Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sin is FUN! - (Part One)

(Not to scale)

(Part TWO is here)

(Part THREE is here)

Wheeeeeeeee! On a scale of 1 to 10, sin is really fun. This has been known for literally hundreds of years.

People who say it isn't fun are lying. If sin was not fun, it would be like vegetables and most Americans would already avoid it like the plague.

As a Christian parent, I have wrestled with the conundrum of hiding this fact from my kids as well as wrestling with other big words like "conundrum".

But how much should we hide it?

Just this last year my wife and I have seen our daughter enter her first year of college and our son become a senior in High School.

At their age, I studied diligently and worked very hard at how best to get into trouble and do things I shouldn't. I had straight A's in dumbassery and about a D or D minus in life skills.

So, how did my kids turn out so differently? Their mom. Hallelujah. OK, not JUST their mom, but still... thank God for her. But there is more to it.

My wife and I somehow got on the topic this morning, as we just recently have been observing more and more kids the same age as ours dabbling in this ancient fine art of dumbassery.

It gradually brought me to something I like to call "thinking". I schedule this uncomfortable activity at least once every month or so. And I came up with some surprising conclusions. Or opinions or something.

The Mrs. and I have very similar and in some cases divergent views on child rearing.

For instance, I felt that their practicing with firearms as soon as they could ride a bike was sensible and she was maybe a little more... hesitant of the idea. (No, I didn't let them use firearms while ON their bikes. Give me some credit.)

I also told her last night that our son agreed that he would be willing to join me in jumping off the world's highest controlled jump, if we ever go back to Las Vegas. Her opinion was a little more reserved and she shared with me, "No, no you're not".

Back in the day, we parents-in-training both agreed our little girl could not paint her room dark purple.

But then we again butt heads a little when it came to the issue of "adult" content in movies, especially as our precious snowflakes got older.

We actually agree more than we disagree on this topic, and certainly both respect and understand the merits of each others standpoint immensely. And we have articulated our opinions and even their differences to the kids, so they also know them quite well.

We didn't flip a coin to see whose belief would win and be "taught" and I opted out of claiming physical dominance or some kind of biblical authority over her. She is incredibly wise and that is partly why I married her.

My beautiful bride probably tips more toward the traditional "American Christian" belief concerning nudity than I do. And this oft described "Puritanical" slant on this topic has obviously taken a much more pivotal position in our society lately.

Especially with the glut of super easily obtainable pornography. Apparently there is some on the Internets. For free.

(My wife would probably also be OK with getting every single bottle of alcohol out of our house. I am in complete agreement, I just want to empty them into my belly first. More on that in Part Two of this exciting series.)

But back to the topic of boobies. You know what... lets just call it "sex and violence". Lump them together for brevity sake. And because using the word "boobies" probably made some of you uncomfortable. Boobies.

I have a very simple philosophy that might be summed up as this: boobies are awesome and violence is not. But they won't let me say this at church. Anymore.

But if I were to forced to say it like a grownup, I think I could.

I would simply say that God created the human body as one of the most beautiful things ever (unless you're 800 pounds, I suppose) and He specifically called it "very good". He also said that He literally hates violence.

(I think if I left out the snark about "800 pounds" that TOTALLY would have sounded like a grown up.)

Between sex and violence, I think it's pretty clear which topic makes God more "uncomfortable" and apparently it is not the same one as many of us.

If you came home to discover complete strangers naked and/or having sex in your living room, it would shock and probably offend you. But it would be something to laugh about down the road.

If you came home to someone being murdered in your living room, you would probably need years of counseling.

Yeah. Go ahead and let that soak in.

And yet most people, certainly Christians included, will more than welcome both of these visuals into their living room with most R rated movies.

(I'm a Christian and own many R rated movies, so bear with me.)

The stark irony is that many Christians are somehow more comfortable with two hours of Hollywood violence, bloodshed and murder than they are with two minutes or even two seconds of a lady's nipples on the screen.

This has always confused me a little.

But to try to get back onto topic, what is a proper and healthy balance for viewing and addressing these huge, age-old "twins"? (I mean "sex and violence", you pervs.)

Call me biased, but I think God's opinion carries a lot of weight.

You could probably argue that He is equally as shocked and uncomfortable as we are at the sight of a woman's breasts as He is to violence. And yet, I somehow doubt that.

Or you could assert (the more popular Christian view) that breasts are just SO super awesome, God demands they almost always be kept under lock and key. Maybe. But again, I tend to question the balance and truth behind it being quite that simplistic.

(If I sound like a hippy, I am not. I was raised by hippies and we stay in touch, but I barely let them influence me. OK, they were a terrible influence, but I mostly recovered.)

I could go into a long rant about how Christian mores and values toward nudity were enormously different in centuries past, evident in over a thousand years of traditional Christian art.

Keep in mind that most of all recorded Christian history happened in a place called "not America". No, I'm serious. Google it.

I think it's called Europe or something and they still have a much more casual view of the topics of sex and nudity than we do. I think with their topless beaches, something like our "Girls Gone Wild" is just redundant, indulgent and silly looking to them.

But that is not really my goal or overarching point here.

I guess I am not trying to stir up a debate per se about sax and violins on television and in movies. I'm not even saying Europe's values are "better". Just throwing stuff out there for consideration.

If you thought my point is lobbying for more sex and nudity in our media and culture, then you missed it. Big time.

But what if our kids were constantly told that sex is beautiful, natural and healthy and should be respected and highly valued, versus it being treated as "dirty", simply because it makes us so uncomfortable to even talk about it?

Just an idea.

At this point, especially if you are not a Christian, you might be looking at the sensational title I gave to this blog ("Sin is FUN!") and be thinking to yourself, "hey wait a second, jerko, nudity and sex do not equal sin!"

Maybe that's my point.

Can sex be used to sin? Can it be casually misused and maliciously abused to horribly hurt others and damage ourselves, often permanently?

Yeah. Obviously.

But I also think our reaction to this reality can either be mature and constructive or knee-jerk and destructive. Taking a minute to really think about it certainly couldn't hurt.

Especially if you happened to do the deed yourself at some point, made some little humans in your likeness and you plan on passing on your opinions and values to them.

(Next... Part Two - Booze: "Yummy" or just "An aphrodisiac"?)


  1. tl;dnr.


    I agree with you on the sex vs. violence thing. You should check out that documentary... "This Film is Not Yet Rated" or something like that, if you haven't already. I think the bottom line was something about how the people that determine the ratings, and which movies get the ratings are predominantly "strong" religious folks, and they are more bothered by sex (*especially* the faces of women enjoying sex for some reason...) than violence.

    Anyway yeah, I agree with teaching kids that sex is healthy and beautiful. Violence, not so much. Although man, but most of the good video games are really violent and most video game sex is completely disgusting.

  2. Well from an ex hippie parent who did and does enjoy sexual relations [sex is a gender]and who believes God holds my life in His hands, I like this article. I never [pre God or after God] understood why violence was condoned and glorified while sexual relations was not. Of course a lot of movie scenes are not depicting healthy sexual relations so there is that too but films that have these scenes are rated for adults and hopefully the 'adults' are in charge in their homes. Violence begets death, making love begets pleasure and children....oh dear, my hippie training kicking in: Make love, Not War! WooHoo!!

  3. It may be different for different people depending on which path you're on. For wide path people, there are no limitations. Have all the fun you want. For narrow path people, you need to sync it with the rules of that path. Jesus said if a man looks at a woman lustfully, it's the equivalent of committing adultery. Doctors see things like that regularly as part of their job. That's probably not adultery. What is it to you when you see it? Generally, in a movie, it's not for medical purposes.

    Narrow path people need to determine for themselves if viewing "boobies" constitutes lust (probably no so much of a problem for the women that see them). But where is the cutoff, and when does it become the thing that Jesus was trying to protect us from? You need to answer that. Is it worth the risk? And yes of course God thinks that they're beautiful, but it may be beauty reserved for specific eyes in a specific relationship.

    And what about the woman? What is the equivalent of "boobies" for the women's viewing pleasure? What is their concession? What do they get to look at on the male anatomy?

  4. Bruce, thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    Since this is a blog, it is not meant to be an exhaustive and legal dissertation of my beliefs on this subject. That would make it even more boring than it is already.

    It is meant to get Christians thinking and talking about something most are too proud or embarrassed to do. I am glad you joined in.

    To clarify, I do not think that pornography and the misogynistic objectification of women is the same as a healthy and respectful appreciation for the beauty of the human body.

    In the verse you quote from Matthew 5, Jesus did not say, "if you look upon a woman without clothes, you will lust after her and have already committed adultery", but many reinterpret it just this way.

    As I mention in the blog, the belief that even seeing the female form as being sinful, is a modern, American value. 1,700 years of Christian history (that persists in much of Europe) did not see the human body with our measure of shame and trepidation, as evidenced in hundreds of years of Christian art.

    To find a woman attractive is not to lust after her. And to truly lust after a woman (adultery implies either the man looking or woman or both are married), so as to desire or make plans to have her, is usually done regardless of how much clothes she has on. People that I know who have actually committed adultery started by lusting after someone who was fully clothed.

    Speaking of which, many Muslims believe they've cured this problem by covering women head to toe with burkas. And yet adultery rape, lust and the demeaning and objectification of women is just as bad or worse in these archaic countries.

    So apparently, never ever seeing a female form is not the answer to the problem of lust.

    And yet most American Christians used to believe it was scandalous or outright sinful for a woman to even wear pants. Some church denominations and sects in our country still do.

    All of this is not even my main point. The main point of the article is to address the different methods Christian parents use to instill their values in their kids. It started as a discussion about drinking and branched out (hence parts 2 and 3).

    The mindset of insulating our children as much as possible is counterproductive to instilling self control and maturity in them, in my opinion.

    And I believe that strongly implying that to even see a naked female form is sinful or is the same as lusting is wrong. This leads young people to believe they are just one accidental viewing of a picture away from a lifetime of bondage. It also teaches them that sex is dirty and an overwhelming temptation that God capriciously made to test them.

    If someone has a problem lusting after women, it is not the same exact thing as a healthy admiration for the beauty of the female form in general. If that were so, every man would be guilty. The problem is in the heart and has to do with giving in to selfishness over love.

    Religious bondage is an artificial and exceedingly poor way to protect us from ourselves.

  5. Is Classical art representative of God? European culture is more representative of the Catholic Church at best. And many things done in the name of Christianity were not God's will. After the first 100 years, especially after Constantine got involved; it pretty much spun out of control. You would probably need to go back to the early disciples to find a clear precedent for Christian art (good luck with that, I don't think there is much other that the sign of the naked fish). So what does the nudity in classical art really prove? The world changes with time. Is it accurate to call it "Christian art," and use it as an example of how today's culture has fallen away from what is "Christian"? I don't think so.

    R rated movies are not intended to portray the female body as an object for "healthy admiration for the beauty of the female form." It's gratuitous sexual content placed in a movie and advertising because sex sells. If you're watching them with "healthy admiration for the beauty of the female form", then you're robbing Hollywood of what they're trying to do.

    It think you would classify me as having a heart problem, because I find it easier to relate to females who are clothed. I don't know how to look at gratuitous nudity and not feel desire and temptation, so I try to avoid it. I filter my image searches and use Clear Play on movies to avoid that. Do you think that men should be able to see anything and not be affected by it other than having love and admiration for the female form? I take an old fashioned look at what it did for David and Bathsheba and try to cut it off before it goes there.

    And then there's the issue of how women feel about it. If it were put to a vote today among women, if nudity should or should not be allowed in movies, how do you think they would vote? Most women tolerate it, but they don't like it. Married women especially do not like it when their husbands view it.

  6. As I wrote in the original blog post:

    "If you thought my point is lobbying for more sex and nudity in our media and culture, then you missed it. Big time."

    Classical art is not "representative of God", it is representative of the European (both secular and Christian) mindset toward nudity, which is that it is natural, beautiful and not sinful in itself to look upon in art.

    The American viewpoint which persist to this day, started with the Puritans. I am not saying it is right or wrong, just different from much of the rest of the Christian world.

    We are so insulated, we assume our way is God's way and everybody else is wrong.

    I don't disagree with your choice to filter image searches or use Clear Play on your movies. Nothing wrong with that, if that is what you want to do. But I worry about the analogy to David and Bathsheba, as it implies that if a man ever accidentally sees a woman naked, he will inevitably commit adultery with her.

    David's sin was not from accidentally seeing Bathsheba. That implies he had no control over what happened and it was not his fault.

    As I said, I am not for more nudity in our culture and media. I am for teaching young men that the answer is a pure heart, self control and respect for women. And this actually goes a long way toward your standpoint of respecting their modesty and wanting them to be covered.

    BUT my viewpoint also goes a long way toward not teaching or insinuating that the female form is itself sinful or dirty.

    Let me ask you this, are you in agreement with many Christian sects that it is sinful for women to wear pants? Pants do show off their "form" more, than if they were forced to wear dresses at all times.

    Do you and your family ever go to the beach or swimming pools?

    I am probably in more agreement with you than you think Bruce. I just think that the implication that "sex" and the female body are too powerful of forces for us to control ourselves over and must be made secret, taboo and locked away CONTRIBUTES to promiscuity, not defrays it.

    I don't know if you read part two and three, but the same argument holds for teaching that drinking is sinful. It implies that it cannot be done in moderation, because alcohol is simply more powerful than we are.

    Now, for some it may be. And for some it may be too much of a temptation to even see a marble statue of a female form in a museum. But this is far from healthy or normal.

    Just because one beer or one classical painting may make some people stumble headlong into depravity, that does not mean that these things themselves are dangerous or sinful.

    The bible very clearly does not say that seeing the female body is itself sinful any more than it says that drinking alcohol is sinful.

    Yes, it does exhort women to dressing modestly. And it does say that drunkenness is a sin.

    The problem is when we add to the Word and say that it "REALLY means THIS" and that our methods and preferences are what God endorses above all others.

    I'm not saying you are doing this Bruce, just that many Christians do.

    I and my kids use image filters just like you do. But I also have instilled in them that if they do accidentally see something, they have not sinned or will be overwhelmed and dragged down into sin because of it.

    Through Christ we are free. Not free to do wrong, but to do right.

  7. Pat, the point is, it makes no difference (what you call) the "Christian world", believes. The only thing that matters is what the one who made the world believes.

    Re. David and Bathsheba: If it were possible to interview them, about their choices, I wonder what they would say. In light of the pain and tragedy that followed, I wonder if Bathsheba would have second thoughts about bathing on the rooftop in broad daylight. If wisdom should prevail, might she not decide to wait until dark or bath indoors? Even if her behavior was innocent, prudence may dictate an alternate course. I'm certain it would have, because hindsight is always 20-20.

    Well, you could say that if she had done it differently, Solomon would never have been born. But I don't think God would agree that his ability to turn our blunders into blessings, justifies the means.

    For David's part, would he have chosen differently? Perhaps after the first look, maybe decide not to continue? In light of what it led him to do and what it cost him, do you think he would choose to do it over the same way? He could stand up for his right to look and say that he had the freedom to do that and there was nothing wrong with it. He was only admiring the human form. But the question is, when did it become wrong? And when should it have been cut off?

    No, it wasn't a sin to look and because you see the human form it does not mean that you are subject to a "lifetime of bondage." It's what took place after the first look that led into something else. You have to decide for yourself where the innocence leaves off and the something else begins.

  8. "Pat, the point is, it makes no difference (what you call) the "Christian world", believes. The only thing that matters is what the one who made the world believes."

    I agree. And as I said before, we each think we know exactly what God has to say on the matter.

    But you are conflating looking at a piece of art with David looking at a married woman bathing. Or even worse, possibly implying that *I* am conflating them and saying David "had the right to look". *I* did not. *He* did not. David was in the wrong the second he did not turn and look away. He was married! SHE was married!

    But had David had self control and a right heart (which he admits not having in his prayer of repentance in Psalm 51), David WOULD have turned away.

    And please, do not confuse or believe that I confuse the female form in art as the same as pornography. The Venus De Milo is not equivalent to an NC-17 movie. I think if both are equally able to cause someone to stumble, that someone has bigger problems than a lack of filters.

    A Christian who does not change their heart can shore themselves up with Internet filters and safeguards of every kind and will regularly fall into sin.

    I asked you opinion on pants versus dresses? Also your opinion on Christians "sunbathing" (many churches are against it and/or going to the beach or swimming pools). What is your opinion on that?

    If covering the female form is the answer to male lust, then do the mulisms have the right idea with burkas? Maybe not covering the face, but very non form fitting dresses, like Quakers or the Amish?

    What is your opinion? Are you at least against mixed bathing?

    I do not believe in men looking at pornography or indiscriminately watching R-rated movies. Please do not read more into what I am saying than I actually am.

    I have only said again and again that the real issue is parents teaching their kids that their greatest protection from excess is to insulate themselves as much as possible versus parents who teach their kids that their greatest protection from excess and selfishness is a changed heart, to love God with all their heart and to truly love and respect others.

    One last thing, Bruce... are you OK with watching violence in movies? As said in my the original blog post:

    "The stark irony is that many Christians are somehow more comfortable with two hours of Hollywood violence, bloodshed and murder than they are with two minutes or even two seconds of a lady's nipples on the screen."

    Speaking of the "christian world", American Christians are far more OK with violence and war than they are with nudity. We always have been.

    Do you enjoy action movies with fighting, shooting and explosions, only to get uncomfortable with a second of toplessness?

    One could argue, "yeah, but I don't have a problem with being violent..."

    Aside from the completion of that sentence being the point I've been making (using filters over a changed heart), I do know a LOT of Christian men who DO have a problem with their temper and even getting violent.

    And even if one does NOT have a tendency to temper and violence, why does that make OK and enjoyable to watch two hours of violence and bloodshed (and in PLENTY of PG-13 movies)?

    I also hope you are not getting offended, Bruce. I know I'm not. This, and just outright embarrassment are the two biggest reasons Christians almost never talk about these things.

  9. I have no problem with what we might call traditional dress, slacks or shorts for women. Some women are beautiful and that is obvious and it's possible to see that without it going into something else. I don't like the trend toward low, revealing tops or high skirts. It's the same as using a filter on image searches. I don't want to expose myself to the temptation. It's too distracting for me, so I want to avoid it. It's not that my heart is not changed, it's that my flesh is still alive. I try not to let my flesh overpower my spirit. I know were the flesh wants to go. In mixed bathing situations, I have to discipline myself to stay focused. Sometimes, that's a challenge, but I have strolled down a topless beach in Guayabitos, Mexico with my wife and not looked at the women.

    Regarding movies, God is not opposed to nudity, he's opposed to adultery and fornication. I think that nudity a precursor to sex. That is certainly not a problem in relationships that God has ordained that for. But I don't think that it's right for women to expose themselves to men other than the one that they're married to. I think that it is reserved for his eyes only. If we lived in a topless society, it probably wouldn't be an issue. But we don't and certain women's parts are considered private in our society. I like it that way; it makes the marriage relationship even more satisfying. Perhaps you can be around naked women without the thought of sex entering your mind. If that's true, then I think that you have arrived. I'm not there yet. If I was a doctor, I would probably get over that.

    Sex scenes in movies are not pertinent to the plot. They are placed there for a reason. Graphic violence is not pertinent to the plot either. We filter them both out, along with profanity and don't miss much. Though on some movies, like The Saving of Private Ryan, I think the violence serves a purpose. You may be able to say that about some nudity as well; Shindler's List perhaps, I don't know, I haven't seen it.

    In your first post, it sounded like you were defending the viewing of R rated content and that's probably the reason that I responded. But in the subsequent posts, it sounds like we are closer on that than I initially thought. I'm still not sure if we are on the same page. I may be missing your point completely.

  10. Bruce... very well said. Truth be known, you are not missing my point and we are closer to being on the same page than it initially appeared.

    I am not for gratuitous nudity or sex in media, but I do believe there are acceptable contexts for it. 'Schindler's List' is one I immediately thought of. 'Amistad' is another movie our kids saw in their early teens and we knew that it has full frontal nudity of men and women, showing the brutality of the slave trade in early American history.

    Many Christians are against secular music, especially songs about love and/or sex in any way. It could be argued that romance novels are immoral to read. If that is always so, then we might need to get rid of the Song of Solomon. Or just keep a double standard.

    I mentioned other cultures because in other parts of the world and times past, believers were comparatively much more comfortable about the topics of nudity and sex than we are. It was and by many still is considered natural, beautiful and one of the greatest things in life. To be ashamed of it was and still is as illogical as being ashamed about food or any other pleasure in life.

    As I already mentioned, American Christians' common shame about sex and nudity, so incredibly contrasted with their comfort and outright enjoyment with violence, is absurd.

    I am not of the opinion that all nudity is gratuitous or for that matter salacious, but your arguments are completely valid and well put.

    Again, my original central point is the folly of the self-defeating and destructive ways many Christian parents try to raise up and steer their kids away from the temptations of the world.

    One is simply lying and telling kids that sin is not even fun, hence the title of this blog. Like I said in part 2 of this long blather of mine:

    "Is sin fun? You bet your ass it is. Does it come with a price? Always. And sometimes a terribly steep one."

    Another flawed method is stressing that it will always result in severe punishment. And this fear of getting caught and/or beaten is projected up onto the personality of our "loving God".

    Another failed, and probably the most common tactic is to shroud kids with every possible wall from the world as possible.

    Our kids went to a Christian school from K-12, so it could be argued that we ourselves did this in part.

    But if Christian kids go on to secular colleges, will they be overwhelmed because their only protections were lack of exposure to the things of the world?

    If the only reason a kid does not click on porn is because they CAN'T click on it due to filters, then what happens when they grow up, move out and inevitably, in a hundred future scenarios have unfiltered access to it?

    To truly be equipped to deal with it, they must have the ability to choose to do the right thing, as well as the wrong.

    A changed heart is paramount over just shielding our eyes and ears, even if the latter is also good and helpful.

    Loving God with all our heart and loving others as ourselves is not just something we have to choose to do, it is something God alone gives us the power to do.

    If this love is not our central and driving motivation, then everything else we do is just empty, religious nonsense.

    "I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh." (Galatians 5:16)

    Thanks again for your comments, Bruce. They were very rewarding.

  11. wow, what else could I say that hasn't already been said...

    Excellent debate and discussion. It's really refreshing to see this topic thoroughly perused; questions and answers posed through in an honest yet non-combative volley of thoughts, ideas, beliefs and truths.

    Good stuff Pat!