About two weeks ago, Clay Travis shocked CNN’s Brooke Baldwin and ESPN’s former senior editor Keith Reed by unabashedly declaring on air that he believes “in only two things completely: the First Amendment and boobs.”
The response was swift and, frankly, predictable. Baldwin sputtered, Reed scolded, Travis smirked. Soon after, Baldwin pulled the plug on the segment, mics went cold, and the editors cut away to an offended Brooke Baldwin.
I viewed the segment after the fact, and I was offended, too. I wasn’t so much offended by Travis’ statement; I expect that from him, after all. Sure, his crass words saddened me. But it was the rousing defense of Clay Travis from professing Christians that offended me the most. Or, more accurately, I was troubled by the defense of the bro culture that Travis’ words represent from those who claim to be followers of King Jesus.
I’ll admit, on one hand, it was amusing to see liberals feign horror while virtue signaling over Travis’ words, both during the segment and afterward across social media platforms. You see, many of those same liberals celebrate women like Beyoncé, Jennifer Lawrence, and Chrissy Teigen, all women who deliberately trade on the objectification of their sex for fame and riches. However, as satisfying as it may have been to see liberals squirm in their hypocrisy, the bro culture is at odds with Christianity.
During the initial brouhaha, I wanted to write an article challenging my fellow Christians to think long and hard before defending Clay Travis. I didn’t because I had some concerns that the incident didn’t provide a substantial enough platform from which to proclaim my thesis. After all, worse things are constantly splayed across social media and TV screens. I was worried that I would come across as nothing more than a prudish, fundamentalist Christian, and my overall point would be unheard (for the record, I gladly own the label “prudish, fundamentalist Christian”). So I didn’t write the article.
And then Clay Travis tweeted this homage to Hugh Hefner:
RIP to Hugh Hefner, the original defender of the first amendment and boobs.
— Clay Travis (@ClayTravis) September 28, 2017
With that tweet, Travis directly connected his much-ballyhooed words on CNN with the honoring of a man who devoted his life to the objectification and abuse of women.
Organizations like The Gospel Coalition and Desiring God have written excellent responses to the death of the founder of Playboy. I point you to those two articles for more detailed arguments about how Hugh Hefner was not a man who deserves to be feted and admired. Frankly, the arguments shouldn’t need to be made. As Joe Carter writes in the TGC article linked to above, “Hefner didn’t invent pornography, of course. His unique contribution was to make smut (almost) respectable and to provide a veneer of gentility to the degradation of women.”
I see that degradation of women fostered by Hefner in the disgusting way men are beginning to leer at my pre-teen daughter. I hear it when my wife tells me about the men at work who can’t seem to locate her eyes, or about the anonymous men on the crowded D.C. Metro who grope her. It’s in the commercials playing during the TV shows that ask young women to undress and act out the sexual fantasies of the writer, director, and audience.
It’s true that men didn’t/don’t need Hugh Hefner to give them permission to lust nor do they need Playboy to teach them how to casually objectify women. Men have been using women for their lustful, self-serving ends for as long as the clock of history has been keeping time. But Hugh Hefner’s empire of filth encourages men to steer into their sinful desires while providing sins that used to be kept secret a place of privilege in our society. Sexual autonomy is, after all, our society’s Tower of Babel.
This is the man whom Clay Travis praised. And Clay Travis is the man for whom many professing Christians are cheering. By cheering for Travis’ words that he connected to Hefner, many professing Christians are demonstrating that they too smile approvingly on Hugh Hefner and the sexual revolution.
Any winking at Clay Travis (and Hefner, for that matter) as well as any dismissal of the objectification of women as “locker room talk” or the chuckling “boys will be boys” reveals a lack of understanding of how repulsive and ugly sin truly is. Make no mistake, the objectification of women is a sin before our Holy God.
A Biblical anthropology declares that women are as fully and completely made in the Image of God as men are. The Bible tells us that women are worthy of honor and respect, and have intrinsic value. That value is holistic and cannot be reduced to body parts. The bro culture rebels against what the Bible teaches about women.
Hooters Restaurants, Playboy, t-shirts that proudly declare that the wearer is a “Bikini Inspector,” and Clay Travis, among other examples, all reduce women to physical objects. In doing so, the bro culture denies that women are as fully made in God’s image as men are. That’s a lie about God’s creation, which, in turn, is a lie about God. Furthermore, it violates the command to love our neighbor.
Look, borrowing the crass statement of Clay Travis, I love boobs, too. But, and this is an important clarification, the Holy Creator of the universe only allows me to express that sentiment, whether in word or deed, within the context of marriage. Outside of marriage, any sexual expression is a sin before God while reducing women to objects. Any sexual expression outside of marriage is an utterly self-serving action that demands that another image bearer bow to my desires.
Cheering on Clay Travis for his statement on CNN communicates that women can and should be publicly reduced to sexualized body parts. As satisfying as it may be to score political points, Christians need to keep in mind that the enemy of our enemy, so to speak, is not necessarily our friend. Clay Travis and bro culture are engaged in active rebellion against God.