Watch out for Playboyism

Posted: Dec 19, 2003 12:00 AM

Rush Limbaugh was talking about religion as also, that very day, Sean Hannity. One day earlier Christie Hefner was celebrating the 50th anniversary of Playboy.

Rush said listen to this, folks, Catholic voters tended over the years to go Democratic, but there has been a slide toward the GOP in recent elections, and one-third of U.S. Catholics are now thought of as swing voters. That means — Limbaugh discussed the point with a guest — that state and court action on the matter of gay marriage will certainly affect many Catholic voters, and if they view government as laggard on the question, they will continue to move to the right.

Sean Hannity said that he was himself Catholic and that he attends a church which on Sundays is standing room only. He attributes this in part to God, but mostly to his pastor, who, says Hannity, is rigorous in his defense of Christian doctrines, forswearing temptations to truckle to modernism. He too thought that the evolution of the gay marriage business would be politically important.

Christie Hefner was acknowledged by her host as the executive successor to her father, Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy magazine. She was asked what mostly was she proud about in Playboy, and she answered that her magazine had done a great deal to foster liberal ideas. Her interlocutor more or less cooed his agreement on the point.

Playboy of course publishes much material (I have written extensively for it) unrelated to sexual matters, and although it is emphatically heterosexual, Rush Limbaugh would be correct if he guessed that it would endorse gay marriage. The reason here is that the Playboy philosophy is permissive on all points that have to do with sexual predilections (though minors are not allowed). Jane and Carol want to live together? Let them. If the priest who addresses the congregation where Hannity worships speaks out against gay marriage, just hang on for a bit. Things will change.

And the Playboy philosophy has every reason to believe it will be so. The Playboy Channel on television regularly displays scenes not even Abercrombie & Fitch would dare to put into their catalogues. Rush reminds us that we are a nation of churchgoers. Yes, that's true, if comparisons are being drawn to other nations.

What isn't so clear is that church attendance induces Christian behavior. This is the year in which that point struck home sizzlingly, when priests, not laymen, were detected doing dirty things with children. Sean Hannity acknowledges the especially depressing picture of pedophile priests, but of course the question becomes: Are churchgoers being correctly instructed on matters of permissible behavior?

David Morris of ABC News has a word on this point. "Even as they express admiration for the man, majorities in the Pope's American flock reject a variety of his teachings, say he hasn't influenced their views — even on religious matters — and see the Roman Catholic Church as out of step with their lives." Catholics practice birth control at about the same rate as non-Catholics. Sixty percent of Catholics say okay to premarital sex, and almost one half say okay to homosexual relationships.

The clear winner on the scene is Hugh Hefner. Going to church has become one more exercise in permissive behavior. Go ahead on to church, but be careful not to get in the way of Playboyism when you step back from the church to — real life.

What can the Christian hope for? Well, as once ventured in another cloudy situation, God might clear his throat. That is a fine metaphor, God stilling the storm, raising someone from the grave, eliminating AIDS for Christmas. But the believer knows that it doesn't work that way. You must believe in miracles, but it is wrong to expect them. Besides, miracles would certainly be rejected as unconstitutional by People for the American Way. Merry Christmas.