FIRST-PERSON: Where were you at halftime?

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)—-Several times prior to Super Bowl Sunday, I asked the congregation at First Baptist Church in Ada, Okla., where I serve as transitional pastor, "Who's playing in the Super Bowl and who cares?" After the debauchery demonstrated during the halftime show, another question needs to be asked, "Where were you on Super Bowl Sunday night?"

Where was your family during halftime? Were they attending Sunday night church? Were they participating in an evangelistic halftime event using the Super Bowl theme? If so, you were spared the embarrassment before your family and are less likely to need to ask God to forgive you for inviting the false god of sensuality to parade through your house and the rooms of your mind via CBS.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, colorfully responded to CBS' marriage to MTV’s corrupt values during the Super Bowl halftime, noting, "When you lie down with mangy dogs, you will get up with fleas." The sensual images indeed are like pesky fleas, prompting men and women to think the provocative lyrics, dance movements and attire demonstrated during halftime are normative American public behavior.

From the news releases I have seen and heard about the event, most viewers are focused on Janet Jackson's alleged "wardrobe malfunction," as her cohort Justin Timberlake put it (who are we kidding?). However, what should prompt outrage from people with moral sensibilities are the other performers on the stage. Have we sipped from the brackish liquor of hedonism so long that we find women publicly gyrating in lingerie and young men verbalizing their Beavis and Butthead juvenile approach to sexuality acceptable?

Can we imagine what these images do to our nation's children? We must remember that the program on center stage in Houston was just a sampling of regular MTV productions. Do we not understand that the vast majority of MTV viewers are too young to buy alcoholic beverages, yet they gulp down the mental pollutants spewing out of the family's television set? The mega-bass speaker boxes and raspy-throated artists propagate a form of sexuality that uses people and especially our children. The music industry operates off the principle that sex sells, thus pushing the limits of sensual shock to snare the heart and soul of our nation's children.

Television is a sexual minefield. A 2002 study of sex on television by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that two-thirds of all shows contain some sexual content, up 56 percent from five years ago. Furthermore, 14 percent of all network shows now include sexual intercourse, either depicted or strongly implied, up from 7 percent five years ago.

On every hand, marketers are convinced that America's commerce must rely upon sensuality. Americans are held hostage to the constant drumbeat of sexuality, even during an event that the National Football League wants to promote as family entertainment.

If this is family entertainment, we are in deeper trouble than many of us ever imagined and no public policy can fix it. No government commission can make things right. The FCC cannot fine CBS enough or the artists sufficiently to move the clock back to the place where the line was crossed. We will never pass enough laws to curb the public debauchery that permeates our culture.

National leaders will be tempted to shake their shame finger at Jackson and Timberlake. The leaders would be wiser to say, "shame on us." That's right, shame on us for being so far away from God's purposes and God's agenda for living that we are fodder for the marketers peddling their wares via licentiousness.

Our national leaders of generations past would have called for a day or more of national repentance and fasting for our wickedness. The public in those days had a healthy fear of God. What does that say about the attitude toward God today? Where have we departed? Have we moved so far away from the heart of God that when overt wickedness is evident to the majority, we no longer buckle at the knees and plead for God's mercy?

Perhaps in a community of faithful saints, perhaps on a Sunday night when they gather to worship, God will hear the heart of His people shedding hot tears of repentance and will choose at that moment to breathe the breath of spiritual renewal in that church and their community.


John Yeats is editor of the Oklahoma Baptist Messenger and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention.

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