Sunday, October 08, 2017

How to Minimize the Influence of ’Professor’ Hefner

The 'Professor'

(Twenty-seventh Sunday of the Year (A): This homily was given on October 8, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Philippians 4: 6-9.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Twenty-seventh Sunday 2017]

He only had a Bachelor of Arts degree from a university in Illinois, but he was a professor—of sorts.  In fact, you could say that he’s been the most influential professor in the United States of America in the last 50 years.  His students numbered in the millions when he was actively teaching, and that number continues to grow, even though he’s now dead—since his philosophy continues to influence (some would say “infect”) many individuals and institutions in our society.  It’s even infected some people in the Church since the 1960s—leading to those clergy sex-abuse scandals of the early 2000s.  He’s been called “a hero,” “an innovator,” “a cultural pioneer” and “an advocate for free speech, civil rights—and, of course, sexual license”.  But most of all, in my view at least, he was (and in some sense still is) a teacher, a professor. 

His name (in case you’re still wondering) is Hugh Hefner.

I call him a professor for a reason.  It’s because of what professors do.  Simply put, they “mold minds.”  That’s their job.  They train their students to think in a certain way.  Engineering professors, for example, train their students to think like engineers; law school professors train their students to think like lawyers; med school professors train their students to think like doctors.

Well the fact of the matter is that for the last 5 or 6 decades no one has influenced the thinking of more Americans than Mr. Hugh Hefner has!

That’s sad; that’s tragic—but I also believe it’s true.

So, apparently, does “Theology of the Body” expert Christopher West.  In an article he wrote a few days after Hefner’s death, West said this:
To understand the mind of Hugh Hefner is, in a way, to understand the mind of our culture. Hugh Hefner was one of the most successful “evangelists” of the modern era. His “gospel” has gone out across the globe and has had an enormous impact on the way we think about ourselves and the world. And those who call themselves Christians have been far from immune from this false gospel. I would venture to say that if the average believer in the western world spilled the contents of his or her mind on a table, thoughts and ideas about the body and sex would look a lot more like the vision Hugh Hefner promoted than, say, the “great mystery” of sexual love unfolded by John Paul II.

Hefner was one of the most vocal and active leaders in the sexual revolution that began in the 1960s—a revolution that has resulted in a sky-high divorce rate, more marital infidelity than ever before, broken families, the objectification of women, an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, including AIDS—and even an increased rate of cancer (since the birth control pill is a group 1 carcinogen, according to the World Health Organization, which means that it’s “a known and probable cancer-causing agent to humans”).

Thank you so much, Professor Hefner!

This makes St. Paul’s message to us in today’s second reading all the more important—and all the more urgent.  There, in that text from Philippians 4, the apostle says this:
Finally, brothers and sisters,whatever is true, whatever is honorable,whatever is just, whatever is pure,whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious,if there is any excellenceand if there is anything worthy of praise,think about these things.

Think about these things.

St. Paul rightly understood that if you “sow a thought” you will “reap an action”—as the old saying goes.  If you sow and cultivate angry thoughts, for example, your actions will reflect those thoughts, sooner or later.  By the same token, if you sow and cultivate prideful or envious or lustful thoughts, certain actions will naturally follow from those.  Every action begins with a thought.

So it should be obvious: If the majority of your thoughts are shaped by somebody like Mr. Hugh Hefner, sooner or later you’ll begin to act like him (at least to some extent).

The best way to prevent this from happening, of course, is to minimize Hefner’s influence on your thoughts and on your life.  In other words, the key is to stay out of this professor’s classroom as much as possible.

I say “as much as possible” because, unless you’re a Carthusian monk and live the life of a hermit, it’s almost impossible to stay out of Hefner’s classroom completely in 2017.  That’s because the Playboy philosophy of life has influenced almost everything in modern American culture: what young people are taught in schools (public schools, and, sad to say, even some Catholic schools); what we hear on the radio; what we see on television and in movies; what we read in novels and magazines; fashion; even sports (you can’t watch a football game these days without seeing scantily clad women in the stands or in the commercials).

Because our culture is so highly sexualized, most of us are not able to stay out of Hefner’s classroom completely.  But we can certainly MINIMIZE the amount of time we spend there—if we choose to!  And here I’m not just talking about avoiding pornography (although that’s definitely part of it). 

I’m also talking about making good choices concerning what we read, and listen to, and watch, and wear.  And I’m talking about making the decision to sit in “Jesus’ classroom” every day—especially by reading Scripture and other spiritual books and publications: reading materials that will nourish our faith and not undermine it, reading materials that will fill our minds with truth, not lies.

Because there’s a lot at stake in all this!  St. Paul told the Philippians to think thoughts that were honorable, just, pure, lovely, gracious and worthy of praise because he knew that those thoughts would lead the Philippians to certain actions, and those actions would ultimately have eternal consequences.

As the old saying goes (part of which I quoted a few minutes ago):
Sow a thought, reap an action;Sow an action, reap a habit;Sow a habit, reap a character;Sow a character, reap a destiny.
Lord Jesus, help us to say no to the mind-molding efforts of Hugh Hefner, which we still have to deal with each and every day even though he’s dead.  And, at the same time, give us the grace and determination to sow the right thoughts in our minds each and every day, so that we will reap a destiny—an eternal destiny—with you.  Amen.