Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

I read a post today about how a teacher was suspended because her students had pornographic pop-ups on their screens in computer class. Somehow, the legal system managed to make her the scapegoat. Leave it to the legal system. It disturbs me a bit that the blogger’s attitude was one of cynicism: “the internet has already corrupted your kid’s morals, get used to it.”

While I laugh at the stupidity of the legal system in this case, I also sigh with concern about the conclusion. Have we really come to accept our sexualized media? Can we not see the potential for damage here?

I once heard someone say that pornography rapes the mind. I think that’s true. Men have visual memories. I’ve discovered since being married that women experience emotional “pop-ups” that are beyond their control. Men, likewise, experience visual pop-ups. We can’t help that. God hard-wired us that way. So, when we see an image on the web, on a commercial, or in the window of Victoria’s Secret as we walk through the mall, it sticks with us, and can resurface at any given time with no warning and with potentially devastating emotional effects. Let’s say you’re having sex with your wife and suddenly remember the girl on the site you were looking at a few hours ago, for example. No one else need ever know: you suffer emotional ramifications. Most men don’t talk about it. Even the “accountability groups” that our Christian subculture has invented don’t invoke honesty, because men can become numb and de-sensitized to it. Their bodies can do things in disconnect from their hearts. Women think that’s disgusting, and, honestly, so do a lot of guys. But it happens. We’re made that way. We can’t help it. If we’re exposed to the influence, we function differently…just like alcohol.

When I think of pornography, though, I also think of the women that pose and act for it. I doubt many of them even recognize the damage they are doing to themselves. It holds an illusion of power, certainly. But what really happens to the mind and spirit underneath? The self-esteem? Do they suddenly value themselves so little that they want men to desire them physically as their only sense of self-worth? What happens underneath that happy and seductive facade? What sort of desperation? I’ve never gotten a tattoo because I know if I wake up the next morning and don’t like it, I’m screwed. What if a woman poses today, and hates herself for it in two weeks or two years? Too late. It will never be off the internet.

Pornography does the same long-term damage to adults that it does to children. The difference is that adults are able to justify it to themselves, to say it makes them feel powerful, to say it only fills a physical need in their lives. Child pornography is illegal, and correctly so. It is enforced with vigor by law enforcement agencies in the United States. It seems to me a small step to make adult pornography illegal, as well. Recently, officials in a foreign country (I can’t remember which one, and I can’t for the life of me find the article to link to…sorry) sentenced the man responsible for the majority of their online pornography to an enormous prison sentence. I think they have the right idea. A recent survey says that 42% of 10-17 year olds have seen pornography online, typically by accident. That fact that it can happen by accident turns my stomach. Make it illegal for those who put it out there to do so. Enforce it vigorously as we do against those who take advantage of children. Our society will improve as a result.

Pornography at its core is deceptive and opportunistic. It takes advantage of everyone’s basic urges, the urges that Scripture tells us should not be in control. It takes advantage of the way we were created, and uses it for evil. It has brought many men down, and it has done invisible damage to many women. I wonder how long we will continue to allow it do so. Our cynical resignation to the status quo is just unacceptable.

Cultural Justice

I’ll start with a disclaimer: when you discover the subject of this post, you’re intial reaction will be to stop reading. Please don’t. It’s not nearly as trite as it sounds.

I’m addicted to police reality shows. Karen constantly groans in disdain at how often I have Cops, or a similar program, on the television screen as I sit somewhat comatose on the sofa. Everyone deserves one vice, and this is mine. Mediocre sensationalist entertainment? Perhaps. But I can’t help it. It’s just cool.

About a year ago, before we were married and I could watch them whenever I wanted, I was channel surfing in search of just such a program when I paused on a show I really never thought I would be into: Dog the Bounty Hunter. I kept wanting to flip the channel, but I couldn’t. I was hooked. A few weeks later, I found it again. That was all it took. Then I was paying attention to when new episodes were scheduled to air. It had officially become one of my favorite forms of escapism.

Go ahead…laugh…

Done? Okay, now let me tell you why I’m relating this.

Duane Chapman, aka “The Dog,” is a fugitive recovery agent that became popular (some would say infamous) in 2003 when he pursued Andrew Luster, the heir of the Max Factor fortune, into Mexico after Mr. Luster fled there while facing charges for three alleged sexual assaults. The Dog found Luster, arrested him, and brought him back to the U.S., where he was subsequently tried and convicted. Luster is now serving quite a prison term.

The Dog was also arrested in Mexico for illegally detaining Luster. The business of bounty hunting, apparently, is illegal down there. He was eventually released back to the U.S.

Well, as so frequently happens, television rights were sold, and A&E developed the television show that follows Dog and his crew (all family members) as they apprehend fugitives from justice. His personality is engaging (perhaps in a voyeuristic way), and there’s the adrenaline rush that comes when they charge through the door and take the fugitive to the ground. Guys love that stuff. Watch an episode, though, and you discover that this isn’t just a business for the Dog. It’s a ministry. He makes every effort to turn the lives of these fugitives around. He prays for them. He prays with them. Frequently, he posts bond for them immediately after their apprehension so that they have an opportunity to turn their lives around again. Dog came from the wrong side of the proverbial tracks, and desires to see the life change that he experienced happen in others. His faith is unmistakeable, because his mercy and forgiveness demonstrate it.

You may have heard, though, that in September of 2006, Dog, his brother, and his son were arrested by U.S. Marshals because Mexico decided (Three years later? Sounds sketchy to me) that Dog should be extradited to face trial on charges of illegally detaining Mr. Luster. Interviews after they had appealed and posted bond revealed the pain and terror that this brought to Dog and his family. He actually stated that, if he went to a Mexican prison, he would likely not survive.

On February 15, 2007, Mexico denied Dog’s injuction request. They want him there to stand trial. For capturing a rapist.

I bet that, if you asked the three victims of sexual assault, they would call Dog a hero. I think anyone who prizes justice should call him a hero. God wants us to prize justice. Scripture says He prizes justice. Justice is what the Dog delivered. Perhaps outside technical legal boundaries. But he went when no one else would, so that a man who would later be convicted of violating three womens’ purity in the worst way would pay for his crimes.

Surely, America will stand behind him on this. Surely, we will not permit his extradition. His citizenship must count for something. His courage must count for something. His enforcement of the law must count for something.

So, if you pray, please do so for the Duane Chapman. It will feel odd at first, like you’re praying for a movie character. So use his real name. Because this is a real person, a real crisis, a real injustice.

After all, truth…and faith…must count for something.

Cultural Distress Flares

Okay, so I have to add to the thought train of my last post that, sometimes, entertainment news does interest me, after all.

Sadly so, in this case. I started to flip the channel when I initially saw the news break about Britney Spears’ new haircut…well, more cut and less hair…ala Sinead O’Connor. But when I saw the image of her bald, my interest was piqued. Shock journalism? Perhaps. But I was intrigued. I had to pause to hear the story.

There are many speculations about what role Brit’s flirting with rehab held in the scheme of her new look, but the fact that there is a connection doesn’t require a psychologist to see. I suppose that Spears is one of those artists that bring out different reactions in different people. Some worship her, some hold her in severe disdain, some laugh and poke fun.

I have to say, though, that when I see Spears, my heart breaks. Because this is someone who is desperate. Someone who some have said is crying out for help. I think she’s screaming for help. Screaming that her grasp on a vision of sanity in her whirlwind world has slipped, and that she can’t regain it. I’ve experienced this myself: I can only imagine what the added role of being a celebrity would do to the situation. Spears is drowning. She just can’t stay afloat much longer. Someone needs to reach out and help her.


I imagine she would accept anyone.

I think her music idol lifestyle was fun for a while. This last explosion in her life, though…I think it was too much. And I fear that, instead of having the human compassion to intervene, that America will watch as she disintegrates in front of our eyes. And then we will laugh, or shake our heads sadly, and go on with our lives. Because hers was too distant and separated from ours to be real. It was television.

Except, of course, to her.

Cultural Sensationalism

As you already know, I’m a news junkie. I think any writer should be. But if I turn on/log on to one more newscast and hear Anna Nichole Smith’s name…honestly, I’m going to throw up.

Smith was never an entertainment figure that fascinated me. Granted, there are few that do, but hers was a name I barely knew until this fiasco. I would wager a guess that there are many of you reading this that feel the same way. She was a blonde model with some relational and family difficulties. She never struck me as that attractive, and I feel the normal mixture of disdain and sympathy that I feel for other Playmates. Her death was tragic, as are all deaths. It was mysterious. There’s a history of mysterious deaths in her family. The aftermath with her family and significant others is a trainwreck. I acknowledge all of these.

What the whole thing is not: newsworthy.

I’m sorry for the grieving family. I hope they find peace, and I hope that Smith was ready to cross the line between the physical and spiritual realms. My heart breaks if she wasn’t. But this dominating our news coverage for as long as it has? A bit sensationalist, don’t you think?

I suppose the upshot of it is that we don’t have to look at or hear President Bush’s military stupidity quite so much. Take the positive where you can find it, right?

I shy away from tabloids for a reason. I want hard news. I want to know what’s going on, what has substance to it. I recognize the cultural validity of celebrity icons, but excessive coverage of anything is damaging to credibility of journalism.

At least leave it in the entertainment section instead of all over the headlines. I think we would all be thankful.

Cultural Conundrum

I’m having difficulty reconciling things again.

Well, at least its a different set of things this time. I just read this great article in the January issue of Poetry Magazine. The writer, Durs Grunbein, attributes what he refers to as the “infantilization” of poetry to the attacks of Greek philosophers. Since that time, he points out, the poet has been reduced to speak about himself and his art more than making social commentary. Ironically, Grunbein points out, the poet is alone is being able to connect the theoretical and abstract ponderings of the intellectual and spiritual realms with the concrete world surrounding us, moreso than theologians or philosophers ever can.

I would draw this comparison to art in general, whatever the expressive form. Theologians, philosophers, and psychologists are great and analyzing the underlying foundations of life and emotions and relationships. However, where our sociology, epistemology, and even Christology falls short is in its expression. The language of the emotional self and of the spiritual self cannot be expressed by analytical means. To do so falls hopelessly short. Artistic creativity is where the individual (and, Tillich would say, a society) express their love, their hope, the sheer angst of their human condition. Scripture is a great example. All types of men were inspired by the Spirit to speak of a variety of analytical topics, but all were expressed in beautiful writing of a variety of genres, from letters to poetry to historical chronicles (and, some have even argued, drama).

Before I digress, what I’m having difficulty reconciling is Grunbein’s point that analytical minds focused on the bettering of society cast aside artists as being hardly useful. Certainly, this is a trend that continues today. The industrial revolution forever altered the fabric of American culture. The only activities that are worth anything in the American marketplace are ones that contribute to material and financial progress. Case in point: peruse the employment possibilities in your city. Engineers can name their own salary. Poets, artists, musicians? Typically no more than $30 a year (in the case of a graphic artist working for a major firm), and, more often, starving for $150 per poem, in the case of the writer. Ministers of our spiritual health? They are paid almost nothing. Attorneys and physicians? Six figures. The composer who pens the song that transports you back in time to your first kiss, or the artist whose brush-strokes cause you to remember how much you love your father? Well, hopefully they have a day job to support themselves by doing something “important.”

Certainly, there are exceptions (although most popular culture icons sacrificed their artistic integrity to make money long ago). As a rule, however, I think we’ve gotten our priorities inverted, here. Why can assisting in the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual journeys of individuals not be a prized vocation in society? Why do the most important positions in society suffer from an inability to “make a living” doing what they love to do? Instead, the deep thinker, unless fortunate enough to acquire an academic position, is forced to toil away at a maddening job that prohibits him/her from doing what they love, what is important.

I can identify other areas where our culture has made this error. We’ve created a need for lawyers, so we make them wealthy, while our teachers and police officers (who should be wealthy for what they do) barely make ends meet.

And the contemplative artist? Well, she is dismissed as almost irrelevant, fighting to warn the rest of us what lies ahead as she desperately writes, dances, paints, sings, or sculpts her vision of the mechanical society we may already be doomed to become.