This morning I had the dubious pleasure of interpreting once again in criminal court, on a charge of open and gross lewdness for a guy who claims he didn't do it. That's all well and good, but it was a random anecdote from someone who should have known better that has me shaking my head. Higher education, evidently, is no indicator of general classiness.
Standing outside the courtroom with the defendant, I was explaining to him the process of jury selection when a lawyer (not his) walked out of the clerk's office. Thinking we were speaking Russian, he paused and upon learning it was Bulgarian, told us his Russian wife had hired a Bulgarian cleaning lady and they couldn't understand each other. He proceeded to tell us about his house on "Maatha's Vineyahd" and how many Bulgarians are working there during the summer. (My client is reasonably proficient in English and understood him perfectly). He described his housekeeper as a "young girl; very pretty" and commented on how attractive the young, slender, Bulgarian girls are who work on the Vineyard. "Of course, I'm married, so I can't do anything about it - I can only look," he virtuously informed us.
Warming to his subject, the forty-something family man continued, "It's like when I was young, years ago....I used to go to Catholic school. It was an all-boys school, and back then, the teachers were mostly all priests - no laity. Some of the priests would really be checkin' out a couple gals that (sic) worked in the office, and sometimes it was really funny - you could see 'em jus' lookin'. So this one time, this one priest - he's really enjoying the view, and one of the fellas goes up to him: 'Hey Faddah! Whatchu lookin' at -- you ain't supposed to be lookin'!' So he calls all of us around, all together, and he goes: 'Listen, fellas, just cuz you're on a diet doesn't mean you can't look at and smell the food!"
By this time, my client's defense attorney had joined us and groaned at his colleague's priest joke. To clarify both the punch line and his philosophy, the first lawyer emphasized to the defendant: "Just 'cause I'm on a diet doesn't mean I can't look at the food!" He then left for lunch. I said nothing, but his attitude repulsed me - and not because of the sexism. I could care less about stuff like that - it just makes the subject look like a buffoon. What struck me was his cavalier view of lust - not only was he not attempting to put it to death, he seemed to be reveling in it. Boasting about it, while framing himself as a pristine example of chastity, presumably because he had not (yet) given in to adultery.
Let me back up for just a moment and frame my state of mind for you. Recently, a cyber-friend of mine created quite a storm on her blog for having the audacity to say porn is wrong and adds nothing to one's life spiritually or emotionally. Period. Some things God has declared wrong, and we shouldn't do them (or even think of them - Proverbs 4:23; 23:7; Matt. 15:18). I've never seen porn as anything other than a black and white issue, and was frankly shocked that even unbelievers - let alone professing Christians - would see it in shades of gray. This particular blogger is one of several I have seen recently derided and attacked for discernment and passionately following after Jesus - as if our faith is something we should be "moderate" about. Pulling conviction out of our back pockets on Sunday morning while the rest of the week we push it to the side of our hearts results in what is commonly termed "cheap grace". It is not true discipleship. From Genesis to Revelation, God makes it clear that what we allow into our hearts and choose to meditate on will eventually corrupt us.
Was this (somewhat banal) exchange scandalous? Not in this day and age. Nor was it, in all likelihood, the worst thing that was said in court this morning. Lest you think I am holding a probable non-Christian to Christian standards, I assure the reader that is not my point. For all I know, the lawyer might be a nice guy outside of court, if a bit crass. If anything, he did nothing more than point up the world's utter contempt for what the Bible calls true holiness. That's the definition of worldliness and we should expect as much from the world. However, I find his priest story telling, if not surprising.
In my 19 years as a Catholic, I noticed this "how-close-to-the-edge-can-I-get" mentality towards sin as very typical, and it was just this hypocrisy that (in part) pushed me out of the denomination and toward biblical Christianity. (Which isn't to say that apathy towards personal sin doesn't exist in other churches - it most assuredly does.) However, particularly among the clergy (and nuns), there seemed to be a subtle "shell"; an outward form of godliness that was hard to pin-point, even while these same individuals seemed to deny it's power and certainly lacked the Holy Spirit. The idea of a priest so flagrantly violating the principal of Matthew 5:28 ("But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart") doesn't shock me, but that he would joke about it with a group of adolescent boys somehow does.
Furthermore, his analogy was stupid and defied common sense: if you are on a diet, does it make sense to go out, buy a cake, put it in the fridge, and then sit down cross-legged in front of the fridge? Exactly how long do you think it will be until you succumb? As I recently counseled an eating-disordered woman, the further you remove yourself from temptation, the more likely you are to have victory. Don't buy junkfood and have it in your house; then you can't eat it at night. Buy healthy food. Do you see a spiritual parallel here? Philippians 4:8 tells us: "...whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."
Likewise, many who know Christ see lust as "no big deal", yet Christ's warning was unambiguous: it is a big deal to God. Therefore, shouldn't it be to us? Repeatedly, Paul warns us to "be on the alert", yet rationalizations and banal joking about our baser instincts seems to be so socailly acceptable that even Christians don't blink an eye. The other day, I read that it takes 3 seconds to decide which way your thoughts are going to go: whether you'll pursue a thought until it becomes a meditation, or whether you'll hit the mental "delete" button. The notion that we cannot control what we think about is a fallacy. Even if we're thinking about it, the correct course of action is to recognize it as rebellion against Christ and to repent immediately - not to joke about it. Tolerance toward sin (or even seeing it as cute, daring and nothing to make one blush) is neither endearing nor funny. There is a growing trend within the professing Church to drag banality into the pulpit, which is worse. Wherever it's displayed - by a lawyer, priest or Reformed pastor in a Che Gueverra T-shirt, it's still annoying and tacky.
"Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me." - Psalm 51:10
7 years ago