Today, I’m grieving the continued loss of sexual joy and sanity in our culture. Not surprisingly, the understandings that are prompting my grief will most likely be seen by most in today’s world as silly, hopelessly old-fashioned, and largely unfamiliar in an “are-you-kidding-me?!?” kind of way.
My grief this morning has been prompted by a series of reminders, encounters, and even conflicts that have piled up over the last forty-some hours. . . all of which stand in marked contrast and opposition to a biblical view of sexuality.
It began with watching one of my favorite TV shows, The Voice, two nights ago. This fall, I’ve been especially impressed with the chemistry and demeanor of the judges. Blake Shelton, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani, and Pharrell have been fun to watch as they interact with each other and the show’s singers. On several occasions, Lisa and I have commented on how truly nice each of them seems to be. But always sitting in the back of my mind is what I know of how some of them are mapping life for listeners and fans as they promote ways of looking at and living in the world through their music. Their niceness actually serves as a doorway into accepting without question the worldviews they promote in their music. One example is Blake Shelton’s recent commitment to getting down and dirty by focusing more and more on “bro-country” themes in his music.
Music is a map and mirror. As a map, it teaches us about life. . . what to believe and how to behave. As a mirror, it clearly reflects back to us widely-held and/or emerging cultural values. In other words, it tells us who we should be along with showing us who we are. Music. . . and all media. . . is powerful.
I explained these realities yesterday morning to a group of house-parents at the Milton Hershey School here in Pennsylvania. The group I was with yesterday are parenting middle-schoolers. . . impressionable young kids who are developmentally locked-into a search for identity as their worldviews are being shaped in significant ways. We talked specifically about the map and mirror of music, along with strategies for helping kids thoughtfully and critically evaluate and engage with every message they see and hear. It’s an important task, as music and media are primary shapers of our hearts and minds. One of the media themes that we discussed is that of sexuality. Being the God-made sexual beings that we are, it’s not surprising that we are extremely curious about and susceptible too messages that define and shape our sexuality.
And that’s where the grief comes in. . . knowing that we long for and need sexual guidance. . . and then encountering that guidance as it comes to us through the culture. So, Tuesday night on The Voice, Adam Levine performed the Maroon 5 song “Animals.” Pharrell performed his song “Hunter.” Here’s the video for “Animals,” and a video of Pharrell’s performance of “Hunter” . . . and I encourage you to sit still, give them a watch, and check out the lyrics to “Animals” and “Hunter.”
I’m thinking as well about nice-guy Pharrell’s part he played in Robin Thicke’s misogynistic and blatantly pornographic “song of the summer” of 2013, “Blurred Lines,” the video of which is available in both a “clean” version, and a version in which the females are fully undressed.
As I’ve been processing Tuesday night’s edition of “The Voice” and the performances I saw, I couldn’t help but think about our culture’s sexual schizophrenia. On the one hand, we promote and perform an understanding of sexuality that reduces our God-given sex drive to nothing but an appetite that we should satisfy without borders or boundaries. If we want it, we hunt it. . . we stalk it. . . and we treat people as objects that are nothing more than prey, animals, or pieces of meat. And then when these ideas and beliefs give birth to the behaviors they promote, then we need the “No More” PSA campaign to step in to tell us that the rising tide of sexual assault is wrong.
Why can’t we see that we have wound up in a situation where we must constantly be telling ourselves not to do the very things we are constantly telling ourselves to do? We are truly duplicitous and conflicted. We lack integrity.
Sex is on the minds of our kids. Not at all surprising, first and foremost because God has made them – like us – to be sexual beings. But how are we socializing and nurturing them into thinking about and engaging with their sexuality? The biblical worldview is celebratory about sex. Sex is a good thing, given to us as a gift by God. But when the cultural messages map and mirror something else, our hearts should break.
This morning, I read Scotty Smith’s “A Prayer About Seduceability” in his book, Everyday Prayers. The Scripture verse at the top of the page was taken from Proverbs 7:21-27, a passage that warns us about how easily we can be drawn beyond the borders and boundaries of God’s good gift of sex and what happens when we are. While the passage speaks specifically about lure and consequences of adultery, it applies to all sexual sin. It reads:
With much seductive speech she persuades him;
with her smooth talk she compels him.
All at once he follows her,
as an ox goes to the slaughter,
or as a stag is caught fast
till an arrow pierces its liver;
as a bird rushes into a snare;
he does not know that it will cost him his life.
And now, O sons, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth.
Let not your heart turn aside to her ways;
do not stray into her paths,
for many a victim has she laid low,
and all her slain are a mighty throng.
Her house is the way to Sheol,
going down to the chambers of death.
Broken sexuality hunts us as dehumanized animals. And when we choose to be hunted, it will cost us everything. That’s not the message our kids are getting from the culture. But it is the liberating message we need to be communicating without apology or pause.