I Know Who You Are
There’s a song from the movie Moana. I have kids. I have heard this song many times. It’s still a good song. The lyrics say,
I have crossed the horizon to find you
I know your name
They have stolen the heart from inside you
But this does not define you
This is not who you are
You know who you are
In my last post, I tried to explain my feelings about Hugh Hefner. I tried to share some of the hurt he caused my life. Today I want to expound on something related, but not directly connected. One of the worst aspects of our exceedingly sexualized culture is the dehumanization.
This is bananas.
Let’s imagine for a minute that I like bananas. (I don’t, but I do eat them regularly.) Now imagine a scenario where I don’t just like bananas, bananas are to quote the kids, “everything.” I wear nothing but yellow. I don’t talk about anything except bananas. I wear banana-scented cologne. I listen, on repeat, to Banana Phone. Other than that, my favorite band who I don’t really listen to but always claim is my favorite band, is Bananarama.
You are hopefully at least smiling at this imaginary world. But now imagine that every time I sit down to watch a show with you, God help you and anyone else in the room if a banana should come on screen. I go nuts! I whoop and yell and point. The same thing happens anytime I’m out in a store and see a banana on a t-shirt or a sign. I refuse to eat anywhere that doesn’t serve bananas.
Now it’s less funny and little more like a mental illness. Because, in my mind, bananas are everything. Literally. And the greatest expression of a person? How much they like them. How many a day do they eat? What if a person doesn’t like them? Well, that person just isn’t a person anymore.
You begin to see the shallow, hollowness of my obsession. I have connected something inhuman as a full marker of humanity. Perhaps even the definitive marker.
Let’s be blunt.
Our world has trained us that sex is the ultimate expression of love, personal joy, and fulfillment. Think about it for a second. How many markers of identity do we use that come down to that? Used to be, we’d just say, “They are/are not my type,” to express attraction preference. Now, that attraction preference has become what defines who we are. I could tell you the number of people who feel it’s necessary to specify their sexuality on their Twitter bios in granular detail.
I could also show you how many men I have known in my life who believed that sex was the measure of the health of their relationships, the measure of their own joy, and the only thing that accurately defined their success as a man.
And so sex has become the banana man up there. Sex tells us that we aren’t actually people, just vehicles for a set of genitals. Those genitals have to be provided for, served, helped. Should those genitals not be served, well then is your life really that complete?
To quote the Stones,
When I’m watchin’ my tv and a man comes on and tell me
How white my shirts can be
But, he can’t be a man ’cause he doesn’t smoke
The same cigarettes as me
The satisfaction, the raw and visceral reaction, shapes and changes the way we see each other. I know from my years trying to help men fight addictions to pornography and sex in general, there is a sense of separation that occurs within their minds. Women lose their personhood and become objects. And yes, this might be old hat for you but I want you to realize something deeper: If we believe sex is the ultimate anything, we can quit porn and still be entirely messed up.
Let me be clear: pornography is evil on so many levels. But you can quit porn and continue to see people you are attracted to as less than human. You can perceive a person as just a vehicle for their genitals in the same way you perceive yourself that way. So a man becomes his penis. A woman becomes her vagina. And in doing so, they lose themselves and what defines them as examples of and pointers to God.
We are created in the image of God. Literally, we are God’s physical, visual stories. We’re His performance art. We’re on display 24/7. And when we decide that 1% of ourselves is really the 99%, we’re telling God that He isn’t really God… we are.
Why am I writing this?
I believe every person over the age of puberty to be a sexual sinner. We just are. I also believe that fighting this war, this assault on the imago Dei, is something that requires numerous tools, strategies, and resources. And for me, personally, I desire to see human beings as who and what they are. And I believe that this is crucial in our fight.
Most people don’t spend lots of time looking into porn stars’ eyes. They don’t read their actual biographies. They don’t know their childhoods. And, oddly enough, if they do then they are usually out for something darker than just a cheap sexual thrill. The reason?
The reason is that once humanity is reconnected to sexuality, something changes in it. It starts hinting back at a real story again. It starts working backwards, away from the denigration and shame. And when that happens? Most people immediately seek to “fix it,” so that it satisfies once again. Because humaneness often unravels shame-filled eros. Taboo requires a mask, a half-truth parading as reality.
We are most human when we are most like God. We are least human when we are least like God. If my goal, if my stated desire, is to love people like God loves them, then I must put their humanity, their most human state, above their least human state. I must not seek to degrade them into a lowly creature, a vehicle.
And I must not do the same to myself, either.