Those of us who grew up in the 1950s still look back with amazement at the cultural changes that have taken place during the 1960s and 1970s. And one of the leading proponents of those changes was none other than Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.
According to a recent Washington Post article by Elizabeth Fraterrigo, the 84-year-old smut peddler is now seeking to re-gain control of his once-vast Playboy empire. Why? To ensure his “legacy.”
Well, Hefner needn’t worry about his legacy. As Fraterrigo notes, his legacy is already assured since Hefner “has already succeeded in transforming American culture,” making it “more sexualized and sex more commercialized.”
But Hefner was selling more than pornographic images. He was selling a complete philosophy of life, a worldview. A despicable, profoundly anti-human worldview. Fraterrigo sums it up: For Hefner, “self-denial was old-fashioned. So were… conservative sexual attitudes. It was okay to pursue pleasure. In fact, it was American. Above all, individuals did not have to follow the strictures of society—they could find fulfillment in a lifestyle of their own choosing.”
Hefner, of course, can’t take sole credit for the idea that pleasure is the only worthy goal in life. In this post-modern age, that credit should go mostly to Sigmund Freud. As I wrote in my book, The Good Life, Freud believed that the purpose of life was to “become happy and remain so.” And for Freud, happiness resulted from pleasure. Specifically, sexual pleasure, free of all those cumbersome social restraints foisted upon mankind by religion.
And it was this worldview, which invaded the universities and parlors of America in the early and mid twentieth century, which fueled the sexual revolution. Hugh Hefner was merely one of hedonism’s leading ground troops.
And what has the pursuit of pleasure won us as a society? Skyrocketing divorce rates, abortion, a plague of sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse and trafficking, pornography addiction, broken families, and on and on.
And as for Hefner himself, he’s still pursuing pleasure, Viagara bottle in hand, although as his ex-girlfriends report, he is far, far from happy. The good life has eluded him.
And the good life, what the Greeks called eudaimonia, a life well lived, will elude everyone who makes self-satisfaction and sexual gratification their top priorities.
That’s because we can’t live with the consequences of such a worldview. And that’s why we Christians must show the world a better, more rational way of living in the world.
We were made for love. And that love focuses not on ourselves, but on God and neighbor—on the other. God gave us those stuffy old sexual mores, the ones Freud obsessed over, precisely to ensure our happiness—our happiness as individuals and as a human society. The joy and assurance of faithful love, one man and one woman, are a great blessing, and—in the end–the source of great pleasure.
Now that’s a worldview that makes sense. And its legacy will be profound and deep happiness for those who embrace it.