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Talkin' smack aboutcha

"So put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander." (1 Peter 2:1).

"Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice." (Ephesians 4:31)

"There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers." (Proverbs 6:16-19)

The concept of slander or a lying tongue comes up a LOT in the bible. I tried to find a definitive number of how many times we read about lying, false witness, slander, or hateful speech, but I couldn't. The number of mentions I did find ranged from 60 to 140, and I know there's more. God is serious about slander.

I like to watch cooking competitions. I mentioned that before, recently. Regular competition shows are awful, many of them. The goal seems not to be to encourage someone in their talent or help them to improve in a dignified way, but to put them down in the most cutting way possible so as to get laughs, ratings, and to humiliate the contestant.

And the competitions where the competitors talk smack about each other are just gross.

The cooking competitions are usually rated G, that's why I like them. Each has its own flavor, ha ha, but there are a few that are just plain mean (Hell's Kitchen) and others that are nice. I've enjoyed newcomer American Baking Competition and four-year old Masterchef particularly, because they are nice.

That's because judges seem to be encouraging and the point seems to be genuinely about food, not drama. For example on Masterchef the contestants are offered cooking lessons on days off by the famous chefs who on other days are their judges! And the judges on Masterchef do not seek to cut the heart out of the person, but build them up and let them compete with dignity and to improve their skills while they are there. If they fail a challenge and are asked to leave, they are always encouraged to keep trying and given a compliment on the way out.

But last Wednesday night was a turning point for me on Masterchef. The judges were extremely cutting (OK, just Joe Bastianich) calling one contestant a "narcissist in full denial", and said "thanks for nothing" when presented the food. The contestant had demonstrated that he wasn't teachable, but it is up to the teacher to maintain self-control with all his students. The contestant was humiliated on national television.

Worse, the show has added twists to the competition this year that seem unnecessarily hurtful in that they are designed to force contestants to compete in a cold-hearted, hard-boiled way.

Worst of all was the glee with which one contestant gloated over the stumblings and failings of one fellow contestant who was eventually chopped. She said nasty things about him and chortled at him in all his stress.

Once the nastiness can is opened all the worms come out. Talking smack about the other contestants only goes down hill from there.

In previous years contestants would not say such cutting things about each other. They might say "I think I am a better cook" or "I wouldn't have handled it that way" but not to say outright "the guy is an idiot and I want him out of here." That's why I enjoyed the shows in the first place.

I may have said this before, but with the advent of Netflix, and the ability to engage in binge watching, I notice that year three seems to be the year that a show takes a dark turn. This is holding true for Masterchef. The program is partway through season 4. Season 3 was a highlight because gentle and positive and dignified Christine Ha (Left, who eventually won) projected a high-road respectability that seemed to permeate the competition. The judges were encouraging instead of cutting, too.

I had already opted out of Top Chef, while Food Network Star seems to be headed downhill as well. The focus is now on the infighting between contestants instead of cooking and improving cooking. Nowadays with most even G-rated competition shows, it's as Tony Soprano said, "Always with the drama, you!"

I'll watch Masterchef one more time, this week, because returning champion Christine Ha is making a guest appearance. After that, it's American Baking Competition all the way. If the usual trend holds up, I've got two and a third years of that show before it takes its dark turn. 

If God doesn't want us to slander and hates bitterness and malice, then we should not watch shows where the judges OR the contestants exhibit such traits. I'm careful about who to invite into my home. This includes television characters. I don't like hate speech. God hates it. I don't want to engage in it or encourage it by allowing its expression inside my home, because it pollutes me.

On last Wednesday's episode of Masterchef, the fellow contestant's gleeful hatred and persistent vocalization of a man who by all accounts seemed loyal and kind and skilled and a good dad was too gross to watch any more. This is not entertainment. It's rebellion.

Be wary of slander. It's bad not just when we do it. It's bad when we listen to it in others. It's bad when we know it will be present in a situation or a TV program but we seek it out anyway. Maybe we even laugh at the insults when they're talkin' smack about someone, forgetting that they are still real people even if they are on TV.

Jim Nix Photography, Creative Commons use
"A gentle tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness in it breaks the spirit." (Proverbs 15:4)

This standard is getting harder and harder to apply but we know we are supposed to be having speech that builds up:

"Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)

Is the speech you're listening to (and thereby accepting into your soul) on movies and TV competition shows good for building up?

Proverbs 18:21 says "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits."

Sobering advice. I know this dramatically shrinks the pool of available entertainment, but... Jesus comes first. Personally, I've been slipping. I'll have to more carefully monitor what I take in via entertainment by using this standard, in addition to working on making sure that I am not talking smack about anyone else!

Some days it seem as though there is SO MUCH room for improvement! Fortunately we have the Holy Spirit who helps us grow into holiness.

"And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." (Ezekiel 36:27)


  1. are these people you are talking about believers or are they unbelievers..????

    1. I am saying that as believers, we should not:

      --utter slander
      --participate in slander

      and that includes watching it on TV when one contestant slanders another.


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