Thursday, September 13, 2007

Faith Works 9-22-07
Jeff Gill

The Pornification of Nearly Everything [this is somewhat a part II, with part I just below - jbg]

Thanks to some trends in modern culture and education, my son will likely not learn in school about the Greek and Roman pantheon, gods and goddesses whose antics helped the ancients make sense of geography and natural phenomena, including the fertility deity Priapus.

On the other hand, he knows what the diagnosis of priapism is, symptom by symptom.

You could say the fault is mine and the Lovely Wife for allowing TV in the living room: guilty as charged, your honors.
Why are these ads for medical enhancement of private moments so pervasive?

Through the summer, I did a great deal of driving. Around Licking County, the “contemporary Christian music” formatted radio stations come to us from Columbus and Zanesville, so from Flint Ridge to the Hartford Fair, I can always find CCM music or the radio.

Sometimes, weaving across the Midwest, neither NPR nor CCM stations could be found, and so I’d leave on whatever mild pop music I last found while waiting to drive into a new broadcast radius.

What jumped out at me, after having listened to so much CCM, where all the songs are rooted in the transformative power of a relationship with God, was the philosophical basis of the songs on pop radio.

Yes, they have a philosophical basis.

Some say CCM is too simplistic, too repetitive; I was saddened to hear that Tony Campolo had run down CCM in worship settings while preaching up at Lakeside this summer, accusing CCM of a “7-11” approach: “seven words repeated eleven times, or maybe vice versa.” Ha, ha, ha, Tony. Cute.

But what I heard with mind-numbing repetition and unimaginative sameness in the most middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary pop music, let alone more youth-culture oriented and harder edged pop, was that sex saves.

No? You don’t think so? Go listen to some, and you tell me. The point, over and over and over, was that the moment of physical encounter, the coming together of a relationship, would change everything, transform your life, and make everything new.

When the Bible says things like that, we call it “apocalyptic literature” and usually find it in Daniel and Revelation and chapters of Matthew and I Corinthians. “Behold, I make all things new” says Jesus as the Christ of God, and when seas melt and the heavens roll up like a scroll, we see end of the world imagery as a sign for how God’s power breaks eternity into time.

Virtually all pop music talks about how everything will change, nothing will look the same, and mysterious transformations echo out from the point where . . .

Hmmm. Can’t really be more specific in a family paper, but you’ve heard enough of the music of our era to know where we’re going in that sermon.

If I owe nothing else to CCM (and as a tool for reaching out to the marginal and unchurched today, I think Christians owe quite a bit to this genre), I’m thankful for how immersion in it helped me hear more clearly what my native culture is saying.

Our culture somehow has gotten the idea that a romantic, erotic relationship can change everything, and really, it mainly seems to preach that sex alone is transformative, no matter who you’re with. Again, if you think I exaggerate, go listen to some after reading this, and you tell me.

At the most extreme, pop music is specifically sexual; even in the most mellow and benign forms, the message is still generally that “doing it” will melt oceans, unroll the skies, and fireworks are the least of the explosions that will ensue.

And you know what? Tell people something often enough, and a fair number will start to believe it. We are surrounded by the wreckage of lives lived trying to find inner transformation and control over an unreliable world by, ah, “doing it” with whomever will help them reach that worldly sacrament.

And it doesn’t work.

Faith communities, particularly Christianity, get a bum rap for being against sex. Speaking for Christianity, which is the faith community that makes sense of my life, we ain’t agin’ it. Not at all. No more than we’re against fire. Fire, sex, they’re good, sure.

Fire is good in a fireplace. Fire between the joists, working its way between the walls to consume the entire structure, is bad. Right?

Sex in a marriage is good. Right? Sure. But sex up in the rafters or under the siding means the entire building is compromised, and likely to fall.

Sex is not going to fix your world, or solve your problems, even when you’re married. What we need to preach and teach and surely live out by example in our communities of faith is that like fire in a fireplace, sex in a marriage makes a house a home, can give light to relationships gathered all about, and can really cook.

But sex without the right setting is like a kid running around with matches lighting curtains on fire to see what happens.
Simple distinctions, which need explaining from the outside in, and the inside out. We gotta preach it, tell it, and live it.

Are you with me, or are you listening to the radio?

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher; contact him at

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