When Hugh Hefner died recently, he was eulogized and lionized by many who applauded his business acumen, or his work that opened up the doors to “sexual freedom.” He turned $8,000 of borrowed money into a financial powerhouse based on objectifying women and appealing to the worst in men. Stephen Galloway reminded us of this. “Sugarcoat Hugh Hefner, if you will — in the wake of his Sept. 27 death, there have been constant reminders of his support for civil rights, his opposition to racism, his bold stand against puritan America — but the way he defined women was appalling. No matter how much one might like to romanticize him, his legacy is this: sexism, stereotyping and objectification.” As our country’s sordid obsession with sexual objectification is being revealed in these days, we would do well to rethink our glorification of Hefner.
While Hefner didn’t invent pornography, he put it in the mainstream. It’s become so much a part of our culture that the First Amendment, meant to allow especially freedom in religious and political speech, is now used to defend pornography and suppress religious speech. Our society is saturated by a business that makes women (and men) nothing more than sexual beings to be conquered, and don’t worry, they like it – especially the rough stuff. We as a country know that many people (ab)used in the making of porn are minors, and sex slaves of all ages, but we eagerly partake and participate in it, and then are shocked when people in power objectify others and use them for their own sexual pleasure. Paul’s words to the Ephesians are a prophetic reminder of God’s plan for sex to a world obsessed with sexual conquest. “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.” (Ephesians 5:3 NIV)
The church in the first century had a problem. It was the same type of problem that the Jews had in Israel. They were surrounded by religions that made sex a part of the worship, and it became easy to pay homage to the other religious practice to get what they wanted. In ancient Israel, after conuqering the land, the Jews needed to learn to grow crops. (Not many farmers among those who arrived from the desert.) They asked the remaining locals how to do this. Their crop plan involved planting, and them making an offering to the local fertility god/goddess that included ritual prostitution. As many times as the prophets of God spoke against this, they fell into it. Ephesus was the home of Artemis, a fertility goddess that was involved in temple prostitution also. Paul’s preaching at Ephesus provoked a riot because the silversmiths recognized the threat that Christianity should be to such a religion. Apparently, the early church didn’t have that same understanding and Paul had to remind them.
The problem of pornography is rampant in the church today. A conservative figure is that half of the men in any church will have a problem with porn. Given that porn objectifies women, mostly, is it any wonder that our churches have created an atmosphere where sexual harassment and rape is winked at, instead of being stopped for the evil it is? If our churches can’t stop this behavior, why do we expect our society to be any different? Paul’s words here are a reminder that we in the church are the key to ending a terrible problem in our world. We are to live exemplary lives without a hint of sexual immorality, impurity or greed. God knows that I’m not a perfect example, but I keep bringing my sins before Him and He not only keeps forgiving me, He empowers me to overcome and live in His grace.
Lord, as we see society imploding over the attacks of abusers, help me, help the church be an example of Your love and grace as our lives reflect Your presence among us.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.