The Upside-Down World Is Becoming Our Own

Published in Mustard Seed Sentinel, August 22, 2020.

When the Roman Empire collapsed, the loss of basic knowledge of how to do ordinary things was immense. The Oxford historian Bryan Ward-Perkins [says] that it took western Europeans something like 700 years to relearn how to build a roof as solid as the Romans knew how to build.” Rod Dreher~

When my husband retired from his office job, he leaped into a full-time vocation that he was already doing part-time–roof and chimney repair. And he added a ministry aspect.

When he needs a crew, he goes to a local drug rehab program and recruits workers for the day. A couple of them turned into long-term employees. They arrived with a new outlook and got a new set of skills.

But most of them don’t. After all, not everyone belongs on a roof. Not everyone can traverse a housetop in even a mild degree of comfort. And not everyone is willing to do the hot sweaty work required to finish the task at hand.

Some move on to other work. Others go back to the old way of life.

My husband sees two ways of thinking. One accepts responsibility for the past and doesn’t want to return to the old life. Those workers show promise and are willing to learn. They revel in a sense of accomplishment. They find success in fixing something that had been broken as they watch the broken pieces of their own lives mend also.

The other perspective shifts blame for the past. The shifting means they don’t move forward. They realize no great moments of accomplishment. Without accomplishment, there is nothing to celebrate, to pass on. There is no once-broken-now-fixed thing to see, to point to. And no set of skills attained to pass to others. They can only blame.

That is how we forget.

Decades ago, I was among an inaugural class of girls taking woodshop. I still have the finished cedar box I made complete with a crack across the top because I (apparently) hit the hammer too hard nailing the lid on.

I’m certain it was for reasons other than my cracked lid—or in addition to it—that the teacher swore he would never teach girls again. I assume he retired shortly thereafter. From then on, girls would work with wood and boys would navigate the formerly female-only domain of the kitchen.

Our more modern outlook did well to invite boys to pursue competence in the kitchen and girls to use tools. We taught skills and children accomplished meals and boxes–even those with cracks.

I read recently of schools eliminating home-economics classes–now named Family and Consumer Science.

And I remember the sense I felt a few years ago at seeing a sack lunch for sale in a grocery store. It’s hard to give that feeling a word. But “loss” comes the closest. Are some of us no longer willing to pass along the small accomplishment of packing one’s own lunch?

Think about the exchange so many of us have made. We’ve traded the ability to prepare our own food (let alone grow it ourselves) for going to the store or restaurant, or now to have it delivered.

We have to realize that we are teaching the young how to do things. We are showing them how to accomplish tasks themselves–or how to get others to do things for them. We are always teaching something.

We are missing important components of ourselves in these deficits of basic competencies. With such seemingly small losses come even bigger ones hidden under our radar.

Dreher writes about a conversation he had with someone who works with victims of sex trafficking. He calls the conversation “deeply shocking.”

“He said that in his line of work, he hears from fertility doctors — not one fertility doctor, but several — that they are having to teach married couples how to have normal sex . . . if they want to conceive. These young people have been so saturated in pornography, and have had their imaginations so thoroughly formed by it, that the idea of normal reproductive sex acts are bizarre to them.”

Bizarre. Can it really be that bad?

Yes. It can.

Porn use in America is pervasive. And more harmful than we may realize.

At the Thrive Summit Conference (warning, some images are suggestive), Don Brewster said that, depending on the survey, somewhere between 51 and 86 percent of American men aged 25 and older use porn at least occasionally.

Forty-six percent use it regularly. Males ages 13-24 use porn at a rate of 67 percent.

Younger people (females use it too) using porn affects brains, shapes brains that are still developing. Porn makes physical changes, objectifies others, and effectively makes sex only about self, never a sacred, exclusive, mutual connection.

These effects wire the brain in a way that is very difficult, but not impossible, to undo.

Using porn affects our view of the morality of porn. In The Porn Phenomenon, Barna says, “The more you use porn, the less you think it’s wrong.” For example, 97 percent of monthly porn users believe that porn involving children under 12 is wrong. Only 90 percent of daily users believe child porn is wrong.

Moreover, only 45 percent of monthly users believe porn that depicts someone in a demeaning way is wrong. The number drops to 28 percent of daily users. That’s a large number of people who think children participating in porn is morally neutral and putting someone else in a demeaning situation, not for their own pleasure, is just fine.

While 54 percent of those surveyed said using porn at all is wrong, 58 percent agreed that eating too much is always wrong. Stealing something is always wrong for 95 percent.

Our society is sexually off the rails when married couples don’t understand how to act in order to conceive a child, when young people lack moral discomfort about 11 year olds (or younger) having careers in porn, and when the perception that it’s okay to make others uncomfortable for your own pleasure is just fine.

For many, porn use isn’t just a series of unrelated acts strung together. It’s an addiction. Addicts feel shame. Wives (usually the partner) feel betrayed. There seems to be no way out of a cycle of triggering, failure, and shame resulting in the partner feeling betrayed and the user feeling rejected—usually prompting a new trigger, perhaps with periodic episodes of successful avoidance punctuating the in-between.

There will be those who blame others and perhaps dabble in solutions the way some of my husband’s short-term employees do. But there will be those who seek a way out of addiction.

Some will search for a way and never find it. A young man went to a local social service office seeking help in my town. “Looking at porn is normal” was the reply he got to his request.

I hope he kept looking. But it takes a great deal of work to overcome an addiction, and few people can do it by themselves.

The Church is where people should be able to find the help they need to escape the snares of addiction and loss of understanding. Because of the shame involved, addicts don’t want to admit their problem to a pastor or church leader while many church leaders seem averse to addressing the issue (perhaps because of their own issues with porn).

So it’s up to those who understand the problems and the solutions to step up and create safe, non-judgmental places where people feel they can bring this burden and find assistance.

There is help out there. The Conquer Series and other materials by are great resources for individuals or groups. Blazing Grace offers resources as well as online forums for a number of sexual issues.

There is no substitute for walking through tough times with someone who’s walking through or has already walked through such challenges themselves.

Imagine a world where the idea of having your leaky roof fixed is the stuff of fantasy. Where the idea of fixing your own sandwich is passé.

Now imagine a world where God’s intentions for sex, exclusive marital connection and procreation, are completely lost. Where the idea of the normal way to make babies happen is bizarre.

That world is becoming our own.

What will we do in response?

Photo Credit: Ethan Sykes, Unsplash

Nancy E. Head’s Restoring the Shattered is out in paperback! Get your copy here!

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