Tuesday, October 06, 2009

bikini stands, a retrospective

Since some have asked, I did submit a slightly edited version of my screed against bikini espresso stands to the local paper. However, since the stand most central to the KP closed shortly after it opened, the paper has chosen not to run the article. They have, instead, invited me to submit another piece for consideration; I will then be in the running to be a regular guest editorialist for the 2010 year. We'll see.

I did see, however, that "anonymous" left a note disagreeing with me in the comment section following the original post. It is generally my habit to disregard anonymous notes; if they come to me in writing, I promptly throw them away. If they appear on my blog, I generally leave them as part of the discussion, but I usually don't respond.

This time, however, I thought it might be 'useful for instruction,' as the saying goes. So, at the risk of giving 'anonymous' more exposure than they deserve, here is their response:
wow, Dan this looks more to me like it is easier for you to take on others "sins" than look at your own. Was it not Jesus himself that said "Judge not" I think you should take a look at your own life and not rag on others untill you yourself are perfect. I hope that along with talking about these stands you write an article about why you shouldn't take your kids to wild waves for fear of what they may see women in their bikinis or for heavens sake the purdy spit *gasp a bikini honey get the kids were not ever comming back here!!!!!
So, let's talk about it.

First, I'd like to point out that 'anonymous' fell into the classic logical fallacy of completely disregarding my logic, my reasoning, the evidence and argument I brought. Instead, 'anonymous' resorted to an ad hominem attack, choosing to paint me as a judgmental prude, more quick to call out the sins of others than deal with my own. This is not a reasoned response, it is an emotional sideswipe, calling into question my motives and integrity without ever answering the original charge. I said "Bikini coffee stands are bad because A and B." A reasoned response would say, "I disagree. I think you are mistaken when you say A, and you never even considered C." But, instead, 'anonymous' responds with "I don't have to listen to what you say because I think you're a bad person."

Of course, 'anonymous' has no way of knowing whether or not this is true. They don't know if I regularly confess my sins to another, they don't know how I respond when I am held accountable for sins I commit; they know none of that. They presume to assume a few things based on my choice to share my dislike of bikini espresso stands, but they have no proof one way or the other. So they fail on the first point.

Next. . .

The most mis-used verse in the entire Bible must be "Judge not. . ." Yes, Jesus did say that. Right in the middle of the sermon on the mount. But if anything is true of biblical interpretation, it's that context is everything. And, taken in the context of Jesus' full life and message, he certainly never intended a world in which no person ever shared their unhappiness with another person or situation. Jesus called Peter "Satan." Jesus called out the religious leaders with his infamous "woe to you" diatribe. Jesus' cousin John called the Pharisees a "brood of vipers."And the rest of the NT reveals quite a bit of judging going on.

When Jesus said "Judge not," he went on to say "because at the same measure, you too will be judged." He was speaking about a kind of self-righteous attitude that perceives oneself as perfect, while everyone else is Less-Than-Perfect. Of walking around feeling (and acting) smugly holier-than-thou. Of lacking any humility. And, quite possibly, of making eternal pronouncements over people instead of leaving that up to God. But the biblical witness is far greater, from Amos preaching judgment over a people who refuse to care for their poor, to Nathan rebuking David, to Paul rebuking Peter and Peter rebuking Ananias and Saphira. The book of Revelation is one long judgment against the Roman Empire.

The heart of the issue is this: are we simply judging so that we can feel better than others? Or are we engaging society, calling our community to be better and stronger? If all we do is sit back and complain, then yes, we're guilty of judging. But if our desire is to point out sickness so that it can move toward healing, then we are behaving righteously. Imagine it this way: if your doctor discerns that you are extremely overweight and at great risk for a heart attack, it may sound judgmental for him to say "cut back on the twinkies and Big Macs and eat more vegetables." In fact, it is judgmental, insomuch as it makes a negative judgment toward your eating habits. But it's a judgment based on his desire to see you move toward health, and so it is a good judgment, and not the kind Jesus was talking about in the Sermon on the Mount.

And, yes, this is exactly the point I was making in the original post. I believe these types of businesses are unhealthy for us as a community, for the people who live here and the people who work in the stands. Thus, I speak out not as a prude, but as one calling my community to seek health.

"Anonymous" fails on the second point.

Finally, the comments about Wild Waves and going to the beach misses the point. At bikini coffee stands, bikinis and the flesh they don't cover are the attraction. They are the selling point. They are the main thing. At Wild Waves, at the beach, bikinis are simply the by-product of people's desires to enjoy the sunshine and get some Vitamin D in the process. At the beach, people are expected to wear less clothing than normal, and while there are still some lecherous people who go to ogle, and while there are still girls who go there to 'strut their stuff,' those people don't define the moment. The intent of people at the beach is not primarily sexual. Thus, when I and my family visit the beach, there are no sexual undertones; we're all there to enjoy the water and the sun and the sand.

Bikini coffee stands are inherently sexual, because sex is the motivating factor in their advertising. "Come and see sexy girls" is the call going out. And, naturally, those who go in expecting to see sex - well, that's exactly what they're going to see.

It's somewhat like the difference between nudity in art and pornography. For all but the most base minds, nudity in art can be a celebration of beauty, of the human form, of life, of a lot of things, but it's not about sex. We can look at a statue of a Greek goddess and not be turned on, even though the statue is nude. I have family members who are photographers; they see (and sometimes judge) photographs of nude people. I've been to art galleries that contain nudes. And most (except those with a junior high mentality) enjoy it as art without turning their minds toward lustful, sexual thoughts.

But pornography is different. It may be the same flesh, but the purpose is purely sexual, purely to titillate, to tickle that spirit of lust inside of us. It has no great purpose, no purpose at all other than to give a moment's pleasure to the viewer (and make money for the seller).

In other words, art has a depth that draws the viewer into a world wherein life is expanded; pornography flattens the world out, destroying the actors by turning them into 2-dimensional objects of my fantasy.

And so it is with this beach argument. Going to the beach is not about sex; going to Wild Waves is not about titillation, it is about swimming and enjoying the sun. Bikini coffee stands, on the other hand, are expressly about sex, and are thus destructive, in that they turn women into 2-dimensional objects with no purpose but to fulfill the fantasies of others, and they teach the shoppers that women are worth only one thing: what they are willing to put out.

So, no 'anonymous.' You fail on the third point, as well. I realize there are many who don't care, many who would just rather go ogle the girls anyway, who will deny the harm there. I can point out how dangerous it is to continually eat a high-fat, high-salt diet, but most will keep doing it anyway. I get that. But I won't feel guilty or wrong in telling them the truth anyway.

Just like I've learned to appreciate it when my friends do the same to me. It can be painful, but I cherish the times people who love me have taken the time to call me toward a better way of living, when they've pointed out ways I have sinned against them or others. Because those times have made me a better person. I am not perfect; I'm just trying to follow the One who is Perfect, and inviting the community to join me on the way.

1 comment:

Lori Colbo said...

Spoken like a true, intelligent, spirit filled lover of Christ and community. Way to communicate, Dan. And Mr. Anonymous, with all sincerity, I'd like to hear your comments without using insults and emotion run amok, and disagree like a rational man in mutual exchange of opinions. Aretha Franklin had it right...R-E-S-P-E-C-T!!!