In the interest of full disclosure: I don’t watch Modern Family. I’ve seen it twice, and honestly, I just didn’t find it to be all that funny. And if a comedy wants my attention for 30 minutes every single week, it needs to do more than make me snicker. I want at least three good chuckles and maybe even – dare to dream! – some full-on, all-out, belly laughter. What can I say? The early years of the The Simpsons set an awfully high bar.
But today, I want to talk about a recent episode of Modern Family that first aired during “prime time” on January 18th. It was called “Little Bo Bleep,” and near the start of the show, 2-year-old Lily, daughter of Mitchell and Cameron, unexpectedly blurts out the “F-bomb,” which was bleeped out for the telecast. The rest of the scripted show revolved around her parents humorously attempting to clean up her language before attending a church wedding. Needless to say, their damage control is unsuccessful, and the wedding is colorful, to say the least.
Now this brings me to the point of this article. Prior to the airing of last night’s episode, the Parents Television Council entered the fray by issuing the following public statement:
“It’s not suitable language for a child that young in the real world, and it’s not suitable language for a child that young on television, either … It is certainly in poor taste … The more we see and hear this kind of language on television, the more acceptable and common it will become in the real world. Since television is constantly adding to the likelihood that children will be exposed to this kind of language, we will naturally see more and more children eventually emulate that behavior.”
My point here today is not to debate whether a 2-year old swearing is appropriate or even funny. And my point is not to debate the role of Christian watchdog groups trying to censor or shape broadcast media. I just want to know who the Parents Television Council believes itself to be representing. In other words, I just want to know whether there is any sense of consensus amongst modern evangelical Christians as to what the Apostle James means when he says:
“If someone thinks he is religious yet does not bridle his tongue, and so deceives his heart, his religion is futile.”
To get you started on the discussion, let me introduce you to some research conducted by Dave Kinnamen and Gabe Lyons back in 2007. At that time, they published an excellent new book entitled UnChristian, which sought to explore the behaviors and attitudes of those within the church as compared to those outside. When it came to using “profane” language, they discovered that only 17% of older born again Christians claimed to use profanity, while almost two-fifths of the younger Christian generation claimed the same. So clearly, there is an emerging trend within the church that seems to think that the use of “profane” language is acceptable. But what I found to be really curious about their study relates to how both groups view the use of the word “fuck” on television. When asked to give their opinion on the subject, both young and old Christians alike almost universally rejected the notion that this would be acceptable. So while the younger generation appears to be more comfortable using “profane” language in their day-to-day life, they still believe in erecting certain barriers around certain words in certain contexts.
To me, this is absolutely fascinating, and I would love to hear more from those that read this blog regarding how they interpret that passage and how they try to live it out. As for me, I don’t tend to use profane language in my day-to-day life. But that statement may not mean the same thing to you that it does to me. You may be reading this blog and say to yourself, “I just saw you use the word ‘fuck!’” And to that, I would say that I stand in partial agreement with the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther, who believed that words have power and that we neuter that power and even sanitize the concepts that lay underneath the harsh language when we opt for polite euphemisms. So while I would not say “Fuck you!” to anyone around me, I also don’t feel that we gain anything by typing “f—” instead of the word that we are actually quoting. For in doing so, I think we white wash the culture around us, and somehow fail to bear witness to it by refusing to reflect it back to itself.
But enough about me and what I think. What do you think? Do you think there is any sense of concensus on what is acceptable language? How do you use language? Do you agree with me? Do you not? Seriously, I am really curious to know more.
 Producers report that Aubrey Anderson-Emmons, who is actually 4, was asked to say the word “fudge” during the taping.
 Older Christians are defined as those older than 41 years of age.
 Younger Christians were defined as those between the ages of 23 and 41.
 93% of young Christians and 94% of older Christians were against it.
 Again, in the interest of full disclosure, that is not to say that I do not, on rare occasion, use language that I do not believe to be appropriate or in line with God’s call upon my life. Interestingly enough, of all the things that I had to leave behind when I became a Christian, language was the hardest thing for me to bring under control.