The Super Bowl LIV halftime show was characterized by immodesty, vulgarity, and hyper-sexualized content. It was dehumanizing. It’s unfortunate that so many are praising it and so few are denouncing it. What’s more, I fear for the way young people will be conditioned to accept impure and immodest behavior as not only normal but as something to be applauded.
By Deacon Frederick Bartels
When someone mentioned something about “poll dancing” in this year’s super bowl halftime show, I wasn’t surprised. Although I don’t keep up with football, nor do I watch halftime shows, it’s common knowledge that a lot of immodest, impure, edgy behavior is on public display at these events, whether by cheerleaders or performers. That’s nothing new. It’s also predictable that, each year, producers and performers will ratchet up the shock factor, which means an increase in near nudity, sexualized poses, and disordered symbolism. Once a thirst for darkness gets rolling, it’s hard to stop.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, every one who commits sin is a slave to sin.” — Jesus Christ
Given that American culture is highly pornographized, celebrating immodesty as if it is a virtue, I thought it important to write a short piece on the detrimental effects of the Super Bowl LIV 2020 halftime show, which meant I had to give it at least a glance to get a feel for just how depraved it was. When I pulled up the video, however, I didn’t realize the level of moral repugnance that was about to be unleashed before my eyes. All it took was a few seconds for the loathsome, vulgar character of the performance to sink in. In those seconds, I saw Jennifer Lopez and Shakira behaving, moving, and posing in dehumanizing, pornographic ways, unbefitting of the dignity of women. I saw men dancing in white skirts with strips of cloth woven around their chests, giving the appearance of women’s clothing complete with bras, in an attempt to show what I took as obvious support for transgenderism. And I saw a Jennifer Lopez’ daughter in the midst of it all.
Wikipedia has a page on the show, complete with reviews, most of which are gushing with raving approval. In the last paragraph of comments, it notes that some reviews from conservative audiences were critical of the performance. Franklin Graham is quoted as commenting that the performance showed “young girls that sexual exploitation of women is okay.” It’s important to note that the sexual exploitation going on was obviously approved by the female performers themselves.
To sum it up, the performance was rife with all that’s wrong with American culture today in terms of its hyper-emphasis on sexual promiscuity. After my few glances, I’d seen enough. I’m well aware that most Americans claim to be Christian, but it’s difficult to see how any follower of Christ could look on that kind of activity, so opposed as it is to human dignity and the true good, and fail to decry it, let alone allow children to be exposed to it.
The Catechism has a section titled, “The Battle For Purity.” What an appropriate way to phrase it. In that halftime performance, the dark side of the battle was on full display. Unfortunately, it is getting more and more difficult to remain pure in today’s post-modern world as the forces of evil—Satan, his cohorts the demons, and all those who have given themselves over to him—are swelling their ranks. I’ve often found that many young people’s sense of purity is fairly significantly blunted. They often don’t notice what’s happening in terms of the rampant lack of modesty and discreetness oozing from the seams of a morally fractured society that has lost its sense of light and direction.
With the “Battle for Purity” in mind, I’ll leave you with a few paragraphs of the Catechism’s enlightening and edifying words on purity and modesty:
Baptism confers on its recipient the grace of purification from all sins. But the baptized must continue to struggle against concupiscence of the flesh and disordered desires. With God’s grace he will prevail
– by the virtue and gift of chastity, for chastity lets us love with upright and undivided heart;
– by purity of intention which consists in seeking the true end of man: with simplicity of vision, the baptized person seeks to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything;
– by purity of vision, external and internal; by discipline of feelings and imagination; by refusing all complicity in impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments: “Appearance arouses yearning in fools”;
– by prayer:
I thought that continence arose from one’s own powers, which I did not recognize in myself. I was foolish enough not to know . . . that no one can be continent unless you grant it. For you would surely have granted it if my inner groaning had reached your ears and I with firm faith had cast my cares on you. — St. Augustine
Purity requires modesty, an integral part of temperance. Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.
There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.
The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. It is born with the awakening consciousness of being a subject. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.
Christian purity requires a purification of the social climate. It requires of the communications media that their presentations show concern for respect and restraint. Purity of heart brings freedom from widespread eroticism and avoids entertainment inclined to voyeurism and illusion.
So called moral permissiveness rests on an erroneous conception of human freedom; the necessary precondition for the development of true freedom is to let oneself be educated in the moral law. Those in charge of education can reasonably be expected to give young people instruction respectful of the truth, the qualities of the heart, and the moral and spiritual dignity of man.
The Good News of Christ continually renews the life and culture of fallen man; it combats and removes the error and evil which flow from the ever-present attraction of sin. It never ceases to purify and elevate the morality of peoples. It takes the spiritual qualities and endowments of every age and nation, and with supernatural riches it causes them to blossom, as it were, from within; it fortifies, completes, and restores them in Christ. (CCC 2520 -2527)
Deacon Frederick Bartels is a member of the Catholic clergy who serves the Church in the diocese of Pueblo. He holds an MA in Theology and Educational Ministry and is a Catholic educator, public speaker, and evangelist who strives to infuse culture with the saving principles of the gospel. For more, visit YouTube, iTunes and Google Play.