Much to the objection of our current culture, religion and sex are not exclusive subjects. They are very much intertwined. Most thinking Christians realize this and even non-Christian thinkers know this. Psychotherapist Carl Jung is said to have commented that when couples would bring questions about sex to him, they always turned out to be religious questions and when couples brought religious questions to him they always turned out to have their roots in sex. You just cannot disassociate sex from religion for very long without them crashing into one another.
So when a pastor speaks on sex, I assure you this is not religion muscling in on a subject where religion has no place. Rather it is a conversation about a subject where religion has belonged since the very beginning. If you doubt me, go back to page one of the Bible and stop reading when you get to the subject of sex. You won’t get very far. In fact you won’t get past the first chapter of Genesis.
We are told that at the beginning, God made male and female (Gen. 1:27) and then God immediately tells them to be fruitful and multiply (v28) and then declares: It is Good (v31). It is so good that in Genesis 2 when God brings Eve to Adam, what Adam sees is so amazing, he literally breaks into song. Naked Adam singing rapturous love songs to naked Eve in the very presence of God, the author of sex. And that’s just chapter two. But then we come to Genesis chapter 3. This is probably as good a time as any to mention Hugh Hefner.
Hugh Hefner, creator and founder of the Playboy brand, passed away over the weekend at the age of 91. A singular passage from the old prophet Ezekiel is the reminder that our response to the news of Hefner’s death is one of grief (‘As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.’ Ezekiel 33:11). As Ezekiel reminds us our grief is not that Hefner is gone but that from all accounts there seems to have been no repentance unto salvation in this man’s life nor at his death.
What I do find interesting, is that his death comes at a time of such deep confusion about all things sexual, that the gatekeepers of our culture don’t even know how to eulogize the man. You can almost hear the desperation in the editorials and commentaries as they want to honor him as a cultural icon but to do so with full-throated support would make them complicit in what they can’t bare to admit. Namely that Hef’s two lasting contributions, the idea that a man’s value consists in the abundance of his wealth and sexual prowess and that a woman’s value consists in her sexual availability and attractiveness, are nothing to eulogize. As Samuel James rightly points out, when even allegedly pro-women ideologies fail to speak coherently about Hefner’s passing with clear moral witness, what more testimony do we need of the confusion that surrounds this man and the ‘empire’ he built? It is this confusion that sits at the center of Hefner’s legacy and, as Ezekiel reminds us, I take no pleasure in pointing it out.
Let me also state for the record that I am not blaming Hefner for our pornographic culture. He did not create it. He simply capitalized on our brokenness, marketed it for the mainstream and we made him (and others like him) millions upon millions of dollars. The porn industry by the way is more profitable today than all professional sports leagues combined, makes more money than Broadway and, according to Time magazine, is more harmful than most drugs available. Time also points out, that this particular addiction almost always carries with it symptoms of loneliness, laziness, apathy, isolation, sexual dysfunction and a lack of purpose. And that’s just our boys. What about our girls? Is there any well-meaning father (or mother) who can look his daughter in the eye and say, “Honey, one day I would love for you to appear in the pages of Playboy magazine.” We may not be that explicit but we are definitely complicit. After all, ours is a culture reminding our young ladies daily that their true value consists in their sexual identity, staying young and of course achieving and maintaining a certain body size. We wink at our sons that if they can’t find this fantasy in reality they can always view a never-ending supply of it on-line. No, Hefner did not create this mess. The selling of our soul, both individual and cultural, happened long before he was even born and was sold for less than the cover price of a Playboy magazine. This takes us back to Genesis 3.
If you want to know the origins of our sexual promiscuity, moral confusion, licentiousness and all the other emotional, relational, psychological and spiritual collateral damage that is happening in our sex-saturated culture, go back and read about the Fall of Man in Genesis 3. Start there. Now go back and read it again.
The moment that Man wanted to be like God, rather than be with God is when this whole mess got underway. It was there, with the simple act of believing a lie that promised liberation, that we decided to jettison the natural design of male and female and blow apart the boundaries of the biblical sexual ethic. Sadly the result has not been liberation but rather confusion and enslavement. Paradise was lost. That is where it all started and that is our legacy, yours and mine. We have to own it. But thankfully that is not the end of the story.
We are also told in the very same chapter that God, like a concerned parent frantically searching for his lost child, came searching for us. “Where are you?” He asked (v9). Seeing the wreckage we made of our lives and of the world that He created, God who is Holy, had no choice but to separate Himself from our un-holiness. He sent us out into the howling wilderness, but not before covering our shame with a promise. There is always a teardrop of mercy in the eye of God’s law. Genesis 3 is no exception. This teardrop was in the form of a sword. God promised that to get back the paradise we lost, to get back His presence, to make everything sad come untrue, someone was needed to pass through the sword and pay the ultimate price for our cosmic treason. There is only one God who ever went under the sword in order to win us back and that happened when Jesus Christ stepped up and paid in full. On that dusky Friday night 2,000 years ago God’s promise, made way back in the garden, was not forgotten but fulfilled. The forgiveness for sin and the healing that we all need (and truly want!) from all of our sexual brokenness is now available. The Cross is Christ’s legacy and is available for all who repent. It was available for Hugh Hefner and he passed. It is now available for you. It is there for the taking. Come and get it.