Make War, Not Love: Violence, Sexuality, and Christianity.


"Could you read the back of this box and tell me if there's any sexual content in this movie?"

The woman across the counter from me holds out the DVD expectantly, and I take it. It's Saw II, part of the now 5-movie franchise which makes a point of being unnecessarily gory. I locate the rating so lovingly bestowed upon the film by the MPAA.

"It's rated R, for gore, violence, and language mostly."

"But no sex, right?"

"It says nothing here about that, no."

The woman looks suddenly relieved. After plastering a smile on her face, she holds out her hand to take the DVD back and proclaims, "Fantastic! I'll tell my daughter we can rent it then. We just love violent slasher movies, but I can't have anything with sex in it; we're Christian, you see."

Herein lies my problem. After working in a video store for nearly two years, there is one thing I've noticed about renting habits that holds true more than anything else, and I think the influence of Christianity has a lot to do with it. Mothers and fathers are afraid to let their children experience any kind of sexual content in a film, but are willing to turn a blind eye when it comes to violence. I'm not advocating letting 9-year-olds rent porn, by any stretch of the imagination. I believe there is a certain age that a person must hit before they can understand and feel comfortable watching sex scenes in movies. But why are we as a society so willing to censor sex over violence, when sex is a natural part - if not the sole purpose - of our existence?

We spend billions of dollars and countless hours watching people get tortured, mutilated, and blown up in our films and on our TV shows. No doubt the more outrageous a movie is with it's violence, the more hype and predictably more money it will receive. Perhaps this is because we find it unlikely that ourselves or our family and friends would ever be in a situation where we would end up in locked room fixed to a death device with a clown on a television asking us if we'd like to play a game. This apathy toward violence, however, has made us all desensitized to it. Hence, the Saw movies keep being made because they have to top the previous release, to see if they can keep shocking people. We keep going over the top with every new film that comes out, but most people see these movies as not having gone far enough. How much blood shed is too much? How much violence can occur in our films and video games before we say enough?

I see Christianity factoring to this gore-glorifying culture in two ways: through the violent nature of the Bible itself, and Christianity's shaming of human sexuality. On Violence, the Bible offers us the following quotes:

Take all the heads of the people and hang them up before the Lord against the sun.”
-- Numbers 25:4


“The Lord is a man of War!”
--Exodus 15:3



"...They shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child (pregnant) shall be ripped up!"
-- Hosea 13:16



"Their children shall be dashedto pieces before their eyes! There houses spoiled, and their wives raped...Dash the young men
to pieces...have no pity on the fruit of the womb, the children shall not be spared"
-- Isa 13:16-18


These are, by no means, the only examples of violence in the Bible. There are also instances of God being described as (and even describing himself as) being angry, wrathful, jealous, and capable of "creating evil" (Psalms 78:49, Deut 5:9, Isaiah 45:7). If the god of so many people has such little problem with admitting his own violent tendencies, then his followers clearly see no problem in indulging their own. Where is the god of love, redemption, and forgiveness in all of this, however?

Love is a tricky word here though. Certainly, there is more than one kind of love, yes, but when we're referring to "making love", let's see what the Bible has to say then:

"Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth."
-Gen. 9:1


"... each man should have his own wife, and each woman her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife's body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband's body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion."
-1 Cor 7:2

"Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure ... "
-Heb 13:4


Ok, so what we see at first is that sex, when encountered within the confines of a heterosexual marriage bed, is not only allowable by god, but encouraged. When we get away from not even the heterosexuality issues, however, but even just being unwed, the Bible turns the tables on sex completely:


"You are to abstain from ... sexual immorality."
-Acts 15:29

"Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a man commits are outside his body, but he who sins sexually sins against his own body."
-1 Cor. 6:18.

"Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires ..."
-Col. 3:5.


These three passages alone raise a few interesting and necessary questions. What, exactly, constitutes sexual immorality? If two people (or more, depending on a person's situation), are consensually engaging in sexual intercourse, knowing full well what they are doing and why they are doing it, I hardly see this as being "immoral" behavior. The next passage, about all other sins being "outside" a man's body, and therefore not as terrible as sexual deviancy, make it seem as though sex is Public Enemy Number One on the list of Things You Really Shouldn't Do, above even murder or suicide (the latter of which, I definitely consider to be within one's own body). Lastly, putting to death something which is our "earthly nature"...wouldn't that imply something which is natural, and therefore intended by god? Why stifle that which we are inclined by our bodies and minds to do?

Clearly, the Bible and god frown much more upon sex than upon violence, god even seeming to be rather a fan of the latter. I know that points could be raised such as the commandment "Thou shall not kill", and the teachings of Jesus Christ to place love above all else, but these points often seem to be left by the wayside by Christians, so I too am leaving them be. The fact of the matter is, these verses have impacted the minds of Christians, and subversively the thinking of society at large, into believing that sexuality is immoral and impure in all forms of media and in all forms personally outside of straight marriage, but that violence - as long as a person is not committing it themselves - is alright to watch and be actively engaged in (meaning, ok to get excited about and to be exposed to).

Humans have not evolved beyond sex yet; we have, however, evolved beyond the need to be violent. Yet society and uppity mothers would have us believe otherwise. Yes, the media is oversaturated with sexual imagery, I will make no attempt to deny this fact. But when it comes to what we're more comfortable exposing our children to, violence wins out almost every time. On average, I get about 10 mothers a week who allow their kids to rent R-rated movies and M-rated games for graphic violent behavior, but even a PG-13 rating for sexual content will end up back on the shelf. And, like the customer who's story I retold at the beginning of this post, they all seem so proud in their Christian belief that sex is a no-no, but violence is a-okay.

Views: 28

Tags: Bible, Christianity, Sex, Violence

Comment by Laura on March 2, 2009 at 6:10pm
First of all, this was never meant to be a critical analysis. This is me sharing my thoughts based on real-life experiences I've had. As such, if you would really like me to furnish some data, I can do my best to look it up. You must understand, however, that I am a full time student and can only devote so much time to blogging. I see no data presented in your counter-argument, either, so we are both currently equally as unqualified to be making our points.

The one thing I do note is that you mention nationalism, race, class, and gender differences can contribute to violence and our violence-obsessed culture just as much as religion. I would not argue that point outright, but I say to you, where is any of your evidence for such a claim, and also, how does this deal with the violence v sex issue which I more clearly am talking about. If religion causing violence was my only argument, your point would be valid, but as such I see it having little claim here.

I in no way claimed that atheists are also exclusively pacifists. Atheists may be pro-war and may enjoy slasher movies just as much as the next religious fundie, but my point in this post was more to bring to light the issue that sex is natural, and blowing people up with hand-grenades is not. Not that Christians are any more or less violent than any other group of people, but that the Bible seems to be making exceptions for violent behavior over sexual behavior.
Comment by MightyMateo on March 2, 2009 at 6:15pm
"Please share some statistical research with us pertaining to society being apathetic to violence, this desensitizing us, and Christians being more accepting or prone to violence, and also the fact that they actually view more violent content."

Are you serious? You did read what she posted right? Your purposely picking through her opinion trying to find faults. The post was about an experience she had at work, the details are all there for you, read them again. Your missing the point, its not an argument over whether or not they view MORE violent material, the point being made is that for some reason, violence is ok but sex is not.

"I would also argue that in regards to how humans treat each other, that religious superiority can often be substituted with nationalism, race, class, gender, etc."

Um, most of those seem to be byproducts of some type of religious belief. Thats where the sick people that use these mechanisms to force their agenda get their power in the first place.

"And I pose this question... How many atheists do you think supported the invasion of Afghanistan, how many would say we should have went into Serbia, how many of atheists would say military intervention in Darfur is a solution? How many atheists can you really prove can draw a definitive line between murder and killing?"

I supported the invasion, I am in the military and I am an atheist serving a tour in Iraq right now. I'm not following what you are trying to get at with that question. There are alot of us that feel the same way, could you be more vague perhaps?

"I also have to wonder if sometimes atheists disgust with religion often interferes with their ability to successfully critically analyze such things?"

The "disgust" goes both ways but seems to be perpetuated by religious extremist. Why dont you enlighten us since we are completely incapable of analyzing religion. I feel that religion interferes with peoples ability to listen to reason and be open minded enough to think more about the things they do and believe. Please enlighten us though, I would appreciate it.
Comment by Laura on March 2, 2009 at 6:15pm
Also, I hardly see the Bible as being "anecdotal evidence". Whether or not you believe it to be the word of God, the fact of the matter is it is one the most widely-read, well known, and oldest texts in existence today, which I feel says something about it's literary merit ;).
Comment by Fluther on March 2, 2009 at 6:59pm
I think it was Philip Kaufman who said that "in America, you can show a breast being hacked off with a chainsaw, but you cant show one being caressed". Maybe it's a Hollywood thing, European films have lots of sex and not much violence.
I reckon they're connected, trying to repress your congenital 'immorality' is bound to heighten your interest in violence after a while!!
Comment by Gary Bergeron on March 2, 2009 at 8:24pm
Religion has caused more wars, bloodshed, death, torture, tyrannical insurgency, more massive amounts of fear, intimidation and superstition than anything else in human history.
Was it atheists or agnostics or non-believers that high-jacked airliners and flew them into buildings? No, it was Muslims, people with a big, pretty god in their head.
In Northern Ireland, was it atheists who were bombing each other and killing each others' children? No, it was Catholics and Protestants, people with a big, pretty god in their head.
Do I need to mention Palestine and Israel?
Great blog Laurah!
Comment by Andrew the Fluffer on March 2, 2009 at 9:27pm
I wrote an article about this subject, how they love violence but fear sex. It's absurd, truly.
Comment by JustCurious on March 3, 2009 at 12:02am
I believe war is sometimes justified: ONLY in situations when you are being directly attacked or you are watching someone else be attacked. War should be very seriously considered and never rushed into. As such, I believe parts of WWII were justified, and our current war is not justified by any means.

I am also a Christian.

As for religious wars, I think they're a tool of the Deceiver to take God's name and stain it. Christians become so convinced that they're right that they believe it's okay to stake someone else's life on it. I would stake my own life for my beliefs, but I would never stake anyone else's. Only God has the right to take someone else's life, unless you are defending another innocent person and you're only option is to kill their attacker. Otherwise, It's theft, murder, and blasphemy.

It's easy to take those verses up there out of context and use them as proof that the bible promotes violence, but I disagree. The Old Testament used violence in one situation: protecting Israel from forces that would seek to destroy it or would lead it astray. God is not a God of war because he likes to see people in pain, but he is a God of war against deception. If a force arose to deceive Israel, God would destroy it; he wanted Israel to be the race that would bear the Messiah, and therefore stay pure from worshipping idols. It serves as a warning to the Deceiver (satan, the devil, lucifer, whatever you want to call him) that he will not prevail. The individuals who died each had their own story, their own slate with God, and I'm convinced that it pained God to kill their current bodies just as much as it hurt them to be killed. Death is a product of the Deceiver and Fall and should not be glorified.

But I don't believe that death is the end. Those individuals will be seen again on the final day, and they will have their say.

The senseless violence in movies sickens me. Whenever I see Christians enjoy them it makes me just as sad as when I see the gay marriage protesters or warmongers. I'm not going to judge them, but I'm praying like crazy that God will help them understand.

It's the best I can do.
Comment by Pam on March 3, 2009 at 10:07am
[...]I'm convinced that it pained God to kill their current bodies just as much as it hurt them to be killed.

Maybe you can help me understand the Christian response to this. Why would God do something that God does not want to do? If humans are supposed to learn some kind of lesson or prove their faith, then why couldn't an omnipotent god, who by definition can do anything, create a way that does not involve war and bloodshed? This can't be the only alternative for an omnipotent god, and the fact that he chose this way to test us would indicate he is not entirely benevolent.
Comment by AtypicalAtheist on March 8, 2009 at 8:56pm
I think that people should kill each other more and stop having sex.

Better for the environment.
Comment by Misty: Baytheist Living! on March 14, 2009 at 5:19am
A pity Just Curious didn't answer. I was really looking forward to hearing his point of view on things.

I was raised in a household where sex and cursing were way bad, but violence was all right. (On TV)
Why?
I have no clue! Still. To this day. I think that in their own twisted way my parents believed that violence on TV was obviously pretend, but sex was something that happened in real life....? No? Not buying it? Me either!
How about the argument that it might make a person damn uncomfortable to watch sexual content with their kids in the room, even if they are grown up? Hell, I'm uncomfortable with the thought of it now and I'm 26. Religion gives you an excuse to ban it altogether and not make you have to deal with uncomfortable conversations that might come up about reproduction and safe sex. Remember most Christians are abstinence only advocates. 'If we ignore it, the problem will go away!' If it's on TV, it's harder to ignore.

However, that isn't to say that there isn't a huge movement to censor anything they don't like. I'm pretty sure the violent-video-game protest folk that pop up all the time are right-wing if not Christian led.
Anyone know?

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