Thursday, June 25, 2009

Words Fail Me

A new report urges the BBC to be more restrictive about the use of bad language in its programmes. Radio 5 Live were quickly on the case with a phone-in asking for views on the issue. Usually these phone-ins make me want to stick my head in a blender – just to relieve the mental irritation. The particular torture of them is the constant swing between random anecdote ('well my Dad’s smoked 80 a day for 60 years and he’s fine’) and sweeping generalisations that the caller can’t possibly have evidence for ('most people in this country would welcome a tax on cream buns’). Anyway I digress…

Those on the pro-swearing side (i.e. things are fine, chill out, it's no big deal) cited a number of arguments in defence of bad language…

1. Everybody does it (another of those sweeping generalisations!) and TV just reflects society. Well here’s a great surrender to progress and change if ever there was one. There were times when low-level racism was prevalent in society – if the ‘everyone does it’ argument had been followed we would still be watching the Black & White Minstrels (in fact 900,000 people just voted for the BNP so maybe the BBC will bring it back – just to reflect society!).

2. If you don’t like it – don’t watch it. Thus those who would like to enjoy a swearing-free life are basically told to push-off. But again where does that take us: if you don’t like drugs – just don’t use them; if you don’t like loud music – just sleep in the cellar when your neighbour plays his stereo all night; if you don't like cars doing 80mph in residential areas stay off the roads..etc. But whatever you do – don’t expect others to consider you. The lowest common-denominator must have sway.

3. Swearing is healthy – without its release we would become cripped by inner tensions. I suppose some would defend their use of physical aggression or alcohol or drugs on the same basis. Swearing is a lazy and self-indulgent way to deal with stress – plenty of people manage to deal with life without recourse to verbal abuse.

4. Swearing is expressive – it conveys real emotion and drama – things that would be lost without it’s use on TV. I remember watching for the first time on a long haul flight the film ‘Good Will Hunting’ – a brilliant film, full of drama and emotion. I was so moved by it I got it out on video for my wife to watch – but to my discomfort it was peppered with strong swearing. You see the in-flight version had obviously been edited and you know what, it had lost nothing! Ok that's an anecdote - but the wider point is that there are loads of examples of great drama that don't use swearing (and, by the way, since when did we want a TV so we could watch 'real life'?).

5. Swearing is ok as long as it’s used appropriately and in context. Do the advocates of this argument know what the most commonly used expletives actually mean? In what context, in a society that views itself as half-way civilised, is it appropriate to describe people or express our feelings in language that describes deeply aggressive sexual acts or demeaning references to sexual anatomy?

Further it should be evident to most people that swearing is no longer restricted to a few particular contexts in our society - it’s rife! Swearing is used like punctuation by many in the most banal conversations. The swearing culture infects not just the builder’s yard or football crowd but the home, the playground and even the cookery show.

When TV disseminates it – it gives a cultural permission for those in society (it’s the BBC after-all) to ape it. When adults use it – children copy. It’s doubly tragic to hear adults suggest that it does no harm to their kids (it’s ‘educating’ them etc) – a recent Newsround forum revealed that kids overwhelmingly felt threatened and uncomfortable with adults and parents swearing: see NEWSROUND

But why is swearing wrong – why does it evoke such strong emotions: anger, aggression, revulsion and fear? I think it’s primarily because words are theological – all words. The Bible reveals that words are vehicles of greatest power and thus their misuse is the means to greatest harm… a blog for another time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

for attaining wisdom..(5)

I want to be humble, I'm just afraid that no-one will notice. (Anon)

It's a toughie! Resisting that driving force in our guts that wants to mention our achievements, highlight our contributions, make known our self-sacrifice, and flag-up our success. Deep in everyone of us is that old ego crying out, 'look at me, look at me!'. We can't resist dropping in that final comment of self-justification, that subtle posturing to 'even the score' of who's doing really valuable ministry stuff, or the pious putdown of someone who's getting a bit more attention than us.

Only faith can put that kind of pride and self-promotion to death. The faith that says: it really doesn't matter what others think or say - because God knows! He sees and He will reward - so why trade in that heavenly blessing for a 5 minute ego-massage (Matt 6:16).

Maybe recognition is passing you by - let it go! I mean, how embarrassing to clamber up to the top table only to be asked to move down! How much better to be asked up having been content to sit in the cheap seats. Instead...

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
someone else, and not your own lips. (Pr 27:1)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Wayne's World

European Leadership Forum in Eger, Hungary 2009.

Yes that man in the back row (in the red shirt) standing three to the left of Andy Hunter is Dr Wayne Grudem. I know, it's shameless how these top theologians and Bible translators muscle in on the pics of ordinary bloggers like me. In fact I only let him off because he signed my ESV study Bible (a superb tome and well worth the investment for anyone who didn't get a complimentary copy at said event, ahem).

Friday, June 05, 2009


As much as I'm a fan of 'The Apprentice', I don't usually regard it as a great source of wisdom. However, a word from Sir Alan this week was an exception to the rule worth pondering....

'Personality can open doors for you, but character is what will keep them open.'