Swimsuit Issue Debate Falls Along Party Lines
This writin’ bidness can be dangerous. My greeting from an old buddy in Nashville this week went something like this.
“Thanks a lot for your blog about the SI swimsuit issue. You didn’t leave me with too many options.”
I smiled tentatively and hoped he was kidding. Thankfully he was graceful in his objections. But the reality is that my friend did have options. He could choose to sin. I have made that choice in the past regarding the SI swimsuit issue. Christians often choose to be a bit more nuanced when we describe our own personal sin. We prefer words like shortcomings and mistakes. I have decided to quit playing word games with a God who is not fooled. I am a saint because of Jesus. But I still sin because the old nature still craves attention like a spoiled child at the supermarket. I am definitely getting better as I understand my identity in Christ. But my sin nature is like the body collecting bit from Monty Python.
The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead. [a man puts a body on the cart]
Large Man with Dead Body: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Large Man with Dead Body: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm getting better.
That always reminds me of my old nature. Just when I think it is dead my “old nature” announces loudly that it is not dead yet.
I got a fair amount of response from the swimsuit article and it was split pretty much down party lines. The Menertarians wished that I would mind my own business. The Womenocrats wanted me to come to their house and lecture their hubbie or fiancé. Here are some comments from you, my tens of readers.
I can't adequately describe to you how painful this problem is to watch, getting worse and worse pulling someone further and further away from reality, even. It is very difficult as a caring, responsive wife to feel that horrible, gnawing gut feeling that something is very wrong...and then find out that "boys will be boys" has grown to an addiction that has drawn him into activities he should never do.
Her pain is real. I relate to the “boys will be boys” approach that so many men take. It would be silly for me to say that every man that lusts over the SI swimsuit issue and fantasizes over the models will be drawn to more degrading and addictive porn. But you never know, do you? I would wager that most men caught up in that addiction never believed they would find themselves in that dark and ugly place. If Christian men would drop the macho mask long enough to be honest they would have to admit that these activities are nothing a follower of Jesus should come near.
Another female reader had this to say.
I know not every woman feels as I do, and there is almost a trend that makes it seem we are "uptight, prudish, overly sensitive shrews" if we complain. Men don't seem to realize how it makes many of us feel, so I'll tell you. Ashamed, violated, objectified, sad, humiliated, embarrassed, disgusted, confused and betrayed. It makes me feel like I'm nothing and am not good enough so my partner has to look at others. I personally DON'T like the idea of my beloved looking at other women's naked or half-naked bodies. Honestly, yes, I do also get jealous because I never had a supermodel body and never will (unless I have surgery)! I also feel sad visualizing my partner looking through the magazines. I will also say that all of this stuff about men being so visual and that they have such a "hard" time not looking sounds like complete nonsense to me.
Well said and I would suggest that most Christian women feel a great deal like you do. By the way, “shrew” is one of my favorite words! Your laundry list of how your mate’s lust makes you feel is powerful and real. While I do not think it is complete nonsense that men play the visual card on lust issues I do think it is nonsense for them to say they can simply do nothing about it. I am pretty sure that my God is big enough to come alongside me and help me get through this problem. I am pretty sure your God is too.
One of the best responses came from a 21 year old college student who is showing a great deal more maturity than some of we more “experienced” saints.
I am so glad to read your comments on the infamous "Swimsuit Edition". I agree 100% with your thoughts and comments, and actually, I take the same attitude when it comes to dealing with lust. I've read of the problems and issues that are created in the lives of men who leave this sin undealt with, and I definitely don't want any of those problems, and by God's grace, I am taking the problem head on. (Read some books that helped by authors Steve Arterburn, Joshua Harris).
Wow. That is so awesome and so encouraging to see a college student recognizing the mine field of lust. Good for you!
The next question is a good one.
How can women help men with these issues? Is there anything we can do besides voice our complaints and feelings? Have you already written an article about this?
I try to limit my articles about issues like this. I am currently on probation with the League of Testosterone even as we speak. But that question seemed to be a common thread. What can I do about this?
I can only speak for myself. Here are my thoughts and perhaps one of them might help a bit.
Complaining and trying to make me (and most men) feel guilty is not productive. That seems to merely pour kerosene on the fire of our sin nature. Attacking me as a bad person or bad Christians will only make me go into hiddenness. Oddly enough, that will probably make me more likely to pursue fantasy over a tense reality.
I think communicating how a cavalier attitude toward lust makes you feel is powerful. I did not understand how painful my wandering eyes could be for my wife. Guys say things like “it’s okay to look at the menu as long as you don’t order.” Ha-ha. But I never stopped to think that my eyes following the woman in the short skirt or looking at the SI issue made my wife feel less valued, less attractive and less safe. Realizing that makes my little macho moment much more than just me “being a guy”.
For me the antidote to such behavior is remembering that my sins were purchased at a cost beyond my comprehension. The rendering in The Message is powerful.
There is a sense in which sexual sins are different from all others. In sexual sin we violate the sacredness of our own bodies, these bodies that were made for God-given and God-modeled love, for "becoming one" with another. Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body. (I Corinthians 6, The Message)
Jesus thought the issue was important enough to make some pretty bold comments.
"You know the next commandment pretty well, too: 'Don't go to bed with another's spouse.' But don't think you've preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those leering looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. (Matthew 5, The Message)
If your partner is a follower of Jesus I would suggest he read this little paragraph from a guy who has been there.
Try this little exercise. Go to BibleGateway.com and do a word search on “sexual” and “lust”. Click on each reference and see what God’s Word has to say about this topic. If you are honest you will see your wife is not being a “shrew” when she wants you to control lust toward other women and images. God takes it very seriously. And so should you and I.
P.S. You can opt out of next year's SI swimsuit issue by simply calling (866) 228-1175. You’ll need your account number, which is on the cover of your issue above your name. SI will extend your subscription by one issue.
Dave Burchett is an Emmy Award winning television sports director, author, and Christian speaker. He is the author of When Bad Christians Happen to Good People and Bring'em Back Alive: A Healing Plan for those Wounded by the Church. You can reply by linking through daveburchett.com.