Far Away Eyes

I was driving home early Sunday morning through Bakersfield
Listening to gospel music on the colored radio station
And the preacher said,
"You know you always have the Lord by your side"

Late-night Religious Talk Radio

I was on an errand. At night. In a rental car, in a strange city, on dark, unfamiliar roads. I turned on the radio and started scanning the FM dial. Rock...country...gospel...talk...no classical...no jazz...I finally settled on a religious talk station.

The host was a woman; her guest was a man. The topic was teen sex—or, more to the point—teen abstinence. The guest had a system for promoting teen abstinence. His system revolved around a contract.

A contract with Jesus

I had an arrangement to meet a girl, and I was kind of late
And I thought by the time I got there she'd be off
She'd be off with the nearest truck driver she could find
Much to my surprise, there she was sittin in the corner
A little bleary, worse for wear and tear
Was a girl with far away eyes

The idea is that while a commitment to abstinence is necessary, it isn't sufficient. Teens live in the real world, and they have to deal with boys, and girls, and dating, and sex. And to deal with all this, you need more than an unanalyzed commitment to an abstract ideal. You need rules; guidelines; limits. Something that you can decide on during the day (when you are thinking clearly) and then hold to at night (when you may not be). The guest proposed that teenagers write their own rules, and that these rules become their contract with Jesus.

Now, this is actually not bad, as these things go. People do need rules to live by. There is considerable evidence that deferring sex is healthy for teens. Giving teens responsibility for making their own decisions about sex has been shown empirically to delay the onset of sexual activity. And if constructing all this as a contract with Jesus brings a few more adolescents on board, well, so be it.

True Confessions

So if you're down on your luck
And you can't harmonize
Find a girl with far away
And if you're downright disgusted
And life ain't worth a dime
Get a girl with far away eyes

THEN...they went to the phones (did I mention this was a call-in show?) The very first caller was a young woman. She was distraught: weeping. She started talking about how many times she had resolved to be a good girl, and to follow Jesus, and how many times she had broken her resolve, and been a bad girl. She wasn't being quite explicit about what all these broken resolutions were, but given the overall context, the obvious presumption is that she was having casual sex and was ashamed of it.

The guest asked her what her contract with Jesus was: what rules she had made for herself. The caller kept weeping about her sins and her shame. The guest kept asking about her contract, but it was painfully clear that the caller did not have a contract; the caller did not understand contracts; the caller was not interested contracts. The caller was in true confession mode: she was overcome with shame and grief for her betrayal of herself, and there was no way the guest was going to move her beyond that. Finally, he gave up and they cut the call.

Witnessing for Jesus

Well the preacher kept right on saying that all I had to do was send
Ten dollars to the church of the sacred bleeding heart of Jesus
Located somewhere in Los Angeles, California
And next week they'd say my prayer on the radio
And all my dreams would come true
So I did, the next week, I got a prayer with a girl
Well, you know what kind of eyes she got

Next up on the show was a high-school cheerleader who had "witnessed for Jesus", and "turned around the whole squad". It wasn't clear what cheerleading had to do with Jesus, but given the overall context of the show, and the way she was introduced, I assumed that we were going to hear a story about a high-school where the cheerleaders were expected to have sex with the football players, and that this cheerleader had refused to do this, and had gotten the football players and the other cheerleaders to respect her stand.

A situation where the cheerleaders are expected to have sex with the football players is obviously bad. Standing up to something like that takes real courage. Getting the football players to respect that stand creates space for other cheerleaders to decline sex, as well. And if it helps you to do this in the name of Jesus, well, so be it.

Chattel

So if you're down on your luck
I know you all sympathize
Find a girl with far away eyes
And if you're downright disgusted
And life ain't worth a dime
Get a girl with far away eyes

We didn't hear about Jesus. We didn't hear about witnessing. We didn't hear about cheerleaders, or football players, or the school.

What we heard was this cheerleader talking about how she had two great big older brothers who would hold her responsible for her actions, and how lucky she was to have such big older brothers. The guest (the one writing contracts with Jesus) chimed in that he knows her brothers; that they really are big (nudge, nudge), and that any potential suitors will think twice before messing with this little sister (wink, wink).

In essence, what we heard was that this cheerleader is the property of the older males in her family, and that they keep her from having sex by force, or threat of force, directed against both her and her boyfriends.

Creepy

The whole thing was extremely creepy.
Steven W. McDougall / resume / swmcd@world.std.com / 2001 Jul 16