Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Warning: This Post X-Rated

Did that get your attention? Did you start reading this because of the title?

Are you still reading even though you feel like you shouldn't, because you want to see what is written next, or better yet, what pictures are included below the fold? (Yes, there are pictures.)

A new study came out showing what many have long believed- warning labels on games make it more likely that youth will rent and play the game. The violence and sex that are offered are too alluring. Though the study was limited to games, it is reasonable to extrapolate that a higher rating of MA, R, NC-17, or X also make it more likely that youth will want to watch the program or movie. And let us not limit it to youth, but be honest, that there is a certain titillation that attracts most adults as well.

Why is this? Why do we want to see what we feel we should not see? Why does a warning make it all the more enticing? Why do we sometimes believe that what is hidden is more enticing and needs to be revealed?

This is an ancient issue, of course, going back to the Garden, when the forbidden fruit proved too enticing, and the man and woman were convinced by the serpent to eat of it. (Medieval Europe thought it was an apple.. I tend to believe the fruit was a coconut, and thus Eve's first words after biting into it were, "Ouch.") From the writing style, this is obviously myth, but that doesn't make it untrue- rather myth is often more true than the cold logical progression of events we often describe as reality. This is a reality the Genesis authors are expressing- that we find we do that which we should not do, especially when we have been warned against it.

And yet, we also know that God is omniscient (by definition), and certainly knows the hearts of humans. He knew that warning humans to not eat would cause them to eat. (Again, not that there was an actual fruit and eating experience, but rather the story reveals something of the nature of humanity and the nature of God. Thus, the authors are describing a God who would entice humans in precisely the way he knew they could be enticed.) God does not tempt, but he certainly leads us into temptation- else why do we pray that he not? And this is a story of a God who placed a pleasing fruit- or more to the point, placed a pleasing commandment, in front of our eyes, practically begging us to disobey. Why? Because this is the way he created us. This is the way the laws he set up guided the evolution of our brains. We want what we can not have, or even better, what we should not have.

Why would a good God do this? Why would he give us a law when he knows the very giving of the law would lead us to disobey it? Without laws, we wouldn't have known it was wrong, and would have continued in our ignorance, without doing wrong. Without laws, we would not have been tempted to disobey, and feel impelled to disobey though we knew it was wrong, just because we knew it was wrong. There was a time long ago when we acted without a knowledge of good and evil, like the other animals. The actions we then did were not immoral, but amoral, but when we learned the difference between good and evil, the actions we had done in innocence were now evil. Had God not allowed this greater awareness to rise in us, we might never have had the brain capacity to worship him, but we also would no longer be acting in evil.

In the same passage where Paul speaks of his body warring against itself, he also states that, when we do what we don't want to do, we affirm that the rule is good. It is in this context that he has perhaps the most complicated and dense portion of all his letters (and yet the summation of all his theology), describing how the law is not sin, but rather the law showed us what sin was. Its presence meant our actions became sin, and its presence made it that more enticing to commit sin. And there is here no hope- there is law, and sin, and condemnation.

Until the next pericope, where Paul points out only one hope- the grace of God, as expressed in the death and life of Jesus the Christ. Pelagius was wrong. Without this grace, we can not succeed. He was right in what the Eastern Church took up to a more fuller extent- our Spirit must work with the Spirit of God to find this life-changing. This is the divinization of Athansius, that God became human that we might become divine.

There is no hope. A 14-year old boy will continue to buy the games rated M and AO. I will continue to want to go to the NC-17 movie. You will continue to want to enter the website stating "For over age 18 only." There is no hope on our own, because it is our nature. We were evolved to this. We can only change when we accept the divinization by God, allowing his Spirit to work to change us through the death of Jesus, in the hope of following him into that glorious resurrection when all things are made new. Even he said, "Not my will, but yours be done." We must make an active choice to subsume our will. And this can only be done by the presence of the living Spirit.

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