Pop Culture

A quick glance at the news today brought this headline to sight (warning- offensive content). 

Call-Girl Centerfold? Penthouse magazine wants woman at center of Eliot Spitzer call-girl scandal”

Shameless exhibition is too trite of a phrase to describe this situation, but nothing more fitting is coming to mind.  It’s sad that the sin that will change the life of three daughters and a wife is now being exalted and spread, to dissolve more marriages and marr more lives.  What good came from it the first time?  Why is it still being spread?  Paul’s answer two thousand years ago is timely.  We have forgotten God and been given over to his gifts, which we have in turn exalted and made our Gods.  Like the plague that fell on Israelite exiles who were given meat until they could eat no more because of their complaining, we are in a land diseased with its lusting.  It’s no longer secret, it’s no longer shameful.  Listen to Paul’s words:

Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

Romans 1:24-25

Paul’s solution to our problem:

  •  if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved (Rom 10:9-10).
  • So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Rom 10:21-25a). 

An article in the local paper caught my attention this morning.  According to a federal study, 1/4 teen girls between 14-19 has contracted a sexually transmitted disease (STD).    The article does a good job explaining the problem and crunching the numbers.  But the recommendation by “U.S. health officials” is more telling.  The recommendation?   “Better screening, vaccination and prevention.”

Sex has become an area of life like life itself.  Rather than asking why it is there, we jump in and indulge.  Science asks some questions, but is too satisfied with the superficial answers and misses the question. 

It’s clear that human suffering is bad.  It’s clear that STDs are a form of suffering and are bad for us.  Like science’s bent on evolution, it observes and takes note of species mutations, then sidesteps the profound inquiry of the child, “What came first, the chicken or the egg?”  Science traces a line back in time past the chicken, past the egg, and then fading into obscurity as time and matter and chance simmer into primordial goop.  It misses again on why human languages differ, sidestepping the basics of Babel and appealing to ape dialectics.


But maybe in the end STDs aren’t a result of inadequate screening or vaccination.  Maybe if we taught and saw and felt that long ago we turned away from God to create our lives and ended up under his curse, we might get further than if we put a screening facility in every high school and vaccinated every child.  Maybe we’d identify the result of depression and disease and a thousand other anomalies resulting from plundering the prize of sex from the trophy house of marriage to the squalor of the slums.  Maybe, just maybe, if we taught and ackowledged that sex outside of marriage should be opposed as the desire to murder and rape and steal, we might find a backbone to fight it and reduce the devestations of STDs and abortions.  There is to sex the creative force that tells us we were ourselves created and are ourselves accountable for our creating.  And Jesus is the creator of us and sex and the one to heal and clean us from any sexual sin, if only we would acknowledge to him our sin and struggles- that we can never vaccinate or screen or prevent enough- having made such a pollution of his gifts, and ask for him to teach us who he is and who we are and to follow his prescribed limits for his gifts. 

You can tell a lot about a time period and a people by their heroes. The Greeks, for example, sported a plethora of gods and goddesses many with their unique virtues and all with their vices. One of their most renowned, Hercules, was known for completing his great labors. He defeated the nine-headed hydra, tracked down and captured the pet stag of Diana, and bound the monster Cerebus, the Guardian of the Underworld. But why did he have to complete the labors? He murdered his children and then was given twelve labors to atone for his actions. We learn this man, son of the god Zeus and daughter of a human, was a hard-worker who made amends for his actions by doing many nearly impossible tasks. He earned his place in heaven among the other gods and shows the self-reliant fortitude of a culture whose ships spanned the seas, whose literature, philosophies and histories shaped much of history, and whose ruins greet us today of a people and of an ideal that is no more.
We learn a lot about another people from history in the records of Israel too. For those whose hearts did not turn aside to other gods, to burn their children as sacrifices to Molech or enter into forbidden unions with the temple prostitutes, we find they had a different kind of hero. David was one, a warrior, a king, and a man after the heart of God. When he committed a great sin we see that he turned to God, he repented and felt terrible for his wickedness (Ps 38, 51, et al). One of David’s greatest weaknesses was his greatest strength, by the unbosoming of his heart in his failings, we see where he derived his strength. The power, the glory, the source of David’s strength and courage was not his own resilience but the invisible God he worshipped. When the armies of the nation of Israel were being openly mocked, David, only a youth, understood the invectives to be railings against God himself and stood against this monster and showed the might of God; David’s might and skill did not slay the giant, the intervention of the God he put his faith in did. David was just a man, but one who demonstrated that there is a God.
This brings me to a shift I have seen in our own culture. Growing up and watching the old Superman’s, I noticed a respectful distance kept in between the heroes. Lois and Superman may have met and flown around the world at night, but it ended on the porch with both clothed and in delight from the time spent in each other’s company. Now it seems Superman may still be a hero while entering into a sacred union with a woman while swearing no promise or commitment to her. She not only consents to it, but upon his departure and the absence of his forwardness, she becomes more forward herself and quickly couples with another man so that she thinks her child from him and not the earlier man. Who can entrust themselves to such perfidious and inconstant hearts in the closest of unions?
It has become the more general view in America that this treatment of physical intimacy is not only prevalent but acceptable. The wedding band is not only passé, but it has become synonymous with a prison shackle; the touch of the gold ring fastens a band of iron around the soul, depresses the heart and limits the freedom and fun of the wearer. Superman rushes in to save the police in a robbery and to help a woman in a car accident, but shows little more than jealousy when he finds another man is living with the mother of his child. This does not stop him from exercising his other virtues, such as eavesdropping on their private conversations and coveting the kisses of a woman now living with another. This culture has swallowed the bitter self-medicating placebo of rushing to help in immediate disaster while disposing the bottle of promise and commitment.
The one counter that comes to mind on my treatment of Superman is Samson, the Jewish Judge, known for his voracious sexual appetite who yet was noted among the great men of faith (Hebrews 11). I wish I could read of his time in prison with his eyes burned out and hear his conversations with God. Surely there in the blackness of his world and in the den of his enemies he would feel the separation from his people and he would acknowledge his sin and again feel the closeness of God. Is that in the Bible? No. I do not see it but speculate based on his standing in Hebrews 11 and of the hearts of other heroes who were broken by God. This society is secularizing daily, elevating the glory of man as Satan elevated Satan. The Israelites differed from the cultures of their times though they were not free from the sin of the world and stumbled into many snares. Those among them who knew God pointed out to us that yes, we are in danger walking on the straight and narrow path and that our own virtues will not free us from the pits along the way, but by crying out in humility and contrition, God will lift us out that we may continue on and guard others from the same gins.