I recently came up on a question that was very offensive to me. It was troll question that asked if a particular song about "banging nails into Jesus" was in fact Christian. It also contained explicit sexual content in reference to God (that I'm still desperately trying to forget).

I flagged it for a moderator and also raised the issue in chat and it was deleted. (Thank you Caleb, or whoever it was)

Anyway this has me wondering that when it comes to obscenity what kind of material is acceptable here? I realize that certain amount of profanity should be allowed here for discussing criticisms of Christianity and for quoting material from external sources.

But in the end how much obscenity is too much obscenity?

Also, each person has a different definition of what is obscene. What is the general consensus here?

  • @waxeagle Hey wax, how come this question is back again? And that on the front page. :-| Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 2:39
  • 1
    I don't see it on my home page, but it looks like Caleb decided to undelete it, after editing out some of the sexually explicit content. A decision that I largely agree with. The question may not be all that great, but I really feel like the answers do a great job of making rather tasty lemonade.
    – wax eagle
    Commented Jul 6, 2012 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


The only official thing I can give you is the Stack Exchange Content Policy:

Hate Content, Defamation, and Libel. Hate speech and other objectionable content that is unlawful, defamatory, and fraudulent. Note that an allegation of defamatory expression, in and of itself, does not establish defamation. The truth or falsehood of a bit of expression is a key element in establishing defamation, and we are not in a position to make that sort of fact-based judgment. That said, if we have reason to believe that a particular statement is defamatory (a court order, for example), we will remove that statement.


Sexually Explicit Material. Accounts that use Stack Exchange to post sexually explicit or pornographic material, or links to it, will be suspended

These are the two relevant sections to this discussion. They are the only binding network wide restrictions.

However, the question should be raised: Should we have higher standards than the average stackexchange site? If so; What are those standards?

Personally I have moderated this site for the past several months (and I can't speak for the other mods, but I think this is where they are as well) on the following principals:

  • This is the Internet. The fact of the matter is that the Internet is a more offensive place than regular life, for a variety of reasons (all of the irrelevant to this discussion). But taking this into account, there is more leeway in content than in other venues.

  • We are not a church. In fact. We are a subdomain of a privately held, secular corporation. While we are a site about Christianity, comprised largely of people who claim to be Christians, we do not claim to be a church or para-church institution (quite frankly, no church would take us).

  • I'll know it when I see it. Content should be judged on a case by case basis. We can try to follow some precedent, but ultimately, content should be judged on it's own merit.

  • This site is and should be more restrictive than the general SE network. Because this site strives to be a place where all people who identify themselves as Christians should feel welcome, we should try to be a bit more family friendly than the rest of the SE network feels like they have to be. This generally isn't a problem on the site itself, but more often comes into play in chat (where we are more likely to warn someone about language/content/topics than elsewhere on the network). However, the same thought process applies to the site. This is not to say that we do not want to handle serious and potentially offensive topics (adultery, masturbation, swear words, etc), but we should do so in a manner that handles these topics with the levity that they deserve. We should be able to speak frankly about matters of sexuality and language without descending into juvenile behavior. Things that are obviously trollish, or meant to offend will be shut down immediately (and if the community wishes to disagree, save, edit into shape, that is (as always) their prerogative)

  • Wait for flags. Unless I find something completely egregious, I'm going to be looking for other users to identify content that is offensive/inappropriate. honestly there is too much content here for us to track every question and answer, if you come across something you find offensive, vote it down, leave a comment, edit it, and/or flag it. However, I will still follow the previous rule of evaluating the content on it's merit.

Now, let's address the specific case. I think it's a pretty crappy question, it starts with (what seems to be) a false premise, which is a red flag. However, I think it got answered fairly well and then was fairly quickly closed by the community. After the closure there are plenty of people around here with delete votes, but they elected not to use them on this question, obviously seeing the situation as resolved by just closing the question (and handing it enough downvotes that even if it's edited it likely wouldn't see the front page again).

Ultimately I don't have any problem with the deletion here, but in the general case we should let the community make those determinations, rather than stepping in as moderators (we have some pretty active delete voters, specifically for answers).

In conclusion, I only feel bound by the SE content policy, but will take into account that this is a site that is intended for "People who identify themselves as Christians."

  • “The fact of the matter is that the Internet is a more offensive place than regular life, for a variety of reasons” I agree. But the catch is that on such a site the users are unsuspecting. If on another site one clicks on that shoddy advertisement they know what to expect. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:51
  • “but they elected not to use them on this question” I wonder what they were saving it for. :-| o.O [looks confused] Coz closure works well for off topic questions that should be kept as a record of what not to ask again. But IMHO obscene stuff should rather be removed. Anyway if I get the voting privileges, I’ll do my part. Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:52
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    “we should try to be a bit more family friendly” Absolutely agreed. I think that would be one way of attracting/keeping more users of the weaker sex to this site. meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/1115/… Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 16:54
  • Note that defamation of any group that Christians dislike is, notwithstanding the above, perfectly acceptable on this site. I just try to ignore it.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jul 7, 2012 at 11:05

I think wax_eagle gave an excellent review of the general principles at work here in his answer. Just quickly for the record, here is the thinking behind my actions.

First, I weighed in with an answer. I really do think the OP might have been trolling (their trail of comments makes me think they were trying to make a point rather than learn something), however this is a common question and frequent point of confusion for both non-Christians and folks that suppose they are Christians because they sing songs that mention Jesus, never-mind the context. Even low quality questions CAN be addressed with high quality answers.

Second, when I saw the flag on this and reviewed the content, I did see potentially objectionable content and decided that a moderator delete was warranted.

Third, on more detailed review later, I found that the main objectionable content was part of an answer, not part of the question at all. In light of this, I edited that answer to remove the quote and replaced it with a summary of the argument, still dealing frankly with the subject but avoiding the worst of the imagery. I also cleaned up the question to reduce the profile of the link to the off-site content that is also likely objectionable. In light of these edits, I un-deleted the question. The moderator intervention action did not seem warranted any longer, and I turned it back over to the community.

Lastly, it's back in your (collective) hands. You may continue to edit the content to reduce the crassness while still addressing the core question (what makes a song Christian or not). You may also cast delete votes. If three community members agree in this, the content will be deleted and as a moderator I will feel no need to interfere. You may also try to make an argument based on the current content that a moderator should step in again.


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