Jump directly to the content
Jesus Never Said, 'Be True to Yourself' Jaimie Trueblood / AMC

Jesus Never Said, 'Be True to Yourself'


Jun 9 2014
So where does desire fit with God’s will?

For all that the AMC series Mad Men gets wrong about desire, they know this to be true: to be human is to want.

Set in the '60s, the show thrives on "the drinking, the smoking, the lack of seat belts — [the dark appeal] of living without boundaries." At the end of the first half of their final season, Peggy Olson, who's risen to copy chief, is turning 30. Though she's turned down convention for career, and like Don Draper, lived by her desires, she wonders: Were those the right choices?

Mad Men is not a show you have to watch in order to understand its premise. It peddles very familiar cultural formulations of desire and want.

"Trying to match your desires to a vague notion of the ideal is exhausting — and you can, in fact, listen to what your mind and body seems to be yearning for instead of battling to shut it up," writes Anne Helen Peterson. In her essay, "What Peggy Olson Has Taught Me About Doing It My Way," Petersen admires Peggy for having resisted the "Greek chorus, constantly reminding Peggy that she made all the wrong choices." She's done it her way. Peggy may never have the happiest life, but even if she is miserable, at least it will be the misery of her own choosing. Peggy's courage—to want—must be bravely imitated.

There's something inviting about the Mad Men world: that we should live by our desires, that our desires express our most authentic selves, that it doesn't matter what anyone else thinks or expects. Isn't it great that Peggy is free to want? In fact, isn't she most free when she wants?

But of course this is the virtue of "being true to yourself"—which wasn't included when Jesus was asked to identify the greatest command in the Law (cf. Matt. 22:36-40).

Recently, I've been teaching a class on desire at my church as my book on the subject, Teach Us to Want, nears its release. At the first session, I showed a clip from Mad Men, launching a conversation about how the culture teaches us to want.

We summarized the culture's messaging on desire: If it feels good, do it. Desire can't be repressed; it has to be expressed. Nothing you want is ever wrong.

And then the church's: If it feels good, don't do it. Desire is evil. The highest calling in the Christian life is sacrifice.

No wonder desire has been my greatest confusion as a Christian. I've known that my life with Jesus required surrender. So what did I do with my wanting? Was it always evil?

Support our work. Subscribe to CT and get one year free.

Comments

To add a comment you need to be a registered user or Christianity Today subscriber.

orSubscribeor
More from Her.menutics
Why Complementarian Men Need Complementarian Women

Why Complementarian Men Need Complementarian Women

In the midst of our civil war on the Trinity, we need to put down our arms and remember that men and women are in this together.
Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

Don’t Call Me Out at Your Wedding for Being Single

The church can model a more inclusive community, one that doesn’t divide over marital status.
Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

Why Google and BuzzFeed Need the Church

When big corporations make big moral decisions, where is the church’s voice?
Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

Timehop Helps Me See God’s Providence

How a social media app reminds me of God’s faithfulness in my life.
Include results from Christianity Today
Browse Archives:

So Hot Right Now

I’m a Woman Who Got Kicked Out of Women’s Bathrooms

Our zealous policing of gender norms can have unintended and hurtful consequences.

Twitter



What We're Reading

CT eBooks and Bible Studies

Christianity Today
Jesus Never Said, 'Be True to Yourself'