Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Solution to the Porn Epidemic

For ten years I have been studying at Christian universities and seminaries, and I have found that pornography is rampant among my peers. The problem is so bad that Christian leaders have begun advising young women not to break up with their boyfriends over porn addiction. The logic is tragically compelling: if Christian women insist on only dating porn-free men, the odds are they will never get married. 

We are repeatedly told that the solution to porn addiction is accountability groups. Accountability groups may be helpful for some, but they have clearly been unable to halt the epidemic. Often, such groups merely end up normalizing porn use. 

Before we can find a true solution, we must identify the reason for the epidemic. Availability is not the primary problem. The primary problem is that deep down inside, perhaps even subconsciously, we do not think porn is really that bad. (I know many will object, but hear me out.)

You can break your addiction to pornography in one day. It only takes two steps: (1) go to your cell phone company and trade in your smart-phone for a regular phone, and (2) call your internet provider and cancel your service (or have your wife set a password only she knows). We do not do this for the simple reason that we do not hate pornography enough. If we really thought that viewing pornography was like drinking poison, we would do whatever it took to cut off access.

At this point someone may object that his work or studies require home internet. Perhaps this is true for a small segment of the population. The vast majority, however, have access to computer labs at public or university libraries. Living without home internet would be inconvenient, but not impossible. Furthermore, for those few who absolutely require home internet, my point remains. If you truly thought that viewing pornography was like drinking poison, you would take whatever steps necessary to cut off access – even if those steps involved moving or changing jobs. 

Jesus said, “If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you.” We are so quick to identify this saying as hyperbole that we ignore the point of the hyperbole. Jesus does not want you to literally cut out your eye, but that doesn’t mean you get to keep your smart-phone.

So the problem is that we don’t hate porn enough. But why don’t we hate porn? What has happened? I think the answer is clear. I know few Christian men who would be comfortable saying it’s not a sin to go to a strip club. However, I know few Christian men who would be comfortable saying it is a sin to watch Deadpool, even though the film features a scene in a strip club. Through a series of infinite compromises over a span of decades, we have convinced ourselves that there is a fundamental difference between viewing a naked woman in person and viewing a video recording of that same naked woman. On-screen depictions of nudity and sexuality have become so trivial that we simply cannot muster up genuine hatred when we take that infinitesimally small step from Game of Thrones to ‘real pornography.’ 

So what is the solution? We need to ask God to fill us with his hatred for an industry which degrades and destroys the most vulnerable members of our society. Then, in the power of the Spirit, we need to pluck out our modem and cast it from us.



A Response to Objections:

First, one might argue that my solution is rather legalistic. Instead of cutting off access, we should focus instead on utilizing the power of the Holy Spirit to resist temptation.

I think this betrays a misconception about the way the Holy Spirit operates in our lives. The Holy Spirit will help you fight temptation, but the fight happens right now, as you read this post and decide whether or not you should cut off access. It is in this moment that the Holy Spirit is available to you. The Holy Spirit is not some divine will-power booster who will help you stop looking at porn even though you choose to keep it always at your fingertips. The Holy Spirit seeks to transform your heart in this matter so that you hate porn enough to cut it out of your life completely.

Second, one might argue that cutting off access doesn't get to the root of the problem. Even if I stop looking at porn, I will still have lust in my heart.

This is rather like a man on fire refusing to jump into water because, even if he puts out the fire, he will still have burns on his body. The road to a full recovery may be long and difficult, but you cannot make any progress if you don't put out the fire. Likewise, the road to full sexual healing may be long and difficult, but you cannot make any progress if you are still routinely looking at porn and watching sexually explicit films.

2 comments:

Phil Most said...

Totally agree with you Murray. This applies to so many things in our lives and until we get serious about them, they continue to impact our lives. When we get serious about them and allow God to pluck them out, we experience real change. The reality though is that sin feels good, that's why we do it. Seeing and feeling the negative impact during the temptation stage before sin occurs is a gift from God and leading of the Holy Spirit to avoid sin.

Rachael Mendez said...

I agree with you that we should be willing to take the necessary steps to eradicate this form of dysfunction in our lives. However, this isn't the real solution. The real solution is related once again to our heart condition (spiritual) that needs a real relationship with God in order to begin to have real relationships with others. Behaviors are a symptom of our heart condition. We can treat symptoms, try to follow a list of rules to gain freedom from porn or whatever our son propensity may be, or we can cure disease by allowing the Great Physician Himself deeper & deeper access to our heart of hearts. A basic summary for how I have come to better understand our brokenness as a society in this area can be found here:
http://m.sparknotes.com/philosophy/iandthou/summary.html

We are so broken relationally. And rules themselves really don't fix relationships. My heart, mind, and resulting perspectives must be healed & restored as only a deeply intimate, personal relationship with our loving Heavenly Father can do.

I would also contest that our society's fractured perception of God also feeds this sin nature & as such I disagree with your conclusion. Hatred of sin doesn't drive out sin. Love of God after first receiving and recognizing love so profound, draws us into a relationship where hurting someone else by seeing them as an "it" rather than a "thou" hurts me as much as it hurts them and as it has hurt our Creator Homself. I love Him so much and His love has so deeply infused my being that the thought of doing anything that would hurt Him or His other children is repugnant to me. But I'm not embracing hate; I'm actually more fully & completely embracing Love Himself.
1 John 4:18-21