LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP)–How much is a Hooters waitress worth?
This was the sad question at the heart of a lawsuit between the owl-themed restaurant chain and its chief competitor, WingHouse. According to Harper’s Magazine, Hooters charged WingHouse with mimicking its concept of “an all female wait staff featuring beautiful young girls in tight shorts and tank tops.” Thus, the wrangling is not over “atmosphere” but over the sale of a product — namely the displayed body parts of human women.
The court agreed. Harper’s reproduced the legal decision, which decreed that Hooters Girls “might well be considered a product” since their “primary function is to provide ‘vicarious sexual recreation'” for customers. The court reasons, after all, that most Hooters customers go to the establishment for reasons other than culinary.
Christians should pay attention to conversations such as these. For too long, our opposition to a pornographic culture has been portrayed as an abstract campaign against “filth.” Often we are even portrayed as anti-sex prudes. The engines of sexual revolution tell us that they simply want to “liberate” society from the kinds of “repression” foisted on us by religion.
And yet, where is the liberation for the Hooters Girls? These women — all of them someone’s daughter — are reduced to a leviathan company’s line of merchandise, as though they were so many units of chicken flesh served up on platters for lecherous men. And the Hooters Girls are just one in a long line of men and women victimized by the culture of sex-as-commodity. Where is the compassion for the cruelly named “porn stars” — many of whom spend their hours off the screen in a heroin-induced, self-loathing depression?
As Christians, this shouldn’t surprise us. Jesus has warned us that what seems like freedom is a false consciousness that enslaves us and ultimately drags us to our death (John 8:34). The Apostle Paul presents the picture of a cosmos outside of Christ “following the prince of the power of the air” enslaved to “the passions of the flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind” (Eph 2:2-3).
With this in mind, we shouldn’t confront the pornographic culture as head-wagging moralists, but as broken-hearted evangelists. We should stand against the Hooters corporation, not only because it rips apart the moral fabric of society, but also because it renders women created in the image of God as one more “product” to be bought and sold.
This means that our churches must be the kind of places where desperate women — in whom the rest of the world sees no value beyond body parts — can find a Messiah who can liberate them from tyranny.
What would it mean if our churches stopped encouraging our own teenage and preteen daughters to dress like Hooters Girls? What would it mean if we insisted that our young girls insist on being treated with the dignity with which they were created? What if fathers and brothers and uncles took seriously the command to guard such dignity, even to the point of turning away from buying someone else’s daughter as a “product” on the cover of a sports magazine or a fashion catalog? What would it mean if our senior adult ladies took time to share the Gospel and a cup of coffee with the young woman who thinks all she has to offer is a tight T-shirt and a miniskirt?
This would mean that we would be following the example of Jesus of Nazareth, who refused to allow a Samaritan woman to continue defining herself by her sexual availability to men (John 4:17). It would mean that we would signal what Jesus has already shown us, that the way of sexual “freedom” really enslaves. It would mean that we would follow Jesus in heralding a kingdom made up of redeemed tax collectors, prostitutes, and, yes, maybe a Hooters Girl or two.
Russell D. Moore is dean of the school of theology and senior vice president for academic administration at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He is the author of the new book, “The Kingdom of Christ: The New Evangelical Perspective” (Crossway), which can be ordered at www.lifewaystores.com.