1647) A Shameful Legacy

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By John Stonestreet and Shane Morris, October 12, 2017 post athttp://www.breakpoint.org

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     Back on September 27th, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy, died at ninety-one.

     An ancient Roman maxim says that one shouldn’t speak ill of the dead, but it would be irresponsible to not take note of his ideas and cultural influence, along with their consequences and victims.

     Much of the coverage of his death has been admiring or even adulatory.  The New York Times’ obituary, while mentioning Hefner’s feminist critics mostly in passing, emphasized how successful and influential he’d been.  There’s been a lot of “he changed the game,” “he lived on his own terms,” and “he lived life to the fullest” sort of language about him.

     CNN said that while “Some critics dismissed him as a relic of a sexist era, especially in his later years . . . many men envied his adolescent-fantasy lifestyle.”  The Washington Post called Hefner’s legacy “complicated” and then proceeded to quote gushing tribute after gushing tribute.  This sort of adulation for a man best-known for wearing his pajamas all day and spending nights with women young enough to be his granddaughters should embarrass even the media.

     Eleven years ago, Chuck Colson put Hefner’s legacy into proper perspective.  On the occasion of Heffner’s 80th birthday, Chuck said that “Hugh Hefner did more than anyone else to turn America into a great pornographic wasteland.”

     Hefner’s journalistic eulogists are celebrating his rebellion and ultimate triumph over the “puritanical elements of the [1950s].”  You know, that “dark and joyless time in America,” as writer Matthew Scully put it, “when one could actually go about daily life without ever encountering pornographic images.”  Without Hefner’s pioneering vision, “American males could not avail themselves of hundreds of millions of obscene films every year—as they do now.”

     That our pornographic wasteland is filled with so many victims is also part of the man’s legacy, which can only be fully understand in light of the larger story of the sexual revolution.

     You see, Hefner once claimed to have changed America, and it’s hard to argue that he didn’t.  He took Alfred Kinsey’s ideas of sex separated from morality and embodied them in images and words, making them seem glamorous, sophisticated, and respectable.

     Along with the birth control pill, porn was the other tangible artifact of the sexual revolution and catalyzed the separation of the sexual act from its God-given purpose.  Instead of a self-giving, life-giving act in the context of marriage like God intended, sex became an act of selfish pleasure in the cultural imagination.

     Porn turned image bearers into objects to be enjoyed instead of subjects to be respected and honored, while giving the illusion that there were no consequences or guilt.  Hefner was what I call “the artist” of the sexual revolution, granted a loosely-used modifier here.  Ideas alone can’t change culture; they need champions, and the most effective champions are artists and educators.

     The problem, as Ed Stetzer often says, is that no one even won the sexual revolution, but everybody lost.  Ideas have consequences and bad ideas have victims.

     Hefner’s legacy includes fatherless homes, objectified women, porn-addicted and trafficked children, and the sexualization of all aspects of culture.  And in a supreme bit of irony, a decreased lack of interest in sex with real-life women by addicted men.

     All of this is the result of what Hefner called the “Playboy Philosophy”: ultimately the divorcing of sex from its God-given context—marriage—and its God-given consequences—children.

     I posted about Hefner’s legacy on Facebook soon after his death, and one commenter quoted Jesus, “For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”  And thanks in large part to Hugh Hefner, the same might be asked about our entire culture.

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Matthew 16:26  —  For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?  Or what shall a man give in return for his life?

Matthew 5:27-28  —  (Jesus said), “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’   But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Ephesians 5:3  —  Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.

Genesis 1:27  —  So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

I Thessalonians 4:3-5  —  It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister.  The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before.  For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life.  Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Matthew 19:4-6  —  “Haven’t you read,” Jesus replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’?  So they are no longer two, but one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

I John 1:9  —   If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

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A prayer by Martin Luther on the commandment “Thou shalt not commit adultery.”:

Dear God, in this commandment you teach and command me to be pure, orderly, and respectful in all my thoughts, words, and deeds.  You forbid me to disgrace any other man’s wife or daughter, certainly not by any wicked deed, but also not by any idle talk that would rob them of their decency and degrade me.  Rather, I should do what I can to help them maintain their honor and respect, just as I would hope they would do for my family.  For we are responsible for each other– we should not do anything that would bring our neighbor’s family into reproach, but should do what we can to preserve their honor and goodness.  Amen.