A Code of Ethics and Values for a Sex-Obsessed CultureDecember 8, 2017
Time has named the Silence Breakers of the #MeToo movement Person of the Year for 2017 and the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences has issued a new code of ethics for its members. All this in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein revelations that opened an ongoing floodgate of disclosures by women (and some men) who have been sexually harassed, abused and assaulted by prominent powerful men across every sector of culture.
Earlier this week it cost Matt Lauer a $25 million a year post on the Today Show. Yesterday it cost Congressman John Conyers his seat. Yesterday it was Senator Al Franken. Today its Rep. Trent Franks and tomorrow it will be….
But as the Academy issues a new code of conduct for its members and the U.S. Congress approves mandatory training for all its members, we recognize the problem is deep, wide and not easily resolved. American taxpayers are just now finding out that more than 20 years ago Congress established – and has been using – a hush fund to secretly settle sexual harassment claims. What might we learn tomorrow and who do we respect today who tomorrow we will discover is not worthy of that respect?
In conversations I’m having with neighbors and friends, people are openly asking three questions. How did we get here? How will healing come? And how do we create a new culture-wide ethic of dignity and mutual respect?
How did we get here
In short, we have forgotten who we are, whose we are, and why we’re here. Our culture is self and sex-obsessed and our media is thoroughly pornified. From scantily and seductively clad cheerleaders who compete as preteens in sexually provocative public dance routines to the horrific reality of nationwide underage sex trafficking, the problem is not just in Hollywood and Washington. Our culture is so thoroughly pornified and sex-obsessed that many people simply do not see women and girls as anything other than sexual objects to be used for their personal gratification.
We are where we are because we have forgotten that we are image bearers of the living God, that we belong to Him and that our lives are designed for His glory, alone. And, because we’re designed to worship but know not God, any power we possess goes to our heads and corrupts. Culturally, we feed this beast by glorifying (and paying to watch) the very people who are destroying the moral foundations of faith and righteousness through the dehumanizing and morality perverting attitudes and values they project on the screen.
It is utterly naive to believe that you can sexualize all the inputs – from sports to cartoons to advertising to sitcom storylines to movie plots – and then have outputs, in terms of human behavior, that are not corrupted.
How will healing come
Personally, incrementally, institutionally and, if we do the hard work, systemically.
The layers of healing needed include those who have been harassed and abused, those who are now identified as abusers, and the relational systems of which both are a part. Repentance and rehabilitation are necessary and as a Christian I hold out hope that reconciliation will follow.
The substantial healing we’re talking about begins for the accused at the level of conscience, and the Holy Spirit alone has the power to actually convict a person of sin. Short of that we’re going to see therapeutic Band-Aids applied to soul-sized wounds. For the abused the restorative healing begins with a deep recognition that she is a person of infinite worth and value, created in the image of God, for His glory. Nothing and no one in this life can strip us of the eternal dignity we have in Christ.
How do we create a culture-wide ethic of dignity and mutual respect?
Here we have arrived at the crux of the matter. It would be wrong to suggest that we need only recover something lost. We cannot recover what we never possessed. So, to suggest that we might recover a culture-wide ethic of dignity for every person fails to recognize that we’ve never actually had such an ethic.
It would also be insufficient to say we just need a restoration of the way things were prior to the sexual revolution. Legalized abortion and physician-assisted suicide are recent evidences of the disregarded value of every human life, but the dignity conversation related to the treatment of women is inexorably tied to America’s historical sin of slavery. If we were once able to live as if others could be bought and used and sold, then it is possible that we now still believe that to be true. When sex is turned into a commodity, dignity is also. And when dignity is commodified, a person is no longer fully human.
Do you believe that all men (read as a comprehensive term for all men, women, and children of every tribe and tongue, ability and circumstance) are equally created in God’s image? If not, how and where do you draw the lines of differentiation? If you believe what God has revealed to be true in the Bible about Himself, humanity and redemptive history, then you know that all human beings stand in equality as created beings made in the image of God, fallen into sin and equally in need of salvation. You also know that God has promised the same inheritance to everyone who is saved, and sent the Holy Spirit as a guarantee. How then do we till the truth of those Kingdom ethics into the culture of which we are a part?
One tool might be found in America’s Declaration of Independence. It reads in part, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Might a culture-wide systemic renewal start right there with the acknowledgment of self-evident truth, equal creation by a Creator God who has endowed every person with the dignity of rights that no one may assault?
Those who deny a Creator God quickly find that they possess no basis for boundary setting when it comes to values and codes of conduct. They will necessarily co-opt Biblical ideals like the Golden Rule. But even there they will need further instruction to see what is good and beautiful and true. That’s where the Christian gently steps forward and offers their life as testimony. Christians are not perfect, but we are actively co-operating with the active presence of God’s Holy Spirit to bring our lives – and thus our relationships – into greater conformity with Christ (who, as God, is perfectly holy).
In my interactions with others, am I seeing with the eyes of Christ, thinking with the mind of Christ and operating out of the redemptive heart of Christ? In this cultural moment Christians not only know the cause of the depravity exposed, we follow the lead of the One who values every person so much, He gave up the glory of Heaven to redeem them. When we get to the place where that kind of power player is glorified widely in the culture, we can have confidence that when our boys are being boys they are being the kind of boy Mary’s son Jesus was and is.