Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Vulgarity, Meaning, Evangelicalism, Politics, and Hypocrisy

For fulfilling its particular purpose, I don't know of a better metaphor than the pot calling the kettle black.   Our culture, our society, loves vulgarity, craves vulgarity, embraces vulgarity. Evangelicalism loves vulgarity.  I think most of fundamentalism loves vulgarity.   Very few people dislike vulgarity in the whole United States.  Along comes Donald Trump and our society and evangelicalism say they don't want Trump because of his vulgarity.  This is the pot calling the kettle black.  This is not a defense of Trump.  If people are going to oppose vulgarity, they should start with themselves.  It really is moralistic to point out the vulgarity of someone else, really for self-righteous purposes, and then embrace it yourself, even advertise it yourself.  This is what evangelicalism does, following along with the rest of culture and society.  The most popular figures in social media, which some would say are the most popular people in the entire country, the biggest twitter and instagram followings, are likely the most vulgar people in the world.  Evangelicalism leans toward the same measures as if they might aid its effort to expand its numbers.

Recently I watched most of an episode of James White's program, what he calls The Dividing Line.  I believe that the dividing line would be scripture.  I could hope that would be the case with James White too, although for him the dividing line might be himself.   It seems you have to pass the White muster to get over the most important dividing line.  As part of a line being drawn that divides one side from another, such as Moses asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?", the Bible or God draws a line between the holy or the sacred and the profane or the common.  James White would have us expect that would occur on his program. I wish I could assume that and I hope the best, even as love hopes all things.

White's program was February 22, 2016 and it was called, "Psalm 101:3 and Worthless Things on Today’s DL."  White spent much of his time exposing the evangelical attraction to the movie, Deadpool.  White was using Psalm 101 to explain that he wouldn't go to the movie, Deadpool, because it was worthless. warning evangelicals about going to a movie like that in light of teaching there in Psalm 101.

"Worthless things" comes from some modern translations of Psalm 101:3, such as the ESV, as an example, from the Hebrew belial, which the KJV and even the NKJV translate, "wicked thing." "Worthless thing" is a legitimate understanding of belial, but it also means "wicked thing," and that is how believers have taken Psalm 101:3 for centuries.  For instance, Matthew Henry in his commentary on this verse, writes:

In all our worldly business we must see that what we set our eyes upon be right and good and not any forbidden fruit, and that we never seek that which we cannot have without sin. It is the character of a good man that he shuts his eyes from seeing evil.

The idea of "worthless thing" isn't, "hey, it's worthless, that is, it doesn't have any eternal value, but it isn't wrong."  No, the worthless thing is wicked.  It is either wicked because it is worthless or it is worthless because it is wicked.  Worthless things are not acceptable for God's people, so they are wicked.

Just the fact that White finds the need to address his audience about Deadpool says that something stinks in Denmark, which is evangelicalism.  When you hear him talk about it, he tip toes too, as if he knows this could be controversial and he could find himself in big trouble going after a movie.  He even says that he himself isn't prudish.

White spends most of the hour talking about movie-watching as related to Psalm 101:3, and admits that he goes to movies at the theater.  He says there are people who don't attend movies, and he said they were 'King James Onlyists who wear bow ties,' as a way to mock those people.  I guess people accept this from White, expect it really.  KJVO and bow ties?  Who are these people?   But this is typical of White to scorn people like this with his words.  He does this all. the. time. It is his regular method of operation to jeer and ridicule.  He gets some in return, but I've never seen him take as much as he gives.   He does it again and again.  Donald Trump has been called vulgar for using the same tactic.  I'm not saying that criticism isn't true, just that I hear this tactic used as much or more by James White.  White earns capital with his viewers with the name-calling that he can spend on Deadpool.  The people who love Deadpool and purchase a ticket to see it -- his audience -- hate the KJV and see its adherents wearing bow ties and likely living in area 51.

The movie that White endorsed as a fine one, one that had a purpose, that wasn't worthless, that he thought was worth going to the movie theater to watch, was "Saving Private Ryan."  His reason was that Saving Private Ryan did represent actual war.  He says it was given good reviews by actual World War Two veterans for its realism.  A parental guide for that movie says the following (with asterisks where the foul language is):

Approximately 23 uses of "****," 17 of "****," 15 of "***," 12 of "********," 10 of "************," 6 of "***," 6 of "****," 5 of "************," 4 of "*********," 3 of "******," 2 each of "***************," "*******," "*************" and "********," and 1 use of "*************," 1 of "**************" and 1 of "*******"
The word used 23 times is as bad as it gets.  Some of the others might be characterized the same, while many are various versions of the Lord's name in vain.

While James White spent an hour preaching against Deadpool, he was also promoting movies like Saving Private Ryan, that are also full of vulgarity.  My point, however, is that even among the most conservative of conservative evangelicals, they speak against the vulgarity of someone like Trump, and yet they pay for and sit themselves down voluntarily to watch worse than the worst of what Trump has said in this campaign.  Again, I don't say this to defend Trump, but to indicate the hypocrisy of a people who actually choose vulgarity on a regular basis.

I have already written now in a couple of previous posts that I believe that churches are most responsible for vulgarity, because they have brought it into their churches.  I'm using James White merely as an example, because he is fairly well known.

What is vulgarity?  Many evangelicals and fundamentalists now say they know what it is and that it is wrong, as seen in criticism of Trump.  They suddenly know, they say, what vulgarity is.  They are against -- really, really against it -- they say. They have strong contempt for vulgarity.  However, they like Christian rock and Christian rap and they say they can't judge that.  They promote it. They can't judge smoke on the stage and colored lights and Christian pianists who play like Billy Joel.  Those play and sing in their churches.  Those someone shouldn't judge.

Evangelicals have a verse: 1 Corinthians 4:6, which says (in the KJV), "that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written."  This is a convenient use of this one phrase in this verse, which isn't functioning in the verse like evangelicals have found their primary and most common meaning.  If you judge the music they employ to help increase their number of attendees, they say that you are judging "above that which is written."  You won't find the words, "rock music," in the Bible, and so you are adding to scripture.  However, they can judge what "vulgar" is.  They know. They see it in Donald Trump.  They judge that vulgarity is wrong.  And that is actually judging within what is written, well, because that just is, because they know that it is.

Merriam-Websters Dictionary defines "vulgarity," first and second definitions:  (1) the quality or state of not having good taste, manners, politeness, etc., (2) something (such as a word) that is offensive or rude."  On February 2 here, I wrote:  "Trump is vulgar.  Trump could be the picture next to vulgar in the dictionary," so if I write that now about him, I had already written it the day after he lost the Iowa caucus.  Marco Rubio calls him the most vulgar presidential candidate in the history of U. S. presidential elections.  This was the person, Rubio, who started the conversation about Trump's hand size.  Maybe he had also forgotten about Bill Clinton.  It's pretty easy to say Trump is the most vulgar, because the entire news media and then other candidates are saying that.

You won't generally get in trouble for saying Trump is vulgar.  You will get patted on the back for that amazing observational talent you've got there, before you turn on some even more vulgar television or music and gulp it up like a slurpee, running down your chin.  Can anyone say that most of the Super Bowl halftime shows are not packed with vulgarity?  Good thing nobody watches those, huh?  My daughters go to state university and they see and hear vulgarity every single day from the teachers, not just from the students.  My son saw it, heard it, and continues to see it and hear it every single day in the Army.   Vulgarity also makes up a big chunk of the literature department in state universities if students wish to choose that field.  The vulgarity they are exposed to make the public Trump not look vulgar, but like he is a bright shining exhibition of pristineness.

If Trump were elected, maybe he would be the most vulgar president too, except that he's got a lot to beat there.  He's at least got the teenaged interns recruited by Kennedy for swim time and affairs in the White House.  Of course, you have Bill Clinton and his young intern Monica Lewinsky and the dress and the cigar.  I'm not saying those were White House behavior to which to aspire.  The left especially and really should stay quiet about vulgarity.  You can't come from the left and act offended.  You welcome it by denotation.  Perhaps some of you remember when the left wanted federal, taxpayer funding for the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibition.

I'm not defending vulgarity.  I'm not defending Trump's vulgarity.  I say, if we are against vulgarity, then let's get rid of vulgarity.  Most television and the commercials are vulgar.  Most of the most popular radio personalities and programs are vulgar.  People watch and listen to vulgarity all the time. Trump comes along and they act like this is new.  Most of these same people watch regular almost non-stop vulgarity from the night time television talk show hosts.  They keep up with the vulgarity of Saturday Night Live.

RCP carries some clips from Bill Maher and just Saturday night one appeared there of his interview of a Raheel Raza and right toward the end (after 2:20), where she said to Bill Maher of all people that she was a grandmother and she would have to cover her ears at some of what Trump said.  Anyone who knows who Bill Maher is knows that was some of the biggest irony in history.  Bill Maher and most of his guests are known for their extreme foul language, far more than anyone has yet heard from Trump.  She said that statement to Bill Maher on his show and his foul audience, who almost always laughs and applauds the extreme vulgarity of Maher, clapped in agreement with her.

Phil Johnson has an excellent argument against Trump the man, which is worth considering for anyone. Here are the pivotal sentences in my opinion from a bunch of material he's written on his facebook page:

John the Baptist did not challenge Herod's political stance, odious as that was to the Jewish people. What he got in Herod's face about was his openly immoral lifestyle.

I wonder if anyone has gotten in the face of Trump for his immoral lifestyle.  Maybe someone has.  I don't think he should divorce his third wife, but someone should ask him if he still believes in what he said to Howard Stern, whom he calls his good friend, about his lifestyle in the late 90s through the 2000s.

I don't want to write anything positive about Trump in this piece, so I'm not, but I am writing about his vulgarity, because it in a very plain way indicates that professing evangelicals and worse think about vulgarity.  They are either attempting to smear Trump or they really do hate vulgarity.  If they can spot and diagnose vulgarity, then that means that they think that some type of behavior can be vulgar.  They are saying that certain behavior is vulgar.  When Trump calls Senator Rubio, "Little Marco," they see that as uncivil or his being a bully or again, vulgar.  They are judging Trump.

Recently I wrote that judgment must begin in the house of God.  Before they look at Trump, evangelicals, if they think they represent the house of God (which I doubt), then they should start with their own vulgarity.  They should start with their own hatred of it.  They shouldn't start with Trump, because the problem of vulgarity starts with the house of God, and the house of God, as it pertains to even conservative evangelicals, doesn't seem to hate its own vulgarity.


Kent Brandenburg said...

Anonymous, who posted three comments anonymously,

I don't publish most anonymous comments. You must come out with your real name, so we can know you. You can't do drive-bys anonymously. You have to come with your name for those comments. I'd be glad to answer your comments then.

Farmer Brown said...

It is interesting, and I have noticed this as well. People who watch movies with tremendous vulgarity and immorality suddenly become pale and effete in the face of Trump's lifestyle and conversation. You almost expect them to get "the vapors"

I was told recently by a friend who was going to vote for Trump that this friend was not going to do so after reading of Trump "mouthing" a curse word. Fine, except I know for a fact this person watches movies at home with similar vulgarity.

What is the argument? "It is fine for my own personal consumption, but not for my elected officials." It is a weird standard.

Anonymous said...

Hello Pastor Brandenburg,
I have been reading your blog for about two years now and enjoy it immensely even when I disagree with you on minor points. I never comment on a blog because I feel my liberty is limited with my ministry position, so I understand if you choose not to post my anonymous comment.
I would just like to state that I am disgusted with the hypocrisy of the evangelical world when it comes to Trump. So many in the Christian community are abhorred at the honest vulgarity of Trump, but they gloss over the slick rhetoric and dirty behavior of Ted Cruz. They do this because Cruz will tout his Christian credentials such as "I'm the son of a baptist preacher", "Jesus is my Savior", but they blindly "trusTED" failing to acknowledge his actions.

Concerning funding he failed to disclose his Goldman-Sachs loan; an investment firm that his wife works for and is in a temporary leave of absence. She also worked on the Council on Foreign Relations, a global think tank that promotes a one world government and the New World Order. So much for being a Washington outsider. Concerning his vulgarity, he used the "D" last week in a rally. He played dishonest politics in Iowa against Carson.

Rubio comes with same baggage with his Gang of Eight past, but evangelicals trust his statement of faith in the debate performance saying, "Jesus is my Savior" He is a Catholic. Chances are he is not a believer.

Max Lucado has spoken out against Trump because he called Megyn Kelly a Bimbo and talked about about a woman's menstrual cycle. Where was Lucado's voice when Clinton was raping women in the White House?

Many of the evangelicals that are voting for Trump understand that he is a cultural Christian, not necessarily a believer. They will accept that because at the end of the day they are looking for someone to protect their freedom of religion which is connected to their freedom of speech.

This is not meant to be a Trump defense or even a trump endorsement. I'm just growing weary from the emotional responses to Trump when the other guys are on the same level playing field.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Farmer Brown,

I 100% agree with you.

Kent Brandenburg said...


Some may wonder why I'm printing yours and not the other anonymous comments. I'm printing yours because you're not going after me -- :-D -- like the other guy was. I didn't want to print someone who was attacking me anonymously, and I believe, untruthfully. I didn't want to give him place for that without his name. I think that is fair. My name is right here.

I'm going to let yours stand on its own.

I'm mainly writing, like you said, about evangelical vulgarity, and the evangelicals unwillingness or inability to admit and do business in their own house. They show they understand vulgarity, but they only apply it to an unbeliever and in a very harsh way. They allow those most responsible to push it and get away with it. I think thy are worse than Trump, so I get what you are saying.

Farmer Brown said...

Speaking of vulgar, the continuing love fest between Senator Cruz and that pseudo-religious Christ hating nut Glenn Beck really turns my stomach. I would rather listen to a 5 hour loop of Trump reciting every curse word than five minutes of Beck calling Cruz the chosen one while talking about Jesus. One of those is irritating, the other makes me physically ill.

Glenn Beck's false religion is exceedingly vulgar, and Cruz gladly laps it up for a few delegates. I do not disagree Trump's vulgarity is offensive, but Beck is orders of magnitude more offensive and vulgar.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Hi Farmer,

I have to agree with you. This idea in Utah, which is what Mormons believe, that the Constitution of the US is inspired, like the Bible, and that there was a Mormon prophesy of Ted Cruz. Beck is saying this out loud in public in Utah, and people are essentially Amening it, and it is NOT being disavowed by Cruz. NOT disavowed by Cruz. He takes it as whatever he can get to win, and he will win big in Utah because of it. Talk about a dog whistle. Beck speaks their pagan, heathen, cultic language, and they obey to the tune of over 50%.

I love the constitution, but to put it on level with the Bible and to say there is a prophesy about Cruz. This is nutty. But no one will care. They will lap it up like gravy with biscuits.