How Raunchy Is Christian Humor Allowed to Be?
Updated: Mar 27, 2019
If that is even the right question to ask.
How raunchy should Christian humor be? Recently I was referred to comments made by a celebrity who claims to have become a born-again Christian years ago. I listened to the comments on YouTube and then watched another video of “greatest hits” from that celebrity. Wow, I was treated to a combination testimony coupled with some of the crudest lines I’ve ever heard. It got me thinking that it might be time to address the issue of Christians and raunchy entertainment.
OK, maybe I’m a little naive: I typically don’t watch off-color movies or crude TV programs. And some might even call me prudish after reading what I have to say on this topic. However, I have to insist that Scripture teaches “prudish” behavior and I’m only following orders from God’s Word. (By the way, I LOVE clean humor and enjoy laughing as much or more than the next guy.)
What does the Bible say?
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.” (Ephesians 5:3-4 ESV)
OK the word “raunchy” isn’t in there. But the idea is! It says to avoid:
See, it’s not just me. It’s biblical direction. If the humorous (or for that matter serious) entertainment we’re exposing ourselves to fits any of the descriptors in the list above, it is verboten for Jesus’ followers. It’s not me, it’s the Bible’s instruction.
At this point I hear coming back at me objections and excuses, so I’d like to address a few of them.
Answers to objections related to raunchy Christian humor:
Some might argue that we mustn’t put our heads in the sand, that it’s just the way it is, that “everybody is doing it” and etc.
I certainly agree that American culture (and probably other Western cultures) have gotten dirtier and dirtier. What used to be forbidden on TV is now commonplace. What used to be X rated is now R or PG-13.
But that doesn’t mean Christians have to play along and participate! To be a Christian is often to be counter-cultural. Look at what Jesus said:
“If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” (John 15:19 ESV)
Note the strong language for being cultural nonconformist: “the world hates you!”
“I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” (John 17:14-16 ESV)
In fact, lots of Christians complain they don’t have time to improve themselves, study the Bible, serve in the church, pray and so on. Yet they’re spending hours watching what the passage above from Ephesians 5 calls “impurity, filthiness and crude.” We don’t need more time—we need to change life patterns and begin to focus on the following:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8 ESV)
Some Christians seem to think that as long as they’re not producing the dirty humor, that they can watch others being dirty all they want.
To observe IS to participate. It doesn’t matter if you are the originator—if you and I are observing raunchy entertainment, we are part of the problem. If you don’t think that is true, talk to my friend who was arrested for viewing child pornography on his computer in his home all by himself. He wasn’t participating in sexual acts with children, he had nothing to do with the production of the pornography, he might not have even paid for it. But all that didn’t matter—he was guilty of participation and was taken away in handcuffs after the authorities tracked it on his home computer.
Likewise, we are guilty of participation in raunchy if we are watching it.
“I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home 3 I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. 4 I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil.” (Psalm 101:2-4 NLT)
“But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3 NIV)
Some Christians think that it is all a matter of Christian liberty, which it is. Thus, no one can dictate what they can or cannot do, which also is true. So, if they’re not convicted, choices in entertainment are just a matter of personal conviction and thus they can watch as raunchy as they like.
Perhaps you’re saying: “But I’m just not convicted about watching stuff. It’s a matter of my Christian liberty and I have the freedom to do it.” There is some truth in that—I don’t set the rules for you and you don’t set the rules for me.
I would encourage Christians to pray about what entertainment the Lord would have you participate in, if it seems to be in the categories listed in the passage above from Ephesians 5. As a reminder they were:
If you still sense a freedom to participate or watch borderline entertainment, then I would further encourage, if you’re a Christ-follower, to envision Jesus sitting right beside you participating in the “entertainment” and answer the question “How does Jesus like this show, humor, movie, etc.?”
If the answer is that Jesus wouldn’t like it, then maybe you and I shouldn’t like it either. If the answer is that Jesus wouldn’t watch this, then maybe we shouldn’t watch it either.
Yes, Jesus hung out with “sinners” and as a result was called a “glutton and drunkard.” (Matthew 11:19) However, that doesn’t mean he was either of those things. In fact, he wasn’t. He never participated in the sin of those He was seeking to reach. He was the sinless One.
How raunchy is Christian humor allowed to be? Actually, that’s the wrong question. Our question instead should be, “How pure and holy can I be in order to please the Lord, not only in what I do, but also in what I expose myself to? How can I be more like Jesus?”
“For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Peter 1:16 NLT)
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2 ESV)
Finally, this is an article for Christians. If you have never been born again, to do so, please go HERE to learn how to be saved now.
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Podcast: How can I overcome pornography?
Podcast: Should Christians be tolerant?