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Profanity:Should we hear it?

Updated on May 11, 2015

We all remember singing “oh, be careful little ears with what you hear” and “oh, be careful little mouth with what you say,” but in a world that is not careful with what they hear or say, how do we decide what we should allow ourselves to hear in movies? The pendulum can often swing either way with Christians. Some believe that movies should be seen as entertainment purposes only and wonder why people make such a big deal about profanity in a movie, on the other hand, there are other Christians who have a weakness when they watch movies with profanity and feel tempted to use those words. Is one group right, the other wrong, one sinful, one not? How do we know? Probably neither side will ever end up in complete accordance with what to do about this issue but there are several points that we can keep in mind as we are debating whether we should watch a movie with profanity in it. The points answer the questions what are my weaknesses, why am I watching this, is it going to enhance my ministry, and what is the movie’s goal?

First of all, instead of just putting a movie on a do or don’t list there should be a reason why. Everyone is able to take in a certain amount of junk and either be influenced by it or not influenced by it. Jesus said, it is not what comes into your body that makes you unclean but it is what comes out of your body that makes you unclean. When some people watch a movie with profanity in it there minds goes over and over the words they just heard, it can cause or tempt people to use the profane words they heard on the movie. Others, however, can listen to whatever and it doesn’t slip their minds. Paul Asay from Focus on the Family’s Plugged In give the tip, “Be aware—and be wary—of your own strengths and weaknesses. If you know a certain movie tempts you wrongly, don’t see it.” (Asay) I Corinthians 6:19, 20 says, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” If what we are hearing causes are minds to sin then we should not be watching movies with profanity. How will someone know if a movie is too much for them to handle, it’s a case by case basis which leads us on to the next point.

The second point Christians should keep in mind when wondering how much profanity they should allow their ears to hear is to ask, “Why am I watching this?” We need to make sure that we are not watching a movie simply to be entertained but that we are watching it with a purpose asking ourselves important questions as we go along. If we let everything in us with no discretion how likely are we to then let things out of us with no discretion. In response to a Christian forum question “should Christians watch movies, TV etc?” a man named Johnz responded in a very interesting way. He calls those who don’t want to watch any movies out of fear cultural anorexics. Those who absorb everything without discretion he calls cultural gluttons. He says:

Cultural gluttons prefer to avoid analyzing movies beyond their entertainment value. They just want to escape and have fun for two hours in another world. When challenged by cultural critics to discern the messages within the movies, these moviegoers balk at such criticism as being too analytical or "reading into things." And many filmmakers mouth agreement with them.(Johnz)

Movies shape our culture and our culture shapes our movies, and in order to become a student of our culture we need to make sure we are thinking when we are watching a movie not just absorbing and being entertained. If we watch a movie with profanity only for the sake of entertainment we are being of the world, however, if we watch a movie with discretion we will be able to approach this world better.

Another question to consider when deciding whether or not to watch movies with profanity in them is: “Is this going to enhance my ministry?” This goes back to our last point, “why are we watching this?” If you are ministering to teenagers and you want to see what they are absorbing from the movies they are watching then you should probably see it. However, if you are ministering to people in a nursing home who do not watch much TV it’s not going to help you much, most likely you won’t hear them using the f-word that much. John M. Frame author of Theology at the Movies wrote:

Christians should seek to influence the world for Christ in some way: that is the Great Commission. But the precise way in which they reach out to the world may differ greatly from one believer to another. My brother-in-law is pastor of a church in the inner city of Philadelphia. He does not normally go to films, dramas, or art exhibits. But he is definitely "in" the world, the real world, and he ministers to it with all the strength God provides him. A knowledge of entertainment media would be of little use to him in his ministry, and I would be the last person to urge him to become "culturally aware." (Frame)

Again we are in the world but not of the world, if we are not ministering to people who are absorbed in the movie culture and language, there really is no purpose for us to expose ourselves to such profanity.

Poll taken on Grace Centered Christian Forums.

The last point to consider is what the movies goal is. If a movie’s goal is simply to get down as much profanity as possible then you should probably not watch it. However, if the movie is actually condemning the profanity and casting it in a bad light, it might be okay for you to watch, again depending on your own weaknesses. Film critic Jeffrey Overstreet says:

We live in an R-rated world, and a lot of movies reflect back to us what is happening all around us. If I am recommending films by irresponsible artists who are glorifying bad behavior, then take away my critic's license. But if I am sifting through the good and bad of a film, equipping readers to proceed with care and conscience, then I'm doing my job. (Overstreet)

It is important then to ask not only our motives for watching the movie but also the film maker’s motives for making the movie.

My view of movies often throws people off. They want to simply watch a movie to be entertained. I am okay with that, but if a movie has profanity in it, I often wonder, “How can we be entertained by something that is offensive to God?” The importance of questioning your motives for watching movies can both enhance your ministry and keep your mind from sinning.


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