The Death of Sex
I came across an article almost two years ago that caused me to cast an analytical eye on what is taking place in our culture. In an article entitled "Is Sex Dead," Lesley Dormen reported, "Now that women feel entitled to, equipped for, and skilled at high-performance sex, many report that the men with whom they expect to share it would rather roll over and go to sleep and that they themselves are increasingly not in the mood." It turns out that "low sexual desire is the number one complaint of couples turning to marital therapists for help." One woman interviewed stated, "I enjoy sex with my husband when we have it . . . It just doesn't occur to me to want it more than every couple of months," and another 38-year-old woman married just five years admits "she hasn't made love with her husband for six months."1
A 31-year-old woman confessed that while the first year with her boyfriend (obviously it wasn't a Christian magazine . . . or perhaps it was a Christianity Today editor2) was passionate, they now engage in sexual relations once every few weeks.3 In a companion article, a 42-year-old man confessed that he had not made love to his wife in five years!4 This isn't just an isolated article or study. Numerous surveys scientific or otherwise point to the fact that actual sex (at least among married couples) is on the decline. (Although the authors of The Case For Marriage, an excellent book, argue otherwise.)
This is extremely telling. We live in a culture that is obsessed and saturated with sex. Almost all TV sitcoms feature overt sexual situations using that as bait to boost ratings. Movies, magazines, Internet sites, and even the new cartoons tout "sexual situations" as do many computer games. Sex is inescapable. It's everywhere.
In fact, several days ago as I was reading some posts on an investment discussion board at Raging Bull, I noticed that someone had posted a list of the most beautiful business news reporters! It appears from the numerous replies to this poster that there are large numbers of men at least I hope they were men who fantasize about the female business reporters on CNBC, MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN women they will never have the opportunity to meet. While it makes sense that networks employ beautiful women because they are competing for an audience that is overwhelmingly male, it's critical to realize that their male viewers are all-too-happy to occupy their time and minds living in a vivid, yet meaningless virtual reality. They choose to be diverted and entertained by blinking lights and 0s and 1s (TV and computer programs) rather than relate to real women with real possibilities.
My point is simply this, and please excuse my bluntness: People have moved from being involved participants in a sexual relationship to being content with and even preferring virtual sex, completely disconnected from experience, activity, and reality. Unfulfilled and obviously unattainable dreams and fantasy trumps real life. They engage in sex as spectators, only to the extent that they can be and are entertained by it.
Some time back, Neil Postman wrote an insightful book called Entertaining Ourselves ToDeath. The premise of the book was that, with the advent of television and the triumph of visual communication over verbal communication, almost all events have been transformed into entertainment and, further, that's just fine with the majority of the population. This past Presidential election exposes just how accurate a prophet Postman was and how closely related sex and politics really are as they merge into one big entertainment industry.
This recent election revolved not around objective issues and reality, but rather around entertainment. Although there were key legitimate differences between the presidential candidates and critical issues were raised, form and style trumped substance and depth.
The nation's desire to be constantly entertained was driven home by the coverage and commentary offered by the major "news" outlets as we waited to see who actually became President. As I scanned the news programs, the talking heads were all using slogans and clichés you would normally hear in a sports report. For example, on Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC you continually heard commentators claim, "We'll 'break it down' for you," as if, in explaining a Supreme Court decision, they were discussing a complex football play with a telestrater wand. ABC radio staked out the theme, "Election 2000: The nation waits," as they documented "day 25 (or 26, 27, 28 . . .) of the contest"; while NBC TV weighed in with their "Decision 2000: The Battle for the White House." This marketing angle views news coverage as a form of entertainment and seeks to convince you to suspend your actual work and tune in to "the game" to see who's winning.
Three events stand out as we analyze what is taking place in the political realm these days. First, Jesse Ventura, the former "professional rassler" who's now Governor of Minnesota, showed up on almost every political talk show as a serious commentator for the 2000 election. Governor Ventura supposedly embarrassed many elected officials when he accepted a position as color commentator with the World Wrestling Federation's venture into Extreme Football, a new sports league run by some unsavory characters. It seems that being known as an entertainer is beneath some politicians' dignity. However, I can't think of a better symbolism to show what politics has degenerated into. Indeed, most of today's politicians are nothing but entertainers! The post-election (er, post-vote) cycle made this abundantly clear as it produced a number of new pundits and instant celebrities who engaged in nothing more (non)productive than filling the constant 24-hour-a-day, 7-day-per-week demand for cable television coverage "spinning" the events in an entertaining manner. It was clear that the networks were not really concerned about the actual laws that should govern the post-vote court cases, rather, they were concerned about appearance and what the public opinion polls say. For evidence, take a look at how even the top lawyers for each side behaved. Highlighting the entertainment and PR battle that was taking place, a December 5, 2000 article in The Wall Street Journal noted:
In Tallahassee, filled with out-of-town lawyers, the Supreme Court decision jammed the airwaves reserved for cellular phones, leaving many cut off from information on the ruling. The Gore lawyers once again showed themselves quicker at getting before television cameras than their GOP rivals. Outside the courthouse, Mr. Boies moved first to CNN's white canopy, then to MSNBC's blue canopy and finally to ABC's green one. (Emphasis mine)
To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
Second, in the case of O. J. Simpson and the notorious low-speed Bronco chase as a helicopter followed his path, no one really knew for sure whether O. J. was really in the vehicle or what his state of mind was; thus, that event presented the audience with at least some drama. However, it's something else to sit in front of a TV and watch a cross-country truck-trip that has no possibility for drama. It is a cultural sign-of-the-times that news networks assigned multiple helicopters to provide a live broadcast of a Ryder truck's entire trip from South Florida to Tallahassee carrying a load of ballots, and that this non-event would hypnotize a nation and generate huge viewer ratings. This illustrates the fact that everything, and I mean everything is capable of being accepted as entertainment. Rather than all things existing to glorify God, we use them to entertain ourselves!
Many will forfeit potentially productive time to drift into a diversionary world, a make-believe wormhole that promises some type of satisfaction that surpasses the real world, but that satisfaction is neither defined nor delivered. Exactly what a video of a truck going down the road promises, I don't know, but millions sat glued to their televisions waiting for some type of hoped-for climax.
Vox Populi, Vox Tyranny
Third, we are constantly bombarded with the Democratic mantra that voting is a "sacred act," "count all the votes," and "we must discern the 'voice of the people.'" This from the political party that desecrates everything truly sacred, leads the fight to "abort all potential voters," and seeks to impose a uniform "voice" upon every person through the enforcement of a political correctness code!
Many people may not be aware of this, but we've been there and done that three thousand years ago. Today's "voice of the people" chant is simply a modern version of Vox Populi, Vox Dei, or "The voice of the people is the voice of god." The coming of God in the flesh, Jesus Christ, uniquely God and uniquely man, put an end to this tyrannical political-theological worldview. Because Christ was uniquely the God-Man as Christian theology proclaims, no one else ever could be. Moreover, Christians declared that the "voice of the people" more often than not was an agreement among evil people who were rebelling against God; therefore, Christians sought to limit "people power." The United States was founded not as a democracy, but as a Constitutional Republic. As we forget this, we sink further toward tyranny.
Make no mistake about it: tyranny is exactly where our current thinking is taking us. Ultimately what this political version of "voice made flesh" means is that the eventual winner (if had been Gore, of course) embodies the will of the people and this makes him infallible. Of course, if our politicians are infallible and are indeed the embodiment of the perfect will of the voters, we need do nothing other than watch them operate over the next four years! We can watch everything play out on television, listen to Rush Limbaugh just to let off steam or stay up late, watch C-Span as we respond to their 1-202-OPINION polls, and never have to do anything personally. There's nothing to do but sit back and be entertained!
Watchers Aren't Doers
Whereas a personal relationship with God the Son, Who is our Savior, King, and High Priest demands responsibility and obedience (concepts the church has mostly rejected), the political god encourages irresponsibility through fantasy. Christ calls and equips men to and for dominion (action), whereas political saviors emasculate men and seek their dependence (passivity). Whereas God demands that we use our voice in and through prayer to affect every area of life and for praise to our King displaying a very real interaction with the Ruler of the universe, the political god, the "voice of the people" actually insulates himself from ordinary people, listening only to the rich and the mighty.
With all of the emphasis on politics and political solutions, and with all the media coverage that is dedicated to televising all the events as they transpire, it's easy to overlook the fact that, while many people enjoy being entertained with politics and politicians, they are far from being involved in politics personally. It's important to remember that a majority of eligible voters did not even vote! Many others spent countless hours hotly debating the imagined differences between the two major candidates, ignoring that what separated Governor Bush from Vice President Gore was that Bush wanted to privatize a whopping 1% of Social Security and Gore didn't; Gore would have appointed judges who would uphold even partial-birth abortion, while Bush thought that might be going a little too far, but "regular" abortion was OK; Bush wanted to increase the money spent on education, but Gore promised to spend even more; Gore was vocal about advancing the homosexual agenda, while Bush courted and cultivated acceptance within the homosexual community very quietly; and so on.
In other words, just as many men and women enjoy talking excessively about sex and, indeed, are obsessed with it, behind closed doors they give up real sex with real people for the safety of being entertained by fantasy, the current mood of voters is to talk incessantly about politics and political solutions. Too many are ready and willing to accept political leaders as gods who will not bother them with talk of responsibility. They're looking for a political god who will entertain them and justify their passive behavior while they ignore real issues and real problems, even as they sit before a television program that uses those very issues and problems to entertain the masses. Voters want something to debate and discuss, even to passionately argue over; but at the end of the day, they are content to sit and be entertained and the politicians know it.
Like sex, politics permeates the public mind and culture and, like sex, many people like to talk a great talk, while in truth they're content to sit back and watch what is taking place across the state or across the nation. As today's people are sexually passive at home, preferring to expend their energy focused on objects of far away lust, they also won't get involved in their neighborhood, their community, their city, or their state. Most who look to politics for salvation won't even actively engage in solving their own problems in their own families. Just as Miss February promises sexual satisfaction superior to that provided by a man's wife, a satisfaction based upon creating and sustaining fantasies and dreams that are distant, unrealizable, and unattainable (not to mention ungodly), so our political gods and their promoters promise problem resolution superior to our own actions close to home. Their success is based upon creating an entertainment atmosphere in which fantasies and dreams lull us into being satisfied along with the remaining onlookers.
This election should serve the Christian as a wake up call: Postman is right. We are entertaining ourselves to death. May God grant us the power to resist the temptation to live our lives being entertained and in a fantasy world. May He give us the grace to move back into the realm of action and dominion that kingdom building in Christ's name requires. May we be active participants in proclaiming His glory and may He grant that His glory and honor inhabit the thoughts of this nations people even as sex and politics now do. May it start with His people even now. Amen.
1. "Is Sex Dead" by Lesley Dormen, Self Magazine, May 1999.
2. See Sex and the Single Evangelical, "The church lady vs. the 'evangelical whore'" (Jan. 7, 2000) by Lauren F. Winner at www.beliefnet.com. Ms. Winner openly bragged about being recognized as an "evangelical whore" who slept with her boyfriend and complains that the church must accommodate her "lifestyle choice." At the time the article was published, Ms. Winner was a senior editor at Christianity Today. She continues to be a regular contributing writer to CT.
4. "Why I'm Not Having Sex With My Wife", Self Magazine, May 1999.