(Editors Note: As the blogger of Reflective Musings, I figured I should give a little introduction. Bryan is a dear friend of mine, and one who I suspected would have at least reservations about Milano’s use of certain language on their new EP. He dialogued with me about a comment he was going to post on the Jon Guerra interview, but due to its length I suggested a guest post on the blog. He kindly agreed, and what follows on from this italicized gray is his writing. Please keep in mind that we are debating an issue/idea here. We are not pointing fingers, or trying to be mean to each other. Any comments of that nature will be removed. Without further ado, Bryan’s thoughts.)
I listened to Milano’s “So What?!” on Friday when I read the blog post about the “F-Bomb”. I was at first a little disturbed. As I was told, the word is used in a specific context and, in this context, I understood Jon Guerra’s meaning. I understood exactly what he was saying and what he meant. This, despite my objection to the use of the word at all. Then I read the interview post on Monday and now, in addition to being disturbed, I am perhaps a little frustrated.
First let me say that I disagree with the use of the f-word altogether. I think it is foul and uncalled for in any situation, much less in an intentional musical setting that is supposed to point to Christ. I feel it is, as I once heard, “the ripost of the inarticulate.” There are so many options to express the thought of a person being extremely messed up, filthy, base, and even evil that the use of the f-word is really unnecessary. Swearing, in general, puts me off. Ephesians 4:29 instructs followers of Christ to not let evil talk come from our mouths. I understand that within “So What?!” the contextual use of the word is to remind everyone how worthless and foul we are without Jesus but I think, especially coming from a man who follows Christ, this usage is less than helpful in “building up” the body.
Secondly, we are, as followers of Christ, called to strive for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 11:1 specifically calls Christians to follow the example of imitating Christ. Admittedly, this is tough to do. He is a tough act to follow, but try we must if we are to call ourselves followers of Christ. In thinking back on the Christ that I see in the Bible I see anger at the Pharisees (Matt 3:7, Matt 15:10-20). I see frustration with sin (Matt 7:3). I see the pointing out of sexual sin (John 8:3-9, John 4:16-18), theft (Mark 7:21), and deceit (John 8:55). I see Jesus verbally attacking the religious leaders of the day (Matt 12:2-14) and physically attacking those who would try to make a buck off of the church and twist the Law into a profit driven business within the walls of the temple itself (Mark 11:15-17). But never in all of that do I see Jesus opting to color his language with cursing. Making a point and offending others by highlighting Truth I do see. But in situation after situation where anger and frustration may, in human ears, justify the use of “salty language”, the Son of God drives home his point quickly and efficiently without resorting to such tactics. While Isaiah 64:6 uses “filthy rags” as a word picture to drive home a point I don’t think that it is accurate to liken that to swearing. This is not simply a graphic way to make a point a get attention. The picture painted by Isaiah, while graphic, is given to describe the ceremonial uncleanliness that was to be dealt with while the Israelites were under Mosaic law. The Israelites understood that a person in this state was ceremonially separated from God. There are plenty of ways to get this point across in today’s society without resorting to cheap vulgarities. I would argue that cursing does nothing to draw people in to Christ but instead does just the opposite, even in a song intended to highlight our fallibility as humans without Jesus Christ in our lives.
Finally, (great sigh, I am sure) Jon Guerra’s argument for using the f-word in his song sounds more to me like a convoluted rationalization for a means to work in a word or two to stir the pot, for whatever reason, despite his comment that his word selection was “not intentionally contentious”. What leads me to this conclusion are two contradictory, at least to my understanding, statements that he makes in the interview. Mr Guerra makes the point that those who have endured physical or sexual abuse can understand and appreciate the strength of the word selection. The f-word certainly is a powerfully loaded word in our culture. The caustic intensity of the meaning behind the word as used in the context of “So What?!” is not lost on me. But then, in the same paragraph, and apparently the same train of thought, Mr. Guerra turns around and states that he used the word, just moments before described as being filled with “vitriol”, in a “playful way.” I have a hard time believing that vitriol and playful can be seriously paired together.
I am in no position to, nor am I trying to, judge Jon Guerra or second guess his spirituality or his relationship with Christ. I have never met him and I do not know any more about him that what is on Milano’s web site and what has been written about him in this blog. I do believe, however, that inserting language like the f-bomb into music that is intended to point to Christ is, at best, misguided. Christ generated quite a stir wherever he went without swearing to make His point known. I do not believe that swearing is dooming anyone to Hell. I don’t believe that salvation hinges on flowery words and warm-fuzzy speech. I do believe though that, while Christians are not under law, we should not hide behind a shield of grace and think that that gives us license to deliberately, intentionally, and continually act in ways that are contrary to the model set before us by Jesus Christ.