Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Christian Survival Guide to the Jersey Shore

Yesterday was a beautiful warm day that got me thinking of Summer.  Soon I will be able to enjoy days on the beach and nights on the boardwalk at the Jersey Shore. Despite the infamous television show, for the most part, the Jersey Shore is like no other place.  I have been to beaches up and down the east coast, on the west coast, in several of the US Caribbean territories, and even other several other countries.  Some may have nicer beaches, some may have calmer more balmy water, some may have softer sand, but there is still something special about the Jersey Shore.  Maybe its the sound of the arcades, the sounds of the spinning wheels with cheers for winners and groans for those who were so so close.  Maybe its the sound of the seagulls, which can be a bit of a nuisance but also something essentially there.  You know, in Hershey Park there is a shore-themed water park where they pipe in seagull sounds.  As annoying as they can be, they would missed for sure if they were not there.  Maybe it is the smells of Italian sausage, caramel corn, pizza, cotton candy, frozen custard, or one of the many other delicious snacks that make up the cuisine of the boardwalk.  Maybe it is the smell of the water or even of the baking boardwalk on a hot Summer day.  I do not know what it is, but there is truly something special there.  In fact, for several years now, I commemorated the unofficial beginning of Summer by attending an early morning concert put on at the shore by a New York radio station.  Even though it will be a much further drive for me this year, I still plan to attend.  Sure there are the bad parts, parts featured on television shows that ignore the wholesome family memories for instead glorify the sinful predilections of some who frequent some of those areas. 

And that brings me to today's post.  I have written on this subject before, but as we shop for our Summer wardrobe and make our Summer plans, I think it is a good time for a refresher.  The unfortunate thing about such things as the atrocity known as The Jersey Shore is not that MTV puts it on television, but that we watch it.  MTV is a business that is about making money.  On television, money is made by selling advertising.  Advertising prices and demand is based on ratings.  And ratings are completely on us.  You see, if we do not watch those kind of shows, then they will have no ratings.  If they have no ratings, advertisers are not going to pay for commercial spots.  If advertisers do not pay for commercial spots, that show will be canceled.  In the end, it is not about boycotting sponsors, FCC complaints, or belly aching to our friends about the garbage on television.  It is about us taking responsibility for our own lives and our own children and not watching those shows.  And that is what I want to talk about today.  I want to talk about personal responsibility for our selves and our children.  No one else in this world is responsible for our behavior but us and no one else on earth is responsible for raising children except for their parents.  So, in order to survive with our purity (in mind and body) intact this Summer, we must first recognize that the responsibility must lie with us alone.  The only place we need to look for blame and responsibility is a mirror and not to any other person or corporation. The reason is that what we see in the world is merely a reflection of the sin nature inside all those not in Christ and the allure it has to us who are free from that sin is a reflection of a dead man inside us that we refuse to bury.  Even for us, sin is not a result of what is in the world, but what we choose to keep alive within ourselves.
And He said, "What comes out of a man, that defiles a man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man."  Mark 7:20-23 NKJV
And as for our children, well they are a reflection of their parents.  It is not for the world to raise your child, but you. 
And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.  Ephesians 6:4 NKJV
We see here that our sin comes from within and not from without and that it is parents and no one else who are called to raise our children.  That needs to be first and foremost on your mind as you bring your children up in the world. 

The biggest problem today with the Jersey Shore (or any other beach these days) is what we allow ourselves and our children to wear.  I have said it before and I will say it again that it is entire inappropriate for a Christian woman to wear a two piece bikini and nothing else anywhere except in the privacy of her own home and for no one else other than her husband.  I would love to hear a defense on that choice of beachwear that defies any sense of modesty.  There is nothing modest about a bikini, period.  It leaves nothing whatsoever to the imagination and becomes a stumbling block to many men around you.  Just by making a show of yourself, you are tempting men into committing spiritual adultery.  Perhaps you think you are not responsible for that.  You are wrong.  That is like saying that the dealer bears no responsibility to the addict he supplies.  I wonder if the Christian woman who wears a bikini to the beach thinks that a stripper in a non-nude bar has a righteous job.  If she feels is it sinful, it must be because the stripper merely charges for what she gives away for free because it certainly can not be the choice of clothing.  I wonder if that same Christian woman would be aghast if a woman were to walk through the playground where her children play wearing only her bra and panties.  I wonder why it is OK to wear something like that on the beach if it is not OK to wear something that covers just as much (or little) other places. 

What makes this even worse is what it shows our children.  If mom wears something to the beach, the daughter will want to wear the same.  They will learn immodesty from a very young age.  They will learn that there is nothing special about their bodies and that with the exception of a very small area, there is nothing wrong with anyone seeing the rest.  And we wonder why so many young girls are dressed like prostitutes.  Think about it, even the shortest of shorts or skirts still cover more than acceptable beachwear.  Even the tightest of tops or the pushiest uppest of bras still leave more to the imagination than their choice of beachwear.  And to make matters worse, we draw attention to the rear ends of our young girls by putting a bumper sticker on them.  Whatever argument you may make to the contrary, the fact is that if you put a sign on something, people will look at it to read it.  Furthermore, if you did not want someone looking at it, why would you put a sign on it anyway?  And so the immodest clothing on the beach becomes the slightly more modest clothing on the boardwalk.  I know the argument "Well perverts shouldn't be looking anyway."  True, they shouldn't.  But the reality is that there are perverts so why would you give them something to look at?  Furthermore, what about boys their own age?  Are you happy to turn your daughter into an object of fantasy for a hormone-driven teenage boy? 

Speaking of boys, what do we do about them?  Their clothes are generally more modest than women.  Unfortunately their behavior, if left to its own devices, is not.  Even if all the Christian girls began to dress appropriately, there still are many in the world who are not.  These boys are being taught to see women as objects and usually by the very women who complain about objectification.  The beach and boardwalk are temptation overload for a teenage boy at the cusp of puberty.  If you wait until then to teach them the precious gifts that women are, it may be too late.  Boys have to learn from a very young age that women are precious daughters of the Most High God.  This is where fathers come in.  How fathers treat their wives is most likely how boys will treat women in general.  Boys need fathers to emulate treating women with the respect they deserve.  They need to see dad treating their mothers, sisters, and any other women appropriately.  If dad gawks at women or makes denigrating comments to women, that is how the son will learn to relate to women.  If dad treats mom with disrespect, that is how the son will learn to treat women. If you want your son to survive the onslaught of temptation at the shore, he must be brought up correctly.  There is no way around that.

In the end, it is as I said at the beginning, it is all about us.  If we do not want our daughters to be tramps, we need to stop dressing them like one and we need to stop emulating dressing like one.  Sure you can blame those companies that market thongs to ten year olds, push up bras to 12 year olds, and padded bras to six year olds. Sure we can blame MTV for putting on shows like Jersey Shore.  That makes us feel good about our own failures.  The fact is that none of that would happen if there was no market for it.  Businesses are not in business to corrupt our children, they are in business to make money.  Children are merely collateral damage in a partnership between companies making money and parents wanting to be their daughter's friend.  The real blame lies with any parent who buys those things.  The real blame lies in parents who allow those influences to affect their children.  The real blame lies in the parents who emulate that behavior with how they dress and act.  The same rule applies to our sons.  If we allow them to watch such shows at Jersey Shore or we emulate to them inappropriate behavior towards women, then we can expect them to take on that behavior.  I know that bathing suits tend to get skimpier and skimpier and women are pressured to show more and more skin.  Any look at pictures from even fifty years ago will show just how far we have come.  The fact is, the world has slid further and further into debauchery and Christians in large part have followed right along.  We have forgotten one of the most basic principles of Christianity in that we fail to conform to Christ and do our best to conform to the world.  May we not leave that legacy for our children.  May we not lead them further into the filth that this world is plunging them into.  We must make our stand now and turn back the tide that is even sweeping modesty in the church out to sea.  Emulate righteousness.  Emulate modesty.  Emulate Jesus.  Leave a legacy of taking a stand against the world that wants to turn our children into pimps and whores. Malachi 2:15 tells is that God seeks Godly offspring.  We should have that same desire.  We must have that same desire.  

So enjoy the shore this year.  If you have never been to the Jersey Shore, I urge you to come see what it is for real and not on some television show.  Personally, I recommend Ocean City.  It is more family friendly than most anywhere else and a great place to create memories to last a lifetime.  If you live here and frequent the shore, then we should enjoy it for the gift of God that it is.  Enjoy it, but enjoy it as the child of God you are and not as the child of the world you say you do not want your child to become.  As in all things, do this as unto the Lord.  I know that Summer does not (un)officially begin for about another month yet, but it is never too early to look forward to that time or to reminisce on times past. 
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what [is] that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.  Romans 12:2 NKJV

1 comment:

  1. "Children are merely collateral damage in a partnership between companies making money and parents wanting to be their daughter's friend."

    Well put and oh so true!

    You're right, Ocean City is great. I have many happy memories of time spent there.