Janet Jackson’s breast-baring stunt during this year’s Super Bowl has outraged viewers, religious leaders, family groups and politicians.
Christian groups such as the American Family Association expressed their outrage claiming, “CBS deliberately allowed Janet Jackson to expose her breast on public airwaves.”
“CBS had full control of the show and should have prevented the broadcasting of nudity to children,” said AFA chairman Don Wildmon in a statement.
The Family Research Council also weighed in. “It’s a sad day when parents can’t even let their children watch the Super Bowl without having to worry about nudity creeping into their living rooms,” said the council’s director Tony Perkins in a statement.
And of course, they are right. The teaching of Jesus leaves little doubt that God does not want us to abuse the gift of sexuality he has given to us. Using other human beings as objects of personal pleasure diminishes what it means to be a human being.
Unfortunately, sex is not the only thing creeping into America’s living rooms that Jesus would take issue with. For instance, by the time children reach the seventh grade, on average, they have witnessed on television 8,000 murders and 100,000 other acts of violence. Violence as entertainment also distorts the value of human life, maybe even more than sex as entertainment.
Of course, sex and violence are not the only messages soaked up by our children as they watch television. Other distorted visions of what it means to be human are also paraded across the screen. All of us are seduced into believing that the meaning of life is found in the consumption of goods. If we will only buy and own the right things and in sufficient quantity, life will be good.
The Super Bowl is the great cultural festival celebrating these core values of our culture—greed, militarism, violence, and of course sex. We denounce the distortion of sex, as we should, but seem reluctant to say anything about the obscene displays of commercialism and violence. We seem not to be offended by a system that rewards football players with salaries in the millions of dollars but pays public school teachers barely enough to survive. We seem not offended by appeals to conspicuous consumption symbolized by 30-second commercial spots that sell for over $2 million, but we whine about paying taxes that provides meager support for the homeless, the unemployed and the elderly.
Without downplaying the offensiveness of what Jackson and Timberlake did, the teaching of Jesus challenges us to confront the other obscenities which were showcased during the Super Bowl–not only during the half time show, but throughout the game. Perhaps even the game itself.
Our failure as Christians to voice little or no concern about these other obscenities may mean we have not fully heard what Jesus was trying to say. More likely, however, and more troubling, is the possibility that there is no offense because there is consent.
James L. Evans is pastor of Crosscreek Baptist Church in Pelham, Ala.