Saturday, March 1, 2014

The N-Word

This week I stumbled across this video produced by ESPN show, Outside the Lines. The NFL has raised the possibility of introducing an on-field penalty (15 yards) for players heard using racial slurs, including the N-word. The proposal faces several difficulties, the least of which is determining an appropriate football penalty for a non-football violation.

The biggest issue is that while the vast majority of the population finds the N-word extremely offensive, within younger African-American culture the word is frequently used almost affectionately. It is interesting in the video below to see the disparate views between black and white Americans and also between younger and older African-Americans.  (This article provides a good overview of the issues.)

Why am I sharing this video? Because I believe conversations like this are a necessity to break down barriers between individuals and ethnic groups in our society. It's too easy to bury our heads in the sand and let other people sort it out.

This is only one segment of a longer show they committed to the topic. I encourage you to look around their site for associated videos.

There are several lessons Christians and churches can learn from conversations like this:
  1. The meanings of words are fluid. What implications does this have for Bible translations?
  2. Culture changes rapidly. describes the N-word as "now probably the most offensive word in English" yet for some people and cultural groups the word is a term of endearment or brotherhood. 
  3. The question that jumps off the screen at me is, "Why can ESPN and the NFL have this conversation, while churches have nothing to say?" How dangerous would it be for a church or group of churches to have assembled this forum? How much backlash and criticism would they have received...from their own members? 

Please leave respectful comments below.

Read a previous post on this issue HERE. 

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