Sex is Violent

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Last night, while surfing cable television for some entertainment, I happened upon the show “Spartacus – Vengeance” on Starz, one of the premium cable channels.  The episode that I saw was a visual smorgasbord of gratuitous nudity, close to pornographic sex, and indulgent violence with a bit of plot mixed in to provide the illusion of coherence.  The episode made me think of a Jane’s addiction song coined, “Ted Just Admit It,” which the group released as part of their 1987 album Nothing’s Shocking.   Here is a brief excerpt from the song’s lyrics:

“Camera got them images, Camera got them all, Nothing’s shocking Showed me everybody Naked and disfigured Nothing’s shocking And then he came Now sister’s Not a virgin anymore Her sex is violent
The T.V.’s got them images T.V.’s got them all It’s not shocking Every half an hour Someone’s captured and The cop moves them along It’s just like the show before The news is Just another show With sex and violence
Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent
I am the killer of people You look like a meatball I’ll throw away your toothpick And ask for your giveness
Because of this thing Because of this thing Because of this thing
That’s in me Is it not in you? Is it not your problem? A baby to a mother
You talk too much To your scapegoat That’s what I say He tells you everyone is stupid That’s what he thinks
Snapshots Make a girl look cheap Like a tongue extended A baby’s to a mother
Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent Sex is violent.”

In my opinion this alternative rock song captures the cultural obsession with sex and violence better than any fundamentalist preacher who rails against pornography in media.  The song by stating, “I am the killer of people…Because of this thing, Because of this thing, Because of this thing, that’s in me, Is it not in you?  Is it not your problem?” cuts to the heart of this issue by attributing violence and profligate sex to a “thing” within us that stems from a darker nature.

I make the claim that “profligate” sex stems from a darker nature to distinguish it from the kind of beauty that occurs when two devoted adults engage in the process of “making love.”  Many evangelical fundamentalists advocate for morality by publicly condemning homosexuality and attempting to encroach upon a women’s choice of how to use her body.  In my opinion, a homosexual has just as much chance of being holy as a heterosexual to the extent that they stay within certain prescribed guidelines such as devoting themselves to a life partner.  To be honest, distinguishing “holiness” from “debauchery” makes me feel uncomfortable as though I am some kind of judgmental Moses proclaiming parameters for living from a morally superior mountain top, but the bottom line is that some kind of “parameters” in reference to sexuality are necessary to separate us from the “state of nature” to which Perry Farrell and the rest of Jane’s Addiction so eloquently refer.

But what are the parameters that separate us from other more violent mammals as it concerns violence and sex?  In the state of nature, the strongest and most apt in reference to violence become the “alpha males” of that society and consequently end up “studding” all of the available females.  To some, this might be natural selection’s way of keeping each species strong and healthy, but to me this represents perhaps the heart of the matter concerning sex and violence.  In the state of nature “power” is the essence of authority.  The “strongest” lions rule the pride.  The first epistle of John describes the state of nature as “the world.” 1 John 2:15-17 states, “15Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 16 For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. 17 The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”

Some may make the claim that the “world” according to God is society writ large and that believing in God demands a kind of separation from society writ large, but I assert that ‘the world’ is a darkness that exists in all of us, the darkness that “wills to power” out of fear of annihilation.  The state of nature is characterized by a constant struggle for supremacy which stems from the fear of death.  So in the state of nature, sex is part of violence.  In a sense, in the state of nature, sex is a reward for violence.  All one needs to explore to see that sex is a reward for violence in our “baser” instincts is the mass rape of women that has often occurred throughout history after warring factions fought a battle.  In fact the tendency to rape women as a “reward” for victory in war has only subsided in relatively recent history.

When one considers the “chauvinism” which characterizes our “baser instincts” the impotence of fundamentalist attempts to curb sinful dispositions like fornication and adultery is not surprising.  Fundamentalists attempt to curb a “will to power” with a “will to power.”  Fundamentalists seek to judge and shame the offender into stopping the offense.  Fundamentalists may make the claim that it is the modern “rebellion” of women that is to blame for our society’s erosion of morality.  But this perspective erroneously privileges some distant past wherein we as human beings were moral.  Just when was this past?  Has it ever really existed?  The truth is that any rhetoric which attempts to privilege males over females, white over brown, or straight over gay is intricately connected to “the survival of the fittest” way in which the “state of nature” functions.  Fundamentalists in a sense, attempt to impose their concept of order on others as a way to curb disorder.  But forcefully imposing “order” on people is an act of violence in and of itself.  Violence cannot curb violence in the long run and sexual chauvinism cannot curb sexual malfeasance in the long run either.  For the will to subjugate is inherently connected to the way in which the “alpha male” sexually subjugates in the darker recesses of our imagination.

So if “judgment” and “shame” do not work as ways to curb our baser instincts toward violence and debauchery, what does work?  In my limited experience, it has not been fear that has ultimately helped me in times of “temptation.”  Rather, devotion is the only force which I have found to be effective in my attempts to forgo “the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life.” Webster’s dictionary defines devotion as love, loyalty, or enthusiasm for a person, activity, or cause and Hinduism describes devotion to a deity as a legitimate path toward bliss.   Devotion is not a force centered construct, but is rather a love centered construct.  Only love can conquer lust.  In times of fierce temptation it has been my sense of devotion or loving loyalty toward God or my wife or my kids that has given me the ability to reject the world as a corrosive delusion rather than an apt reality.

Some may say that only reflective thought separates us from living like wolves or dogs.  But I claim that reflective love also separates us from our baser instincts.  The ability to reflect on the questions of “what is love?” and “what does love look like?” are in my opinion the foundational building blocks of every advancement that human kind has made to date.  So if sex in the most chauvinistic view of the word is violent then love is non-violent and love and debauchery cannot occupy the same space.  So I suppose that my response to last night’s exploration of “Spartacus-Vengeance” is to continue to pray for my own love and the love of others to grow and expand and ultimately rule over every part of us, not through subjugation but rather the inspired revelation of what it is to be loving.

The Elusive Power of Peace

By: Woodrow Odom Lucas

Growing up as an Episcopalian, instead of greeting each other during fellowship time with a hello or God bless you, we would rather say, “The peace of the Lord be always with you…and also with you.” In truth, as a youngster I had very little comprehension of the act of wishing peace or even literally “sharing peace” with other believers.  As a youngster I looked upon this tradition as just another way of being polite.  But after entering into adult life with all of its stressors and obstacles, I think that the notion of “passing peace” has revolutionary possibilities.

As a citizen of the United States of America, I find it hard to focus on peace.  America is a society that glorifies violence, contest, and victory.  We live in a culture that deifies struggles for supremacy among people.  We watch sports which truly hinge on “battle” even if it is friendly and entertaining, and we watch reality TV shows which create a warlike atmosphere of survival of the fittest where the unfit are voted off the show.  Our democracy has become a spectacle of “saying and doing anything to win,” and our economic system of distribution hinges on people acting as though they are in a competitive war of all against all.

According to several reputable sources such as “The CIA’s World Factbook,” “The Bureau of Labor Statistics,” “The 2010 Democracy Index,” “Unicef,” and “The King’s College London’s World Prison Brief” the United States ranked in the lowest strata among “economically advanced” countries in income inequality, unemployment, food security, life expectancy, rates of incarceration, and student math performance. In a country with the highest GDP, we experience a “quality of life” which is much less vital and dynamic as the quality of life in most other so-called advanced polities.

So although we live in arguably the most prosperous country in the world, there is a conspicuous lack of ‘peace’ in our midst.  As a Christian, in my search for peace, I am compelled to ask whether or not the bible affirms a notion of peace. Jesus in Matthew 10:34-37 states, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.37 Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

After reading Matthew 10:34-37 one might conclude that even our Lord Jesus embraces the notion of war and that he too asks us to choose him over others.  It is my belief that Jesus in stating that he comes not to bring peace but a sword, is simply describing the effect that his ministry had on his people.  A savior who started out saying, “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God,” has witnessed the uproar and confusion of his impactful and controversial ministry and is stating perhaps in regretful angst and frustration that while he wished to bring peace, that war is what ended up ensuing.  I also ponder whether or not the “war” that Jesus brought was a necessary uprooting of dead traditions and stagnant lifestyles such that “true peace” could come in that confusion’s wake.  But even if Matthew 10:34-37 not only justifies war, but advocates for it, I wonder?  Did Jesus mean for us to take this text from Matthew and use it as an excuse to operate in emulation, jealousy, competitiveness, and selfishness toward one another.

Equally prominent in scripture are excerpts from The Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus tells us to love our enemies, do good to them that hate us, and pray for those that despitefully use us.  Is Jesus telling us to do these things as a way to maintain a kind of “peace” in the social order? Is Jesus telling us to do these things so as to somehow keep ourselves pure and holy and “unspotted” from the world? Or is Jesus recommending something to us in advising us to love our enemies that accomplishes both a social end on the macro level and personal growth on the individual level?

Unfortunately, as with most tensions in Christian scripture, we do not have Jesus in physical form to clarify seemingly stark contradictions in the Christian text.  Yes, we can pray to Jesus and the Holy Spirit for guidance and hope to get revelation, but until we are “face to face” with God in the hereafter or after the Second Coming, we “see as through a glass darkly” and “we only perceive in part.”  So left with the reality that Jesus at least indirectly seems to condone war in one of the Gospels, but also praises peacemakers and stresses love for enemies in that very same Gospel, we are left to make a choice.  One of the problems with attempting to use the bible as a text of “absolute” authority to the very letter of every verse, is that it frustrates the free will that God has given us.  God wants us to learn and grow, and the only way to do that is to make decisions, make mistakes, and learn from every experience.

So in the face of scriptural ambiguity on “peace” and “peace making” I make the conscious decision to stand with peace and to believe that Jesus wants me to stand with peace much more so than to engage in war.  In my experience, people who have truly felt the peace of God flowing through them are usually bending over backward to feel such peace again.  And what would the world look like, if we all had inner peace?  What would life be like if we all had so much peace that we were content with what we have and we felt no need to “strive for more?”  What would families be like if husbands and wives had the inner peace to accept each other as they are and to be tolerant in the face of fault and disagreement?  What would workplaces be like if employees had the peace such that they need not distract themselves with the internet or gossip, but the serenity and calm which peace begets help them to attend to the tasks at had?  And what would our world look like if our political leaders had the peace to walk with pure motivations rather than attempting to heap power and prestige unto themselves.

In this brief reflection on peace, I must admit that I don’t possess anywhere near the peace that I want to enjoy.  But I am truly waking up to the idea that “peace” whether it is biblically supported or not, is one of God’s greatest gifts to us and am moved to pray, “Lord God, we thank you for your love and we thank you for your joy.  But Lord God, there is something that is missing from our souls and from our culture as a whole, and that is your peace.  Lord God please shower every soul in the United States of America and every soul in the world with your peace.  Lord God, please bless the holy spirit within each of us to turn peace on at the center of our souls like a faucet.  Lord God please create suns of peace which radiate peace’s soothing presence to us all. Lord God please inundate every aspect of our beings with peace.  And Lord God, please bring peace to all of our relationships and enable us to seek peace out with our friends, acquaintances, and enemies.  Lord God, I know that love is the answer but peace is most definitely a close second and our lives have become so fraught with unhealthy levels of technological and social stimulus and over booked schedules full of frenzy and stress.  So Mother-Father God, please bless every single one of us with the sublime fragrance of peace so that we can appreciate the changing of the seasons and we can approach every life circumstance with the serenity of gratitude. In Jesus Name I pray, Amen.”