by Robert Earl Houston
Recently a nationally-known minister has been all over the internet for his quotation of a rap song uttered across the pulpit. It’s lyrics shall not be repeated here and portions of the video have been scattered all over the internet. For some, it was felt to be appropriate. For others, they are aghast at the use of the language especially of the descriptives given to females.
I’m not writing to enter into the controversy. I’m here rather to hope for this generation of pulpiteers and those to follow. Today, I had a Hyperbaric Oxygen chamber treatment (HBO) at a hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. When I got on the elevator, one of the hospital volunteers was standing near to console and asked me “which floor sir?” To which I answered “The fifth floor, please.” She answered, “Yes sir, I’ll take you to the top floor.”
I believe that those of us who preach are doing ourselves a disfavor when our sermons are polluted by guttural language. Many of the preaching icons of the past and present – T.D. Jakes, Melvin Wade, Ralph West, Paul Morton, Neil Ellis, R.A. Williams, Jr., Carl J. Anderson, Gardner Calvin Taylor, Martin Luther King, Jr., Frank E. Ray, Sandy Ray, Stephen Thurston, Noel Jones, Mack King Carter, O.B. Williams, E. Edward Jones, G.E. Patterson, William Augustus Jones, Cynthia Hale, Jasmin Sculark, Gina Stewart, Tony Evans, Ceaser A.W. Clark, Joseph Walker, III, Marvin Sapp, Marvin Winans, Kevin W. Cosby, Marcus Cosby, Charles Adams, Calvin Butts, III, Otis Moss, Jr., Floyd Flakes, Fred K.C. Price, Timothy J. Clarke, Marvin Wiley, Raphael Warnock, Vashti McKenzie, Kirbyjon Caldwewll, E.V. Hill, Donald Hillard, E.K. Bailey, Jesse Jackson, Donald Parson, Jasper Williams, E. Dewey Smith, and many, many others have preached prolific, profound, and memorable messages that not only reached the soul, but also challenged the hearers to learn the truths of the word, but to elevate the hearing and mind of the listener.
I am probably one of most of us who have professionals, school teachers, and others sitting in the pews every Sunday, and while the gospel producers “low hanging fruit” where it can and should be relevant to all who here it, it should not have to be drugged through the mudslide of common language. Our children and teenagers need to be encouraged to develop in their understanding, linguistics and knowledge.
Not only that I have students who are either eyeing pursuing their education or needs a modeling of what education or reading or even self-education is achievable. And that burden falls upon the pastor, in my opinion, to lift the least, encourage the down trodden, and show them “a more excellent way.”
I take issue with those who say “Jesus would have done it” but when he dealt with common people and those who were caught in sexual situations, do you not find Jesus using derogatory language in order to make his point. His language alone provides an argument that street language will not elevate the discourse of the gospel.
I know Jesus talked to fisherman about fishing, but he didn’t share in course language even when describing a bad day upon the sea.
It just appears to me, and I speak for myself, that the linguistics of the church should not be reduced to that of playground banter. I love preaching and the art of preaching, but I think all of us bear the responsibility of demonstrating and modeling language that builds not destroys, encourages instead of divides, and demonstrates and encourages others to upgrade their own linguistics.
Lest we fall into the words of Malcolm X – “A man only curses because he doesn’t know the words to express what is on his mind.” To reach this generation, I don’t know if it’s always appropriate or necessary to quote rappers in order to be relevant.
Preachers, don’t take us to the basement or the lower level . . . take us to the top floor.
YOUR COMMENTS ARE WELCOME