Darkness into Light

Warning: The following post may contain material of a sensitive nature. But please read and discuss it anyway.

I haven’t visited a Halloween costume shop in a while but my boys wanted to dress up like Star Wars characters for our church’s Trunk or Treat this year, so we paid a visit to a local Halloween store.

I have to say I was surprised and appalled by the merchandise we found there and I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination.

At least three-fourths of the Halloween costumes they sold were for women, which seemed strange to me at first. But about 90% of those women’s costumes were more appropriate for strip club attire than for public display. Every costume seemed designed to be slutty sexy, from the more obvious ones like Nurse Knock-out or Sexy Lioness, to the absurd ones like Sexy Robin (who knew Batman’s sidekick could be seductive?) and Sexy Chucky (yes, that is the murderous doll turned femme fatale–see image). These costumes were not only being purchased by adults, but by teenagers, young adults, and even pre-teens.

Whatever happened to the days when we dressed up like princesses, fairies, angels, or Little Bo Peep? When did dress-up become less about putting on a persona and more about taking off our clothes?

I have been thinking about it and researching it and I have come to the conclusion that these hyper-sexual Halloween costumes are one of many side effects of the culture of pornography that is surreptitiously invading our society.

The porn industry, which is a 15-billion dollar a year industry in America, obviously glorifies many evils–commercialized sex, lust, greed, exploitation, and self-gratification. But the subtle evils it propagates are far more dangerous than we realize.

Dr. Annette Lynch, professor of textiles and Apparel and author of Porn Chic, recognizes the insidious influence of pornography on fashion, especially costumes.  She writes this about teen and tween attire:

“When a little girl shops for a Halloween costume, she is bombarded with choices and poses that flirt with and attract sexual attention, teaching her to self-objectify and court the male gaze in advance of the blossoming of her own sexuality… what is most damaging is the normalization of this patterned response, with girls taught to shop, dress and behave while imagining the response of a male audience… this patterned response to these messages become ingrained and natural to these girls, who then carry the patterns into adulthood.”

So girls who have not even viewed pornography are “patterned” to dress for men, specifically men who are porn users, without even knowing it. The porn look is so ingrained in the media and culture of our country that it does not need to be overt to affect change in all segments of society.

Jessica Bennett, in “The Pornification of America,” wakes us up to the overwhelming impact the porn industry is making on our everyday lives.

“In a market that sells high heels for babies and thongs for tweens, it doesn’t take a genius to see that sex, if not porn, has invaded our lives. Whether we welcome it or not, television brings it into our living rooms and the Web brings it into our bedrooms.”

When we weren’t looking, the subculture of pornography, which claims to affect only workers and users in that industry, became part of our mainstream culture, affecting everyone from fashion designers to pop stars (do I even have to put a link to a Miley Cyrus’ example?) to young girls shopping for Halloween costumes.

How did our society succumb so easily to such a destructive problem?

Robert Jenson, a professor of journalism who wrote a book on the porn industry in America, believes that the popularity of pornography in our country “is a reminder that, for all the progress of contemporary social movements, we still live in a world structured by patriarchy, white supremacy and a corporate capitalism that is predatory by nature. Pornography is consistently cruel and degrading to women, overtly racist and fueled by the ideology that money matters more than people.” (from an online interview)

So, it is not that pornography has corrupted our moral, just, and equality-driven society (read with sarcasm) but vice versa—the deep-seated, and often downplayed, American obsession with power, sex, and money has produced our current porn culture.

We got ourselves in this mess, but how do we get out?

We could push for more legislation against the porn industry, for more oversight and higher levels of censorship, but many Americans would cry, “First Amendment Violation!” and anyway, the porn industry has well-paid lobbyists and spin doctors to halt change on that front.

We could sit around and complain about the problem on blogs and social media, blaming Hollywood or the fashion or music industry. Oh wait, we already do that and it is certainly not working.

Or, we as the body of Christ can stand up and attack the problem at its root.

Because the root of every evil associated with pornography, from greed to lust to infidelity to exploitation, is the same. The problem is the darkness that we humans carry around inside us. The only way to fight the darkness is with the light. And when we hide the deeds of darkness, and the dismiss the effects of that darkness, we will slowly become overwhelmed by darkness instead of the light.

And the Word, the Gospel of John tells us, was not overcome by darkness but overcame darkness with light.

So we need to bring the deeds of darkness into light.

We need to talk about this uncomfortable, shameful problem in our churches and in our homes and in our schools and on our blogs.

We need to love and support those who are in bondage to all kinds of addiction, especially sexual addiction and pornography.

We need to talk to our children openly–about the gift of sex within marriage, the perils of internet pornography, and the lies society spreads about freedom and the body.

We also must ensure girls and women that they are loved for who they are and who Christ is making them to be, not for what they wear or how they look. We need to teach them to live to please God and not the opposite sex.

We need to address the issues of self-worth and self-respect and self-control. Every day. In every venue. Until people start to listen.

For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light— for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, ‘Sleeper, awake! Rise from the dead,and Christ will shine on you.’” (Ephesians 5:8-13)

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Jennifer Bashaw

Assistant Professor of Religion at East Texas Baptist University

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