By Zack Carter | Faculty Contributor
One day, Barney the frog wandered from the safety of his pond. Hopping his way up to a conveniently propped open screen door of an old farmhouse, into the kitchen and onto a stove where he found himself next to a pot of water. The pot extended luke-warm greetings, inviting him in. Barney agreed and began enjoying his new ecosystem. Time went by, and the water heated up. However, Barney didn't notice this slow increase in temperature, as his body naturally adapted. Soon after, the water bubbled, and though he was warm, Barney didn't move. You know what happens to Barney.
Cultural progressivism, left unmonitored, can discreetly turn a simmer into a boil, cultivating moral liberalism and theological fallacy in the Christian mind. Faith by itself, unaccompanied by action, is dead (James 2:17). I fail as your professor to disciple behavioral truth and boundaries if the sword remains in stone.
As a social psychologist and a fervent weight-lifting enthusiast, I've seen a rapid increase in objectification and self-objectification boiling over into social media and even our own campus.
Philippians 4:13 and 1 Corinthians 6:19 are popular go-to verses for Christian fitness enthusiasts. They're often chosen with good intentions, and developed into slogans like "Bodies for Christ" as a means to promote Biblical stewardship of the body. However, good intentions to simply foster a healthy body can quickly transcend to self-adoration, distorting view of self and other.
We're called to die daily to self (John 3:3-7), boast only through Christ (Gal. 6:14), edify others through behavior (1 Cor. 10: 23-24) and counter culture (Rom. 12:2). Culture insists on self-promotion to further individuality, while the Gospel insists on self-demotion to foster Christianity.
Progressivism often lashes out nonsensically, exhausting words like shame and repression, to veil individual behavioral responsibility; for instance, the provocative gym selfie posted with Scripture, endorphin-laden egotism, visual abuse and sexualized clothing marketed as fitness and leisure. Beyond the gym, the cancer of self-promotion, objectification and unconscious exploitation has spread.
Instagram, for instance, is called the new pornography. Men and women shamelessly post self-objectifying photographs. Body-image disorders, anxiety, depression, low-self-esteem and comparison issues are the objectifying implicit responses elicited.
Massive implicit association tests in psychology repeatedly confirm heart-breaking objectification differences between genders. For example, when both genders are presented with brief images of women wearing "form-fitting fitness" or "scantily-clad" clothing, male participants repetitively implicitly sexually objectify the female body, while females repetitively implicitly self-compare.
Science confirms our responsibility to consciously manage nonverbal behaviors. Unfortunately, a fallen world denies behavioral management responsibility. Sadly, many Christians find difficulty accepting truths requiring them to surrender conditioned, comfortable freedoms.
The multi-billion-dollar industry of pornography and the pornographic element creeping into social media are both largely fueling the even larger sex traffic industry, thriving on the naïve slow-boiling cultural lie sold to you: "My self-behavioral management is inconsequential, the world is too fallen, thus, I'll just conform."
You are your brothers' and sisters' keeper. With your eyes, wardrobe discernment and even your fitness behavior, you are called to live above reproach. What keeps me awake at night is the thought that on and off campus, you naïvely disregard your counter-culture responsibility, discounting boundaries to guard your heart, as you enter into a pornographic, sex-trafficked, objectifying fallen world that adamantly resists dual responsibility of respect.
The unsheathed sword should encourage you to combat cultural injustice on the self. You should forgo asking, "What are my behavioral freedoms I'm permitted to exercise because I'm saved by Jesus?" and instead, eagerly pursue, "Because I've been saved, what behavioral freedoms can I sacrifice to show others Jesus?" (Gal. 5:13-14).