Papeete, Tahiti, Society Islands, French Polynesia
(cont’d from previous)
Then there is the whole nudity / sexuality thing here in French Polynesia. Which, why put sex and religion in the same blog post? Because here one isn’t exclusive of the other and that’s a good thing. In America, sex seems to be at odds with the institution of God. It’s not like the French are “modest” in that respect to start with when compared to Americans but when the European explorers landed on the Polynesian islands the natives would willingly give their women over to the sailors for sex. It was considered the polite thing to do! Hippies had no concept of “free love” compared to the Polynesians. (In retrospect, considering the syphilis that decimated their population, not the best move.) Well, a few centuries and a great deal of western Christian influence later, the Polynesian people aren’t quite as promiscuous as before but they are in their younger years still rather “open to exploration.” Interesting to note that, according to what we learned talking to the local French and reading travel guides, if a young island girl gets pregnant, her entire family simply raises the child as its own. Our guess is that when your population is decimated down to the 2% level, not to mention you are adamant pro-Catholic, your cultural views on abortion change. Right along with your views on familial responsibility to the next generation.
…and their tolerance for nudity, and for referencing the naked human body, is a good deal higher than your typical American. You all probably remember the most awesome name for a bay, ever. While in Papeete we bought a ukulele playbook from a newsstand and right there on the cover was a topless woman. Also, Tiffany was looking at a book on wearing sarongs and this is what she saw (blacked out areas explained below)
So it wasn’t like the naked woman was front and center, meant to sell the item in question. That would have made more sense in a way. She was just there, in the background, as if having a naked woman around wasn’t all that unusual. Now take that and compare it to the uproar about the Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue from a few years back, the one where the models were in underwear and you see our point. For the Polynesians though, there is no apparent contradiction that we could see. Don’t get us wrong here, there were not naked islanders wandering the streets or anything but nudity was not considered necessarily evil or even shameful and one could be a Christian and naked at the same time. In some ways, it was kind of refreshing. It’s not that the nudity was there that was unusual to us. I mean, come on, we’ve been to Vegas people. It’s that it simply wasn’t a big deal.
You know what? We don’t think God really cares about how long the priest’s hair is or if there are naked women in the sarong catalogues. We think the American divorce rate of 50% + nationwide is probably a bigger concern to him. Along with the empty Churches that now litter our country. We think perhaps everyone is so busy worrying about the details of the faith that we forgot the spirit of it. You’re not going to see either of us Bible thumping all too often but didn’t Jesus say something about the greatest commandment being “love your God above all else and love your neighbor as yourself?” (see, we’ve been reading!) As a church, we seem more concerned with our outer displays of adherence to tenants and rules than to a general love of our God. We can argue over the details of everything else, and until we get that straight and everything else flows from that, then we’re basically missing the point.
The hand carved masturbating Tiki though, that one you could make an argument for being over the line. Oh, did we not mention him? We found him in a store in the main marketplace. Not in an adult store. Not in the adult section of a store. He was on display in the middle of a normal tourist shop for all to see. 5 feet tall, very male and by the looks of things, having a grand old time all by himself, thank-you very much. We went back and forth about posting his picture up here. On the one hand he epitomizes the difference between cultural acceptability in Tahiti vs the States. On the other hand, it’s a masturbating Tiki and we actually do our best to keep this blog at about the PG-13 level. So here’s the resolution: if you want to see a copy of this picture, it’s in Greg’s Facebook pictures. Feel free to friend him and check out his photos.