Gold Coast Bereans

Out of Ghana, West Africa; Christian hearts and critical minds seeking, speaking and writing the truth with love. This is a conversation of a group of friends, now living in the USA and the UK, who have known each other for more than 20 years.

Friday, April 27, 2007

FREE SPEECH, Filthy language and Society. Calorius takes a “secular” look

Comedy has debated the issue of what's allowable, for a very long time. I think this is because comedy, as an art form, seeks to allow free expression. And because it is true that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks", certain people, filthy in their thoughts, are bold enough to bring stuff out and to perform crass comedy knowing that they have a ready audience in our own depraved hearts and minds.

In the specific case of D Imus, the speech was derogatory to black women, with some spillover to all blacks and all women. However all filthy and crass content comes from the same place, and the same arguments should be applied to pornography, divisive language and, in my opinion, all filthy speech. Tolerating it in public media is harmful to society. In the NBA players get fined and awarded technical penalties if they use foul language on the court. That's one area in which they are trying to clean up, and I applaud Mr. Stein (?Stern) for those standards. But it's getting worse and worse, and it is manifested in the following ways:
1. More and more women are using the language of "trash talk" formerly restricted to sailors, and surgical operating rooms, even so-called fashionable women of culture. Why some people would argue that it is a form of liberation beats me.
2. More and more public media are allowing more and more of this kind of thing. Yes, they will bleep it out, but everybody knows what was said, and the message does go out.
3. I don't know if this is more now than before, but certainly the dirty private speech of politicians and other public figures is more public today than some time ago. I have mentioned this before that when Billy Graham (a personal friend of Nixon's) was asked what surprised him the most about Watergate, he said it was the language on the tapes. Another President has been caught using bad language to refer to specific individuals. Not good.

To cut a long story short, I just wanted to mention a few ways in which I think the “Imus-type” of slur is harmful and in a wrong way kills many birds with one stone.

First, it is divisive. It opens and deepens wounds between groups of people. If Louis Farrakhan is not freely on public airwaves; neither should Imus. He can go to private AM radio, like Limbaugh and the others.

Secondly, it is derogatory to women. It degrades women. Like pornography, it causes those women who hear and see such images to have a lower self-worth and image. Calling people bad names does that.

Third, it is derogatory to Blacks. For the same reason that a politician lost elections because he called someone a Macaca, Imus had to go.

Fourth, it attracts disrespect for the people given the bad name. Black men who listen to this rubbish a lot are less likely to view their sisters and girlfriends respectfully. I have heard many African American women complain that when they traveled abroad, people treated them disrespectfully and expected them to welcome it. Many of these women recognized that disrespect as coming from images portrayed in certain music videos which have become popular abroad. If you live abroad, what's going to be the predominant image of the American black women that you see? Or if you grew up not knowing any blacks personally, what would be the image you see? Not good.

Fifth, it contributes to the creation and perpetuation of stereotypes. Once those stereotypes are established, those people who are different but belong to the same stereotype get an unfair deal in the world: in their job applications, school grades, court decisions, etc. It institutionalizes discrimination.

Sixth, it stifles clean competition. Because base language and course culture is easier to produce, cheaper to present and yet easier to sell, those who would compete on a platform of clean humor have a harder time. Nowadays it has already become difficult to be a successful comedian if your language is all clean. Movies do better if their ratings reflect more violence, sex or foul language. These are actually some seasons why it is so hard to find a truly G rated movie. Sometimes they put in "a little" bad language or adult themes just to sell the movie

Seventh, it provides a bad example. If people like Imus are successful and tolerated, a generation of people will seek to emulate them. This is why the behavior of our (even non- Christian, civic) leaders is important. It is equally important that such behavior and speech is seen to be sanctioned by society. So, for example the Lewinsky affair was terrible, and I favored the vote of sanction (though not of impeachment). We can debate the extent of the sanction, but it is important for our children to see that such failures do not pay.

The above are all common-sense, ordinary reasons why that type of speech should not be tolerated. If we were to look in the Bible, there would be yet more reasons which pertain specifically to Christians. We discussed this briefly before here and maybe Christians need to remind themselves constantly about this - Calorius


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Monday, April 23, 2007


Driving home from work a couple of months ago I listened to a program about Choral Music on NPR which featured choirs mainly from historically African-American, predominantly Black colleges and traced the history and evolution of their music. I ended up with a driveway moment when I got home, you know, I had to wait in the car until the program came to an end before I got out. The music was going straight to my bone marrow, so to speak

That same evening I saw a presentation on television by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir of their live CD “I ‘m Amazed”. This choir has members with origins across all five continents yet sings one song of praise. As I listened and watched them sing, all I kept saying was “aha mpo ni na osuro hor”. Literally translated from the Twi language, this means “if this is how beautiful it can be on this earth, consider how it would be like in heaven”. Unfortunately there is always some loss of meaning in translation, sorry about that.

I sometimes wonder what it was like for the shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem to hear the choirs of Heavenly Hosts sing of the birth of our Lord on that glorious night. These Angels of Heaven who are not subject to a fallen world like ours surely sang in a way that my mortal mind can barely begin the grasp. The occasion of the birth of the Savior of the world must have made the music even more glorious, if that were possible.

I love music, all kinds of music, any good music whether classical, reggae, the highlife music of West Africa, gospel (the genre), rap (asking for trouble) and jazz. The very first time I head the Third Movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin concerto in E minor, was on BBC Radio 3 and I just stood still completely mesmerized by the almost melancholic call of the violin solo. It brought up for me images of “the sound of Rachel crying in the desert and refusing to be comforted”( Jeremiah 31:15) and the grand finale exuded a sense of the “hope for the future” (Jeremiah 31:17) and the New Covenant to come that is declared from verse 31 to the end of the chapter. I was almost reduced to tears by the beauty of the melody and the magnificence and skill of the instrumentalist. I knew I had to get a recording of that music by any means, legal or illegal.

Good music sooths and uplifts the soul. Good secular or neutral music often does accomplishes this but good Christian music written by an inspired child of God can make the human spirit soar and have a foretaste of glory divine, to borrow from the phrase used by Fanny Crosby in the great hymn Blessed Assurance

I recall listening to a program about Handel’s Messiah on the BBC World Service many years ago on my shortwave radio in Ghana and I heard that Handel had confided in a friend that while writing the music he had an experience in which he saw Heaven and a vision of the Son of Man. That comes as no surprise to me because that music often draws my spirit being and soul to great heights while still on this earth.

I also think that when a secular musician writes or performs a song which touches us either by the lyrics, the musical melody, the arrangement or the skill of the performers, that is still a gift from God and I consider it to be in the universal providence of God, common Grace if you like, given to all mankind; the Good God causing “the rain to fall and the sun to shine on the wicked and righteous alike. I feel that way about the music of the late Bob Marley. His classic anthem “No Woman No Cry” talks about hard times past which I can identify with, yet it has an uplifting “everything is going to be alright” theme. It is not the gospel and it does not come any where near the message of the redeeming Gospel of Christ, but it is still uplifting.

Personally, I fancy myself as an aspiring bass guitarist but that opinion is limited to one person, me. When I exercise my vocal cords or chords, I am incapable of holding a song in key without the support of a multitude of believers in a congregation and I can’t sing myself out of a jammed shower door but, like all dreamers, I often let it out in the bathroom. On occasion my wife would tap the door and ask “are you alright in there?’ Of course I am, I tell her. I am just practicing for the day when we will receive perfect bodies in the New Jerusalem, where there will be nothing but voices with perfect pitch, virtuoso violinists, pianists, drummers and atentenben(1) players. Where the Waltz, Boborbor, Kpalongo(3) and Tango dancers will be skilled beyond what we could ever imagine.

Not something to miss. The good news is that the banquet invitations are still out and the door is open to anyone who will believe and receive the Christ. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). - Robbo

Notes. (1) atentenben – Ghanaian flute made from the bamboo plant.
(2) Boborbor and Kpalongo - Ghanaian recreational dance forms

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