The clothing malfunction involving Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake during their Super Bowl performance several years ago set the bench-mark for bad taste and what is or is not acceptable for public viewing, while raising a number of other issues in the process; not the least of which was the hypocrisy of some who protested Ms. Jackson’s “unveiling.”

Although surprised and upset by what happened, I was left wondering how much would have been made of the performance if Janet’s breast had merely been exposed through the thin, red, clingy top she was wearing under her leather jacket. The intent actually being to rip away the jacket, showing as much of her breast as possible without actually baring it. (Which it would have virtually been none-the-less.) How much protest would have been registered concerning the blatantly sexual dance routine leading up to her exposure? How many fines and corporate apologies would have occurred in response to the boldly expressed sexual lyrics accompanying those moves? (The same questions being valid of Beyonce and her more recent “performances” on stage at a variety of venues, including her own Super Bowl “extravaganza.”

Some, but not near enough; many of us merely shrugging our shoulders or enjoying the view. We have become so accustomed to the “art” of suggestive language and innuendo in our entertainment that it has lost its ability to shock us even as we have lost the desire to remain pure of heart and mind. And I’m not referring to unbelievers, although Paul notes that even they have the capacity to recognize right from wrong. (See Romans 2:15) Rather it is the followers of Christ who are incrementally accepting the morals of the world that I am addressing; those who risk condemnation by what they gradually allow, approve and embrace. Those who risk becoming, “…darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.” Ephesians 4:18 (See also 1 Timothy 4:2 concerning the seared consciences of hypocrites.)

The ensuing battle over what is and is not permissible material for the public airwaves is an ongoing issue. Not long after Janet and Justin’s fiasco, a case involving Cher’s acceptance speech of a Billboard Music Award went before the Supreme Court for resolution; the justices asked to rule on whether “fleeting” expletives should be considered offensive and barred by the FCC, essentially asking again where the line should be drawn – if anywhere – for the protection of minors and unsuspecting adult viewers.

After all, she didn’t use “excessive” vulgarity, “merely” exclaiming, “People have been telling me I’m on the way out every year, right? So - ‘em!” But it wouldn’t have mattered if she had used a whole litany of barred words on air, her defenders would have still cited her 1st Amendment right of free speech to protect and promote her and everyone else who feel they have a right to express themselves with coarse vulgarity. Another incident involved Bono of U2 fame, a social activist who espouses some Christian ideals but who lives on the edge to say the least. His own outburst of foul language at an awards ceremony was contested and then ruled by a judge to be acceptable, as it too was fleeting, “limited” in scope and thus not “too bad” or offensive enough. (Janet, Cher and Bono not being the worst of the worst, but sadly representative of a whole host of celebrities who don’t seem capable of expressing themselves without suggestive innuendo if not blatant, in-your-face profanity and vulgarity; as is the case with Kanye West. They have, however, garnered the most attention and gained prominence by the courts being asked to speak to the issues they’ve raised.)

This debate is an extremely important one, even within the church; as many believe what they say has nothing to do with who they really are. My contention being that what we say often reveals exactly who we really are. Evidently unfamiliar with Christ’s admonition of, “…out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” Matthew 12:36; and ignoring his warning that, “…men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36,37 Some still want to dispute how obscenity is defined, but all of us are able to recognize it when we hear or see it; whether we want to admit to it or not. Scripture specifically prohibiting filthy language (Colossians 3:8), foolish obscenity and coarse jokes (Ephesians 5:4), as well as unwholesome conversation. (Ephesians 4:28)

With such thoughts and language spilling out of our hearts, who could doubt that the natural progression of such would be self-centeredness, sensuality and sin? Pediatrics Magazine corroborating this connection between what we see and hear – or approve of – and what we participate in. Anita Chandra, a Rand Corp. behavioral scientist and lead author of a report appearing in said magazine citing evidence of higher rates of promiscuity and teen pregnancy among young people who routinely expose themselves to movies and music with graphic expressions of sexuality compared to those who refrain from such entertainment or who view more modest expressions of sexuality and the responsibility it entails.

Our sexuality was created by God and meant as a great gift for couples who recognize it as such and practice it within the parameters of God’s plan – vulgar and dangerous when viewed exclusively as a means of personal gratification only. Paul insisting that, “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him.” Paul’s verdict on those seared, corrupted, conscienceless individuals? “They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.” Titus 1:15,16

We must model the morals exemplified by Christ, practice the standard raised in His Word and develop a code of living that will instinctively define what is right and wrong; a quality of thought, word and deed enabling us to live effectively in a fallen world. (Philippians 4:8,9) Which will necessitate incorporating the mind of Christ into our own (Philippians 2:5), fostering a desire to be Spirit-led (1 Thessalonians 5:19 and Ephesians 4:30), as we hold firm to the deep truths of the faith (1 Timothy 3:9), fulfilling the goal of love for Christ and our fellow-man generated by a pure heart, a good conscience and sincere faith. (1 Timothy 1:5)

Paul’s caution concerning what we “approve” or embrace could apply to any number of social issues facing Christians today. On a personal level, the real issue is whether you are ready to stand strong and boldly insist on truth and nobleness, purity and loveliness; admiring and proclaiming what is right and excellent. In doing so you will become the spice of life to a tasteless world and a beacon of truth and decency to a people living in darkness. (Matthew 5:13-16)