Rodney Baker, pastor of Hopeful Baptist Church, in Lake City, Florida, recommended a resolution for consideration before the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention this past week to express “dissatisfaction with ‘The Blind Side’ and any product that contains explicit profanity, God’s name in vain” etcetera. At this writing I have been unable to determine if the issue actually made it to the floor of the convention for consideration.
The Blind Side is a movie based on the true story of a wealthy, white family, the Tuohys, who adopt a poor, homeless, black teenager, Michael Oher. Though the film contains some rough language, a number of leaders in the Christian community hailed its positive message when it debuted. Baker’s resolution has become the subject of some discussion generating a little heat and less light.
As Providence would have it (I do not believe in luck), I live in Lake City also and pastor a small congregation in our town. I have heard Pastor Baker speak a number of times and have had the pleasure to talk with him on a few occasions. His resolution is prompted by the genuine concerns of a father and pastor.
Those concerns are not without merit. Since Rhett Butler uttered those final words in the film epic Gone with the Wind, there has been a tension between the entertainment industry and the viewing faithful. While this modern medium has great potential to be used for good, the use of bad language, depiction of casual sex, and graphic violence has had for the most part an undeniably negative influence on our culture.
That being said, Jesus enjoined us to “not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment (John 7:24).” Sometimes truth is hidden beneath a very rough surface. With this thought in mind, I took a closer look at The Blind Side.
There is one scene where God’s Name is used vainly. The lighthearted context in which it was uttered may, for some, take the edge off the seriousness of the practice and lead to a relaxed respect for the Name of God. Its use was intended to express awe at Michael’s physical presence, but could have been adequately expressed by a less offensive phrase. God’s Name should be spoken in praise and in prayer, never as an expletive.
There is a moderate use of vulgarity in a few scenes. They provide the dramatic realism needed in depicting the world Michael once inhabited. Later Michael questions the motives behind his adoption and runs away. Leigh Anne Tuohy, his adoptive mother, in a frantic search returns to Michael’s old neighborhood. A thug threatens Michael and calls Leigh Anne a name I won’t print. Leigh Anne responds in kind showing she is not intimidated and will do what it takes to defend her son. While some would consider her response unacceptable, others given the context would think it understandable. During this same exchange the thug utters a racial slur.
All things considered, the distasteful language does not obscure the positive value of its message. It is a poignant portrayal of a family that willingly crossed social, economic and racial barriers to rescue a young man from a dead-end life and place him on the path to success. The impact of this story was magnified by the gritty glimpse into the world where Michael once lived. At no point in the movie is profanity, vulgarity, or a racial slur presented as an example of how we should converse, but was a realistic representation of the world from which Michael was delivered.
There is the hint of faith guiding the Tuohy’s actions, but a clearer connection linking their faith to their deeds could have been made. This is something that Hollywood seems unwilling to do; present the impact faith has on the life decisions of believers. It is almost as if the entertainment industry believes faith is a contagion that needs to be contained.
There are some lessons for the believer. Words reveal the character of the speaker, not the hearer. Lost people are going to talk like lost people until they get saved. Our convictions were never meant to be cloistered, but should be used to engage our culture. There are still some very ugly places in the world we live in, but if we as Christians are sincere in our desire to reach the lost, we cannot wait for them to wander into our world; we will need to step into theirs. After all, that is what Jesus did when he left heaven for earth. And that was when Satan got blindsided.