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By Norris Burkes August 1, 2021
Does Jesus care if you say crap?
If you think that’s an odd beginning for a spiritualty column, imagine how I felt when Dr. Richard Cutter asked the same thing in our early morning Greek class at Baylor University in 1978.
Cutter posed the question after listening to my classmate, John, attempt to translate a passage from Plato.
For a second-year Greek student, John was slightly more clueless than I but he was to be commended for his gallant effort.
After three agonizing minutes, Dr. Cutter interrupted John to ask us all, “Do you think Jesus is OK with us saying crap?
Cutter knew most of us were Southern Baptists heading to seminary, so he quickly launched a story to justify his random question.
“A freshman girl recently told me she was offended by my occasional use of ‘crap.’”
She told him Jesus wouldn’t want us to say, “crap.” Apparently, her East Texas church upbringing taught her that it was an expletive.
“Amen, sister,” I thought. My Southern Baptist pastor/dad didn’t let me say “darn” either.
Cutter told us he’d apologized to the co-ed but explained how he was raised on a Kansas farm where “crap” described everything from the piles scattered in the pasture to the church budget.
Hoping his folksy story had planted the seeds of understanding, he repeated his polling question. “Now, how many of you still think that crap is a bad word?”
We exercised our right to silence. This was our third semester with Cutter and most of us recognized the sound of both barrels being loaded.
“Great!” he said before gripping John’s desktop with both hands, “John, that translation was a bunch of crap!”
What Cutter was so colorfully illustrating is something called a “regional sin.” These sins may offend the sensibilities of the locals but would not be offensive in other communities.
Regional sins are good to know when you are traveling, but the girl’s question illustrates a downside to paying them too much heed.
The downside is that we, like Dr. Cutter’s accuser, sometimes use these regional dos and don’ts to define our standard of faith. When we do that, our faith-vision blurs, and we start seeing ourselves as doubly better than others.
For instance, I often heard the ministerial students in our Greek class joke, “I don’t cuss, drink, or chew nor date girls who do.” This was probably a good health practice, but these three negatives said nothing of the depth of our faith.
Faith is better understood when you leave the regional list of rules at home and replace them with true elements of faith.
Moses did a pretty good job of condensing the hundreds of regional dos and don’ts into something called the Ten Commandments. But Jesus gave Moses an upgrade with Faith 2.0 when he emphasized the two most important of the ten.
He said our faith should hang on these two commandments:
1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart.
2. Love your neighbor as yourself.
No more long lists of complicated regional sins. There are only two things Jesus wants us to do. The two commandments are inextricably bound; you can’t follow one commandment to the neglect of the other.
At the end of the day, I think Dr Cutter, was trying to instill his students with a faith built solely on these two commandments. Anything less disintegrates into mistranslated crap.