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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Piss in the Wind

A couple of weeks ago, we launched into a series in the book of Ecclesiastes entitled, “Smoke and Dust.” For the most part this series has been very well received. Quite frankly, we have received more positive emails and calls in the last couple of weeks than we have on any one series in a while.

There was the saint who said in an email Dave and I have “the fragrance of Christ.” (thank you for that!)

There was this comment on my blog : : :
I admire and love our teachers at Westwinds. I love the fact that I can be me, a struggling Christian, a sinner and still feel at home. I walk away every Sunday with something to ponder, study and reflect upon. I have sat in many fusions with tears flowing down my face because the message has been so spiritual to me.

The last two teachings of Ecclesiastes have been awesome!!! I can relate to the preacher within my own life and feelings. I think it is an awesome book to teach, especially in this day and age. Thank you Westwinds teachers for rocking the boat! You are the greatest!!!! (and, thank you for that!)

This was another one of my favorites : : : “Great job! I count it no small privilege that I get to go to Westwinds and be part of what is happening here. I’m sure you get 1000 calls a day thanking you but I just wanted to be #1001.” (dang! I wish I could clone you!)

Those were some of my favorites.

However, we had a handful of people complain about a translation decision we made during this series. We discussed the colloquialisms/idioms “chasing after the wind” and “spit in the wind” and a story we heard about Eugene Peterson being conflicted when it came to The Message translation of those sayings and how he wanted to translate it “piss in the wind” as a more accurate translation.

So, we used piss. Piss in the wind.

I feel bad for Dave mostly. Here the guy is trying to do his best every single week to translate, communicate, speak truth, further understanding, and cherish the scripture and then . . . this.

Yeah, it was all of our decision but Dave has taken the brunt of the uncomfortable feedback.

Weird to me : : : once again, the only people who had a problem with piss are Christians. And, even though there were less than 10 complaints, I feel like it has wasted so much time. I want to value opinions but . . .

Most of the “less than 10” are people I really like. They aren’t necessarily unreasonable people.

We don’t throw the word piss around in everyday conversation from the stage. It wasn’t for shock value. And it certainly wasn’t a goal to pi . . . ummm . . . upset anyone.

Admittedly, I don’t have a problem with piss. I would take a piss, step in piss, get pissed off, etc. in my conversation and not think I was offending anyone.

Then again, I’m from California.

Sure, I don’t tell my 8-year old she should take a piss before we go on a road trip.

Some say that alone is a reason not to use a word like piss in church. I disagree. Fusion (our Sunday service) is PG-13. Always has been. Always will be. Because, the Bible is. I don’t want my daughter running around saying piss but I certainly am not going to hide it from her if she hears it in the Bible—especially if I choose to have her in Fusion and not in the children’s studios. This is the same for any movie clip we show in Fusion.

Show me a 13-yr old boy and I will show you a kid who can’t read the Song of Solomon without blushing, laughing, or getting extremely horny.

And, I realize it is inappropriate to use “piss” as a “sentence enhancer (to quote Sponge Bob)” from the stage. That is not the case here.

I do realize perceptions count but . . . how do we reconcile that with the sometimes brutally honest, painful, crass, pointed, vivid, colorful language of scripture?

The difference here with all of this is it was not a casual use of piss. We were drawing attention to the idiom that has been translated numerous ways in different translations and we were convicted the most appropriate way to get to the heart of the author’s original intent was to use piss.

To be fair, most of the people who were upset said they wouldn’t have been AS upset if they had fair warning. In other words, if we explained at length why we used that word first. (We did it the other way around—read the scripture and then talked about it). Ok.

Funny, I wonder if the “King James only” crowd has a problem with piss. That would be interesting to find out. The KJ-only crowd is one of the more conservative groups of people I have ever met. The King James version offers us such translations as : : :

drinking their own piss (2Kings 18:27)
pissing against the wall (ISam 25:22)
eating their own dung (Isa36:12)
genitals like donkeys and emissions like horses(Ezek23:20-21)
separated with whores (Hos4:14)

Just to name a few.

No, the Bible isn’t sanitary or censored reading. It covers “adult” subjects and it doesn’t cut corners. I guess God thought drinking their own wee wee just doesn’t have the same punch. Potty wa-wa against the wall doesn’t really work. Eating their own doody? Boy parts like donkeys? Private mommy and daddy baby stuff like horses? Separated with naughty girls?

This has been hard for me to watch Dave struggle through this. Because, once again, I feel like too much time has been spent on the wrong battlefield—with a handful of people. I don’t want to get tripped up on things like this. I want to be more concerned about the world that is frustrated in their pursuit of things that don’t satisfy—like pissing in the wind.

Now, I’m sure most of these people who have been upset would say they have a concern for souls as well. They would probably also say that discussing this word isn’t a waste of time and it counts and their feelings count.

While I don’t necessarily want to negate feelings, I am telling these people I think Jesus wants us all to examine how much time and effort we spend arguing about things of this nature. Is it really worth it? What do we gain?

Westwinds has never been about sanitizing or softening the blow.

If we stood up next week and apologized to 10 people (as was suggested at one point) . . . what good would it do? Would we all draw closer to Jesus? Would lost people be loved in the process? Would it change the fact that the Bible says some offensive things?

So, this week I am trying to love. I am trying to understand. I am trying to lead. I am trying to listen. I am trying to love a small group of people who I vehemently disagree with. I really do like most of these people as I have said. This is just a little tiring.



Stephen Barry said...

I'm intrigued by your observation that those offended are Christians, that those offended by things are church are most often the Christians.

The same holds true in my experience. Which, of course, begs the question -- is there more to be gained in speaking accurately, passionately, relevantly, and with conviction and connecting with (hopefully) both believers and non-believers, or is there more to be lost in upsetting a handful of believers?

I'm not sure there's an answer. There's probably a balance somewhere. Sure, dropping an "F" bomb in church might not offend and might even connect with a 19-year old, unchurched college student, but it doesn't make it advisable or acceptable. On the other hand, if we don't do anything that will offend anyone, I believe we'll soon find ourselves paralyzed.

No real answers here, but thanks for making me think...

Mark Jaffrey said...


Firstly, I'm sorry you're going through this. Disagreements within the family are never fun. Secondly, it sounds to me like it's time you did a teaching series about "offence" and how it's the silent killer in the church. The Devil's favourite tactic is to cause division by enticing us to take offence with one another which leads on to all the ill feelings you have been trying to deal with this week. John Bevere has written an excellent book about the subject called (terrible title!) The Bait of Satan. Once I was able to wade past all the Southern Bible Church cultural packaging I found a great teaching packed with humility and wisdom.

I'll pray for you guys that the unity of the Holy Spirit will overcome, and thanks for your continued devotion to reality.


Lover of Renee said...

Hey buddy, no answers here, just prayer. Bless you in your passion for our Lord! Keep lookin' up the view is amazing!

ScottyH said...

just hate it when people are so, umm, uh, uhhh, ...ah, yeah - "pissy"