Slavery to Sin

From the Dean

A regular article written by Phillip Jensen in his role as Dean of Sydney at St Andrew's Cathedral.

Originally Published:
15th June 2007

Tagged: censorship popular culture violence

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Which is worse: to be a prude, a wowser or to be locked behind the white picket fence of the 1950's?

All are manifestly bad for today. Repeatedly people introduce moral comment saying “I do not want to be a prude but …”, “I am no wowser but…” “I don't want us to go back to the fifties, but…”

This says more than some people do not want to be prudes/wowsers. Apparently nobody wants to be a prude/wowser. Not even prudes want to be prudes. Never do you hear people say “I am a wowser and therefore…” It is always “I am not a prude/wowser but …”

Why is it so bad to be a prude or a wowser or to admire the 1950's? I know the answer to this question. If you have to ask you will never understand it. But that is all part of the continued put-down of people who wish to express certain moral reservations about behaviour. So overwhelmed have they become by this continued abuse and bullying that they give assent to the bullies with “I do not want to be a prude/wowser …” introduction to their protestations. It is not a matter of reason or argument. It is the well-known political process of labelling and marginalizing those with whom we disagree.

It is like being “old fashioned”. This in moral categories is neither good nor bad. It can be bad to take your ideas from fashion—be it old or the latest. But whether it is old or new is no indications that it is good or bad. But people hate to be labelled as old fashioned.

Christians need not listen to these petty put-downs in coming to decisions about how to live. We rather listen to God than to the opinions of humans. Especially the opinions of those who try to justify evil, and rationalise immorality.

God understands the human condition better than any fashion in human thinking, or any particular golden age of reasoning. He sees us dead in our sins, as slaves to sin, as hopelessly darkened in our understanding because of sin.

Look at how he describes us in Ephesians 2:

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Or again later in Ephesians He says of us:

They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. (Ephesians 4:18-19)

This is a more realistic appreciation of human nature than the idealism of our contemporary society that keeps getting shocked by the behaviour of people. It is an old fashioned view but it understands what makes us tick.

In the 1960's a great struggle was fought in the name of intellectual advancement and freedom of speech. The censorship laws of Australia and Britain were broken by the magazine Oz and the Lady Chatterley's case in the Old Bailey. In the centre of these struggles was the young Richard Neville.

Thirty years later he looked back on these struggles and wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald:

The beacon of our system is freedom of speech and, in the early days of fighting to extend its range, many of us harboured a dream that a life-enhancing playfulness would prevail, that our world would be enriched by new ideals and visions, a zestful interplay of imaginings. Not so. The magnates who seized these freedoms vulgarised them.

But he wrote this because by 1996 he could see the betrayal of his dream. He saw the Port Arthur Massacre and the Wood Commission in the light of the films and videos that the breakdown in censorship had spawned.

Here are some of his other comments:

“The growing availability of ‘splatter trash’ videos is alarming in its potential not only to catalyze the crazies but to corrupt society as a whole.”

“The confusion in the debate on violence in the media, the arts and in our society is a reflection of the confusion in our own heads. Many movie critics, I came to realize, were so desensitised by the lashings of violence in the back stalls, that it barely registered.”

“When I demurred to those who had recommended it (a movie), citing this bloody moment, they replied: ‘I didn’t even notice it.’ Exactly. It’s part of the landscape. It’s what we don’t notice any more that’s so scary.”

“What really lies at the bottom of my concerns, deep down—I suppose it’s a kind of anger, really, at freedom corrupted.”

He had come a long way but he still did not understand what God teaches. Freedom has not been corrupted. Humans have been corrupted. Jesus said: “Everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin”. Changing laws—especially liberalising them—will never change human behaviour for the better. We need a saviour who brings not only forgiveness but also regeneration.