by Richard T. Ritenbaugh
CGG Weekly, February 14, 2003
"Moral authority is like muscle tissue. Unexercised, it dies."
Not too long ago, Americans could sneer across the Atlantic at the abysmal state of European moral standards. A good moral gauge was what was shown on television. British, French, Italian, Dutch, and other nation's viewers could see nudity and "adult situations" as a matter of course. Americans could feel superior, since our television censors did not allow that sort of thing. Well, we no longer hold the high ground.
This is no newsflash. Standards have been in decline for years, and the broadcast and cable networks have been steadily sidling toward the edge of the cliff. What put American television over the edge was the advent of the "reality show." The "ethic" of these shows is that whatever is real is fit to view, so these shows have brought into the open what was once handled circumspectly.
Now the Disney Corporation, which owns ABC, presents for our primetime titillation "Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People." The show is about only three things: face, body, and overall sex appeal. On this televised flesh market, women strut around in bikinis and men in brief swimsuits then receive evaluations from the likes of Lorenzo Lamas and Rachel Hunter (Rod Stewart's ex-wife), who make critical and sometimes nasty comments about them. Finally, the viewing audience gets to cast their votes. Columnist Tom Jicha writes in a biting editorial in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, "To make sure the audience has all the information needed to make a decision, cameras zoom in on cleavage and crotches."
This is only the latest show to capitalize what is called "soft pornography." Just recently, Victoria's Secret aired its second lingerie and underwear show. A few decades ago, its television and print ads would have passed for pornography, which they are. A local mall in Charlotte has a Victoria's Secret store just around the corner from the kiddy playground. In full view of every passerby—including boys of all ages—hangs a more than life-size, side-view picture of a woman wearing only a thong and high heels. Up top, she was covered only by her arms.
We used to become offended at mere sexual suggestion, now considered tame. Today, it must be blatant and obvious. We sure have come a long way from married TV couples sleeping in separate beds! These days, a show without a sex scene or a revealing shot is awfully rare.
This trend is symptomatic of the general decline of the Judeo-Christian ethic, which is based upon the principles of the Bible. Scripture is very clear about the place of nakedness—and it certainly is not in public! In fact, the Bible first broaches this subject in Genesis 2:24: "And [Adam and Eve] were naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed." This establishes the bounds of nakedness: Between a man and his wife, there is no shame. Any exposure beyond these bounds incurs sin.
Leviticus 18 covers laws of sexual morality, using a euphemism, "uncovering nakedness," to represent sexual misconduct. For instance, verse 6, "None of you shall approach anyone who is near of kin to him, to uncover his nakedness: I am the LORD." Viewing the nakedness of someone who is not one's spouse, then, breaks the seventh commandment, "You shall not commit adultery" (Exodus 20:14). Jesus amplifies this in His Sermon on the Mount by saying, "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Matthew 5:28). A person sexually aroused by the sight of another who is not his spouse, clothed or not, is guilty of sin.
To some, this may sound prudish and old-fashioned, but it is God's law, which does not "change" or "conform" to the times. The Bible consistently speaks of clothing in terms of righteousness, whereas nakedness represents sin and its corresponding shame. The upright are clothed in fine linen (Revelation 19:8), while the sinful are depicted in various states of undress (see Isaiah 47:2-3; Ezekiel 16:36; Revelation 3:17).
As such, a culture's view of nakedness reveals its proximity to God and the way of godly living. As it publicly strips, our culture exposes itself as far from God and in freefall. We should ask ourselves, "Where do our standards lie on this spectrum?"