Religious conservatives are an interesting lot. One minute we rail against the entertainment industry for debasing "Christian values," the next we whore those values out by consuming whatever piece of Godless trash they shove in our face.
We demand better role models of our celebrity class, and by that, I mean we set a bar as low as demanding they not openly fantasize about assassinating our President, and then we slap down $15 at the box office (even more for a cable subscription) so that said celebrity can go on being a celebrity and donate a slice of their fortune to candidates not-too-friendly to our "Christian values."
Our blood boils as, week after week, we read of mega-business empires demanding our daughters urinate alongside Caitlyn Jenner, but our response is as Kevin Bacon in Animal House: "Thank you, sir. May I have another?"
Take the latest craze in pop culture, Game of Thrones, for example – a nihilistic, overproduced Skinemax softcore porn dressed up in Tolkien fantasy drag, sprinkled with just enough dramatic dialog and cinematic production values to distract us from its cold black heart. If Tolkien saw Middle-earth as analogous to modern times, then GOT is Grima Wormtongue – the ugly, jealous servant colluding with Saruman to corrupt the good King Theoden through lies and deceit. To watch GOT is to watch cruel-minded adults smear blood on the walls of a children's playroom.
Despite all the sex, despite all the nudity, despite that Pornhub experiences a lull in traffic on nights GOT airs, often I hear my religious conservative friends go on ad nauseam about why the show is God's greatest gift to television, not to mention how I'm a loser if I don't black out my schedule to binge-watch all the seasons. Not once, however, have their sales-pitches come without this nifty little qualifier: "The sex and nudity are difficult at first, but you'll learn to look past that."
Will I now? Truth be told, my wife and I didn't get through the first episode. Not only did we find it boring for all the reasons listed above (Martin is no Tolkien, no matter how many R's in his initials), but after seeing Emilia Clarke birthday-suited up for the umpteenth time, the swash-buckling and dragons became little more than expensive foreplay to keep people titillated long enough for the money shots.
I understand my friends' opinions though, and even downright sympathize. Believe it or not, I get it. Religious conservatives are a battered, abused lot, living in an enclave surrounded by hungry wolves, whose collective howls they now mistake for music, and the eating of our friends they now mistake for theater. We have no culture to call our own, a place where we not only share and confirm our values amongst each other, as we do in our subcultures, but a place where we share and confirm our values to the world. Where we show up to the high-rollers table, empty our pockets, and take the house. Where we fearlessly and collectively shout to a world that demands our silence "take it or leave it."
As philosopher Roger Scruton says, culture creates a sense of belonging and invites our participation. To live in a culture that routinely debases your values is to live in a culture that says you don't belong in it. In the pop cultural conversation, we hate to be known as that guy, the one we see at church always singing out of tune with the pencil-stuffed chest pocket. The guy who thinks the dark night of television descended upon us when Herman and Lilly were shown sharing a bed on The Munsters. We definitely do not want to be that guy.
Forgive me as I step into the role of that guy for a moment, though I don't think the dark night of television began with The Munsters. Quite contrary to your dismissive exclamations of "PURITAN!" right now, I voted for Trump and echo Benjamin Franklin's apocryphal line that "beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy." In fact, part of the reason for this modern mess of sexual confusion is precisely because of puritanism. So it's important to define what we mean by the words puritanism and pornography.
Puritanism denies the flesh, views it as inherently depraved, and reduces all matter to necessary evils that aid in our survival but utterly incapable of aiding in our redemption. Therefore, puritans eschew sensual pleasures: alcohol, art, music, dance, theater, food, and even marital relations.
Pornography exploits the flesh strictly to satiate carnal pleasure and concupiscent appetites. If puritanism denies the sensual pleasures, then pornography turns them up to 11. In just 50 years, from the days when television forbade married couples from sleeping in the same bed, our culture swung from the puritanical to pornographic, and as Aristotle said: "Virtue is in the mean."
What is the mean? The mean is enjoying a fine beer with a few good friends on occasion, eating healthy but not forgetting to enjoy a slice of chocolate cake, crying over a great movie and then watching a sit-com just to laugh, reveling in the sound of a great symphony and then rocking out to Smashing Pumpkins. It is a journey all modern people must make, especially men, lest they succumb to the kind of effeminancy that St. Thomas Aquinas cautioned against — a man that refuses to detach himself from pleasure to pursue what is arduous and difficult.
For sex, natural law and divine revelation clearly show us that the act is not only good but also virtuous and holy only when between a husband and wife for the purpose of strengthening unity and procreation. That means, ladies and gentlemen, our eyes and bodies are meant only for our spouses, and in that context, knock yourselves out, have fun, make babies, it's a playground. Obviously, we still need prudence and boundaries, Pope John Paul II explored this in Theology of the Body, but you get my drift.
"But Mr. Bois!" you exclaim. "What about Michelangelo's 'Statue of David'? Are you one of those puritans who'd paint fig leaves over the Sistine chapel?"
To be blunt, no. Michelangelo's "Statue of David" and "Creation of Adam" are works of art about beauty in the flesh. They transcend our spirits, not feed our carnal pleasures like the majority of cable television's programming. Yes, art can be objectively measured. Prager U confirmed this. The constant stream of T&A on GOT exists solely to arouse teenage boys, lonely bachelors, and spates of married men into fawning over Emilia Clarke, not explore the beauty of God's creation.
Let's unwrap what actually happens in every GOT episode when Emilia Clarke or some random starlet desperate for those ten minutes of fame does the full monty: They share with millions of men, many of whom they do not know, an intimate experience they have absolutely no business sharing in. Spare me the "but they consented to it" nonsense and your virtue-signals of political incorrectness (it goes both ways). The fact of the matter is that the streamlining of sex directly into people's homes all day and everyday has never existed in the history of civilization, not even the Romans could do that, and good luck arguing whether this has produced positive fruits.
By watching GOT and most of cable programming's pornographic garbage, even if we fast-forward through the smut and get to the good stuff, we in a sense become complicit to the madness. We become one more notch in HBO's ratings belt for them to boast of.
Honestly, would it really hurt us to just stop watching? Will we die a torturous death and sink into a black void? Can we not read a book? How many have watched GOT but have never even glanced at Dante or Milton? We live in the most saturated time in history where we can literally spend our days consuming culture and not repeat ourselves. Don't tell me our lives depend on getting our entertainment fix from the leftist commissars at HBO.
I get it, we don't want to be that guy, and yes, we cannot just simply wall up in our enclaves and bury our heads in the sand. I'm no fan of the Benedict Option. We need the positive alternative, our place at the high-rollers table, a culture that directly competes with their culture and whose goodness beats the living daylights out of their nihilistic fantasies every time.
For we live in the land of Middle-Earth, where maidens and knights reign supreme, where heroes will rise to restore harmony once again, not the abusive wasteland of Westeros, where women are pleasure ornaments and heroes are cannon fodder.