As a Christian AND as a lover of the arts, I often find myself facing an internal conflict. The tug-of-war is this one: I am a Christian and I watch swearing on TV.
The struggle reared its ugly ahead once again this last Sunday night as I watched the first of Ryan Murphy’s eight episode extravaganza FEUD: BETTE AND JOAN. I’m sure many of you have heard about it as it’s been advertised and hyped for a good couple months. For those of you unaware, it is a behind the scenes look at the making of the 1962 classic WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? and the turmoil between its two stars Bette Davis (played by Susan Sarandon) and Joan Crawford (played by Jessica Lange).
The first episode was absolutely irresistible, particularly for an old film lover and historian such as myself. The groundwork was lain for what appears to be a fascinating tour de force examining two women who absolutely loathed one another but joined forces for the sake of saving their careers. Sarandon and especially Lange were sensational, and the supporting cast first rate. I was especially happy to see one of my favorite unsung actresses, Judy Davis, show up as legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.
All this being said, I was shocked and quite taken aback by the language used in the show. Maybe it blindsided me because I wasn’t expecting the amount and extent of expletives on network television. Without going into specifics, we’re talking about the grand-daddy words. Words that would result in an immediate bar of soap in the mouth for anyone under 18 who dared utter them.
Then came the inevitable guilt. I’m not going to lie to you. There is no doubt whatsoever that I will continue to watch this show. But I can’t help but be a bit perturbed by the reliance of coarse language to enhance the program itself.
This is when the animated Angel Jeff sits upon my left shoulder while the Devil Jeff gets comfortable on my right.
Angel Jeff encourages me to seek out more wholesome entertainment, movies and television shows that accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Devil Jeff convinces me that these shows are simply a reflection of what’s going on in the world or what has gone on in the world, warts and all, and it’s not that big of a deal.
I’m a truth teller, so I’m going to give it to you straight. Devil Jeff usually wins.
My eight-year old nephew Keegan loves to watch YouTube videos of people playing video games. I myself don’t quite understand the enjoyment of it, but I digress. Unfortunately, the gentlemen playing these games tend to use obscene language that would make a sailor blush. If I feel the language is getting out of hand, I will force him to turn it off and join me in a game of hide and seek.
A couple hours later, once he’s fast asleep, I’ll start watching a movie on Netflix or something that has similar language if not worse.
Am I being a hypocrite?
A Lover of Art
Unlike many people, I take the arts very seriously.
I tend not to flock to the cineplex to watch the latest Transformers movie or the most recent Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. I believe performance art has the ability when done correctly to open our eyes, to touch our hearts, and to move our souls.
I seek out and am often deeply affected by films and television shows that dare to not only entertain but also to enlighten.
I am a Christian and I Watch Swearing on TV
In the end, this is what I’ve decided.
I am confident enough in my faith and my beliefs not to be swayed by anything I hear on the silver screen or on my Roku TV. I don’t view “naughty words” as a means of titillation or juvenile enjoyment. I view serious art as a reflection of society and a magnifying glass to what’s going on in the world.
I feel an obligation to shield my nieces and nephew, no matter their ages, because I want them to realize that what they are often seeing or hearing onscreen is not the goal but the thing to avoid. My nieces are now 24 and 20 so I feel a bit more at ease with them, but I am incredibly strict with the eight-year old because I feel he is still in the process of discovering who he is and is at an age where he is easily influenced.
I’m sure what these kids hear on the school bus is ten times worse than anything they’ll find on television, but I still feel that innate need to protect.
Have you gone through a similar thought process? What did you decide? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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Debbie Kitterman says
Hey Jeff, thanks for your thoughts on the assessment and the conflict of soul between watching shows vs the language. I think if we are all truthful we all have moments where the little devil and the angel sit on our shoulder speaking conflicting things. I have noticed over time, how it seems we have become desensitized … I remember sitting in the theater watching Grand Torino with my husband ad being shocked at the language… the story was great, but it didn’t necessarily need ALL the language to make it’s point, however, we didn’t leave the theater… about a year later, when the show was out, my husband watched with his mother, Oh boy .. i happened to be gone traveling and when we were talking on the phone that night, he said do you know how many cuss words are in that movie? I just laughed and said yes, didn’t you? He had become detached and desensitized and looked at the story not necessarily the launguage until his om was sitting int he room watching with him. LOL … ( maybe we all need our moms i the room when we are watching shows ??? then we would be more aware) Thank you for linking up to #TuneInThursday and Sara – thanks for letting Jeff write on your blog.
I’m glad you wrote about this. I, too, was shocked over the use of words in the mentioned show (I’m watching it also). I appreciate your struggle and completely understand the feeling of hypocrisy! Having been a strict parent, all I can say is I probably will watch this series, but give up on others. For example, we started watching “SIX” (I believe that’s the name of series) and it became visually raunchy in addition to language raunchy. We shut it off for good. Sadly, because the story behind the conflict that the men were engaged in was worthy of good film, however the raunchy video introduced was a putt-off and totally unnecessary to the story. I so appreciate the things you write about, Sara. You are brave, thoughtful and a true teacher. Blessings.
Thanks for your comment, Mary! My cousin Jeff wrote this blog and he did an awesome job. I appreciate your honesty about the show. I think a LOT of Christians feel this conflict (maybe others aren’t willing to admit it) not just about swearing but violence and sexual scenes too. I’m hoping Jeff will follow up and write blogs about the other two topics as well.
It has nothing to do with whether or not your moral code is established enough to enable you to cope with the language usage etc. but everything to do with the fact that you are now willingly and intentionally grieving the Holy Spirit. Would you write those words with a black marker on your beautiful white wedding dress? As a bride of Christ, why would you then fill your mind with them. We are to reflect Christ’s image. We are to forsake the ways of the world.
I know it bothers you so let the Holy Spirit guide you. Listen carefully.
This post definitely got me thinking! First off thank you for your honesty, because I think most of us watch swearing on TV and in movies unless we watch basically NO movies or television. I’ve been shocked recently to hear it creep into even little kids cartoons (the word “crap” but remember when that was a bad word??). We went to THE SHACK last weekend, which is rated PG-13, so I guess the previews are PG-13? (I thought reviews were PG.) There were several swear words in the previews. I think the word “ass” was used, as in “smart ass”. It really surprised and yes bothered me because it showed how much we allow in society now, and I also didn’t see why it was even necessary. As far as myself I am a lot more bothered by people or shows taking God’s name in vain than other words that society considers bad but are actually just words we as a society have deemed as bad words. I feel the same way with children, teens, or adults I’m around in every day life. I don’t like other bad words (although I admit I say them at different times) but when people use God’s name improperly, that I find more upsetting because it’s disrespecting God – someone I want to hold in the highest honor.