“Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” – Hebrews 13:4-5 (NIV)
Hugh Hefner, the founder and publisher of Playboy Magazine died last week at the age of 91. If you wonder how our culture became tolerant of pornography of increasing explicitness and ubiquity, you can thank Mr. Hefner for his significant contributions.
Following Hefner’s death, it seemed nearly every news organization published a gushing tribute to the man and his legacy. If you want to read them, there’s this thing called the Internet and I’m sure you can find them. But in scanning the headlines that reported Hugh Hefner’s death, one headline caught my eye. It said, “Hugh Hefner’s first wife CHEATED on him — a betrayal which gave birth to his Playboy lifestyle.”
The article reports that Hefner and his fiancée had been saving themselves for marriage, but that while he was serving in the army during World War II, she confessed to him she’d had sex with another man. They married in spite of this, but their marriage ended in divorce four years later. About the infidelity, he said,”That was the most devastating moment in my life.”
Why are we talking about this?
If you’re a regular reader here (thank you!) you know I always have a reason. Hefner said his then-fiancée’s being with another man cast a shadow over his marriage. “After that, I always felt in a sense that the other guy was in bed with us, too.” And although his wife, guilt-ridden, encouraged/allowed him to sleep with other women, ultimately, Hugh Hefner became an enemy of sexual morality.
He started Playboy magazine in 1953 and sought to make eroticism socially acceptable by publishing photos of nude women alongside interviews, music reviews, essays, and short stories. In addition to the magazine, Hefner promoted what he called the Playboy philosophy, which as you’d imagine took a dim view of monogamy.
So here we have a man whose woman was unfaithful, whose marriage didn’t last, and whose life’s work discouraged others from being faithful in marriage.
The wound and its interpretation
Brent Curtis and John Eldredge’s book The Sacred Romance, and Eldredge’s later book Wild at Heart discuss in some detail what they refer to as “the message of the arrows.” Each of us, they say, receives a wound, and that wound pierces us in a vulnerable part of our heart and soul. We try to make sense of it, and we get a lot of “help” from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Most of us regard the wound as something shameful, and we internalize it and never take it to our Heavenly Father to let Him heal it. Instead we make a vow to never let ourselves get hurt that way again. And this gives way to the false self.
A man’s question
More from Wild at Heart: Eldredge explains that every boy longs to receive the masculine blessing — to know that he is a man and that he has what it takes. That blessing should come from a boy’s own father, or perhaps his grandfather, uncle, or godfather. It is the conferring of manhood, so it should come from men. But bad things happen when a man seeks to validate his masculinity in the arms of a woman, or women. To quote Eldredge verbatim:
“When a man takes his question to the woman what happens is either addiction or emasculation. Usually both.”
Back to Hefner
Do you see this pattern playing out in the life of Hugh Hefner? Clearly, he wanted his wife to validate him as a man. Her sleeping with another man created a wound in that most vulnerable part of him. The false self that became his identity was that of the Lothario, the playboy, the stud — able to get any woman he wanted. This turned out to be partially true. He could get all the women he could bribe with plastic surgery. And he could keep all the ones who were willing to put out in exchange for an “allowance.” But ultimately, this wounded man sought to medicate himself with women’s bodies and Viagra. Pretty sad.
But the worst thing was that this man’s false self contaminated our culture and created massive stumbling blocks for generations of men. Each one of us is responsible for his own choices and actions, but notice how personal choices affect others. How many of our grandfathers, fathers, brothers — and how many of us — have given in to the temptation offered by Hugh Hefner and his imitators? How many of us grew up with absent dads imbued with the Playboy philosophy? How many of us are in the chains of sexual addiction through promiscuity, pornography, or both?
May God grant us the grace to overcome the sorry legacy of Hugh Hefner and walk free in the glorious light of Christ Jesus. May we seek and find our identity in Him. And may we pass on a better legacy to our sons and daughters. If we truly believe God is for us and will never leave us, we can find contentment whether married or single.
So how about you? How have you gotten your question answered? Do you need a reboot? Share your story or add your comments below.