Tuesday, December 30, 2008

See No Evil: A Sermon

We spent almost a week at Greg's parents' house and just got back Monday night. While we were there we took the opportunity to go on a date. Okay, fine. We didn't really celebrate our anniversary, and were waiting for our trip when we would have built in babysitters (we don't have any in Mielec) to do something special to celebrate.

Greg looked in the newspaper for a suitable event for us to attend. He was delighted to find that The Magic Flute was playing in a theater in town that night. (he loves the music from it and he is very interested in Freemasonry, and aparently there are lots of references to it in the opera) He called to reserve some tickets for us but was not able to over the phone. Finally he decided to drive all the way into the city center to get the tickets. When he returned he said that they did have some tickets left, but before he bought them he saw the poster advertising the opera and that it was fairly pornographic. He learned that some of the actors played nude. Oh. Okay. We decided not to go. Well, "decided" is the wrong word, as we didn't really turn this over in our minds. Let's say rather: We didn't go.

Because it was just after Christmas there were no concerts or anything else we would really have preferred to go to, so we decided to try a movie. The newspaper only listed the titles in Polish so we really had no idea what they were. We decided to just go and look at the posters and decide that way. (Welcome to life without the Internet!) We were super lucky to arrive just as Four Christmases was starting and decided to watch it (not knowing anything at all about it beforehand).

I spent the movie alternating between cringing at the crude and laughing too loudly at the hilarious (and eating my chocolate covered cherries and strawberries). Greg reminded me about 4 times during the movie that we weren't in America and you don't really BURST out in very loud laughter here. I mentally reminded myself that you don't really do that, even in America. But I couldn't help myself. It was funny. Very. And crude, too. (I just looked at the reviews and see that we are in a very small or non-existent minority of people who found this movie to be funny. Whatever.) I'm not sure we would have watched it if I'd known it was so heavily sprinkled with vulgar jokes and references. (but we still both loved it)

So this all got me thinking about my personal views of what's appropriate to watch and what isn't. I remember being surprised when someone I thought I knew well was upset when a group I was watching a movie with decided to shut it off because of the sexuality/innuendo, proclaiming, "That is about love! What is wrong with love. You think this is bad to watch, about people who love each other? It's much better than watching people killing each other!" I remember thinking, "But are we choosing between the two?" (and BTW, I was a teenager, but I'm fairly sure this was nothing R rated, as we didn't watch those then, and I don't now, either)

After that I had a long think about it. Of course I knew that we were not watching people who love each other. Or if we were, it wasn't their love that we were feeling. It was a different L-word. Maybe the characters loved each other, but those scenes were not included to help us understand that they loved each other.

I hate violence in movies. I always look away. I often wonder if people even DO watch it. Why do you want to see those details? It's yucky. It doesn't help you understand the story much, either. Sometimes, maybe a little, but you really don't have to have graphic violence to understand the trauma and horrors of war.

That being said, I think that violence, while clearly evil, is so clearly evil that many of us will never be tempted to emulate the actions we see depicted in an action movie. Not too many of us will be tempted to think about comitting murder. On the other hand, seeing "love" shown on screen is quite different. I think far more people are prone to sins against virtue. It is something that is becoming more and more acceptable in our society, and beyond acceptable. Only the prudest and most old fashioned people today would think anything wrong with watching those things.

I believe that adultery referrs to relations outside of marriage. That's before, after or during marriage (fornication is a form of adultery). Anyone to whom you are not married. I also believe Christ when he says that whole "looking at a woman to lust after her/comitted adultery with her in his heart" thing. I don't understand how pornography is accepted in a Christian society. The same goes for nudity in films (much less things the naked people are doing).

I live in Europe. I think I can safely say that I saw more naked bodies in my first month here (on accident, of course) than I did in all my previous 24 years of life (remember, no rated R movies). It was shocking and disturbing. I felt pretty outraged. Now, it's fairly normal. I still get a little ruffled, and am surprised, but I know that when you go to an office or small business, it is very possible that there will be a picture of a naked woman on the wall. (and for some reason they are never regular naked women. They're women with unnatural bodies, usually). Recently a law was passed here that pornographic magazines have to be kept out of reach/view of children or have to be covered, but there are still contraceptive devices sold in all gas stations and most stores that are usually kept in plain view right near the cashier the packaging of which is covered in uncovered women. I also know that if you flip through channels after 11 pm you will almost surely see something pornographic.

I believe that what happened in the Garden of Eden really, actually happened. I believe that the commandment they recieved as the first people on earth to "multiply and replenish the earth" has not been revoked. I don't believe that people who choose to have more than a child or two are irresponsible. Well, of course, some of them are irresponsible, but just the act of having a large family does not make one irresponsible. I believe that God's commandment for Adam and Eve to "dress and to keep" the Garden carries over for us today. I'm not big on the whole global warming fanatacism (update: my apologies if I just inadvertently called you a fanatic), but I do believe that we are meant to be responsible in our relationship to the Earth we've been given for a home. (Oops, I got going on our early parents, but here's the part I meant to say, which relates to the subject of this post:)

I feel that when Adam and Eve ate of the fruit and were able to distinguish good from evil, it is very important to note that once their eyes were opened, the first thing they did was to clothe themselves. They recognized that in a place where good and evil exist side by side (before they ate of the fruit they only knew of the good) we must cover our bodies. I can only believe that it was because they had the desire from the beginning to choose good over evil, and they understood that nudity could somehow bring an evil influence.

I know I'm a major idealist (and a "prude" which is one of the ugliest words in our language; right up there with "puberty") but I can't help but think how less vivid people's imaginations would be if they never saw naked people. If a husband saw only his wife, and desired to keep his appetites in check, how likely is it that he would cheat on her? I'm probably pretty naive about this (and many other things) but I would be really curious to know how many men who don't view pornography, or even pay attention to lingerie adds, cheat on their wives compared to those for whom other women's bodies are commonly seen. Maybe it could be argued that those with more exposure would be less likely to be unfaithful. I would argue that they already were being unfaithful.

I certainly don't believe that the human body is evil. I think it's beautiful. This, however, is not a kind of beauty to be shared and "appreciated" by all. In order to be truly appreciated, I think this kind of God given beauty should be shared in His way. I think it makes people happier, marriages stronger and families closer.

Once we were with a couple we are very close to and on a TV in the restaurant we were in there was some fashion show going on. This, of course, means that here and there breasts could be seen through the sheer fabric of many of the, um, what shall we call them? shirts? Dresses? No -- let's use "creations," as someone surely created them, and it's not as controversial as calling it "clothing". Greg made some comment about how it would be nice if they would change the channel and the man we were with said, "Oh, come on! Don't tell me you don't want to see that!" Greg said something to the effect of, "It depends on your definition of 'want.' Does a part of me want to see it? Yes, I'm a man. But a better part of me wants to steer well clear of it." (okay, he didn't sound as preachy as I'm making it sound.)

Many say that there is no harm in it. I believe that there is, as it encourages our base desires, and passions that we are meant to bridle. It is also becoming more apparent that it is addicting and can cause great unhappiness and even 'ruin.' I wish people would take God at his word. He wants us to be happy and his commandments are not outdated, no matter how hard people in today's society try to convince us otherwise. Jesus wasn't "just saying that" when he mentions this subject in his Sermon on the Mount. He only talked about the important stuff there. Yes, he taught us to love, to serve, to pray, and to give, but he also taught us things that it is important for us NOT to do. Today many of these things are cast aside, and seen as nitpicking. I think picking and choosing what parts of that powerful sermon we consider to be important and throwing out the rest (and even laughing at those (prudes) who don't throw it out) is a real fault.

And that concludes my sermon, with a disclaimer that I know I have all my own ways that I don't follow Christ as well, but I'm trying! And I don't fool myself into believing that doing those things is okay, even if it might be considered "normal" by many others.
The End. Really, this time.


Melissa said...

I totally agree with everything you've said here. I don't understand the nudity thing and why actors and actresses also think it will further their careers if they take off all their clothes (a la Daniel Radcliffe). I'm a prude right there with ya, sister! (Although I also hate that word).

Trying to Stay Calm! said...

Great Post! Come visit my blog to see the pictures I just posted :) ♥ Hugs! :) Shauna

Barbaloot said...

I think you wrote this very well. Your feelings/thoughts are clear...and I've always been a self-proclaimed prude myself:)
And the way you described why people don't think violence is as evil as nudity makes sense. I hadn't thought about it that way---and I'm not a fan of violence, but it's easier to automatically avoid sexual things than it is that, I think.

Annette Lyon said...

Great explanation for the violence/nudity difference.

Well said all around.

Josi said...

I just found your blog via Annette--and I love the way you have explained your thoughts. I agree completely with the violence/nudity thing--and three cheers for your husband for saying something--that was one of those situations made for a shrug and a quick bite of dinner. Love your thoughts on this. Oh, and my 14 yr old walked out of 4 Christmases. I was proud, while wondering if I would have done it.

Alison Wonderland said...

Fine, I'll take those pictures down.

Actually, I think ththe problem with most nudity as far as pictures, movies, fashion shows goes is that as you mentioned those are not normal bodies. (Of course, that's what I look like but that's not the point.) And by choosing the bodies they do they objectify the whole thing.

Working in surgery, I've seen a lot of naked bodies (and when I say a lot, I mean A LOT) and I'm not sure I really think that there's anything inherantly sexual about a naked body.

And I do wonder about the problems we could run into due to lack of exposure. If my sons have never seen a naked woman by the time they're say 13, they're going to be curious and I'm afraid that they'll turn to the internet where they'll find a lot more than I want them to see. But realistically I'm ok with my sons knowing what people look like under their clothes. My solution to that is to have medical texts around. We'll see how that works.

But I do like the point you made about the first thing Adam and Eve doing being covering themselves. I'll have to think a little more about that.

And now this is rambling and disorganized and my point is, you're cool!

Kazzy said...

Can I get a witness?! Love the sermon. I agree with you on your Garden of Eden references. Great job.

When we lived in London for those two summers it was pretty surprising to see the different standards as far as the body is concerned. Once I had to take all 50 students to a play because my husband and our assistant had other obligations. There we were in the center section when a man in the play dropped his drawers. One of the BYU students started crying and we were out of there as quick as lightening. It is tough, if you have had a conservative upbringing especially, to be thrown into a situation where you feel so uncomfortable. To each his own, but as for me and my house, we will avoid the streakers!

Sheri said...

On Thanksgiving, our family all goes to the movies, I mean all our family.. cousins, aunts uncles ect. Some went to see four Christmas's and were very disappointed at the crudeness. It is sad that so many movies, that could be pleasant are made to be so untactful.

MelancholySmile said...

I really appreciate that you take on such heavy topics. I often hesitate, wanting to have 'all the answers' before I publicly state my thoughts. I love your bravery!

Moody said...

Great post, as usual! (I have a little blogging envy of you, I admit). I can't watch violence either. I find it so upsetting. I don't understand why those horrible slasher movies are even made and I hate to think that it desensitizes people to violence. I hadn't thought much about the nudity though--of course I don't like sexual references and such especially in a movie that should be family friendly, but other than avoiding it, I hadn't put the thought into that you have. So...thanks for getting me thinking!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

I'm in a rush for my post-Christmas blog catch up marathon, so I'll keep it short: loved it. And I agree.

Thora said...

Amen. To everything you said. I love how honest and upfront you are about your (our) religious beliefs.

Becky said...

Very nicely articulated, Lisa! You go girl.

And I agree with it all.

Melanie J said...

You rock, Lisa. I think this is so articulate and well-put. What a great writer, and person, you are.

Erin said...

It is too bad that you didn't get to see Magic Flute (but good that Greg didn't waste money on tickets!). I saw it at the opera festival in Logan UT so the costumes were all modest! I agree that the music is very beautiful. I have always thought the plot was completely strange, but maybe that is because I don't get the Mason symbols. I remember being shocked when I saw "Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat" with my family when I was a teenager because some of the Egyptian costumes were very immodest. Fortunately our seats weren't too close.

Thanks for a wonderful post. I wish everyone would read it!

Heidi Ashworth said...

You heard that people don't think Four Christmases is funny? Really? (JK--I haven't heard either way. It looks funny to me, though. Great post--the "good" way to let it all hang out.)

The Boob Nazi said...

I saw Four Christmases. And I have to say, people who went to see a movie with Vince Vaughn in it weren't expecting a little crudeness? It's not PG here. I saw that movie with my parents, and I never once felt uncomfortable. (Then again, my mother accidentally took us to Unfaithful for Mother's Day once.)
I was raised Mormon, but apparently I missed the whole prudish upbringing. Not that I'm saying being a prude is a bad thing. I do think it is a pejorative term now, when it used to mean something better.
I'm not exactly the best person to enter these discussions as nothing really bothers me, but I thought I'd enter my two cents.
Then again, my favorite TV show is Sex and the City, so I'm DEFINITELY not one to talk.
But I'd like to raise my children in a non-nude atmosphere, but I don't have to deal with that now as it's just me.

The Boob Nazi said...

Holy cow! Sorry about the essay there!

Heather said...

I totally agree with you about nudity and being careful about what we expose ourselves to, but what I really wanted to comment on was the bursting out in laughter in a movie theater not in America. That is so funny. It happened to me to, but in Korea, watching Twister and that is not even a comedy. I felt like everyone turned around to stare at the obnoxious American.

3 Bay B Chicks said...

As always, your posts brings up many points that warrant further consideration. One of the great, great things about reading your blog is all of the thoughtful comments that follow. I love it! Almost like an on-line discussion group.

I must tell you that I saw Four Christmases over the holiday with my husband too. I couldn't agree with your review more. Vulgar at times, but still laugh out loud funny.

Happy New Year!


charrette said...

Oh, if everyone could have seen MY HUSBAND's Christmas movie instead. (Long, sordid story omitted here.)

This is one of the most clearly-articulated defenses of modesty and chastity in the media I've seen in a long time. Thank you for so clearly delineating your views.

I do feel there's a place for nudity in art, but I feel that place is shrinking and pornography is growing, and few people can tell the difference.

Becky said...

Hey, I spotlighted (uh, is that even a word?) this post on my blog today. That's how impressed I was!

Jen said...

Glad to see you're back! And obviously in very good company. As you've already been to my post, you know I prefer remaining de-sensitized to the whole nudity thing. And seeing as how I don't even use the F.A.R.T word, I guess that means I'm in the non-vulgar camp as well. Great thoughts!

a Tonggu Momma said...

I think this might be the first time I've commented here. I really appreciate all you've said here. And I wanted to share with you another post on modesty that I also feel was excellent. Veronica at Toddled Dredge also wrote two great posts about it:


Great comments on those posts, too.

Anonymous said...

Lisa, as always, you never fail to impress me. Thank you for speaking out! I had these similar concerns about another equally well-promoted show lately. I was so excited to see Mamma Mia! and as much as I loved the musical adaptation of all the Abba songs, at some point I had to ask myself, Since when has immorality become considered acceptable entertainment? "Loose" living, alternative lifestyles, etc., etc.... even though I laughed at many parts, and enjoyed the camaraderie between all the friendships, there was still something nagging at the back of my mind. Then, at the end (sorry to be a spoiler here), when the daughter decides NOT to get married, and, instead, go off traveling the world with her boyfriend because he never wanted to get married in the first place, I couldn't help the feeling of disgust and disappointment. So, call me a prude, too, if you must. If that's what it means to stand up for values and denounce anything that whispers of sin, then so be it.

Sorry for the novella, but let me just say, I'd love to join your club and I think you should be president!

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

Remember how I thought there was too much violence in The Incredibles? That's how prudish I am. I can't STAND violence, I guess because I don't UNDERstand it. Completely unnecessary in my opinion. The ancient Greek playwrights that we still study today had all their gory violence occur offstage. That is where I think it belongs.

Me plus 3 Hecks said...

One of my most vivid recollections traveling with my entire family in Europe was when we were in Frankfurt, where we ate from a frankfurter cart right in front of a nude/nude/nude place and across the street from more offensive signs. We couldn't escape them! My dad is MR. CONSERVATIVE and even he had to give in and realize this.

Annie Valentine said...

I also liked your take on the violence. My hubby had to handle a distressing crime scene at work today and just hearing about it broke my heart. I couldn't help thinking about how desensitized we all are to violence in general.

And we're lucky to be married to men who don't want to want to see that.

Heather of the EO said...

You're amazing. So well said. Keep on a rockin' :)

OnGod'sErrand said...

Good for you, Lisa! I admire your courage and your ability to say what you think. Many people feel the same way, but just don't speak out. Hurray for someone who does!

Rebecca said...

Good for you, taking a stand! I really enjoyed this post and I agree with every word.

Anne said...

I'm so glad I have something to refute-ish! Of course, I agree with everything-ish you said, BUT as far as the cheating thing goes, I feel differently than you. I think cheating is a frame of mind in which you are not completely loyal to your spouse for whatever reason. I'm thinking most women who cheat on their husbands probably haven't been addicted to pornography (probably just cuz I can't imagine any woman being interested in it!). But, I DO feel that men (or women) who lust after another woman (or man) ARE cheating and committing adultery, even if it's with a playboy.