Don’t Censor Me #@!% Dammit

Panic At The DiscoIn September of 2005 a group called Panic! at the Disco released a song called “I write sins not tragedies.” Here are a few lines…

I Write Sins Not Tragedies

Well, I’d chime in with a “Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the god damn door?!”
No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of poise and rationality.
I’d chime in “Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the god damn door?!”
No, it’s much better to face these kinds of things with a sense of…..

Honestly, the song’s kind of weird and there’s nothing inherently captivating about Panic! at the Disco themselves.

But what strikes me when I hear the song on the radio (versus when I hear it on my iPhone) is the way it was edited for playtime over the airwaves.

If you read the lyrics you probably noticed that I Write Sins Not Tragedies contains a mildly offensive phrase by today’s standards — “God damn.”

Evidently in 2005 the FCC wouldn’t allow a phrase like that to be aired, so the song’s producers were faced with a choice – which word would they edit?

The logical choice would have been to bleep the “damn” part of the phrase, but as anyone who has ever heard the song on the radio can attest, that’s not what they did.

They bleeped out “God.”

“Haven’t you people ever heard of closing the BLEEP damn door?!” the song goes.

Every time I’m driving down the road and I hear the song I’m struck by the fact that we live in a culture that finds the word “God” more offensive word than the word “Damn.”

Why?

Spirituality is popular.

Finding meaning and higher consciousness is all the rage.

So why would the concept of God be a socially unfit topic of public discourse?

Here’s my take:

There are two basic rules upon which modern-day culture operates:

Rule #1: Everyone’s ideas, beliefs and lifestyles must be embraced, celebrated, and tolerated.

Rule #2: The only ideas, beliefs and lifestyles to be excluded from public discourse are those that keep us from obeying rule #1.

In America, when people say the word “God” 99.9% of the time it’s shorthand for Jesus.

Not coincidentally Jesus doesn’t give a rip about following Rule #1. Not in the least.

So Rule #2 comes into play.

Do you think the editing was a coincidence, or deliberate? 

Brian loves helping Christians live thoughtful, courageous lives. He's a popular blogger, author, and pastor at Christ's Church of the Valley in the suburbs of Philadelphia.

  • Sam

     There are multiple reasons why a term would be considered offensive or inappropriate for public airplay (although those reasons, and the appropriateness of their application, tend to change over time.)  Some words were censored because they are considered too vulgar (e.g., Carlin’s “Seven Words You Can’t Say On Television”); some because they’re ethnically offensive; some because they’re “religiously” offensive.  I’d say that in this case, the word “God” was edited out not because the word is offensive, but because THIS use of the word is offensive The “powers” in 1985 reckoned that the overwhelming majority of folks would find the profaning of the name “God” strongly offensive – - and at a certain societal level, there’s still some sensitivity to the idea of profaning God’s name. The sad thing is that that level of sensitivity is constantly becoming lower and lower.

    In a completely unconnected case, the long-time Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Dodd is said to have reacted negatively to the suggestion that the newest hydroelectric dam in Georgia be named for him. His reply was something like, “I’d be embarrassed every time I heard somebody say, ‘Dodd Dam’ “.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Could be, I guess we’ll never know unless we look it up somewhere. Dodd Dam? Too funny.

  • Bill Altman

    Yeah, I’d have to agree with Sam.  Plus, “…closing the God BLEEP door” sounds even more silly (“Close the damn door!” vs “Close the God door!”).

  • Timbabb01

    It looks to me as if they were trying not to offend those who would reject God’s name used in that context.  I would have never thought that it was because they believed  God’s name is offensive.  That seems like a ridiculous perspective.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Maybe

  • Mike

    Sometimes I think that a phrase such as that will be censored based on whichever part is the loudest and most emphasized. In that song, the line is sung “…the GOD damn door,” with all the emphasis on “God,” which consequently makes it sound stronger. However, that excuse cannot be applied to Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which also had “God” edited out of “God damn,” with neither word being emphasized.

    Also (I’m not sure if this is true, since I only heard of it through word of mouth), apparently there was another song in which the radio edited out the “head” in “sh**head,” so I think the most logical explanation is that edits are just crazy things.

  • http://twitter.com/mikekjergaard Mike Kjergaard

    Brian, I’m surprised they bleepd it at all. The phrase has been getting airplay on “Life in the Fast Lane” since 1976 (very rarely do I hear an edited version).

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Good point.

  • http://twitter.com/mikekjergaard Mike Kjergaard

    I know that missed the point of your post, which I think has a lot of merit.

  • Bridgette Petrino

    I think the point of this post is valid. That people are defensive about the words God, Bible and Jesus. I find it interesting that people have come up with all types of variations to take the Lord’s name in vain (Jesus Christ, God Almighty, Holy $&%^, etc) and use them frequently and in all kinds of ways whether or not they are Christian. But, no one ever uses names like Buddha, Muhammed, etc as curse words.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=749525558 Mindi Cherry

    I don’t get what you are saying here….

    Are you saying that the routine censoring of pop-music is anti-Christian? If so, well-known atheists would have a good argument that they were being singled out as well.

    “closing the BLEEP damn door?” is something that is understood by the mainstream and is an “understandable censorship” so as not to offend those that need smelling salts whenever they hear a hint of blasphemy on the public airwaves.

    “closing the God BLEEP door?” makes NO sense and is potentially even more offensive to those looking to find offense.

    People will always be looking to find faults and offensive stuff in music.  My (almost) 6-year old is in love with Justin Bieber.  I consider that a SERIOUS offense to my eardrums (is it too late to get her to like Def Leppard?)

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Hi Mindi, think we just disagree, right? Not that you misunderstood what I wrote. :)
      I just find the choice of which word to bleep ironic, given that the majority of people listening aren’t Christians.

  • http://www.scottriggan.com/ Scott Riggan

    I remember when Sarah McLachlan’s single “Building A Mystery” came out. I worked in radio, and Sarah had never really had significant airplay prior to that time. She was viewed as safe and inoffensive, which is kind of the kiss of death to a pop artist. Then “Mystery” was released with the F word bleeped. My co-workers at the secular pop station where I DJ’d agreed that the whole point of that word and the bleep was simply to give her some “edgy” cred. I’m pretty sure they’re still using that trick to make us feel like we’re listening to something naughty.

    • http://www.BrianJones.com/ Brian Jones

      Good point Scott. I agree.