Legalism is a skunk; it likes to hide in the dark undetected, while the stars in the sky teach us to live. It prowls for trash, which it can use for its purposes. Its fur stresses only black and white. And yes, legalism stinks. Foul and powerfully repugnant.
When a person makes a seemingly innocent argument in the name of fashion, one could be easily persuaded. What I’m going to hear is merely an opinion on life, nothing more serious than that. But if you think about what is being said, you can see that more is lurking beneath the surface. Legalistic ideas often come in the guise of good intentions, claiming to help us live more spiritually safe lives; but once accepted, they can slowly hamper one’s sense of peace and relaxation. Instead of there being a few ways to die, there are suddenly thousands.
One may argue that subconscious grace helps us live with many rules. Possible, but what is at stake isn’t just present happiness but eternal happiness too. And in the conservative Christian world, this is always the case, though in a negative and not positive sense.
What would happen if we rejected a certain rule or maxim? Well, there are consequences, they would say. Yet what consequences in particular?
Jessica Rey has a video entitled “The Evolution of the Swimsuit.” The link below, I trust, can direct you to it:
Jessica devotes around ten minutes explaining how the women’s bikini came into being and what that means for the Christian woman. At the dawn of the twentieth century, women wore bathing suits covering most of their bodies except for the legs and arms. Some took it even further; they would be carried into the water in a kind of floating outhouse and drop in the ocean so that people would have so little time to view them.
To this Jessica remarks, rather solemnly, “How far we’ve come since then….”
The idea was called modesty. And it meant this: the less skin that handsome man sees out here, the less tempted he’ll be to masturbate in private when he remembers me. I’m concerned with how much of a threat I am to another’s purity.
Too harsh a definition? If you only take Rey’s speech by the surface, yes.
So later on, as the century progressed into the 1960’s, we get what some scholars refer to as the second wave of feminism, when women began to take more pride in their individuality, in particular, their bodies. They didn’t want to be so modest anymore. The bikini was their way of expressing their sexuality without shame and regret.
What is Rey’s ultimate point then? Well, when she mentions that “He made us in His image” you’ll know what the “real” issue is: when Christian ladies wear bikinis, they tempt men to lust after them, as well as being disrespectful to themselves, not truly appreciating the beautiful bodies God created. They are not honoring Him, after all is said and done. For women, it is sinful to wear a bikini. Is there another way to conclude it?
That is my interpretation of the video’s message. It is not a mere fashion statement, for if it were, that’d be fine. But no. It is another case of conservatism on the rampage. And it is pointless.
There are three things I need to say about this seemingly godly presentation. The first two may not be as important, but still can be interesting points in themselves.
First, did you notice the picture of the old fashioned clothes worn by three different women? The one that looked like a 1950’s movie poster? Who is to say that something like that wouldn’t get a man to think about sex as a bikini would? If he stared at their legs, could he not get turned on still, though there is no belly button? I’d be willing to be bet on it. Sounds ridiculous to mention, maybe, but I think there’s merit to it. But Rey’s presentation made the dresses look conservative compared to the “radical” bikinis! So apparently, those short dresses were a holier version of the bathing suit, though the enticement to sex is still there! Is Rey’s argument logical? I doubt it.
Second, one gets the impression that this video seeks to attack feminism. Afterall, it was the evil group of women in the 1960’s who caused girls to become a greater threat to a man’s purity, walking temptations on the beach. But Rey mentions a psychological study done on men when asked to view different bathing suits. On the more “pure” pictures, they were more empathetic towards the women, viewing them as “she.” But when they viewed the bikini bombshells, they thought in terms of “I.” Rey’s argument is that men are less relational to women who make a show of their bodies than to those who are careful with what they wear. Besides, it’s easy to have a conversation with a woman if you can avoid staring at her? Right?
But hilariously… this idea compliments feminism! One of feminism’s most popular tenets is what we refer to as sexual objectification. It means that men view women primarily as sex objects designed for their pleasure and nothing else. Women have no emotional or spiritual value, according to this view. If Rey’s presentation was meant to shame feminism, it actually shakes hands with it. No surprise, really. The Church culture and the feminist world both hate sex in their own ways, for they fear its intensity to narrow one’s focus on the physical, as if sexual urges have the power to turn you into a brute beast. In the Church, both women and men struggle to be sexual, while with feminists, only men need to check themselves.
And thirdly, there is the, ah, “spiritual” significance to Rey’s discussion. If it’s unholy and tempting for women to wear bikinis on the beach or by the public pool, then we have a problem, for they are creating a stumbling block for men. Men apparently need help controlling themselves, so we need to consider encouraging women to have more dignity about what they do with their bodies. There’s a question that comes to my mind:
What if Christian women refused to follow Rey’s advice?
You see, if life really does go on, if it is possible for me, as a man, to talk to a hot girl swimming at the lake, if there are other things we can talk about besides sex, then Rey’s argument wilts in the sun. But so dark was her evidence about men’s brains, it’s almost as if guys have to rape the first woman they see showing a lot of skin. It’s an argument rooted in fear and dread. These conservatives are so frightened of the worst that they think they’re doing the world a favor by standing up against reasonable, healthy liberty. And thankfully, most people will reject Rey’s advice as legalistic, because that’s what it is. Just another debatable rule secretly put out as Gospel. And think about it this way too; what if, in refusing to be moderate in her dress, the Christian women is condemned by her peers in one way or another, to a greater or lesser degree? If not, then why even make something as dress an issue to begin with? If there are little consequences, why bother at all? Is it because her soul might be on the line if she refuses to listen to Rey’s “advice?”
Really, that could be the only serious take you could put on the whole argument.
Women, feel free to wear bikinis at the beach. Men, don’t feel ashamed on noticing. If we can trust ourselves to be controlled and reasonable, then we need not fear the Church or the Feminist roar. Trust is the death of fear.
Cody Alan Reel is a dear friend of mine, so I found it fitting to leave an analysis (for lack of a better word) concerning his story Torture. Being close to this satirical, hilarious, and hiddenly sympathetic man, I think I can give you some insights into the work. Of course, Cody’s explanations helped me come to my conclusions, but I think he’s allowing me to be his messenger boy of some sorts, which sometimes can happen with aspiring writers who know each other. I can relay his ideas for him, to try and encourage others to think about his work. There are spoilers in this piece of writing, as the blog post title indicates, so if you haven’t read the story, be sure to download it for free on your Kindle by clicking on this link and following the instructions from there: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=cody+alan+reel. This will take you to Amazon.com and to his writings up on the market at the moment.
To understand Torture, you must first understand a deep belief that Mr. Reel shares about his world, one that grew in his heart as he went through his teen years and into his twenties: he despises misplaced, unnecessary optimism. Cody abhors the attitude that makes quick, seemingly positive assumptions about human behavior, without having an empathetic and rational outlook. For Cody, those who want happy endings to pervade life, who always expect goodness to triumph over evil, are deluded, for they turn a blind eye to the harsh realities of life. Sometimes terrible things really do happen, unequivocally, unexpectedly, and as undeniably as the ticking of the clock. These optimists expect too much of themselves, others, and of life in general. They won’t allow the natural course of life, which involves good and evil, to simply run its course.
Our attempts to always control evil, though they may be effective in the sense that wicked men are kept at bay, fail to deal with the root causes of a villain’s actions. The lion is caged up, but no one comprehends why it roars. When it comes to handling the destructive actions of human behavior, these purists fail to really understand the minds of murderers, rapists, and the sort of people society fights against the most.
The innocent optimist, until he meets the horror that is Jack, is Matt, the love-struck teenager. Though Matt doesn’t preach ethics and morality to those around him, he does believe that life will turn out well for him, that the sun will shine on him throughout his life. More so, he thinks he can predict life in such a way as to influence his own circumstances for the better. In this way, he mirrors the rapist, because he wants life to go his own way. He wants control, to be God. As a poker player, he always looks for the best move to make, the one thing that can get him as close to success and fortune as possible. He is too young and too into his own fantasies to comprehend adulthood, with all of its dark challenges. Or real life, for that matter.
But there is a great obstacle in Matt’s path: his father, the insecure Johnson. Johnson, haunted by the failings of his own past, wants to mold Matt into his own image, to, psychologically, make up for his mistakes. If Matt goes my way, he can do what I failed to do, reach the level of life I never could. He never admits his own insecurities to his son, never admits that maybe, just maybe, he is wrong about Matt, that Matt’s views are different than his, that his son does not exist merely to make up for his dad’s weaknesses. Matt’s worst fear is to spend his life trapped in Johnson’s shadow, to never make something of himself, that the son is doomed to repeat the sins of the father. Yet there is one thing that links them: their desire to conquer Jack. But they both fail. Johnson is still as weak as he ever was; his attempts to kill the murderer fall flat on the ground, and Matt is taken captive by the sudden terror he cannot understand, something he could never have prepared for. They both fail to conquer the ultimate enemy of humanity: evil.
The man who drives the suspense of the tale is Jack, the secretive, violent, nasty, brutal murderer and rapist. When Cody describes Jack’s blunt actions towards his victims, the details given in as plain a light as the best realism could afford, he is essentially creating a shock factor for the reader. Like other lovers of the horror genre, Cody wants to unsettle the reader so much with Jack’s brutality and promiscuity that they are impressed by it. Not in the sense that they agree with Jack’s ways, but that they may see the darker side of life with no hopeful tinge, that they may deal with what they so desperately hide from in their prayers, secret committees, and quick judgements. Stop running away from it. Face it. Jack’s actions are never judged by the author. Only shown.
Jack knows only one thing: power. Anything that unsettles his handle on life threatens his sense of balance, as when he is almost caught at the bank. He only understands control. And in this way, he is not only like Matt, but all of us, including the optimists: he simply wants to have a say so in his circumstances, to live a meaningful life. But his path to that is deadly and destructive. When it seems that Jack has won, after Johnson is dead and Matt is tied up, Cody has upset the expectations of readers who want the old hopeful plot twist: that a hero will rise up and save the day.
Instead, something anti-climactic and very unexpected happens: a tree falls on Jack and kills him, putting a stop to his deadly lifestyle. Why? Because it just did. No explanation, no reason why. Life simply has a way, in its own mysterious style, to right wrongs, without the say-so of human intentions. Nature, as symbolized by the running river outside Jack’s house, runs its course, going in one direction. There will be pain. But there will be relief as well. Humans cannot control it as much as they would wish too. Life has a way of rewarding us as well as punishing us. But this is such a wild thing to comprehend, that it leaves us stunned still. We cannot easily make out the relevance and meaning of Jack’s death other than the fact we’re grateful for it. We could never begin to understand what drove Jack to do what he did. We only know that he must be contained.
Though, perhaps, there is a character who might shed light on Jack’s heart, one who represents our befuddlement: the silent, feral child, Jake. Throughout the story, Jake says nothing whatsoever. He simply sits and watches Jack carry out his deeds, unable to do anything, having no opinion on what he sees. Sometimes he is even forced to participate in Jack’s schemes. Maybe by giving us Jake, Cody is showing us what gives rise to people like Jack: kids who grow up in unstable enviroments, and hence, those who are not so easily exposed to a collective moral consciousness that would bar us from things like rape and murder. For Matt, Jake’s silence is what he fears concerning his father, having no real say so in his life, but also at how defeated he feels in the face of Jack. He does not know what to make of his new knowledge, that sometimes life is unbearably dark and not always roses and sunshine.
And when Cody’s tale is done, when Matt cries in his bonds and Johnson and Jack lie dead, like Jake, we as readers can only sit in the dark, inside our own silence, unable to say anything that could help us understand what we see with our eyes.
I give Cody’s tale a 3.7 on a scale of 5. It’s a good story, thought provoking, challenging, and powerful in the realm of realism. His writing style, or how he words his sentences, may not always be my cup of tea, but that is tolerable. I’m honored to try and shed light on my friend’s work and can only hope you enjoy his story. Check out Torture by Cody Alan Reel on Amazon.com!
Sharing a nice picture of Jack.
Please read the entire post and share if you could!
“Jack Nicholson” – Spray Paint on Canvas by Me.
Sold / Commissioned 3ft x 2ft
Everything in my Etsy Shop is 50% off to aid w/ our Brain Tumor battle. Use coupon code ART50 at checkout to get 50% off listed price. Etsy Shop –> Ray’s Shop
**Signed / Limited Prints available here: –> “Jack Prints”
Also, please have a look at the rest of my blog if you are unfamiliar with our struggle. My biopsy of the tumor is scheduled, tentatively, for April 21st. Enjoy the artwork 🙂
All I have to do is look at all that I want to write, and it makes me want to not write.
It makes me want to post clever Facebook statuses instead of mentally swimming through a sea of ideological sparks of self-discovery, on my way to finding out how to specifically start a piece of nonfiction as broadly and comprehensively as possible, without neglecting anything, so that I can say everything it is that I want to say.
Given the wide variety of topics that I want to write about, and how thoroughly I desire to write each one, my brain shuts down, and I say “Not today.” Instead, I post things which require less mental effort, but which are more immediately gratifying, as I can complete a Facebook status much more easily than I can a piece of philosophical non-fiction.
The act of completing a piece of…
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As a lover of literature, I’ve always found the concept of “genre” insulting. Often, bookstore selections are categorized by the type of book they are. For example, you can find Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None in the “mystery” section of Barnes and Noble. Because Christie’s masterpiece contains suspense generated from unanswered questions (who is killing everybody in the house?), it is labeled as a mystery novel. Its plot moves as a mystery. Yet, when one learns who the killer is, and the evil reasoning behind the person’s actions, one could be genuinely disturbed. I certainly got this feeling, at least. So in my mind, the story is ALSO a “horror” tale, for it conjures negative emotions in the reader. In this sense, Christie’s book can be seen in MULTIPLE ways and not just one.
You see, in my personal opinion, the longer one is exposed to fiction and thinks about all the different kinds of stories people have penned and typed over the years, one is aesthetically dazzled by the diversity of all the different kinds of stories you can read. Mystery, Horror, Adventure, Romance, Fantasy, Western, Science Fiction, Historical Fiction, Legal Thriller, etc. One is charmed by all the different options one can have in the written word. For someone who aspires to be a writer, the diversity of fiction is one of its most appealing qualities to me. Diversity gives the world color. Instead of one law of creativity or topic being valued above others, one can appreciate different kinds of topics. If a singular idea rules the typewriter, then the path of the author can become boring or monotonous.
Imagine watching your favorite movie so many times that you eventually become tired of it. You find yourself wanting to see something else, to recapture that sense of thrilling discovery when you first watched your favorite flick. Diversity is refreshing to us, because it not only gives us more options, but guarantees new discoveries and experiences that will rescue us from the boredom and dullness of repetition. I had loved the Harry Potter books for a while before I began my real journey into books in 2008. The question that prompted this journey was the question “What if there are other books out there as good as Harry Potter?” I didn’t want to be stuck with Harry Potter for the rest of my life, even though I loved his story. So, since I wanted to recapture that sense of enjoyment that Rowling’s books had given me all over again, I searched for new reads. Like a mountain climber who wants to leave the Alps and climb Everest, all because he wants something just as much, or maybe more, entertaining for him than being in the same range every year.
Diversity is a beautiful thing, for it shows us all the elements of our life and fills us with wonder. We begin to comprehend that we are part of a very intricate design that defies simple explanation.
But what about labels, particularly, words we use to define things so as to distinguish them?
For example, we see a dog barking in the street and we call it a “dog,” for “dog” is the word we use to identify it as such. We use language to identify things, like we use numbers to explain natural causes. If we did not use the label, we could not identify it. To be able to put words to something is important for our understanding of life; without explanation, we drift into ambiguity and fogginess.
The question becomes: it is a healthy thing to remain in the murky clouds, or be able to see what actually is over the horizon? There are two people in the world: those who dream in mystery, and those who can’t function without clarity.
These two kinds of people are diametrically opposed to each other in terms of value. One loves diversity, with all of its choices, the other wants decisiveness, the ability to decide on what matters most. And both are seriously afflicted with moral weakness: the dreamer wishes he could have more conviction in his life and less questioning and doubting. The absolutist wishes that maybe for once he could relax in a daydream and rest his over studious brain.
And speaking of morality, there also seem to be two kinds of people: those who have a strong sense of moral conviction, and those who are not as sure of right and wrong so as to be more comfortable with who they are.
Take the all-continuing controversy over the gay marriage ruling by the Supreme Court. After Friday, homosexuals have the right to marry in all 50 states. For the Christian, this is a nightmare; it is not merely the turning away of America from biblical law, but another sure sign that the world has a low view of right and wrong. The Christian seems to think that without a clear sense of right and wrong from a sure source (the Bible), then the world will weep loudly in the pagan streets of New York, wail in their wasteland farms after God has sent another tornado to punish them, and gnash their teeth when the pastor uses a biblical verse to disprove their optimistic view of free love. The world is going to Hell, not in a hand basket, but in a roaring transfer trailer.
The homosexual is happy after Friday, for the country now sees that the sense of good and evil is not as clear as Jesus made it. The ruling makes it more possible for gays to live without Christians using law to deny them very simple rights. They’re glad the law understands that not all people believe the same thing, and by doing what it did, the court has created a world of all inclusiveness. If Christians had their way, a gay person would be hard-pressed to be themselves in real life. But some liberals make a very intriguing statement even after the ruling: “there is still a long way to go.”
Wait. A long way to go for marriage equality? No, because that’s apparently been settled. Then what? What remains?
This is where the Christian shifts uncomfortably. Because they’re afraid, afraid that one day the court will rule something in greater favor of the gay community. Like what? Well, here is an idea:
“It’s now illegal for churches to gather together to preach against homosexuality.”
Whoa. Dang. In this way, the gay community can truly condemn bigotry at its foundation: the Church. It’s bigoted to condemn a gay person in religious terms, for its a wrong LABEL. The LABEL is inaccurate. But the Church says “No it IS accurate.” So you see then, not all labels are the same. We are ok with calling a canine chewing a bone a dog. But we are uncomfortable either calling a Christian a power hungry zealot, or a gay a power hungry hippie.
Both sides are afraid not merely of the label, but the FORCING of ideas down their throat.
It is about power, my friends. And there is nothing pretty about power. There is something even scary about lifting a box, because it means you can move the box to a place it doesn’t want to be moved.
Each side is afraid of being wiped off the face of the earth. They are both wrong. Diversity is still there. It always will be. And no matter how much power pulsates or diminishes, the world will still be a complex place.
We simply use labels to retain a sense of conviction, so that we may sleep at night. No matter what the other thinks. With faith in ultimate meaning, we are able to function as human beings. Just as the seasons always change, so will human affairs. In this way, tyranny is never eternal, though it may presume to be the liberator of men.
You sincerely wish that, in seeing Christians and homosexuals bash each other, that that could be understood.
I guess not. Because that’s a just a dream eh? 😉