// bad habits and enlightened eyes

clubbingIt’s funny what it takes to make you see clearly every now and again. Last night, on the walls of the club that i ended up in – a club owned by a high-profile, well-known company, and a major venue in the centre of Oxford – the owners had chosen to project pornography on the walls of every room. Not music-video variety soft porn, but actual, real, pornographic video.

Occasionally it takes something that is so obviously, deeply and profoundly wrong to cause you to take stock, and that in itself is a scary realisation. It took somebody projecting porn on the walls to get me thinking about what i take as read, what elements of culture i no longer even notice these days…

From the sublime to the ridiculous: i noticed something else this week, too, about myself in this case. With more time on my hands, i spend more time checking my hair in windows than ever before, wondering how the rest of the world sees me. This has become a habit over time, and it’s not until this week that i’ve ever been really conscious that i’m doing it. It sounds insane, but that, and the decision of my club last night to project porn on their walls, they stem from the same basic root. Both are born out of the same unchecked slippage of culture, the same type of false premise in their early stages.

See, somewhere down the line, somebody decided that nightclubs were fundamentally about sex. People go to clubs to meet partners of the opposite (or the same) sex, the reasoning goes, and so music, outfits, atmosphere, names, even, respond to that. Gradually, this perception gets entrenched; bit by bit, this is what clubs become known for; and then, eventually, when things have got far enough down the line, you start projecting porn on your walls. It’s a logical progression, from a (fairly) logical original premise. It works the same for me; i figure, people respond to you if you look good, and so, gradually, it moves from simply doing my hair in the morning to adjusting my appearance in every reflective surface that i pass. At first it seemed faintly ridiculous, but what seemed ridiculous quickly becomes second nature; along with, incidentally, that original premise, that “appearance matters”, that i’ve picked up from somewhere.

Do you ever wonder if your judgement is so skewed that you’re no longer capable of seeing clearly anymore?

That you’re not capable of viewing culture objectively, as you’re so anchored in it that you don’t even notice now?

blindnessEngaging with culture is a good thing, and i’m glad for the people who do that – who, rather than simply writing things off in simple black-and-white distinctions, strive to work out what culture is telling us and how to respond to that, both as Christians and simply as people. But i’m tired of this culture that plasters valuable, sacred things on the walls and tells us that they are simply commodities to be bought and sold. I’m tired of the assumptions that it forces upon me, and i’m tired of its endlessly reductive attitude…

The apostle John wrote in one of his letters, “do not love the world or anything in the world. If you love the world, love for the Father is not in you. For everything in the world – the cravings of sinful people, the lust of their eyes and their boasting about what they have and do – comes not from the Father but from the world.” His isn’t a letter asserting that we simply need to look forward to the promise of a future Heaven, ignoring the here and now (although that is a part of it), it’s a letter that asserts that we can’t, mustn’t see things the way that the world does; that is to say, without reference to the Father, as the end goal in themselves. It’s that road that leads to putting sex on the walls, and it’s a dangerous road. It states that this gift, this creation of God Himself, is cheap, and common – and, related to that, that his people, his creations, they’re cheap and common too. This is it, it states, and sure, it’s fun, but it’s all you’re going to get, and so you may as well plaster the walls with it and seek it, as it doesn’t get any better than this.

We are not a people who sees things in that same way, or at least, we’re called not to be. Paul wrote to the Ephesians and told them, “i pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you”, and that prayer still stands. We need to be a people whose eyes are enlightened, who see things the way they are and assert the value of all the things that the world tries to claim as its own – sees them as gifts from God, and good gifts at that. We need to wake up, as things are not right, and something needs to change.

That doesn’t mean censorship. It certainly doesn’t mean crusading as the ‘moral majority’. But it does mean praying for wisdom, and then standing up to any attempts to strip the world of all reference to God. If culture asserts that it owns these things, we remember, and we recall, that God made them first; that His vision for sex, for money, and for power, is radically different to the world’s ways, and His vision is good.

We need to be a people of enlightened eyes, a people of praise; who see the value of these things, and pay attention to where the world feeds us its false premises so that we don’t slip unthinkingly into the same ways of seeing. Things aren’t the way that they’re supposed to be, but we’d do well to pay attention to where we’ve normalised these things, stopped noticing them entirely.

Hopefully it won’t take porn on the walls to get you to look again, although it did for me. Nonetheless, i’m grateful that it reminded me of that greater reality, that this is not where it all stops. And i, for one, hope that i can keep my eyes open to what is truly going on here, rather than just slipping back into habitual blindness.

Join me. Ask those questions. Take the time to give yourself an appraisal. And work out where, and how, things need to change.

It might just be the most valuable, and thrilling, thing that you ever do.

I hope so.

    • cookiesandconverse
    • June 7th, 2009

    That was a very interesting read, and now it’s got me thinking.

  1. stunned… that’s my response to what you described in that nightclub. Never been one for those anyway so you can see how far away from pop culture I am to have not thought anyone would go that far in a mainstream club in Oxford.

    I would have had to have left the club immediately. That’s not cos I’m a paragon of holiness. Quite the reverse. I’ve had enough dealings with that kind of thing to know my limits. That would have been too much for me.

    So the question arrises: you’ve shared what you thought, but what did you do?

      • Tom
      • June 8th, 2009

      I left, too. I felt physically sick standing there, and i’m with you; you know if you see one second of that stuff that you have to get out – it’s just harmful…

      That’s another thing that shocks me, in truth; how something that is so truly, truly damaging became mainstream. When did that happen?

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