Thursday, February 21, 2008

In the name of lust

The sin of the night in yesterday's Lenten study was lust. An awkward group conversation topic, and even a more awkward subject to find a matching film clip appropriate for all audiences in a church "lower level" (we ended up with a portion of 3:10 to Yuma where Russell Crowe is trying to charm the apron off Christian Bale's wife and a Nooma video).

The conversation got around to why lust made the hit list versus something that seems far more toxic, like idolatry. It was being used interchangeably with sexual promiscuity and even general sexual attraction as a driving force behind people who live Sex in the City lives and change partners on a whim. I think lust was getting a bad rap.

There's been a story in the news this week about a church pastor asking his (married) congregants to commit to having sex every day for 30 days, no matter when you put the kids to bed or how tired you are or how good Law & Order is that night. The idea, from what I can tell, is to try to combat the ever rising divorce rate by getting people excited about their spouses again. A very cool movie made up of short vignettes features one in which a husband is set to tell his wife he's leaving her over lunch at a favorite restaurant -- when she meets him there she beats him to the punch by telling him that she is dying. He obviously holds off on his own bombshell and starts helping her die as gracefully as she can, and says at one point, "I started acting like a man in love, and I became a man in love." It ends with him having glimmers of something that looks like lust whenever he sees a woman wearing a red trench coat, which was a staple of his wife's wardrobe.

The conversation last night went in lots of different directions, but it ended in a place that I think strikes a good balance between defining the carnal aspects as love as differentiated from the selfish destructive whims that satisfy an impulse. Just as all of these 7 deadly sins seem to have a disciplined practice as the other side of the coin (e.g. greed = charity, envy = compassion) I'm thinking lust must have a similar counterpoint. The sin line seems to be drawn at who benefits -- it stops being attraction and an important part of a healthy relationship when it becomes all about you and your own needs, or objectifies another person, versus a mutual sharing of something that is truly spiritual.

So all we need now is to convince producers of shows like this to call a spade and spade and swap out love for lust. It's way too easy to confuse the two.

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