What General Motors And Christian Subculture Have In Common

In case you missed it, there was a recent controversy over the surfacing of a General Motors policy prohibiting the use of certain words in their safety reports. Since about 2008 General Motors has, evidently, outlawed the use by their employees of over 68 words in any account regarding the safety of one of their products.

First of all (and I really can’t believe I’m saying this) I’m going to suggest that General Motors ought to hire less former English majors and more engineers. What with phrases like: “disemboweling”, “maniacal”, “lacerating” and “Hindenburg” included on the list, it seems as though they could use less energy on the right side of the brain and a greater understanding of math beyond 2+2 in the hopes of building cars that aren’t “grenadelike powder-kegs”. English majors may do wonders for your marketing department but, as a general rule, we also tend to be fairly incapable of building cars that won’t lure the description “Kevorkianesque”.

Secondly, I think it’s safe to say that there’s no way in the name of heaven, hell and this sneezing panda

that I ever want to buy, lease, drive or be within fifteen feet of a General Motor vehicle, lest the safety report was completed by an engineer and, in a lapse of creativity, they couldn’t find a sufficient way of warning that it tends towards “spontaneous combustion”.

This is also why I don’t trust Christian sub-culture.

If there’s any movement that’s subjected itself to the siren-call of censorship, it’s Christian subculture. For within the realm of Christian music, books, films, art and our culture in general, we have adopted the notion that removing certain words thoughts and phrases from our vocabulary will somehow produce a beautiful, functioning product. “Christian” music is known for it’s lack of profanity and refusal to chant about any gender-specific body parts. “Christian” books are centered on 1 Corinthians 13 romances (in the most boring way possible). “Christian” films refuse to show any females who ignored the one-piece swimsuit policy and turn the camera from gambling, drinking, smoking and similar deviances (unless the offender is an atheist). I’m making massive generalizations here. But if you want to prove my point, walk into a Christian bookstore and search all the materials for one inclusion of the word “shit”. That’ll put the brakes on a scavenger hunt.

And yet what General Motors is currently learning via a $35 government fine is the same lesson we Christians should have learned years ago had we taken the moment to remove our heads from the sand: flowery language can’t cover up a shitty product.

Words describe things, things that need describing. Censorship and the abhorrent belief that we can escape this world without using phrases that have a sting to them do not make problems go away, they just allow them to be ignored.

If Christian culture and the products of said culture are truly based off a Biblical worldview, then it should start with an uncensored look at the Bible itself. Song of Solomon is an X-rated document. Read it slowly sometime in the most literal translation you can find and you’ll be like:

Jesus referred to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers; I can assure you this wasn’t a polite gesture for use over the dinner table. The book of Job describes Satan using a phrase we English folk have translated to “skin for skin”, mostly because a literal contextual translation of this would make a sailor blush.

And here’s the thing: the Bible is a good book. Even people who don’t agree with what it teaches and label it as fictional poppycock can at least agree that it’s interesting and timeless. The same cannot be said for some, uh, lots of, okay most of our censored “Christian” artistic endeavors today. If the Biblical meta-narrative required some colorful language for diagnosing the problems of sin and the pervasiveness of grace, then you can damn well bet ours do too.

Literature does not need profanity to be good, that’s not my point at all. And most if not all of the objectionable material we find in culture is neither necessary nor edifying. And I am not proposing that Christian families swap Veggie Tales with Kill Bill for family movie night. I am not proposing that our playlists must include Michael W. Smith and Flo Rida (although come on: “Friends Are Friends Forever” and “I Cry” remix? Just a thought).

What I’m saying is that we open up our minds and allow ourselves to see that quality products sometimes involves the use of squeamish words, that our basis of “good” and “bad” ought not be the MPAA rating system. Furthermore, just because we describe our wonderful little subculture as “Christian” does not mean it isn’t in fact “ghastly” or “horrific”.

When we operate under the notion that the only good literature is literature that doesn’t say “damn” or “hell”, when we pretend that the only music worth listening to are songs that include the words “worship”, “Jesus” and “Lord of Heaven and Earth”, we are not promoting quality products, we’re just whiting out words on a safety report. Meanwhile, the cars we’re producing, the culture we’re propagating, does not safely transport the gospel message from us to the world outside but rather acts as a “rolling sarcophagus” (that’s a word for tomb or coffin, I had to look it up too) in which our message suffocates and dies.

Personally, I’d rather purchase a General Motors “powder keg”.



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