Of Vice and Men

pb1253

 

This is a re-post. I’m not exactly sure why I am re-posting this, except that nothing has much changed since I posted it over a year ago. Imagine that.

It is always interesting to me how our in our more conservative religious circles we yet see how the culture of the therapeutic has been so fully embraced while simultaneously criticized.

It is not long after asserting a discussion about something like pornography that one hears an almost constant barrage about “addiction,” framed in a lot of religio-speak. Men talk in whiny-pitched tones about their “problem” and pastors talk in a duped tenor and rehearsed empathy about all the “devastation that comes from pornography.” Men speak heroically about what sort of baby-sitter software they have laced their computers with, revealing that they have simply chosen to meet their juvenile impulses by further treating themselves like little boys. Awash in group versions of self-help, ministry-teams talk about “accountability partners” and we are all supposed to be thoroughly impressed.

It is not as if I am of the bootstraps mentality that cavalierly dismisses the validity of both authentic behavioral problems and legitimate intermediacy and convalescence. To be sure, there are those who have real, genuine behavior problems that manifest themselves in illicit consumption of certain substances or phenomenon or human beings—and real people with real problems need real help. But it is my contention that the large majority of those who claim this thing called “sexual addiction” actually give these poor souls a black-eye by pirating their problems in order to excuse their plain and simple bad behavior. They want the benefits of being considered—by others and themselves—amongst those for whom will power and personal responsibility are but more tangential dimensions for those with real ailments. And it’s further baptized in the “devil made me do it” spirituality which has human beings the unwitting pawn between the unseen forces of good and evil. But the problem with the husband who has turned to pornography is not so much a problem of addiction or devils and angels perching his shoulder as it his plain refusal to pull up his socks and behave like a man instead of a child. (Curiously, what those pietists who wish to plead psycho-sexual addiction tend to overlook is the fact that those with real problems often have other, different kinds of problems.) And if he really has a serious behavioral problem he needs to see a psychiatrist in real time, not a pastor doing Christian voodoo. Just because a red-blooded man has refused to control what his natural wiring seems to demand is no justification to steal the validity of those who have authentic behavioral problems.

But conservative religionists have always had a particular fixation on sexual ethics ever since they were persuaded that Wesleyan notions of “personal holiness” and orthodoxy go hand-in-hand. But the former is merely the individualistic, self-help version of what one finds in social transformationalism. I daresay it goes a fair ways to help explain why they are so associated with and fixated on issues like abortion and homosexuality. For better or ill, I tend to agree with those who observe that such fixation against abortion or homosexuality on the part of conservative religionists says at least as much about an ignoble social and political punishment for aberrant sexual behavior impeding personal growth (whatever that is) as it does a noble concern for social welfare.

And I would say that the tendency for most conservative religionists to cast our society as being one that “would Babylon blush” seems to reflect how they still have chosen to side with Mrs. Grundy when it comes to the meaning of modesty. The legalisms of yesteryear’s rigid, moralistic sexual ethics amongst conservative religionists have simply morphed to fit our kinder and gentler therapeutic age. This morphing seems a lot like what Horton talks about when he more generally observes the difference between “hard law” and “soft law,” the brutalizing of sinners or coddling them. It isn’t so much anymore that one wants to stay in the good moralist graces of the Jones’ as he must bow the knee to the new therapeutic trinity of being “happy, healthy and whole.” In other words, the new legalism is wholeness.

I fully realize it is politically incorrect to say all this in a cult and culture wooed by comfort and ease, personal completeness and all things therapeutic, as well as anathema to a wider conservative religious landscape that relishes moralizing that which is therapeutic and therapeuting that which is moral. And the stuff about abortion and homosexuality, I’m sure, won’t help my cause here. But I’m still a huge fan of common sense: the problem is not big, bad e-zines roaming the earth seeking whom they may devour but people who refuse to throw the off switch.

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20 Responses to Of Vice and Men

  1. drollord says:

    Zrim,
    Regarding your post, I find it one of your better and more clearer ones. Man’s drive is to hi-jack fruits of justification and turn them into a grounds upon which they are to feel good about themself.
    There is another thing that is quite clear about the post. The drive of that woman’s (lack of) clothing. It is no help to me or anyone else to have the “melons” of Egypt (cf Num 11:5), the fruit of a wicked life, shaken in front our face. A fruit of justification says “RUN!” because there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Porn’s chief end is to consume the consumer.
    PLEASE (!) KEEP THE TEXT, nix the picture.

  2. Zrim says:

    Mr. drollord (Flood?),

    Thank you for your Outhouse patronage. We are pleased you found the post “more clearer” than perhaps some others have been in the past. We also understand and appreciate your suggestion to pull down the associated image, but, after deliberation, we have elected to allow it to remain. It is our feeling that it at once helps make the point and is not unnecessarily scandalous or distasteful.

    If it is any consolation, you are not alone; when “Of Vice and Men” it was originally posted other readers voiced the same concern, which were re-visited before re-posting, and, obviously, the same decision was made. If we can be of any further assistance please do not hesitate to comment.

  3. DrollFlood says:

    “Mr. drollord (Flood?)”
    -The same.

    “If it is any consolation, you are not alone; when “Of Vice and Men” it was originally posted other readers voiced the same concern, which were re-visited before re-posting, and, obviously, the same decision was made.”
    “I’m not exactly sure why I am re-posting this, except that nothing has much changed since I posted it over a year ago. ”
    “It is our feeling that it at once helps make the point”
    -What was the point? What were you (all?) hoping to accomplish that was edifying by posting that picture? The article was good and now you come off like you wanted an excuse to do something scandolous! The grace of God is not for that!
    I am curious, how many pornographic images did you sit and stare at before you chose this specific one? And for what did Christ die? So you could go ahead and do whatever out of hell you want? Come on, Zrim. It testifies nothing good of grace. Get rid of the picture.

  4. Machiavelli says:

    “I daresay it goes a fair ways to help explain why they are so associated with and fixated on issues like abortion and homosexuality. For better or ill, I tend to agree with those who observe that such fixation against abortion or homosexuality on the part of conservative religionists says at least as much about an ignoble social and political punishment for aberrant sexual behavior impeding personal growth (whatever that is) as it does a noble concern for social welfare.”

    Is the ‘fixation’ on sexual behavior, abortion etc. not a result of the disagreements on that with ‘secular’ world? When talking about the need to care for others, our responsability for the poor, elder and disadvantaged there is no disagreement, but talking abortion or gay marriage, there is.

  5. PG says:

    “Machiavelli”: There are enough “decent” non-christian people, who would condemn just the same sexual (and related) behaviour that you condemn.

    What they wouldn’t agree with is that Christ is Lord. Unfortunately, christians are better known in certain circles for their “anti-sexual” stance than for the love for (and of) God.

    I don’t say that we christians should indulge in the sexual (and other) behaviours they hate. But talking first and foremost about how “God hates homosexuals” isn’t helping the cause that we’re here for.
    God hates sin, and breaking the law is sin, too.

    But I haven’t heard the big christian rally cry against 501c3-tax-exempt politicking churches so far (as an example that came up lately)

    Jesus first

  6. Zrim says:

    Dear Mr. Flood,

    Thank you again for your readership and response. In our initial response to you we indicated that was our feeling the associated image helps make the point, of which you asked: “What was the point?”

    The point is if you don’t like the image then don’t look at it.

    After even less deliberation than before, we have resolved to maintain the image. We humbly suggest that any further complaint might only help serve to lodge our resolve. Thank you again for your interest, and we look forward to your patronage.

    Machiavelli,

    Your suggestion seems fairly common. But I can never really shake the sense that it’s more an excuse to push back at least as hard as some folks shove or a version of “hey, he started it.” I don’t mean to trivialize moral concerns or to suggest being Pollyanna, but if it’s Christian ethics we are concerned over, how do ethics like living quietly, to mind your own business and to work with your own hands (1 Thess 4), letting those outside judge those outside (1 Cor 5) or even turning the other cheek (Matt 5) figure in here?

    And as PG points out, if the argument is that a moral code has been violated then you’ve just opened the door to the million and one ailments in the world that would seem to demand the church’s equal moral indignation. And since that is never lived up to, the questions are (1) why a narrow band of moral concerns are chosen and others rejected, (2) why an even narrower band of solutions are suggested and (3) what ground do you have for meddling in any of this in the first place?

  7. DrollFlood says:

    “The point is if you don’t like the image then don’t look at it.”
    -I saw it. I turned my eyes. I called you on it. I’m not looking at it. I’m looking at text dealing with you and your sophistic porn hucking.

    So this is the confessional outhouse, where what Zrim confesses is promptly is promptly covered in sophist excrement?
    That confession is WORTHLESS, Zrim. Knock it off.

  8. Zrim says:

    Mr. Flood,

    While you are always free to express your views here (within reason), we think you may find interesting a link at the Riddleblog which points readers to a rather hilarious bit: speculated letters to the editor over St. Paul publishing Galatians. Dr. Riddlebarger has found particularly amusing an innuendo Mrs. Bobbitt wrote. If you have exhausted yourself here, it seems the good pastor might need your insights.

  9. Chris Sherman says:

    Zrim,

    I think there are times that when our Christian liberty impinges upon the conscience of those with a more “tender” constitution that it is prudent to exercise a little love. For perhaps we do have this knowledge that a photograph such as posted above is merely inanimate pixels on a screen depicting a (now long dead and decayed) woman in a somewhat provocative pose, however that knowledge possibly puffs up, but love builds up.

    just a thought

    -Chris

  10. Chris Sherman says:

    Mr. Flood,

    be sure not to look at this:

    in good humor

    -chris

  11. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    I think there are times that when our Christian liberty impinges upon the conscience of those with a more “tender” constitution that it is prudent to exercise a little love.

    I agree with your principle. I’m not sure it applies here though.

    For perhaps we do have this knowledge that a photograph such as posted above is merely inanimate pixels on a screen depicting a (now long dead and decayed) woman in a somewhat provocative pose…

    It actually works against my point to admit the image is less than it is or to rationalize it away somehow. And my resistence of Mr. Flood’s comments has nothing really to do with a notion of “special gnosis, weaker brother,” etc. as much as, well, this is my blog and I disagree with his assertions concerning a choice of associating image.

    P.S. While I suspect the notion might be in the background of your comment, here is why I am not sure what you might be suggesting quite applies.

    https://confessionalouthouse.wordpress.com/2008/05/08/the-weaker-brother/

  12. Chris says:

    Well, the background then- an appeal to show some charity in an insignificant matter.- your blog or not.

    I realize that what I stated could be construed as license to view porn or even just provocative pictures, and of course that is not my intent at all.

    Thankfully it is not what goes into us that defiles us, yet it is worse to find out that what comes out from within is already defiled. The image is just that, an image, not the real thing, yet even that reveals the depravity of our fallen minds, hence my posting the Duchamp link. The title exposes us for who we are and our constant need of saving grace.

    Static image or mere words, the effect is the same, we are defiled.

    In the Duchamp “art” our imagination shows itself for the idol factory it really is.

    Duchamp’s “The Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors”

  13. Zrim says:

    Chris,

    I’m not sure I understand the Duchamp stuff, but that’s OK.

    By showing some charity do you mean: in my comments (because I took pains to meet his fairly ranty comments objectively), or do you mean I should meet his demands and tear down the image? Or is there another way I should show charity?

    I don’t understand how anything you’ve said could be “construed as license to view porn or even just provocative pictures.”

    And to be honest, while this is kinda interesting, I’d be even more interested in discussing the post.

  14. Chris Sherman says:

    Interesting, I thought I was mostly discussing the post. Duchamp’s “art” , and it certainly was not his intention, speaks volumes to the root of problem, namely that we are sinful, even to the core of our thoughts. To me this illustrates Matthew 5:27-28 and reveals to a regenerate mind the need of a savior to save us from these bodies of death.

    As for charity, is there a problem with taking down the image? Maybe Mr Flood has a problem with temptation. Can’t we admit we all do of one sort or another? What’s yours? No, of course the problem (sin) isn’t cured by removing the temptation, but neither is it helped by placarding vileness or its representation before our eyes.

    In all charity,

    Chris

  15. drollord says:

    A person can behold something with his eyes and behold something in his heart. That is setting his desires on that seen thing and seeking after more of the same.
    Thus if one likes it look at it, post it, and placard it for all to see.

    ” But I’m still a huge fan of common sense: the problem is not big, bad e-zines roaming the earth seeking whom they may devour but people who refuse to throw the off switch.”
    -Ill done blog posts being the product of one’s heart can have their switch thrown, Zrim. E-zines don’t consume people, the writer of the e-zine is the one that’s consuming. If man’s fallen father, the Devil roams like a lion seeking to devour, so does his children.

    -Now onto interacting with the post’s content a little. There’s no sense in wasting Zrim’s post.
    I was raised in California, I was well marinated in porn. I won’t seek to justify myself by looking to things done by my own hand, e.g. net nanny, yet nursing a lust for porn in my heart via looking at pictures, somehow distorting God’s salvation to justify by man’s works. Christ fullfilled the law and imputed His righteousness to me, I am done with the law respecting justifying myself. The law killed. Christ’s death and resurrection makes me heartily willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.
    I will therefore in gratitude to God not seek to harm myself nor others. I will not do what God forbids, all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever may entice one thereto.
    Therapy is just whitewashing a grave.

  16. Steven Carr says:

    Zrim,

    First,

    If you brought that picture home, would you say to your wife, “Look what I bought, honey; I’m going to frame this and put it on my desk. Don’t worry, I’m not tempted at all by it”? Would you tell your wife that? Why or Why not?

    Second, regarding temptation, would Eve have eaten the forbidden fruit if she hadn’t been standing in front of the forbidden tree? Speculative question, I know, but a provocative one.

    If you are confused about the point I am trying to make, it is this: First, of all, most people understand that we need to avoid even the appearance of evil; therefore, we need to be very jealous about how other people view what we do, and avoid making other people think we are doing something evil. Second, no one is really tempted by something they don’t see or are close to. Look how Satan tempted Jesus. He SHOWED him the stones and said,”Turn them into bread.” He TOOK HIM TO THE TOP OF THE TEMPLE and said, “Jump.” He SHOWED him the kingdoms of the earth and said, “I’ll give them to you if you worship me.”

    Take the picture down, Zrim. You’re not helping anybody by it. No amount of Christian liberty sophistry can help your cause here.

  17. Zrim says:

    Steven,

    1. The question is a non-starter since I can think of no reason to bring the picture home and put it on my desk. I can see why it is attached to a blog entry about how some men navigate their vices.

    2. You’re right, it is speculative. Even so, it’s not too unlike the argument that I won’t get drunk if I never drink, or setting up extra laws around God’s law which are designed to ensure I don’t break God’s law. One way to make sure nobody ever strikes another is to chop off his hands.

    3. Instead of trying to get all sorts of noble arguments off the ground, if someone could simply say they don’t like the picture and they think it’s in bad taste or inapproriate I would be more peruaded (maybe not convinced). But so far it just sounds like some like being offended and making more of a thing than is necessary. Sorry if that steams you even more.

  18. Chris Sherman says:

    I cannot conceive of situation when the cover of Playboy would ever be in good taste. Maybe, possibly, arguably, appropriate for a discussion, but hardly necessary.

  19. drollord says:

    “The question is a non-starter since I can think of no reason to bring the picture home and put it on my desk.”
    -Zrim, you’ve already done it. It’s on your desktop. The picture and the sophistry behind it is staring you in the face. And you want to share it with everyone else by posting it on the internet?

    “I can see why it is attached to a blog entry about how some men navigate their vices.”
    Offering up sin as an option is wrong, Zrim. Playboy’s writers drive and result is pure lust and doesn’t manifest the glory of God.

    “…if someone could simply say they don’t like the picture and they think it’s in bad taste or inapproriate I would be more peruaded (maybe not convinced).”
    -Your being more persuaded from these interactions on this post really doesn’t amount to much. It may stroke your ego. It may make you a bit benevolent toward the pursuader but it comes at too high a price. The problem with saying simply they don’t like the picture and it’s in bad taste on your grounds castrates the arguement. You want to attribute it to mere preference, you don’t seem to want to ask why we’re upset about the thing, avoiding the matter. You’re essentially flashing people and wanting/trying to get away with it. Other than the fact it’s not your body, what’s the difference, Zrim?

    On biblical law’s authority, effected by the death and resurrection of Christ, I hate the picture and I think it’s incongruent with grace. And for Christ’s name sake, in whose name you’re baptized, take the picture down!

  20. drollord says:

    “You want to attribute it to mere preference, you don’t seem to want to ask why we’re upset about the thing, avoiding the matter. ”
    -Or even worse, you know why and don’t want to deal with it. God forbid.

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