Hugh Hefner the moral theologian: He tried to escape from personal pain into a new life

Hugh Hefner the moral theologian: He tried to escape from personal pain into a new life

So let's put together the pieces of the Hugh Hefner puzzle that was at the heart of this week's "Crossroads" podcast (click here to tune that in), which grew out of my earlier GetReligion post, "The crucial 'M' word -- Methodist -- that needed to be in every Hugh Hefner obituary."

This is a journalism puzzle, but one rooted in theology.

Start with Hugh Hefner's frequent references to his Puritan heritage (with a large "P" and a small "p"). Then you add the details of Methodist faith in which he was raised, in the conservative Midwest of the late 1940s and '50s. We need more than the word "strict."

Then you add the remarkable detail that Hefner was a virgin on his wedding day (with the help, he stressed, of lots of foreplay). In other words, young Hefner thought that true love waits. Ponder that.

Only he learned, as a married man, that his fiance had not waited. She had been unfaithful while he was away in the Army. In its lengthy Hefner obituary, The New York Times noted:

A virgin until he was 22, he married his longtime girlfriend. Her confession to an earlier affair, Mr. Hefner told an interviewer almost 50 years later, was “the single most devastating experience of my life.”

The Los Angeles Times added, literally, the doctrinal fallout from this event, in terms of the moral theology written into the Playboy philosophy.

Years later he said the experience set him up for a lifetime of promiscuity because “if you don't commit,” he told The Times in 1994, “you don't get hurt.” He said it also showed him what was wrong with traditional attitudes towards sex: “Thinking sex is sacred is the first step toward really turning it into something very ugly,” he said on another occasion.

Put all that together and you have what? Is this a "secular" story, as in a story devoid of faith content and issues? You can make a case that the old Hefner, after this crushing blow during his first marriage, died and then he sought escape from his past, seeking to rise again as a new and changed man -- the ultimate playboy.

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Your news report on porn addiction is missing a crucial 'M' word — no, not that one

Your news report on porn addiction is missing a crucial 'M' word — no, not that one

"There seems to be a crucial word missing from this report," editor Terry Mattingly said in one of our regular email exchanges among the GetReligion team. "Thoughts?"

OK, I'll play along and click the link.


It’s official: Pornography is a public health crisis. At least in Utah.
The state proclaimed as much Tuesday after Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed off on a resolution that deems pornography “a public health hazard” that can result in wide-ranging harm to individuals and society at large.
“We hope that people hear and heed this voice of warning,” Herbert said at a signing ceremony. “For our citizens know that there are real health risks that are involved and associated with viewing pornography.”

If you're a news junkie, you know that porn has been making headlines — and not just in the religious world — the last few weeks.

Time magazine featured a recent cover story making the case that easy access to explicit images and videos has emasculated an entire generation of young men. Tmatt critiqued that story in a recent post.

Meanwhile, Emily McFarlan Miller, Religion News Service's new national reporter focused on covering Christians and Christianity, wrote about a recent global summit aimed at "setting free" Christians from porn.

But back to the Washington Post story: I kept reading, seeing if I could spot the missing word.

Tmatt gave a hint: "Starts with an 'M.'"

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Actor Terry Crews repents, again, on porn -- leading to God-haunted news coverage

Actor Terry Crews repents, again, on porn -- leading to God-haunted news coverage

So let's walk through the basics on this story, shall we?

What we have here is a video in which a former National Football League player, now a mid-level star in network television (and advertising), talks very openly about his struggles with pornography. He puts the video on Facebook and it goes totally viral.

A key element in this story is the fact that his wife of 25 years -- Rebecca King-Crews -- has stayed by his side during this fight with addiction. She is a former beauty queen and a famous gospel singer, in her own right. The two also made news when they decided, to help build communication and intimacy in their marriage, to take a 90-day "fast" from sex.

In the viral video, Crews talks about the fact that his wife stood with him because he was "repentant" and now, several years after the crisis, he wants to make it his "mission" to help men break this addiction, to take steps to get help rather than just "asking for forgiveness."

The video, targeting his "Facebook family," does not talk about his faith in explicit terms -- but even the most simple Internet search makes it clear that Crews and his wife are active Christians.

So now, with that information in mind, watch the ABC News clip at the top of this post.

What is missing? Do you sense a God-shaped hole in this report?

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After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

After an Ashley Madison headline: A widow seeks grace and candor in churches

For decades, I have been interested in issues linked to clergy stress.

This is, in part, because I grew up in a pastor's home and I understand what that's like. Let me stress that my father knew how to mix pastoral duties and family. He was not a workaholic and I learned, early, to thank God for that. When I got to Baylor University and started talking to other "PKs" -- preacher's kids -- I found that my father was not the norm. (Click here to read my tribute to my father, written before his death.)

So stories about clergy stress hit me right in the heart. I recently wrote a post about the death of a pastor and seminary professor, a story that was in the headlines because of its link to the hacking of the Ashley Madison website for people seeking, they thought, anonymous sexual affairs. Let me stress that this was a tragedy that, by all accounts, started with workaholism, then grew into a hidden maze of depression, sexual addiction and suicide.

That post about the Rev. John Gibson and his family started a sequence of events that led to my "Crossroads" conversation this week with host Todd Wilken. Along the way, I heard from this man's wife, Christi Gibson and ended up talking with her.

The original post focused on a CNN report in which Christi -- herself a member of a major church staff -- and their children were interviewed. I sensed that there was much more that they said, or tried to say, but their words about faith, divine love, repentance and grace ended up on the editing floor. The CNN report did include this:

In his suicide note, Gibson chronicled his demons. He also mentioned Ashley Madison.

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