"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!”
"...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."
"... 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 ... "
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."
"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 ..."
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.