“Did we just see what we thought we saw?”
I was sitting in a church youth group Super Bowl Party in 2004. Evangelical Churches back then were eager to be relevant to the culture with Church sponsored Super Bowl Parties. As Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction flashed across the screen, CBS cut away quickly, but it was too late. The image was already burned into the minds of 89 million viewers.
The FCC later fined CBS $550,000 but CBS won a later appeal.
Does anyone remember who won the 2004 Super Bowl? Does anyone remember who even played? Die hard football trivia fanatics might. But when the 2004 Super Bowl is remembered undoubtedly Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake’s performance and shocking image is what comes to mind.
Competition is part of being men. We want to be the strongest and most successful and when any other man makes a challenge the game is on for the top male. Ladies often do not understand it. It is a guy thing.
Sex appeal and sports go together it seems. After all men wish to conquer the women they desire. Ancient Greek and Roman cultures were described to have raucous activities accompany their public games. Cars and perfume mix in a delightful way for men and it seems that football and erotic dancing are now part of the experience.
It would seem that after the 2004 Janet Jackson incident CBS and the NFL would have learned what was tasteful entertainment. Long gone are the marching bands at halftime replaced instead by skin and gyrations to entertain the men as they wait for the competition to return.
I have never been to a gentlemen’s club but the movies depict these places clearly so there is no doubt to what occurs there. Local establishments in communities nationwide have reputations that all locals know and that the police deal with regularly.
Super Bowl parties are a great time to gather with friends and family. Yet as Christians do we avoid worship of our God in order to worship at the pigskin temple satellite church?
I have not had TV cable in my home for many years by choice. It was a decision based partly on economics and partly to avoid the mind-numbing experience of wasting away at the images on the screen. So each year at Super Bowl time I am dependent on the kindness of others to invite me to their home to enjoy the game. Yet each year the commercials and the half-time entertainment have been so sexually forceful that I have often left the room only to return when I hoped it was safe. In recent years my kind host would DVR the game during Sunday evening church service and we would catch up on the game afterward fast forwarding through the commercials and half-time. With teenagers from our youth group present it seemed appropriate, but I was grateful for that intentional filter.
Yet this year my friends did not DVR the game.
It did not occur to me what was different about my Super Bowl experience in 2013 until about half-time when Beyonce took the stage. I suddenly found myself turning away from the TV and avoiding all eye contact. Her show was powerful and the music stimulating, but I was uncomfortable as a Christian man being in a house with other Christians as this type of entertainment was before us.
The Apostle Paul speaks to the Ephesian church on the matter of how the church is to interact with each other and those outside of Christ’s grace.
“But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern 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 speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says,
“Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you.”
Anyone who is part of Christ is also sensitive to the darkness they are rescued from.
“Therefore do not associate with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord.”
— Ephesians 5:7-10
“Try to discern,” scripture says.
As Beyonce and GoDaddy and other commercial ventures vie for the most memorable Super Bowl experience of 2013, let us who are in Christ try to discern how we expose the unfruitful nature of the darkness. Those things that are shameful, according to Paul, are unfruitful works of darkness and Christians are called to expose them. What is shameful is supposed to hide and be secret, yet we now are exposed to shamefully secret things in the light.
Are we Godly men when we go to the gentlemen’s club at half-time on Super Bowl Sunday?
What goes on at the gentlemen’s club is in the dark and in secret, yet Beyoncé’s show was so lit up that the power in the SuperDome was blown and the game experienced a 34 minute delay.
The biblical approach to men’s relationships with women is one that is rare among our culture today. Husbands are to love their wives and protect them even from our own sinful passions. What God has created as good between a husband and wife was distorted long ago in the garden.
“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”
— Ephesians 5:25-33
Husbands, boyfriends, men and boys. Let us stand up and be counted as the Godly men we are called to be. Let us love our wives and the women God has given us the responsibility to provide for and protect. Let us be discerning about our entertainment so that false images of sexuality do not distort how we love our wives as God intended.
There is no longer any excuse of shock as there was in the 2004 Super Bowl.
Provocative entertainment during the Super Bowl is expected now. The $4 million dollar ad time is consumed with shock value images. Sex sells.
The Super Bowl ads each year are so valuable that they are available for viewing days before the big game. HULU and other internet TV sources eagerly supply the ads for viewing before the game. One need not even watch every ad to know what is coming. The icon image linked to the YouTube video tells enough about the nature of the ad.
Anyone who is vaguely familiar with Beyonce should be aware of the type of show that accompanies her. Even if the images themselves were blacked out, what about the sound of the lyrics?
I have decided that for future SuperBowl games, I will decline the invitation if the DVR is not set up or if an alternative activity is not a part of the evening during half-time.
“Did we just see what we thought we saw?” is no longer common. Instead we anticipate what once was done in secret and worship the shameful images on our TV. All this in the name of competition and entertainment. The gentlemen’s club is now in our home.