Sex, Lies, and Star Trek

I confess, I’m something of a Trekkie. I’ve been looking forward to the release of Star Trek Into Darkness more than any other movie this year. While reading a few content reviews, though, I came across a snag. The film contains a scene in which a woman changes clothes after asking her male companion to turn his back to her—obviously for the sake of decency. After feigning compliance, the man sneaks a peek. So does the camera, giving the audience an unobstructed view of this woman in a state of undress.

Here’s what I have decided: I cannot financially support this movie. Why? Because I want to grow in my ability to honor God and love that actress.

In James 1:27, which I recently wrote about, we are told, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” James gives the two distinctive fruits that grow from the root of genuine Christianity: love and holiness. Followers of Christ should exemplify these traits when interacting with the world—including the realm of entertainment.

Let’s talk about holiness first. Believers have grown to ignore, accept, or even endorse tantalizing sexuality in films. Based on the lax standards of Christian moviegoers, an unbeliever might conclude that the Bible takes no clear stance on immodesty and nudity. But God is far from silent on these issues.

Scripture associates public nudity with shame (Gen. 3:7; Isa. 47:3; Nah. 3:5; Rev. 3:18). Because of this, God Himself provided clothes for Adam and Eve after the Fall (Gen. 3:21). Job made a covenant with his eyes so that he would not look lustfully at women (Job 31:1). David fell into adultery by seeing a naked woman, even though it was in a “nonsexual” situation (2 Sam. 11:2-4). Jesus refers to a wandering eye as adultery worthy of hell (Matt. 5:27-30). In using the human body as a metaphor for the church, Paul describes it as having “unpresentable parts” that require “greater modesty” (1 Cor. 12:23). Whether sexual or nonsexual, nakedness outside of marriage is shameful.

Countless Christians deny that movies with nudity and/or sex scenes affect them. But as Doug Wilson has pointed out in Reforming Marriage, such denials come from two types of men. The first man is a liar; he is either attempting to fool himself or someone else—and probably both. The second kind of man is telling the truth, but only because he “is so deadened in his conscience that it would take a lot more than that to get him going.”

When Noah became naked in a drunken stupor (Gen. 9:20-27), his son Ham took the situation lightly and told his two brothers about it. Shem and Japheth, on the other hand, treated their father with respect and covered his nakedness without looking at him themselves. This story shows that, even if it is possible to encounter nudity without being aroused, it still cannot be considered a legitimate form of entertainment.

In chapter seven of Worldly Amusements (which I have blogged about before), Wayne A. Wilson describes the “law of love.” As Christian moviegoers, we are responsible not only for our personal holiness but also for treating actors with dignity—not merely as vehicles for our own amusement. Wilson documents seven different interviews with actresses who express their discomfort with exposing their bodies or at least make some reference to the pressure placed upon them to undress for the camera. We need to see that even the “mild” sexuality in Star Trek’s undressing scene is emblematic of how actors—and especially women—are objectified in our culture, often against their preferences.

God did not design the actress in the above scene to be eye candy for the masses. We are to view and treat her as a real person. She has a name (Alice Eve). She is the oldest of three children. (Are her two younger brothers going to see her half naked by watching this film?) She has a condition known as heterochromia (one eye is blue and the other is green). A self-proclaimed “girly girl,” Alice is currently single, which means her future husband is inadvertently sharing much of her body with the world at large. Heck, even Damon Lindelof, one of the writers and producers of Into Darkness, has admitted that Alice’s undressing scene was gratuitous.

Now, what if Alice was fully willing to undress in front of the camera? Just because someone is fine with something does not make it fine. A woman wanting to be ogled by men doesn’t give us the freedom to support her. Such support would be unloving. Potiphar’s wife was willing to engage in naked immorality, but Joseph called it a “great wickedness” and a “sin against God” (Gen. 39:9). Our society may esteem all acts that are consensual, but it’s possible to adore what God abhors (Luke 16:15).

Making a Difference
I could go to the theater and enjoy Star Trek Into Darkness by simply looking down or closing my eyes when the undressing scene takes place. I might possibly meet the requirement of holiness in that regard. Whatever the case, there is no way around the law of love. My patronage would equal financially advocating the objectification of women.

You see, Hollywood doesn’t care how many people avert their eyes during nudity and sex scenes; it cares about how much money it makes. A prude and a pervert give equal support for a film when they buy a ticket. I prefer the practicality of financially investing in more worthy endeavors.

So, a saddened Trekkie, I cannot and I will not pay to see this movie. I desire to cultivate a love for my neighbor (Gal. 5:14; Jas. 2:8) and a denial of the lusts that war against my soul (1 Pet. 2:11). The preservation of love and holiness in my own heart are more valuable—and, ultimately, more enjoyable—than two hours of entertainment.