Love, Lust, Porn and the Church

Pornography is “so focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. . . . [It] is everything the Bible says is not what sex is supposed to be.” Dr. Tim Keller

I remember a college class called science, technology, and society, actually a philosophy class, in which the professor posited that the images we watch on television become more real to us than the reality around us.

He gave as his example the first (the second hadn’t happened yet) Challenger disaster. He talked about how the tragedies we watch on television can affect us more deeply than local events we don’t see.

What we watch on screens affects us more than we know. And what others see influences the world around us more than we realize.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” Dr. Timothy Keller explains that porn affects all our relationships. That porn influences social aspects from fashion choices to marriage rates, asserting that the drop in American marriage rates is largely due to porn.

Keller quotes Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker’s book Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying:

“People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. . . .

“A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships, . . . shrink[ing] the marriage pool for women. . . .”

Pornography is “why the number of people getting married is going down.”

That’s easy to see. But fashion trends?

“All women . . . are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviors and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”

The fashion industry influenced by porn? That seems far-fetched.

But Andi Zeisler agrees with Keller, and Regnerus and Uecker. “Porn is now not only represented in, but an indelible part of, everything from high culture to fashion magazines to college curricula,” she writes.

The discussion comes full circle when Zeisler references Naomi Wolf who predicted nearly two decades ago that “far from turning men into the raving, sex-mad predators that anti-porn crusaders . . . once warned against, [porn] is turning them off of regular, nondigital women.” 

Marriage rates support Wolf’s thesis. But not all porn watchers are rejecting sex with a partner altogether.

Ponder this: Rod Dreher’s citation of The Telegraph: “A GP [general practitioner physician] let’s call her Sue, said: ‘I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.’ In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries [caused by frequent deviant sex] . . . not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

What else is porn doing to women and girls?

We imagine the stereotypical porn user as a man sitting in his basement (perhaps his mother’s) in the dark in front of a flickering screen (his phone or computer). He is glassy-eyed and probably unemployed.

But Zeisler cites Adella O’Neal, publicist for Digital Playground, pointing out that “in 2000 roughly 9 percent of the company’s consumers were women; four years later, that figure . . . bloomed to 53 percent.”

Fox News reports: “Women aren’t excluded from this heavy porn-watching either. Pornhub released information in 2017 that revealed women spending more time watching porn than men, reports anti-porn advocacy group Fight the New Drug. Women were also more likely to search for harder versions of porn than men.”

That may be how we moved from the idea that porn exploits and victimizes women to the emerging notion that sex work empowers them.

Sadly many in the Church have been drinking the poison too.

Fox News continues: Covenant Eyes [a porn addiction recovery organization]” reports that “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women report watching porn at least once a month.”

Porn gives us a distorted view of ourselves and others. And this distorted vision is downloaded into the minds of a majority of Christian men and a significant percentage of Christian women–at least monthly–often daily.

Also this from Dreher: “At a conservative Christian college not long ago, a campus minister told me that every single young man he works with, helping them to prepare for seminary after graduation, is addicted to pornography (meaning that they use it compulsively, and find it impossible to stop, even though they want to). Sixteen young men — conservative, churchgoing men who want to serve God and others as pastors — caught in that trap.” 

In Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free from Sexual Temptation, Ted Roberts writes: “Sexual addiction is not just a struggle over a mental perspective; it touches God’s very image, as well as the depths of a man’s soul.”

Here’s an ironic reality. Psychology Today quotes a scholarly study that shows porn use actually lessens sexual satisfaction rather than enhancing it.

“Notably, under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction. These findings, while correlational, suggest that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

Satan’s counterfeits never match up to what God intended in giving humans the gift of sex.

Where is hope for us?

As mentioned above, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start.

But first, we must recognize the problem. And it’s much more pervasive than we want to think it is.

It’s a heart issue.

We want what we want. We’ve bought so far into materialism and pleasure that we have lost sight of who we are. Of who every other person is.

Each one, imago Dei, the image of God. Each one, His poiema, God’s masterpiece.

Every one.

The child in the womb. The person on the street, homeless, alone, and hungry. The woman on the screen.

And everyone who sits on the other side of the screen.

From Ted Roberts: “Numerous authors have written books concerning the clinical aspects of sexual addictions, and even more books call for believers to seek holiness. But our [ministry’s] ultimate focus is more specific . . . . [We want to] persuade the Church to become a place of hope and healing rather than of shame for those fighting sexual battles. . . .

We need ruthless honesty that exceeds our comfort zones and pursues God’s heart, no matter the cost.”

Individuals and ministries need to pursue God’s heart. Such pursuit comes with a great cost.

The cost of ignoring this issue is much greater.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6: 18-20.

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Normalizing Porn

“What is morally wrong can never be advantageous, even when it enables you to make some gain that you believe to be to your advantage. The mere act of believing that some wrongful course of action constitutes an advantage is pernicious.”
― Marcus Tullius Cicero

In Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Fantine is a single mother who loses her job for having a child out of wedlock. That’s the pretext her supervisor uses to fire her for rejecting his advances.

Fantine falls on terrible times. Those who are caring for her child are extorting all her income, lying to her that the child is ill and her medicine is expensive.

Fantine sells her hair and teeth before succumbing to the demand for her body.

She dies destitute but not before extracting a promise from her supervisor’s boss to be a savior to her child.

Today, Fantine’s story repeats itself with more than one twist. Both men and women are selling their bodies virtually on OnlyFans, a social media site on which members pay to view pictures and videos of those they follow.

ABC recently aired a news feature exploring OnlyFans (content warning). The news report presented a view of what’s become a hub for pornography.

And ABC celebrated its arrival.

OnlyFans has processed $1.2 billion since it began, making founder Timothy Stokely worth $120 million.

The ABC piece reads like a commercial. No other voice gets the chance to present a different perspective. ABC provides no discussion of sexual exploitation. And not a peep about porn addiction.

Instead, ABC calls such “sex work” empowering.

The report shows viewers a creative way to make money during the pandemic. Sex work is a ticket to “financial freedom.”

One interviewee says the work requires self-promotion, “which is really difficult when you have a ready, saturated landscape of people who have those large, large followings they’re bringing to OnlyFans.”

It’s an ironic celebration of the free market as an OnlyFan member asserts that he got involved because he was comfortable with his sexuality, and there was “a need”–in other words, a market.

ABC is streaming the story, “‘OnlyFans: Selling Sexy’ on Hulu.”

We know porn is out there. It’s pervasive. Even in the Church.

Now a major television network has told millions more where to find porn, how to participate in it, and how to turn a buck by being part of it.

All without allowing a word of protest or a hint that there might be regrettable effects later. The reporter and a participant admitted and disdained that a “stigma” sometimes goes along with such work.

OnlyFans and ABC’s coverage prompt the question of what can come next.

What follows is a logical result. More people buy into a lie that selling their bodies won’t damage their psyches or their souls. It will only build their bank accounts.

And more people will carry their wounds, addictions, and a perpetual online presence into future relationships and eventual physical decline.

Fantine would warn them. But would they listen?

Photo Credit: Unsplash

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

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. Restoring the Shattered is published through Morgan James Publishing with whom I do share a material connection. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Choices that Shape Us

I remember sitting in a college classroom, a criminology class, and hearing the instructor discuss “victimless” crimes, the encounters society frowned upon (more then, less now) but that “didn’t hurt anyone.”

The instructor suffered from the disillusionment that “consenting adults” could engage each other, agree to exploit each other, walk away, and remain unchanged, unharmed, perhaps even happier or better off for having had the experience.

Somehow when one eternal soul encounters another, both change. Loving choices produce good–satisfaction in our purpose fulfilled.

Exploiting choices, unrepented and left to themselves, never produce happiness or anything else we can call “better”.

We human beings shape and reshape ourselves and each other–all through the power of our choices.

We cannot, of course, ignore the work God does in shaping us. Our circumstances–not all resulting from our choices–shape us. But always, always, we choose how we react to every situation.

There is a calling, a mandate, on our lives. That calling demands a response. A false response refuses to acknowledge the harm sin causes. A true response resists evil, evil that has power to do great harm.

In his discussion of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and C.S. Lewis’s various works, Joseph Loconte presents this universal calling:

“One may answer the Call–or refuse it, turn away, and walk into Darkness. But indifference to the Call to struggle against evil is not an option; one must take sides. Thus, set before our imagination in the works of Tolkien and Lewis is one of the great paradoxes of our mortal lives: the mysterious intersection of providence and free will” (152).

Every day, we choose to answer the call or neglect it. We choose the good way or our own way.

As our choices shape us, so do they shape our society.

And the shifts in society manifest themselves in changed language. Unborn humans have not just become fetuses. Clinic workers must never say the word baby. They call the child tissue, a blob.

Prostitutes are sex workers now. That’s a very clinical sounding term for something that sounds like an innocuous business. That innocuous business has grown into sex trafficking, even of children, even in America.

Porn is not victimless. It turns its viewers into addicts.

And it abuses and entraps those who produce it. In the meantime, the audience for porn becomes younger and seeks “ever harsher and more violent, degrading images.”

Abortion obviously harms the child, and less obviously, but still profoundly, harms the mother. Even less obvious, but perhaps as profound, is the damage to fathers, surviving siblings, and other family and friends.

And let’s not neglect the harm done to those within the abortion industry. Many within pro-life ranks today left clinic work to stand for life. They have answered the call. But healing is a long road.

Many wounded remain behind and cause more harm.

Loconte: “It is through their own decisions . . . that they invite a spiritual crisis into their lives. The result is not the freedom they imagined, but the deepest slavery of heart and mind” (163).

God bids us to answer His call–to be instruments of healing–to make choices that will shape us, others, and our society for good.

He calls us to speak the truth in love. Our refusal to do so can only bring more hurt.

It’s our choice.

Photo Credit: Pixabay

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

Permissions: You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that you do not alter the wording in any way, do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, and you credit the author.

Disclosure of Material Connection:  I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the entities I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”