Most of my posts are more libertarian and political in nature, but this has a decidedly cultural and religious bent.
Last night, I was watching part of a program about Rick Steves’ touring Europe on PBS. This episode included parts of southern France, like Carcassone, for instance. Beautiful scenery and an interesting glimpse into daily European life drew me in. I’m the type of nerd that likes watching travel shows. Part of my problem with the travel channel is that they have moved away from those into shows on beaches, cuisine, and poker tournaments. But I digress.
Rick Steves is friendly, upbeat, and interesting. His show would strike most as bland and family-friendly. But parts of this episode got me wondering.
After talking about religious persecution of the Cathars, the program showed a Catholic cathedral. Inside, there is a large fresco about the final judgment, where the righteous are blessed and the wicked punished. Then he said something like, “The Church used this painting to intimidate parishoners to stay with the Church.” The question of intentions and motivations is to me suspect: how do we really know intentions? And the whole perspective was, to me, more anti-religious than anti-Catholic.
But the mood changed when he examined a museum dedicated to Henri de Toulouse-Latrec. He touted him as a fascinating individual, explaining that because he was born different, he had a unique perspective. Fine so far. But then he went into detail about Latrec’s obsession with brothels and prostitutes.
The dichotomy was interesting: skepticism, pessimism, and near hostility towards organized Christian religion (all under the pleasantly-smiling face of Rick Steves), but a warm embrace of immoral explorations. I know this is not nearly the apex or acme of 21st Century hedonism, but I do find it to be indicative of the times, how we reservedly deal with religion (especially organized, established Christian religion) and yet feel comfortable and positive about public explorations of sexuality and immorality. That, to me, is backwards, yet sadly representative of the popular mindset nowadays.
Elder Maxwell, among many other prophets, was right about the Seventh Commandment in this classic and highly-recommended talk given October 2001.