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A Culture Over the Edge

Instead of P. Diddy, Nelly and Kid Rock, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake as halftime performers at the Super Bowl, CBS should have brought in Ray Stevens to sing, “The Streak,” one of his classic country comedy renditions about streakers. With all the nudity during the halftime show, it would have been more appropriate.

He could have changed the words a little to fit the occasion. “This is your action sports reporter once again at halftime at the Super Bowl. Pardon me, sir, did you see what happened?” “Yeh, I did. I was just gettin’ back to my seat with a giant pretzel and a Coke. I sat down for the kickoff when a man dressed like an official stripped down to his–well, let’s just say he didn’t have anywhere to stick his flag. I hollered, ‘Don’t look, Ethel,’ but it was too late. She was already standing up signaling a touchdown.” <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
 
Though the cameras panned wide, viewers could still see the chase that ensued as the naked man tried to elude his captures. This stunt was too well planned to dismiss it as some guy who had too many drinks. No, this striptease act was preplanned. It took some forethought to make his way onto the field disguised as an official before he got flagged for indecent exposure.
 
Little did this guy know that he was going to be upstaged in the nudity department by Janet Jackson, whose bosom was exposed after her duet partner, Justin Timberlake, tore off a part of her clothing at the end of their song, “Rock Your Body.”
 
Timberlake made an attempt at an explanation, saying that Janet had a “wardrobe malfunction.” It was no more of a malfunction than the clothing that came off the streaker right before the second half of the game. It appeared to be as staged and choreographed as any part of the show. It was the finishing touch to the final lyrics of his song, “Hurry up cuz your takin’ too long/ Talk to me boy / Bet I’ll have you naked by the end of this song.”
 
If this wasn’t enough, P. Diddy sang most of his song with his hand–well, let’s just say where he kept his hand would have caused Ethel to blush. What’s going on here?
 
From the lyrics to the gestures, it seems that entertainers believe that Americans can’t be entertained without some reference to sex or exposure of the human body. It’s everywhere, from magazines to televison to the Internet. We can try to downplay some of these antics with humor but the eroding of our values regarding modesty and sexuality is really nothing to laugh about. We are living in a culture that has been shaped as much by the values of Hugh Hefner as by Billy Graham’s.
 
The bottom line is that sex sells. The entertainers are lured over the edges of decency because selling sex brings them money. 1 Tim <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />6:10 says that “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”
 
Britney Spears used to promote herself as a clean-cut girl who wasn’t ashamed of her virginity. Now she’s kissing women on national television, annulling her marriage after one day, and wearing such provocative clothing that Ray Stevens’ Ethel has been heard warning her husband not to look.
 
Our teenagers are growing up in a culture where traditional family values are not a part of the lifestyles of their idols. They aspire to be like these media icons in how they dress and talk, and assume many of their same values, values which often reduce those of the opposite sex to objects to be used rather than subjects to be loved.
 
What’s going on is that the envelope of what is acceptable has been pushed to the edge and over the edge. We may not long for the days of Ed Sullivan when Elvis Presley couldn’t be shown on national television below the waist because he couldn’t keep his hips still, but we ought to long for a culture where people are called on the carpet for going over the line, exposing themselves and others to indecency, profaning an evening of family entertainment with acts that belong in a strip club.
 
I have no doubts that the streaker at midfield spent the night in a jail cell for his antics. Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake should have been placed in a cell next door.
 
Michael Helms is pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Moultrie, Ga. A version of this column appears in The Moultrie Observer.