Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Pornographic Mind

I remember reading somewhere that the business of pornography is based off of customer dissatisfaction. In a lot of ways, our modern way-of-being-in-the-world is based on that same sort of discontent. Aside from the stereotypical materialism critiques, which end up being entirely too caricatured (pardon the spelling), the use of visual and auditory images in our advertising and commercials (yes, Virginia, there is a difference) ends up producing the same sort of discontent. However, this problem is endemic to the human condition: we are born and die discontentedly.

The question is what sort of discontent, wintered or not, should we have? Is it, as Augustine puts it, that we have no rest until we find our rest in God? If so, what exactly does it mean to "rest in God"? Does it mean to have our pie-in-the-sky salvation, which has no earthly effect or affection? Is it a mystical release from this too sullied world into the beautific vision of God? The only way to solve the problem of discontent in that instance (and I'm not arguing that that is what Augustine thought, I really have no idea) is to die and "shuffle off this mortal coil." This seems similar to something that C.S. Lewis is supposed to have said about the human discontent. Something about how we long for another world, for heaven as it were.

This isn't the sort of discontent that I think is right or wise. It tends to forsake this oh-so material world for the ethereal, the mystical, the mumbo jumbo. It leaves this world to the pornographers, whose vision of the good life is something much more "material" and ultimately leads to social hell on earth. If we Christians view escape from this world as our joy and calling, we share the same mind as the pornographers, to see the world go to hell for our pleasure. We share the responsibility, we share the judgement.

The most important (and least pornographic) phrase in Scripture dealing with our discontent is this: your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. The Greek text has it, in my mind, more emphatically: as in heaven even upon the earth. Heaven and earth, as can be seen in Genesis 1, are separated ontologically. Heaven and earth, as can be seen in Genesis 3, are separated ethically. Our discontent arises from this disjunction--the human person longs for the ethical unity between heaven and earth, for things to be the way they should, for wrongs to be righted, justice maintained, and peace (shalom) to fill all kinds of relationships. The Christian longing isn't to leave earth for heaven, but that heaven might break forth over the earth, unifying and transforming it in the process, what Paul calls 'reconciliation'.

When we think of the 'good life', the standard of what we think "heaven on earth" might be like is expressed.


~greg said...

Check out Sam Van Eman's On Earth as it is in Advertising. He makes a similar case.

Jason said...

Thank you for posting this, Russ.