by Stuart Gathman


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Praise the Lord!

from the Russian Orthodox Church

Rich consonant harmonies.  Very restful Sabbath listening.  You can hear the weight of centuries of tradition, like heavy golden curtains around the throne of glory.
Posted 2/27/2005 at 8:47 PM

Friday February 25, 2005

There are Hypocrites, and there are Hypocrites

The first kind sincerely believe that certain behaviours are good or bad, but personally find it extremely difficult to muster the willpower to live up to their own standard - and frequently fail. An example would be the doctor who is a chain smoker - but takes care not to smoke in the examining room, and can show you no end of pictures and statistics proving just how bad smoking is for your health.

The second kind of hypocrite does not actually believe his own propaganda, but merely uses it to manipulate others to his advantage. An example would be the Communist Party bosses in the old Sovient Union who would preach austerity and economic independence from the West by day, but buy Western luxuries in secret Party shops by night.

The Christian Church has always been full of the first type of hypocrite - and openly so. "I am come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance," said Jesus, and a modern bumper sticker says, "Please be patient, God is not finished with me yet."

Just as you should pay attention to the doctors advice about the dangers of smoking - even though the doctor fails miserably at taking his own advice, so you should take seriously warnings about the dangers of pornography - even if the preacher fails to take his own advice.

Perhaps you suspect that TV preachers are the second kind of hypocrite - not actually believing what they preach, but cynically manipulating their audience to keep sending in those donations. For the majority of TV preachers, I would agree with you. Even then, however, to the extent that they accurately portray the message they claim to represent, you should take the message seriously. As Paul said, "The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely ... What then? not withstanding, ..., whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice."

Unfortunately, while scientific measurements may be getting more accurate, the accuracy of mass media preachers resembles the accuracy of marketroids at a tech company. They tend to modify their message to tickle the ears of the target audience. To see what a given Church teaches, take a Church document with some history behind it, ignoring recent "innovations", and then compare it with the sources (the Bible and history).
Posted 2/25/2005 at 11:49 AM


What really gets to me is the people who say "Yeah, _______ is wrong with me." But make no effort to change it. They admit they have a problem, and accept it as though it's something they can't change. That's how a lot of the church is. They'll admit they're not perfect, they'll admit they're sinning in such and such a way, then just leave it at that.

Posted 3/1/2005 at 2:48 PM by DaMijit

Friday February 25, 2005

Nudity is not Porn

Porn is a difficult thing to define objectively. On the subject of defining pornography, an American Supreme Court justice said in frustration, "I know it when I see it, but I can't define it." 

The basis of Christian (Catholic and Protestant) ethics concerning sexual behaviour is the concept of "defrauding". In this context, to defraud someone is to arouse desires that cannot be righteously (or practically, for you libertines) fulfilled. Pornography is the ultimate in sexual defrauding, hence it condemned. Solomon puts it more positively, "I adjour you, awake not my love till it pleases." In other words, don't arouse me until the time is right and we can enjoy it to the utmost. (We don't need to be reminded of how Solomon did not exactly set a good example of sexual restraint. He regretted it afterward.) 

However, the precise stimuli which result in inappropriate arousal is very culturally relative. A Christian family I know was visited by a Christian family from Russia. They met them at the airport, and the American wife gave all of their visitors a big hug. Later, they discovered that this made the Russians very uncomfortable. (This may reflect a particular subculture in Russia, and not Russians in general.)

My sister spent some years in the jungle of Ecuador. The Christian women there were very few clothes, often going topless due to the climate. This did not seem to provoke the wrong response in the men. (Although I've heard that it does for American boys reading National Geographic.) Strangely, the Ecuador women were shocked by magazine photos of American women in bikinis. Objectively, the bikinis represented more cloth than what the Ecuador women wore, but there was something about the facial expression and body language that said "come hither", and thus became pornography.

One more thing, Eros is exclusive and jealous by nature. Promiscuous behaviour does not contradict this. When that special someone says to us, "I love you!", we are thrilled. When we discover that they are saying the same thing to 10 other people, we are not so thrilled. Some people have expressed the idea that pornography might be appropriate within marriage (or whatever you libertines want to use as a substitute). However, because an image rather than the beloved becomes the source of arousal, it diminishes Eros and cheats both partners.

Posted 2/25/2005 at 9:32 AM

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