July 14, 2009

Give a Sh*t

One of my earliest memories of bucking the status quo was in middle school when I started to ask questions about whether or not swearing was unChristian. I began to challenge assumptions from my parents, youth leaders, and parents that saying "asshole" or "shit" was wrong. After all, those words weren't around when Jesus was walking the earth, and people just substituted other words in the place of swear words. Was God really going to be upset with me if I hit my finger and whispered "dammit" under my breath?

I have been questioning authority and asking the why question for about as long as I can remember, but I think my opinion on the issue might also have had to do with the fact that whenever I played multi-player Bond or Mario Kart on Nintendo 64, I would curse up a storm. But it was never out of hatred or malice, it was just a little venting for whenever I got my ass kicked. Boy did I string along some rather peculiar combinations of swear words back in those days:)

Then at some point in high school I heard Tony Campolo say the following,

I have three things I'd like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don't give a shit. What's worse is that you're more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.

That quote validated my own feelings that God really didn't care if Christians swore; what really mattered was that we care about loving our neighbor by preventing so many children from dying.

I was reminded of that the other day while reading a United Methodist News Service article/report about ending hunger. The article included quotes from David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. As part of his tireless efforts fighting and advocating on behalf of hungry and poor people around the world, he has stated that we actually have the resources to end worldwide hunger. In addition to prayer and advocacy, he says "The main thing we need is more 'give a damn.' It is political will." I think Beckmann is exactly right and I think his word choice helped him to make his point.

Last week, Derek Webb released his latest album, Stockholm Syndrome. There has been some controversy surrounding the album--in part because of the song "What Matters More," which has a swear word and addresses homosexuality."

‘Cause we can talk and debate until we’re blue in the face
About the language and tradition that he’s comin’ to save
Meanwhile we sit just like we don’t give a shit
About 50,000 people who are dyin’ today

I find the potential power and meaning that swear words can have fascinating. There is a time to remind people that God desires for them to care about others who are oppressed, poor, hungry, and in bondage. But there is also a time to boldly say, "God wants you to give a shit! Apathy is lethal." I'm not saying that giving a shit is all that matters, definitely not. It is just part of our response to God's great love for us. God wants us to also be moved with compassion and compelled to seek justice, while walking humbly with God.

When's the last time you gave a shit? When's the last time you were truly sick to your stomach at something just fucked up in the world. I'll be honest, all those children dying, the ones you see with the bloated bellies on the infomercials in the middle of the night--I care, but not enough. My heart hasn't ached for them in a while. And yeah, we can't fight every battle, every day. Yet we must allow the things that break the heart of God to break ours.

Thankfully I saw this video today, and it shook me up and just rattled me. Shaun King posted it from CBS, and showed it to his church. It sounds like they're getting ready to really get involved. You can help too by sharing the video or by donating money to UNICEF. You can also help by urging Congress to reform foreign assistance. Write a letter and give money to support Bread for the World's campaign to get H.R. 2139 passsed.

Luke 10:33

But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he was moved with compassion,

*For the record I don't advocate that Christians swear constantly or recklessly. Obviously it is important to be respectful with our words and our actions. But most importantly, our words should not be used to harm, degrade, or demonize other people. Unfortunately, even people who don't have a potty mouth have found other words and phrases to hurt their neighbor.


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