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Bert and Ernie: Buddies in a Sexualized Culture

Sesame Workshop, the company that produces the kid’s show “Sesame Street,” announced last week the Bert and Ernie will not be getting married.

Bert and Ernie, two of the show’s Muppets, are best buddies. They live in the same house and sleep in the same room — in separate twin beds. They bicker, they share, they enjoy a bedtime cookie together every night.

They’re such good friends that some assume they must be gay. And one group used an online petition to ask “Sesame Street” to let the truth be known. Bert and Ernie, they say, should come out of the closet and get married. This would, presumably teach tolerance and respect for differences — something, the petitioners note, “Sesame Street” has tried to do for years.

“Sesame Street” made it clear that Bert and Ernie are puppets and, as such, “do not have a sexual orientation.” Good point, but that’s not the only reason that their getting married was a bad idea.

Writing in US News & World Report, Peter Roff notes that there are things little children do not need to know. “[S]ome stages of life,” he writes, “for example, the years from 2 to 4 [Sesame Street’s demographic] — must be walled off from the passions of adults.”

And blogger Alyssa Rosenberg summed up the biggest objection. “I think it’s actively unhelpful,” she wrote, “to gay and straight men alike to perpetuate the idea that all same-sex roommates, be they puppet or human, must necessarily be a gay couple. ... Such assumptions narrow the aperture of what we understand as heterosexual masculinity in a really strange way.”

Strange indeed. It teaches the ridiculous and deeply destructive idea that same-sex friendships are necessarily sexual. And that’s the last thing we want to teach our children, because it will spell the end of friendship, particularly friendships between young men.

Yet that is precisely the message that’s communicated over and over. It’s the reason gay apologists want to eroticize Bert and Ernie, David and Jonathan, Jesus and the apostle John, and Achilles and Patroclus from Homer’s Iliad.

Some in our culture are apparently incapable of understanding close friendship without sex. And that flies right in the face of a Christian understanding of friendship.

“There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship,” wrote the great thirteenth century theologian Thomas Aquinas.

As Christian brothers and sisters we are called to deep friendships with one another. And while we may be more comfortable with the word “fellowship” than “friendship,” Christian relationships marked by love, honesty, selflessness, intensity and a chaste brotherly or sisterly passion for one another are a powerful witness to the love of God in our largely friendless world.

Bert and Ernie, in spite of differences in personality and temperament — and without any sexual overtones — are the very best of friends. And our kids need that kind of example. They need it from television, parents, and especially the Church in order to see through the hyper-sexualized fog that’s all around them.

Chuck Colson's daily BreakPoint commentary airs each weekday on more than one thousand outlets with an estimated listening audience of one million people. BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today's news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print.

Publication date: August 29, 2011.

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