the profanity does not accomplish that in any way. Why can’t we just learn to see that profanity has no part in the life of a Christian?

  17. As one who seeks to have my entire life guided by the principles of Christ and his kingdom, profanity will always be unacceptable. It is always used in a vulgar sense, and is always looked down up on in every culture as a sign of unrefinement. A relationship with God should lead to a refinement in every aspect of our lives, including our speech. So from a Christian standpoint, I can never say that profanity is overrated. It will always be incompatible with Christian thinking. Now, I think it is unfair to say that in our concern for the use of a speaker’s profanity we are less concerned about the plight of suffering children. Who says we are not concerned about their suffering? I believe Dr. Campolo intentionally chose to make a statement that would shock people and perhaps make them angry. Thus he would apparently succeed in making them seem like they were overly concerned about Jim uttering profanity. He presupposed that his audience did not care about the suffering of others and then tried to make them feel guilty about being concerned about something they should rightly be concerned about. So Dr. Campolo could be commended for concern about the poor and suffering, but his methodology for getting others to be concerned was quite unfortunate. As a fellow preacher, I’m disappointed that Dr. Campolo would speak in such a way. A minister of the gospel must always reflect Christ, and use of the profanity does not accomplish that in any way. Why can’t we just learn to see that profanity has no part in the life of a Christian?

  18. This discussion seems to prove Dr. Campolo’s point. Too often the Church tends to get way to hung up the minor points, missing the larger issues. But we also seem to pick and choose our minor points that get our underwear bound up.

    I’ve seen some really, really fat pastors. Imagine one of them was preaching on marriage, or sin, or salvation, and the nature of Christ but all I saw was his unhealthy and disrespected temple (his fat body.) What if he smoked but was calling us to share the Good News with our co-workers? Do I get so bothered by his smoking that I miss the larger point?

    I participated in a John Eldridge “Wild at Heart” study. On the video, Eldridge was making a very important point about the masculine creation and how political correctness sometimes works against this creation. Then he said, “…they might as well cut the boy’s nuts off.” His point was valid but the rest of the men’s group spent the meeting giggling like school girls because someone said “nuts” in church. The point was lost. However, if Eldridge softened his statement, the point would be missed anyway.

    This is the very problem with the Church today. We’re so afraid of getting dirty that we won’t touch the leaper. The minor issues are such a distraction that we’ve forgotten the larger work and message of Jesus.

    How sad.


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