Churches make mistakes all the time. Our is no different. Fortunately, in order to even join our church, you must first admit that you are a complete screw up (or sinner if you’re old school). So, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the church can be a messy place.
Anyway, over the past several weeks, I have received a great deal of criticism for our billboards. (mostly from Christian people) So, this morning I decided to sit down and really analyze some scripture. Because I don’t have everything figured out, it’s quite possible that I was wrong and must adjust the church’s response to conform to God’s will. My goal is to approach God’s Word with no agenda and no proof texting, but simply an earnest desire to know what God says about our “ballsy” billboards.
MY RULES OF ENGAGEMENT
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE AT WORK HERE?
There must be a principle here that God is trying to communicate that’s bigger than a holy list of words to avoid.
Vulgarity, in and of itself, is not a good measure for my word choice. Vulgarity can be subjective. What is considered “vulgar” at the kitchen table of a suburban home-school family is vastly different than “vulgar” for the inner city missionary in the heart of the Bronx. Drawing a hard line between right and wrong with the subjective “test of vulgarity” might be impossible.
On top of that, God’s word sometimes models vulgarity.
After all, God’s entire covenant with the Jewish nation began when Abraham agreed to chop off the extra skin from the tip of his penis. Now that’s a little over the top for me. (Gen 17)
And when God asked Joshua to circumcise an entire nation, subjectively vulgar? (Joshua 5) By the way, that would have been an interesting billboard.
Don’t forget Isaiah’s comparison of our righteous to used Tampax. (Isaiah 64:6) That’s God’s word-picture not mine.
And what about Onan’s act of coitus interruptus by “spilling his seed on the ground (Gen 38) or when King David bought his wife for the small price of 200 Philistine foreskins? (1 Sam 18) Seriously, you won’t find that in a children’s pop-up book.
Or when Paul tells his agitators to just go ahead and emasculate themselves. (Galatians 5:12) hmmmm….
Clearly, there is a principle at work here. My hope is to re-discover what GOD SAYS about this.
So, here we go:
BACKGROUND OF COLOSSIANS
The Colossian church, around AD 60, was under the influence of certain false teachers and Greek influences. Athenian and Hellenistic philosophies and practices were beginning to infiltrate the church, putting her in danger.
On top of that, the Athenians threw crazy neighborhood parties. One of their more infamous celebrations were the Demetrian Festivals. These festivals iconized idol worship in the ancient Greek culture. During a typical Demetrian Festival, women would celebrate their sexuality by suspending their normative roles and take on the culturally dominant role of men. These festivals where filled with sexually charged and seductive language, which they called aischrologia.
Laura MacClure, in her work published by Princeton University, says:
“At the Demetrian festivals, aischrologia was closely associated with female sexuality, reproduction and fertility…It was their custom during the festival days to use vulgar language as they associate with one another because the goddess, when she was grieving over the rape of her daughter, laughed on account of obscene talk.”
The Athenians used their “vulgarity,” in the context of this festival, as a form of worship.
Clemoede also describes aischrologia when he says, “Some of the expressions, one would say, came from brothels…”
One thesis published by Cambridge University says (about the festival),
“it looks as though it was a time of sexual liberation for we are told that the women were free to say whatever they wanted to (even the “most shameful things”) while being given advice on adultery by priestesses.
I could go on, but I believe that would inappropriate.
Imagine “gender reversal” meets “porn film” for women, and you understand the essence of the Demetrian festival. Their language would cause even Hugh Hefner to blush…maybe.
The entire point of aischrologia was seduction and idol worship. (and not that husband and wife kinda seduction either)
This was the cultural challenge that was beginning to face the church of Colosse.
VULGARITY VERSE NUMRO UNO: COLOSSIANS 3:8
As a result of this Athenian infiltration, Paul writes, Colossians 2:16 – Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon Celebration or a Sabbath day….
He continues his attack with Colossians 3:5 – Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (all a direct reference to the Demetrian Festivals)
Colossians 3:8 – But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
Here, Paul uses the same word that the Athenians used to describe their seductive, idol worshipping language: AISCHROLOGIA. We translate that word “filthy language.” But to the church at Colosse, it conjured up images of Demetrian Festivals.[as a side note, Paul continues his rant against the Festivals by talking about men’s and women’s roles in Colossians 3:18-19]
COLOSSIANS 3:8- CONCLUSION
To say that Paul is simply urging the Christians at Colosse to rid the church of potty-mouthed language misses the point all together. Paul’s implication is much more rich than that.
Paul is suggesting that our language never be used as a seduction to sexual sin and is not intended to be used for the worship of idols or false gods.
This one verse gives me two questions to ask whenever I evaluate my language:
1. Does my language seduce me or someone else to sin sexually?
2. Is my language being used to glorify or worship false gods?
So, how does Kinetic’s “ballsy” billboard compare with the tone of Demetrian Festivals? I think that there’s NO comparison. Do they seduce others to sexual sin? NO! Do they glorify or worship a false god? So far, “no” on all accounts.