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Sexuality

Solomon on smartphones and the pull of pornography

The book of Proverbs is a book about two ways to live, the paths of wisdom and folly. The way of wisdom is the way of the righteous, the way of blessing, and the way of life. The way of folly is the way of the fool, the way of curse, and ultimately the way of death. Along each path sits a guide who calls out to pilgrims on the road, urging them to join their path. They are both women and they both address the simple. They both sound enticing and they both promise great things. But only one delivers on her promises. And the result of embracing the wrong woman is death. The issue that I want to explore in this article is adultery, especially for young, unmarried, modern, tech-savvy Christians. The issue of adultery has always been about embracing the wrong woman, and so it is easy to see why Solomon would spend so much time addressing his son on this topic at the beginning of Proverbs. Adultery is still a real and present danger. It comes in a slightly different package than it would have in Solomon’s day, but the Adulteress is still alive and well, and I would be so bold as to say that many of the young, unmarried, modern, tech-savvy Christians know her well. In the days of Solomon, people walked on paths a lot. People walked a lot, period. Since they didn’t have cars, their roads were a lot different than the roads we have today. So if adultery is a path, what does it look like today? Should we expect that it looks like a dusty, uneven, meandering footpath? Probably not. Today we travel on concrete and asphalt. We travel fast and we travel often. And we have a path that is taking over more and more of our lives. It used to be called, “the information superhighway.” You might call it the superhighway to death, because that is where it is currently taking a lot of people. The path of adultery for many young, modern, tech-savvy Christians is the Internet. And the woman along that path who is calling your name, looking for youths who lack judgment, leading the way to death, is Internet pornography. Proverbs 7 is where Solomon speaks most extensively about the person of the adulteress. His words are strikingly fitting our modern epidemic of internet pornography. The youth who lacks judgment Solomon communicates the dangers of adultery to his son by telling him a parable. This is how it begins. At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men, a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. – Proverbs 7:6–9 (NIV84) The main character of this parable is the youth who lacks judgment. Perhaps you know someone like this. The thing about this youth who lacks judgment is that you can pick him out in a crowd. Solomon says that he looked out his window and he saw him immediately. He could just tell that this guy was in for some trouble. For Solomon this is just an observation, but for someone with evil intentions, this guy is easy prey. He is the weak and slow antelope that gets picked out, pounced upon, and devoured by the lion. Notice that this young man walks into his trap: “He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house.” Path, anyone? What does this look like today? Today the youth who lacks judgment can probably not be observed by looking out your window onto the street. A modern youth who lacks judgment sequesters himself indoors, finds himself or herself on their phone late at night after everyone has gone to bed, or has a computer in their room. There was a time when having a computer or phone in your room was relatively safe – that time is long gone. Now the youth without judgment is the 16-year-old with a smartphone, or tablet, or whatever other personal pleasure machine they have in their pocket that allows them to be polluted with porn whenever they please. Where does the problem start with this young man? It is not with his parents, as Solomon doesn’t mention them. Neither is it his friends, for he leaves their company. His problem is not his environment or even the adulteress herself. This young man’s problem is himself. He lacks judgment; he heads down the path of foolishness, and straight into the trap. His adultery problem is a problem of the heart. This remains the biggest issue for users of pornography today. The problem with porn is not porn. It is us. It is men and women who use it. In an interview for CovenantEyes.com, Rick Thomas was asked why kids get into porn today. What do you suppose was his answer? They have raging hormones? The porn is so good? His answer is none of the above. Rather, the reason guys get into porn is that they lack judgment: They are lazy – they spend too much time doing nothing. They are disobedient – they don’t listen to their parents and others’ warnings. They lie – they lie to others about what they are doing and to themselves about the nature and effect of pornography. They are self-righteous – they suppose that porn is their right, and that those images are offered for their viewing pleasure. They are self-centered – they have sexual desires, so why not fulfill them? And they are ignorant – they don’t realize the danger they are getting themselves into with internet porn. As you will be able to deduce from this list, porn is not only attractive to teens. Laziness, disobedience, self-righteousness, self-centredness, and ignorance are no respecters of age. Do you know what the problem is with Internet porn? It is you and me. This is why when Paul addresses the Thessalonians about sexual immorality (1 Thess 4:3-8), he doesn’t say, “You need to leave that sinful city!” or “You need to have accountability groups!” or “You need to campaign against temple prostitution!” or anything like that. What he says is that you need to be sanctified. You need the Holy Spirit to change your heart. The problem is with our hearts. Our own hearts are what lead us to sin, as Jesus taught when he said: “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mark 7:21) Commenting on this passage, Mark Driscoll wrote, “Sexual sins are not 'out there' in the media, strip clubs, a gal with low-rise jeans and high-rise thong. Truly the problem is 'in you.' It is from the sinfulness of your heart that lust and sin proceed like sewage from a culvert. This is the painful, unvarnished truth.” The Adulteress The next character in Solomon’s parable is the inevitable destination of this judgment-lacking youth, the adulteress. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent. (She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks.) She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: “I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon.” – Proverbs 7:10–20 (NIV84) Within his description of this shady lady, Solomon highlights four characteristics of the adulteress: She is devious – She moves, according to verse 10, with  “crafty intent.” She is restless – As verse 11 tells us, “her feet never stay at home.” She is brazen – She flaunts her sexuality and availability, as in verse 13: “She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows, so I came out to meet you.” She is one-dimensional – This woman is about one thing, and she makes that clear.  She is completely sexualized. She communicates nothing else. She tells the young man about her sacrifices because in Canaanite worship, sacrifices were to be accompanied by sex (vs. 14). She gives a lengthy description of her bed (vs. 16), but not because she thinks this guy looks tired. She propositions him with love (vs. 18), but she really means sex. Do these characteristics not represent very well the ways and means of Internet porn, the adulteress of our time? Pornography is devious. Porn promises sexual fulfillment, an outlet for lust and sexual desires. It invites you to enter into its dream world of fantasy and fulfillment. It calls out for those who lack judgment to come along and step into its trap. Pornography is restless. The porn industry is a multibillion-dollar industry, even though 80-90% of porn that is consumed on the Internet is available for free. So pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry and only 10-20% of those who use it are paying. How much porn is out there? Pornography is brazen. It flaunts its stuff. It finds a way to get to you through advertisements, spam, popups, hyperlinks, etc. It invites you to come, to taste, and to see for yourself. We need to realize that the people who promote pornography are master marketers – they know how to get you in, and they know how to keep you in. Pornography is completely one-dimensional. Pornography promises one thing: the fulfillment of your sexual desires. Porn tells you that there is one thing that matters to you right now and it has everything that you need to meet that desire. Isn’t this what that woman (or that man) on the screen is telling you: “Come, let’s drink deep of love till morning; let’s enjoy ourselves with love” (vs. 18)? Click, click, click. And you are lost in a dream world of fantasy, gratification, and self-centered sexual fulfillment. The Path to Death Internet pornography, however, is a classic case of bait and switch. You go in looking for one thing, but come away with something completely different. Solomon explains the process as he continues. With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk. All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life. – Proverbs 7:21–23 (NIV84) With the adulteress, you start in a dream world, but very quickly you find yourself in a nightmare. Notice the progression that verses 21-23 describe: first you are lead astray, then you are trapped, and then slowly, unknowingly even, you head to your death. You don’t die right away. You only start dying. But just like a deer in a noose, your doom is certainly coming. This is precisely what happens with pornography. You get into it because you have a desire to fulfill or a fantasy to explore, but very quickly it starts to unravel and destroy you. The negative effects of pornography use on especially the male mind are well documented. Here are just a few. Pornography use contributes to social and psychological problems. Studies show a correlation between increased use of porn and increased neglect of work, social isolation, and even depression. It rewires the brain. Just like a path in the woods is formed by frequent use, so are the neural pathways in the brain. Frequent use of porn changes the footpaths in that part of the brain that is used in relating to women, and so it becomes more and more difficult to relate with them in a God-glorifying, pure, and loving manner. It feeds selfishness, because it is profoundly selfish. It leads to premarital sex or, more frequently, masturbation. In both cases the result of pornography use is not sex as God intended it, namely between a male and a female in the relationally safe and secure confines of marriage. It leads men to demean and objectify women. When you turn women on a page or a screen into sexual objects, very quickly the women in your life will become no more than sexual objects. It distorts the beauty of the God-made female body. Tragically, some Christian males suppose that pornography is good because it highlights the beauty of the female body which was, after all, created by God. But porn in no way represents the beautiful diversity with which God has created females, nor does it seek to promote this beauty to God’s glory, nor does it reckon with the fact that God himself provided clothing for the man and woman after the fall into sin. It distorts reality, especially in the context of marriage. Think about the effects of porn use for a man engaged to be married. Porn feeds supersized expectations about sex and diminished emotions about women. Can you spell disaster? Many guys say that they hope that marriage will fix their pornography problem. Marriage is not a fix for a pornography problem; repentance and faith in Jesus Christ is. What porn will do for your marriage is destroy it. It makes gender and sexuality one-dimensional. Both women and men are far more than merely sexual objects, but porn promotes this popular idea that women are for giving sexual fulfillment and men are for taking it. Please don’t buy that perverse distortion of God-created gender. And sex itself is about far more than simply a fulfillment of your physical desires – it is a deeply emotional, mental, physical, and even a spiritual activity, one that is to be enjoyed. The above only begin to scratch the surface of the negative effects of porn. Porn kills. Perhaps you have heard of the infamous serial killer Ted Bundy. Ted Bundy was executed in the electric chair in 1989, after he confessed to killing 30 young women whom he had kidnapped, raped, and killed, and sometimes raped again after they were dead. On the day before he walked the last mile, Ted Bundy was interviewed by James Dobson and he had one message that he wanted to communicate to the world. The single most significant factor in his sexual crimes, in his opinion, was his habitual viewing of pornography. Not convinced that porn kills? What about the other partner in that selfish embrace, the woman on the screen? Where does she come from? What is her life like? What does she gain from being on your screen? The reality is that for so many of these girls – yes, many are girls – life is no life at all. It is death. Pornography is directly tied with the global sex trade, where women and girls are kidnapped or promised a great modeling career, only to be reduced to sex slaves, gang-raped, hooked on drugs, and held under the thumbs of their abusive pimps and managers. There may be a few stories of a "working girl" who works a regular job, has a family, and does X-rated films for some extra money. But for each one of these, there are certainly hundreds of stories of lives that are utterly destroyed by the industry that feeds youths who lack judgment, staring at their computer screen in the middle of the night. Adultery is death. Internet pornography is an ongoing massacre. The Call But Solomon, and the Spirit of God working through him, does not desire that we should take this road, and so his message is clear: get off that path and on to the right one! The difference is life and death. Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths. Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to the grave, leading down to the chambers of death. – Proverbs 7:24–27 (NIV84) Step One: Repent What do we do against the depravity of our heart and the wiles of pornography? Solomon says, “Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say” urging us to hear his voice, and turn from adultery. I mentioned all the relationships that porn destroys, but I didn’t mention yet the most important one, the one that we have with Jesus Christ, and through Jesus Christ, with our Heavenly Father. Losing or ruining our relationships with women, with friends, with family might be painful and tragic for us, but ruining or losing our relationship with Jesus Christ is absolutely devastating. In 1 Corinthians 5, when urging the Corinthians to avoid sexual immorality, Paul says, “Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!” You cannot be united both to Christ and to the adulteress. You must leave one to pursue the other. You cannot be on the path of folly and of wisdom – you must leave one and follow the other. To lose that relationship, that unity, with Jesus Christ would be devastating. Why? Because you have so much to lose. Only in Christ are you God’s child, justified, sanctified, glorified, redeemed from sin, saved from judgment, renewed in love, protected from Satan, a temple of the Holy Spirit, and God’s workmanship, created for good works. Are you ready to give that up? If you are currently pursuing pornography but want to remain in Christ, what do you do? Repent. Repent from your sins. Turn from your temptations. Reject those lustful desires and repent. We must recognize sin for what it is and follow the course of action that God lays out for us. We cannot tread the path of adultery and the path of discipleship at the same time. To get off the path of adultery recognize the sin, confess it the Lord, seek forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ, and ask God to renew your desires. Step Two: Get Wisdom The next step brings us to the first verses of chapter seven. Everything that Solomon writes about adultery is in the context of this greater command: Get wisdom. “Say to wisdom, ‘You are my sister’ and call understanding your kinsman; they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words” (vs. 4-5). To overcome sin you don’t need to just turn from sin, you need to cast yourself, your whole self, heart, soul, mind, upon God. Yes, you need a new heart; but you also need to live a new life. This too is the work of Jesus Christ, the way of wisdom, and the path of life. Solomon does not outline all the ways that this can be done, but here are a few route markers on the path of wisdom: 1. Listen. First of all, listen to God’s Word. Wisdom speaks the Word of God. The Word of God is the Bible. The Word of God is preached to you every Sunday. Through the Word of God you gain access to wisdom, and through wisdom, you come face to face with Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of your faith. God’s Word is where you will expose the deceitfulness of sin, where you discover the atonement through Christ’s sacrifice, and where you learn to live a new life of love. Second, listen to those who have learned this lesson already. Sin, and especially sexual sin, with its accompanying isolation, loneliness, and shame makes you feel like you are the only one who has struggled with the sin and that no one else would understand what you are going through. It can be liberating just to hear accounts of how other men and women have fought this battle. You are not alone in your struggle against sin. Hear the supportive voices of others who offer their help in the name of the Lord. 2. Talk about it Satan feeds off of embarrassment and shame. Darkness creates secrecy, shame, lies, and embarrassment. But the light brings them into the open. Bringing your sins into the light with trusted friends, elders, pastors, and parents allows the light to begin to work on it. You don’t need fight this battle alone. Talk to your friends. My good, godly friends were indispensable in helping to deal with my struggles with sexual sins. Being a good, godly friend to others allowed me the privilege of praying for and helping them when they were struggling. For about four years I would meet with two or three close friends for accountability sessions every 3 or 4 weeks on a Saturday morning over breakfast. As we all broke from the grip sexual temptations we all joined in the powerful grip of godly friendship. 3. Inform yourself. The best way to expose the lies of the seductress is to know the truth. Again, immerse yourself in God’s word every day. I recently heard a well-informed pastor say that he has never heard of a pastor who fell into deep sin who had a regular, daily time with God in Bible reading and prayer. Some might cast this off as a pietistic approach, and certainly, the Christian’s strength does not come from a mere devotional exercise. And yet it hard to imagine engaging in regular, daily, significant pornography use alongside regular, daily, significant devotion time. In addition to God’s Word, get good, godly information on sex, sexuality, lust and pornography. Here are a few resources that are particularly accessible for youths who desire judgment: Sexual Detox by Tim Challies. This is a short, very readable, and very helpful book by a well-known and respected Christian blogger. You can read it as posts at Challies’ blog here. Porn Again Christian by Mark Driscoll. It’s a free, frank discussion on pornography and masturbation.  In suggesting this resource, which I found to be quite good, I feel compelled include a caveat. In my opinion, Mark Driscoll is on the right track when he is speaking to unmarried and married men about pornography, but he not so helpful when he is talking to married men about other intimacy topics. Undefiled and other resources by Harry Schaumburg. Undefiled is probably the most popularly recommended book about sexual purity for Reformed folks. I don’t have a copy yet, so I can’t say for sure, but I’ve ordered my copy. Perhaps you’ll consider doing the same. Websites: The internet might be the home of pornographers, but it is also the home of many great resources to help you fight porn, like CovenantEyes.com and SettingCaptivesFree.com. What better way to stick it to the Adulteress of the Internet than to use the Internet in a good, up-building, God-glorifying way? This article has covered a lot of ground. I hope that you will cover a lot more ground on the path of wisdom. If you are immersed in a fight, do not lose hope. We always have hope, because we have a Savior who is far more powerful than our sin, far more beautiful than our temptation, and far more loving than we can even comprehend. Rev. Ryan deJonge is a missionary in Lae, Papua New Guinea. A version of this article was first published under the title "Get Wisdom! Adultery and young tech-savvy Christians" back in 2012. Mark Driscoll, Porn Again Christian (2009: Mars Hill Church), 13 This is a modified list of those found at B.J. Stockman, 7 Negative Effects of Porn, 2011, http://theresurgence.com/2011/11/19/7-negative-effects-of-porn (accessed on March 21, 2012). ...

Documentary, Movie Reviews, Watch for free

Brain, Heart, World – a fantastic, free, 3-part documentary on pornography's harmful impact

Documentary 90 minutes / 2019 RATING: 8/10 Fight the New Drug is an anti-poverty group that's come up with an impressive 3-part documentary called Brain, Heart, World about what pornography consumption does to your brain, what it does to your relationships, and what it does to the world. Each part is half an hour, and while you do have to give them your email address, it's well worth doing (and they won't spam you). They've packaged up important psychological insights with compelling personal accounts, making this must-see TV. Maybe what's most impressive is that they're having a very open conversation about pornography, even as they keep that conversation very PG-rated...at least for the first two episodes. With Episode 3, The World, since it is tackling sexual trafficking via first-hand accounts, there was really no way to keep it from being PG-13-ish. That said, this is as careful and delicate a presentation on this topic as I've seen. (Parents, if you're considering sharing and discussing this with your kids do be sure to preview it). This is an eye-opening presentation, but it is an entirely secular one. Fight the New Drug is "a non-religious and non-legislative organization" that teaches about the harmful effects of pornography "using only science, facts, and personal accounts." That means they operate from a materialist worldview that ignores the spiritual, and seemingly denies it. They don't speak to the repentance Jesus offers and in passing ways even minimize the need for it – at one point a girl says: "I realized it wasn't me that was bad; it was the porn that was bad." She gets close to the truth here, even as she completely misses it: the porn is irredeemable, but she isn't. Another example: in the Heart episode they share that researchers have found relationships the key to happiness such that "happiness is love." Now, understanding as we do, that relationship with God is the key to everlasting happiness, we might be tempted to say that here again they got it almost right. But seeing as they aren't actually pointing us to God, they also got it awfully wrong. In this way the series shortcomings are enormous; we can't fix a sin problem like lust and adultery without acknowledging it as a sin problem. That said, Christians can benefit enormously from watching series, because the series' shortcomings are the sort that we can fix with what God teaches us, and its strengths and insights can be a help when stacked on top of God's firm foundation. You can watch the series trailer below, and access the series itself here. ...

Sexuality

Porn addiction isn’t just a guy thing

“... but you’re a girl!?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that given the context that is about to follow, I’d have about twenty bucks. Sure, it isn’t much, but then again, I’ve only told my story twenty times. It never fails. I am a mother of two, and a wife to a wonderful, forgiving, and loving husband. I have been a member of the Church since I was baptized as an infant, and I am a sinner. This is a story about grace. That’s really all it can amount to. I would love to think that I got through all of this on my own accord and by my own strength, but that isn’t the case. It’s grace. ***** When I was still in my early teens, about twelve, I was flicking through the channels on our television. I was supposed to be babysitting, and well, I was – but all my siblings were in bed. Click, click, click. Nothing. And then, I saw IT. A naked couple on the screen. It wasn’t long before my parents arrived back home, and since our window was large enough to see them coming from literally a kilometer away, I had enough time to change the channel and bolt downstairs to my bed and begin to pretend I was sleeping. It began with curiosity I never told my parents about what I saw. And instead of confiding in those who had raised me from infancy, who I literally trusted with my life, I turned to our new computer and told Google instead. I was young enough that I didn’t understand what exactly I was searching for, but I was old enough to know how to work a keyboard and spell words. The next time I found myself home alone, I pulled up a chair, typed in a few key words and found what I had been looking for. What started off as “innocent” curiosity became a full-blown addiction. Minutes turned into hours, and the hours repeated themselves every couple days. I started to like what I was seeing and soon enough, it became a part of my daily routine. I started looking forward to those private moments, but in return, started hating myself, my body, and God. I would stay home as often as I could just to go on the computer. I watched soap operas instead of going to school, and one day, I put a computer in my room. I struggled on and off for years without anyone knowing. My battle began before unlimited wifi, before I had my own smartphone, Instagram and Snapchat account, or personal laptop. It was still difficult to find and pornography sites were “restricted” to those over 18 years. Now, it’s everywhere.  It’s been a little over one year since the last time I watched pornography. It’s been a very trying yet powerful year. I struggle with it every single day, multiple times per day. In the midst of my battle, I pushed God aside. I figured that if God wasn’t in the picture, I didn’t have to worry about whether or not what I was doing was sinful. I had convinced myself that He didn’t love me anyway, so what was the point of trying to make Him happy with me. As the distance between God and myself grew, the hatred I began to see in the mirror increased. I started to compare myself to the women I had seen on the screen; my skin wasn’t smooth enough, my breasts weren’t large enough, my legs weren’t skinny enough (I was a size zero!), my nose was too long, my teeth too pointy… the list could go on and on. I began to think that if I looked like the women on the screen, maybe I would have the love that they had too. The reality If only I had known the truth about the “love” that those women were experiencing. Plain and simple - porn is often drug-induced rape. Now, who in their right mind would actually want that? It all happened so fast.  One moment they would be meeting each other and the next moment they would be on the bed. But, I didn’t fully understand the truth behind the scenes of what I was watching, so I actually had myself convinced that that was what sex was like. I suppose since it was on the screen I could pretend that it was normal. Yet, it isn’t normal. I told my mother of my struggle last year, and she said something that I had never thought of before. She said “Those women on the screen, those men too, they are someone’s sister. Someone’s daughter, mother, brother and father. They are real people, with real families and real lives.” Bam. If any statement helped me through my battle the most, that was definitely a big contender. You have to think of it in real life, because it is real life. If you were to come across a couple having sex on the street, would you grab a chair, some popcorn and indulge yourself? Nope. And yet, what I was watching on the screen was just as real as that. Satan likes the dark I remember the first time I decided I was going to stop watching pornography. It lasted a week. I had stayed up late and at that time had access to a computer. I dare say that Satan works best at night. I even remember these words running through my brain: “Go on! One minute wouldn’t hurt”. Well, I had gone a full week and I was on the road to recovery, but I hadn’t found my strength in God at that time, and the one minute became an hour which became a daily routine. Again. Why even bother trying to stop? I would argue with myself, It’s impossible, anyway! I had become so invested in my guilty pleasure that it was easy enough to come up with stupid excuses to shut my conscience up. I knew that even though a part of me wanted to stop, a very large part of me didn’t. Even times when I would fall on my knees and pray for forgiveness, deep down I knew that I actually didn’t mean it. I was a pretty techy kid growing up, so no one actually found out about my addiction. I figured if no one really knew about it, and I could pretend that nothing was different, no one would suspect anything. There was a point in my life that I actually thought I just wouldn’t tell anyone. It impacted dating But then, I found myself in a serious relationship with a man whom I now call my husband. We had been dating for a few years when I told him. He was the first person I had ever told. I remember sitting in the car before I went in to see him, praying fervently to God that he wouldn’t break up with me and that he would forgive me. He did forgive me. We dated for a long time. And well, I would love to say that my experience with pornography did not affect our relationship but unfortunately it did. It was easy to convince myself that in order to feel loved I had to be touched. After all, that is what I had polluted my brain with for many previous years! We weren’t the definition of “innocent” in our relationship and I will take most of the responsibility for those actions. I could chalk it up to the fact that we were young, or that we dated for a long time, or maybe that our hormones were raging. And sure, those might have had an effect, but when it really comes down to the heart of the matter – it’s just that, the heart. My heart, and if I can speak on behalf of my husband, his too, were not centered on God. Mine didn’t pay attention to what God says love is: “patient, kind, slow to anger….” (1 Cor. 13). To me, love was attention from my boyfriend - any attention he wanted to give, and any attention I could take. I had tried to find satisfaction in a fellow sinner, instead of looking to our one, perfect and holy God. We went through periods of lust and other periods of just finding pure joy in each other’s company. Thankfully, with a wedding ahead, our time of engagement was focused where it should have been all along, and we began to enjoy each other as God’s forgiven children. It didn’t just stop with marriage There is a saying: “Satan will do anything he can before you are married to get you into bed, and anything he can do when you are married to get you out of it.” It is difficult for me to write this next part, but it’s part of my story. I watched pornography as a wife. I took matters into my own hands when I didn’t feel like sharing my feelings or frustrations with my husband. Mainly it was just because I was bored or lonely. It happened. I hate that it happened, but that doesn’t mean that it didn’t. If there were any part of this whole struggle I could wish never happened, this would be it. My husband is so forgiving. If there is any word I could use to describe him, that would be it. He has stood by me and encouraged me in my fight against pornography more times than I dare count. He is the one to point me to my Rock. I took one evening to share with him my struggles – every last detail – all the whos, whats, whens, whys and hows. He is now my partner in my fight and I know that he would leave everything if he knew that I was being tempted, to come and help me fight. It’s been a little over a year since I have last watched pornography. I am 25, and have struggled with it on and off for more than 10 years. It is still a daily struggle: every time I go to the beach, the mall, pull out my phone, go on Facebook, Instagram, the computer. Videos and images I watched as a teenager will suddenly appear in my mind as I am washing the dishes, doing the laundry, vacuuming, sitting in church, even praying! The struggle has not left me, and I dare say it never will. God’s grace I would love to say that I have all of this under control. I don’t. God does. One year ago, I put my battle in His hands and prayed with tears that He would take this cup from me. And praise be to God, He has. He has given me the strength I need to put my smartphone away, to turn off the laptop, to double check the ratings of shows before I go and watch them. He has strengthened my faith in his Son and His forgiveness. He has given me grace and love. I have found freedom in my walk, a spring back in my step and more love for my husband than I even thought possible. I remember sitting in church one Sunday hearing a sermon on the Lord’s Supper. At one point during the sermon, the minister asked us to picture Christ hanging on the cross – I don’t remember very much after that because I knew what he meant. Picture my sin hanging there on Christ’s shoulders. I put him there. I stood before him yelling “Crucify him! Crucify him!” That is the moment I realized it wasn’t impossible. I had Christ on my side, and he had conquered sin. My sin. He put it to death! For me. So I continue on, fighting, finding my hope in God’s promises: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God” (John 3:16-18). “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). And as my wise mother has taught me, “Don’t be surprised by sin. Be surprised by grace.” Thanks mom. Advice from a former addict to you: Talk to your children/friends. Be the one to bring up the topic in a conversation. I often find it easier to talk about the “big topics” one on one rather than in a group. Ask them to be honest with you, and be quick to listen and slow to speak. Humble yourself as the parent/friend. Also, don’t assume that since you’ve talked to them once, they know and they won’t do it. We are all curious and sinners by nature. Pray with and for your children/friends/family. Set an example: Stay on top of what you and your children/friends watch/read. Are you setting a good example? It’s one thing to say, “Hey Jonny – don’t watch porn” but if they see you watching The Game of Thrones or even porn itself, you’re setting an example of how to be a hypocrite. Use your resources! For movies there’s www.kids-in-mind.com, and even the parents’ guide on www.imdb.com. And PluggedIn is a great resource to double check movies/books or even apps before you or your children watch them. Protect your computer. Get the laptops and smartphones out of bedrooms and into a public area. I know – it creates more clutter. But do you know what kind of clutter is more disgusting? A pornography filled mind. It’s worth a messy desk. Trust me. Password protect your wifi and change the password/turn off the wifi at a specific time at night. Don’t be afraid to discipline. Have an accountability partner. This one is tough because it requires you to be honest and open with someone. If you feel temptation, that is the time to talk with them. Not after you give in, but before that – when you feel like you might give in. As the accountability partner, pray for your friend/child. Uphold them and encourage them in their times of weakness. Encourage your children and friends in their inner beauty. Compliment them on their kindness or gentle spirit instead of their new jeans or new hairstyle. Teach each other how to put on the fruits of the Spirit instead of eyeliner and mascara. Teach your son how to look for the right kind of woman and how to put on the armor of God. If you are bored, find something to do that does not include a laptop or smartphone. The Bible is an excellent place to start. Speak highly of the love of God and show the love of God in your home. Instill in your, and your child’s heart, John 3:16-18. Model repentance to your children. For example, if you lose your temper and shout at them, ask their forgiveness. Let them see what seeking forgiveness, and turning to God in repentance looks like. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive. This article first appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of the magazine....

Entertainment

How then shall we watch?

Imagine the following scenario. A Christian friend invites you over for a movie. The evening hasn’t progressed far, however, before you realize you’re watching an NC-17 film, complete with pornographic sex scenes that leave nothing to the imagination. You turn to your friend in disbelief, but he assures you it’ll be worth it if you just keep watching. Then comes the twist: the characters in the film express regret over their immorality, and in a powerful display of repentance, they give their lives to Christ. Now, most of us would agree that a titillation flick – no matter what kind of redeeming “message” is tacked on – is not acceptable fare for followers of Christ. Sometimes the moral message of a story is drowned out by immoral methods. And yet, we’ve adopted a mindset that Trevin Wax once described with these words: “all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.” But we need to ask a question (one Wax also asks): “At what point does our cultural engagement become just a sophisticated way of being worldly?” There is a line that shouldn’t be crossed, somewhere between the questions, “How does watching Chariots of Fire show us the gospel?” and “How does watching Girls Gone Wild show us the gospel?” Where is that line? What does it look like? 3 QUESTIONS We can’t answer these questions with the depth they deserve in a single article. What we can do, however, is pose a few additional questions to help us evaluate our own hearts more clearly. QUESTION #1: IS MY VIEW OF TRUTH AND BEAUTY TOO SHALLOW? The Christian recognizes that truth and beauty have been clearly communicated by a trustworthy and glorious God. His Word is a lamp that illuminates the darkness of our surroundings. Hints of God’s truth can be found everywhere – even in unlikely places. I personally have had God speak certain truths to me through movies that I now couldn’t watch with a clear conscience. God can use any means – even the mouth of a donkey (see Numbers 22:21-39)– to speak to us. However, the almost rabid rush to find truth in anything and everything might be a sign that we’re starving ourselves from the “real deal” and substituting shadows and reflections for substance and clear images. Just a couple years ago, The Christian Post reported on a survey that listed the mainstream TV shows most watched by Christian audiences. Several of the shows featured objectified actors (characters in lingerie, underwear, stripper getups, etc.), crude and crass sexual language (some of it pervasive), and sex scenes (including one show with a sex scene in almost every episode). And that’s just a tally of problematic sexual displays. If we need entertainment to give us explicit acts of depravity just to show how gross certain sins of debauchery are, I think it means we’re far too easily pleased with finding diamond fragments in dunghills, rather than taking in the beauty of polished gems in a jewelry store. Or, to modify imagery from Proverbs 11:22, you can deprive yourself of unadulterated truth and beauty to the extent that you find a pig decked out with a gold ring a beautiful sight to behold. You may think you’re exercising discernment (i.e., cleverly noticing truth in even unlikely places), but you’re actually lacking discernment (ignoring the pig because, well, shucks, that ring is fancy). It may sometimes be a challenge to find creative, God-honoring entertainment, but it’s not impossible. Considering the collective output of film and television from their inceptions, there are plenty of options available to us. There is no entertainment so popular or attractive that we must compromise real truth and beauty so we can experience inferior or tainted imitations of them. QUESTION #2: DO I USE “GRAY AREAS” AS AN EXCUSE FOR COMPROMISE? We definitely want to be careful about creating universal entertainment rules that aren’t Biblically justified. Depending on the varying maturity levels of different believers, certain content may be good for some to watch and others to avoid. Not everything is black and white. There are definitely shades of gray out there (just not, er, fifty.) But just as any one person will have blind spots, so will any culture and time period. It is helpful, and sometimes necessary, to examine how other cultures and time periods have addressed similar topics. In order to properly evaluate potential gray areas, we need to have a more global and historical perspective – a perspective that isn’t mired in our own cultural shortcomings. One such “gray area” is the pornification of much of our entertainment. In his book The Brain That Changes Itself, Dr. Norman Doidge says the following: oftcore is now what hardcore was a few decades ago …. up on mainstream media all day long, in the pornification of everything, including television, rock videos, soap operas, advertisements, and so on.3 Dr. Doidge’s book was published in 2007, and the societal trends he noticed have only worsened since then (on the practice of using porn stars for mainstream entertainment, see Seth Rogen on Hollywood’s Backdoor Connection to the Red-Light District). Pornified content is so commonplace that we’ve become largely desensitized to its presence. You won’t find many professing Christians argue that pornography is a gray area, and yet you will find many professing Christians argue that similar material is justifiable in a mainstream movie with a redemptive message. The cultural standard being used is a sliding scale; the “gray” is not found in the situation itself, but in our collective cloudy vision. QUESTION #3: AM I PLACING TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON BEING RELEVANT? There is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be effective in communicating with a particular demographic, including your own culture. The problem with focusing too much on being relevant, however, is that we can become so fixated on what is current and popular and fresh that we lose sight of what is lastingly valuable. What is relevant today will be irrelevant tomorrow. This is true in any setting, but when we are immersed in the very culture we attempt to minister in, we can be especially distracted by numerous fads, crazes, and trends. When the Pharisees debated with Jesus about divorce in Mark 10, they were consumed with current interpretations of the Mosaic law, whereas Jesus focused on ancient realities found in the book of Genesis. In the words of commentator David Guzik, It’s striking that Jesus took us back to the beginning to learn about marriage. Today many want to say, “We live in different times” or “The rules are different today” or “We need a modern understanding.” Yet Jesus knew that the answers were in going back to the beginning. Relevance is a tragic endgame. It’s a horrible target to set your sights on. With such a focus, the temporal can gain more importance than the eternal, and suddenly we’re majoring on minors and minoring on majors. To paraphrase C. S. Lewis, if we aim at eternal truth, we’ll get temporal relevance thrown in. If we aim simply at relevance, we’ll get neither. Chasing after the moving target of “relevance” can lead one to speak and act and live in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from those in the world. To a large degree, this has happened within our western Christian subculture: our entertainment choices rarely differ from those who claim no affinity for God and His word. And if our salt loses its saltiness in the name of relevance, we become pathetically irrelevant. 3 PRINCIPLES The above three questions are a good place to start, but we mustn’t stop there. We must find sound, Biblical answers. That being the case, let us examine three Scriptural principles that can help us formulate those answers. THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT First, when asked what the most important commandment is, Jesus answered with a quote from Deuteronomy 6: “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (v. 4). This can help us better evaluate the first question: “Is my view of truth and beauty too shallow?” As the ultimate expression – nay, the very embodiment – of truth and beauty, God must capture our foremost affections and deepest love. Entertainment can actually be an aid in our pursuit of Him. No artist denies the power of art to affect and influence us. As such, one might well ask, “Will this piece of entertainment encourage me to love and value what God loves and values? Does it call evil evil and good good? Will it point me toward God or away from God?” It won’t work to consume entertainment that discourages us from loving the Giver of truth and beauty – not even if that piece of entertainment includes a kernel of truth or a nugget of beauty. It is self-defeating to compromise our convictions about truth and beauty in order to encourage our appreciation for truth and beauty. As one person once said, it’s like “rooting through a bin of over ripe garbage in the summer in hopes of finding a good sandwich.” LOVE TRUMPS FREEDOM Jesus also told us what the second greatest commandment is: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). This can help us better evaluate the second question: “Do I use ‘gray areas’ as an excuse for compromise?” One solid principle far removed from the “gray area” zone is the Christian’s duty to consider the needs of others. With that principle in mind, let us return to the pornification of our entertainment. This time, however, forget about your own wellbeing as an audience member and consider the wellbeing of the actors who are tasked with disrobing and sexually acting out for the camera. We may not personally know these actors, but they fit under the category of “neighbor” according to the sweeping definition Jesus assumed in the parable of the Good Samaritan. Like the priest and the Levite in the parable, we may barely cross paths with Hollywood actors (we’re only handing money over to their employers so they get paid for entertaining us). But as with the priest and Levite, that leaves us with no excuse for our lack of neighborly love. Instead of evaluating whether or not a graphic sex scene is appropriate for you, evaluate whether or not it is your Christian duty to pay others to objectify and exploit themselves for your entertainment. Is that the best way you as a consumer can love your entertainer as you love yourself? There are scores of actor testimonials on how degrading and terrifying and horrifying it is to force oneself – or face pressure from studio executives – to be sexualized for the viewing pleasure of others. (For a fuller treatment of this topic, see Here’s the problem with just closing your eyes during the sex scenes.) The Christian’s liberty is subservient to the Christian’s duty to love. The second commandment helps clarify certain situations that we might otherwise categorize as “gray areas.” THE TEST OF FAITH In addressing the controversy surrounding meat offered to idols, the Apostle Paul exhorted the Roman church with this bit of advice: “whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14:23). This can help us better evaluate the third question: “Am I placing too much emphasis on being relevant?” Paul agreed with his readers that there was no inherent sin involved in eating meat that may or may not have previously been used in pagan rituals. Such meat was not tainted. That was a fact. Nevertheless, certain Christians experienced guilt even thinking about the practice. To them, it indicated a participation in pagan worship. Their conscience was, to use Paul’s term, “weak” (v. 2). Yet if they were to violate their conscience, ill-informed as it was, they would still be acting in sin. Thus, whether or not a certain piece of entertainment will allow you to be relevant to your culture, consider whether you can engage with it in full faith that such an action is good and right. You cannot use the convictions of others to carry or excuse your entertainment choices. If your conscience is bothering you, it is your Christian duty to heed your conscience. The most relevant faith is a faith that clings to its convictions. In fact, sometimes the best conversations, and sometimes the best form of cultural engagement can take place, not because you have watched the latest movie, but because you haven’t. ENTERTAINMENT ACCORDING TO THE GOSPEL In generations past, prospectors did not typically find gold lying on the surface of the ground. They found gold through hard work: panning in the water, mining in the earth, and so on. Similarly, being a wise patron of entertainment requires thoughtful and deliberate analysis. It takes hard work. And that work can only be successful when informed by the gospel of the grace of God. His word and His will and His ways can – and should – transform our choices. The more we immerse ourselves in gospel principles and gospel practices, the better equipped we will be to engage with entertainment in a God-glorifying way. Cap Stewart blogs about movies and the arts at CapStewart.com....

Documentary, Movie Reviews

CONNECT: Real help for parenting kids in a social media world

Documentary 70 minutes / 2018 RATING: 8/10 Connect offers “real help for parenting kids in a social media world” and the host, Kirk Cameron, starts things off by scaring parents with the story of a boy who was Internet-stalked by a “grown adult man.” The dad intervened in time… but it was a close thing. I watched this with 30-or-so other parents and this opener certainly grabbed our attention. But now, what can we do to protect our kids? Cameron makes clear, it isn’t just the creeps that we need to watch out for. We need to teach our children to see through a number of lies that social media fosters, including: “I deserve to be happy all the time” and “I am the center of the universe.” Our children need to know God is the center of the universe, and instant gratification is not only not a right, but not even healthy. More important: parents need to correct their own addiction to social media, and then get actively involved in their children’s lives. We are all busy, but we cannot be, as one of the experts put it, “mentally-absent parents.” There was a fantastic discussion starter for all the parents and teens who attended our viewing. One caution: there is some topic matter – about pornography addiction and suicide – that is not appropriate for the very young. It can be rented via online streaming, or purchased via DVD here. Americans with Amazon Prime can watch it here. ...

Assorted

What does fleeing sin look like?

Despite endless attempts to do so, fleeing sin can’t be done halfheartedly – that only sets the stage for failure. A tepid turning away is like a drunk who doesn’t buy beer anymore but still goes to all the same parties and hangs out with the same drunken crew. He’s pushed off his sin, but only a short distance. So what does fleeing sin look like? It’s radical. It involves complete commitment. In Genesis 39 we find an example of this radical commitment. When Potiphar’s wife propositions Joseph first he refuses her, and, when that isn’t enough and she grabs hold of his garment, Joseph takes off running. Now, grown men don’t run away, do they? It’s undignified. And they certainly don’t shed clothes to get away. But that’s what Joseph did. She was holding his cloak, so he let her keep it. We don’t know exactly what state of undress this left Joseph – was he naked, or did he just lose his outer layer? – but we do know this was no calm and cool departure. This was a man desperate to do what God wanted, even if it left him clothed only in righteousness. This is complete commitment. Matthew 5:29 outlines another radical response to sin: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.” This passage is most often explained as a figure of speech, not to be taken literally. And that’s true enough – Jesus’ point here is to highlight just how important it is to flee sin but He isn’t prescribing the specific means of doing so. However, we shouldn’t “explain away” the radical nature of what’s being said. God can’t stand sin and we need to do whatever it takes to fight our entrapping, entangling sins. The reason that we don’t go plucking out eyeballs is because there are other means – more effective and less harmful – of fleeing sin. But these other means can be painful too, and we may be tempted to dismiss them as too radical. But if that leaves us trapped in our sin, then we need to hear what Christ says next: better a one-eyed man in Heaven than a two-eyed man in Hell. This is about our salvation! If your smartphone causes you to sin… Computers and smartphones are a part of our daily lives – most jobs involve them, and almost everyone has one. But they are also portals to pornography. If that’s a problem for you, then in Matt. 5:29 Christ prescribes a radical, and vital, solution: “if your computer/smartphone causes you to sin, pluck it out.” But how can we manage without a computer? How can we keep in touch with our friends without a smartphone? Is it even possible today to do without these devices? Well, plucking in this case might not mean doing completely without. They can be managed via various technological and practical means. A person can: install accountability software like Covenant Eyes on their computers that monitors where they go on the Internet and then shares it with an accountability partner get filtering software that will block most (but not all – nothing is 100% effective) of the harmful content on the Internet use software or hardware means to limit the time your computer is hooked up to the Internet place their computer in a public area in the home, where other can see what you are up to when you are online install monitoring software on their smartphone swap their smartphone for a simple cellphone (some still allow you to text friends, but not surf the Internet). What if none of this is sufficient? Then, Christ tells us to remember, better computer-less and on your way to Heaven, than a social media king on your way to Hell. If your friends tempt you to sin... Temptation comes in all sorts of forms, and some of us will find it harder than others to resist peer pressure. If your good buddies are into all the wrong things, and you find yourself pulled in again and again, then you need to give up on this group of friends (Prov. 13:20, 1 Cor. 15:33). It doesn’t matter if you’ve known them since elementary; don’t place your friends above God.  If your job tempts you to sin... Some jobs involve travel, leaving you alone in your hotel room with the porn channels, or maybe it’s simple risqué R-rated films, readily available. Maybe all that time alone on the road causes temptation. Or maybe you work in an office where there is a growing pressure to conform to their politically correct culture (and in doing so deny your Lord). Or you work with coarse colleagues who have nude pics on the walls. Or you have dishonest colleagues who pressure you to fudge figures. There’s any number of ways your job can be a source of temptation. There is also any number of ways of managing this. It could involve creativity, and a willingness to make strange requests. I heard of one man who required that any hotel room he stays at have the TV removed from his room. Maybe it means speaking to colleagues and asking them to take down their girlie pictures. It could be embarrassing. But that’s the level of commitment God calls us to. If a workaround isn’t possible, and temptation at your job is unavoidable and causing you to sin, then don’t think it too radical to quit…even if you don’t have another job lined up (this is what deacons are for). If your “me time” is causing you to sin... We are called to flee from more than just sexual temptation and drunkenness – Matthew 5:29 applies to all of life. So, for example, God also wants us to control our anger…even if you are a parent running on very little sleep. Tiredness can leave anyone short-tempered, and some of us have to watch out for this even more than others. Maybe it’s been a long day, the kids are finally in bed, and now we just want a little “me time” before we head to bed – just an hour of TV, or a couple chapters. We just want to unwind. Except, that we’re exhausted. And that exhaustion has meant that instead of being a loving disciplinarian, we’ve been a ticked off grump every time our kids have been kids. So it might only be nine o-clock, but if your “me time” is causing you to sin, you need to pack it in early. Flee to Now there is more to fleeing than simply fleeing from. Running from can give us only the temporary sort of victory that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 12:43-45. Here He describes a man who has a demon leave him. Success? Well, no, because after the demon leaves, the man doesn't replace it. When the demon comes back he finds his former abode "unoccupied" and so brings seven other demons to come join him, and "the last state of that man becomes worse then the first." This is what comes of fighting sin on our own. Our fleeing can't simply be an aimless fleeing from but must be deliberate fleeing to our Saviour. He can help us not only put off our old sinful ways, but renew us, so we can put on a new self (Ephesians 4:22-24) "which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth." Conclusion When we are entangled in sin it may feel like there is no way out. It can feel like we are caught in such a complicated situation we are unable to get free. It’s important then to understand that fleeing sin isn’t complicated…but it is radical. And while fleeing sin isn’t complicated, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Proverbs 22:6 says that if we train up a child in the way he should go, when he is old “he will not depart from it.” That works both ways, for good or evil. If you’ve been partaking in the same sin again and again, you’ve “trained” yourself – you’ve carved some deep ruts that will be hard to get out of, and easy to fall back into. That means fleeing from sin may be hard to do. But it isn’t hard to figure out what to do. It is a matter of placing God as first and throwing off everything that hinders (Hebrews 12:1). The reason we fall into sin, then, is because we count everything as too high a cost. Now anyone who has been entangled in sin knows they can’t get free on their own; that’s why in setting out the radical nature of what fleeing from sin involves, it’s vital we not forget the radical nature of what has already been done for us. Those entangling sins? Jesus has paid for them, so He can loose us from them. We need to flee from sin, yes, but more importantly, we need to run to the God who loved us so much He died for us to set us free. So what does fleeing sin look like? It means running from temptation and putting off every sin and weight that hinders us. It means turning and sprinting full out – arms flailing, legs churning, spittle flying, maybe even cloak leaving – towards our Father and his secure embrace. For more, see John Piper on Hebrews 12:1 and running....

Sexuality

NO SATISFACTION: James’ Epistle on pornography

If I were to do a sample of readers to ask what they think is the driver behind pornography, my guess is that the most common answer would be just one word: lust. As far as it goes, this is true. But we need to get behind that word, so to speak, to find out what we actually mean by it. A good place to start is by studying the words of James in his Epistle: “From whence come wars and fighting among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? You lust and have not. You kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain. You fight and war, yet you have not, because you ask not. You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:1-3). I have bolded out three phrases here, because it seems to me that they are key to understanding lust (and incidentally not just lust, but all sorts of other sins that James alludes to). Now, I don’t always use the King James Version but did here, because it uses the word “lust” where other translations use “passions” or “desires.” “Lust” gives the better flavoring here, because while desires and passions can be both good or bad, lust is what happens when passions and desires go awry, which is what is happening here. Lust, according to James, is at root a desire to have something that we haven’t got and which isn’t rightfully ours, to seek to obtain it but always fall wide of the mark, and consequently to fail to be satisfied. It is a vicious circle in which failure to obtain the satisfaction we desire drives us to seek it again in other places. This, by the way, at least partly explains why pornography, as with drugs, is often a gateway habit, with users going on to seek harder and harder stuff in order to be satisfied. But of course true satisfaction never comes. Sexual desire isn’t bad, until porn twists it Like all other vices, pornography is driven by the twisting of good and noble inclinations in a direction to which they were never meant to go. Pardon the pun, but there are no “original sins.” There is “Original Sin,” but there are no “original sins” in the sense of actions that are entirely thought up by the devil or by man with no reference to God. Rather, all sins are perversions and mockeries of something good that God has given to man. Imagine a father who buys his son a toy drum, only to later find him using the stick to whack his little sister. The stick was meant to be whacked. It was meant to beat something. But it wasn’t meant to beat people. And so, although some of the actions involved are nearly identical to what the stick was meant to be used for, in his mind and in his actions he has twisted it out of all recognition so that it is now actively used for vastly different purposes than the one intended. This is how pornography works. God has given us the good and noble inclination to want to be satisfied. Physiologically, he has given most of us the good and noble need to be sexually satisfied. Why do I call it good and noble? Because it is the consummation of and the most intimate part of the marriage relationship, which the writer to the Hebrews tells us is honorable (Hebrews 13:4). And without it, humanity would die. What pornography does it to take this God-given desire for satisfaction, and the physiological need for fulfillment, and wrench it out of all recognition, fixing the gaze on another object than the one intended. Twisted, it can’t satisfy Yet the irony is that by using the gifts that God has given us for entirely different and incompatible purposes than the ones intended, we find that fulfillment eludes. If the sexual drive was created to lead us towards intimacy, how can pornography, which is entirely non-relational and involves people who have never even met, fulfill? The answer, as hinted at by James, is that it can’t. To the extent that it appears to users to provide some fulfillment, it does so only in the way that scratching an itch does – entirely temporary relief, but with the catch that when the itch returns, it will be even harder to appease than before. Herein lies the pornography trap. We are designed to find fulfillment in a real relationship, but it is partly the fact that pornography is non-relational that makes it so appealing. Relationships are hard. Life is often a monotonous routine. Living with another sinner is often far from easy. But as for the people in the pictures or the video, you don’t need to worry about their sins. You don’t need to live with them and deal with their issues day after day. And so the thrill and excitement of being taken out of normal life into some fantasy world where real satisfaction apparently resides can become intoxicating. No faithfulness is required to obtain satisfaction there. No commitment is required to achieve satisfaction there. No dealing with another person in an ongoing relationship is required to get satisfaction there. And yet the irony is that true, lasting satisfaction is the one thing it can never bring. Lots of reasons to stop, one remedy What then is the remedy? That might seem like an odd question. Surely I’m not about to suggest that there is one remedy for all of this? Actually I am. There are plenty of reasons and inducements for somebody who has a pornography habit to break it, but ultimately there is only one remedy, which I’ll come on to that in a moment. But first here are some reasons and inducements. 1. Come to see how much it dehumanizes, both yourself and others Pornography is by its very nature dehumanizing. Not just for the people who make it, but also for the one viewing it. By its nature it objectifies and commoditizes people, which means that if you are a user of pornography, you are both an objectifier and commoditiser of people. That’s not a good thing to be. 2. Understand that it cannot bring you the satisfaction you desire As mentioned, the use of pornography is rooted in a desire to be satisfied. Yet as any counselor of those with a porn habit will tell you, it has never yet brought anyone true joy or lasting happiness. If you are looking for satisfaction in something which demonstrably cannot bring you what you are looking for, it’s probably a good time to question whether you are seeking satisfaction in the right places. 3. Recognize how ridiculous it looks There’s something to be said for just sometimes stepping out of yourself and your circumstances, so to speak, and looking at what it is you are actually doing. What do you call fantasizing about having some sort of sexual encounter with a person you’ve never met, never will meet, and if you did meet them it would never take place? Isn’t it about as absurd a scenario as it’s possible to conjure up? 4. Stop referring to your habit as an addiction The word addiction has become one of the most abused words of our day, and is often used as an excuse for responsibility avoidance. While I have no doubt that pornography produces certain chemicals in the brain that can take a powerful hold on us, the idea that we become passive victims is not borne out either biblically or practically. Biblically, pornography falls into the category of sexual immorality, and Scripture is plain that this is a sin that we should avoid, can avoid, and must avoid, chemicals notwithstanding. Practically, the fact that many “porn addicts” break their “addiction” shows that, though undoubtedly hard, it can be done. “Porn addiction” is in reality a “porn habit,” and it is there to be broken with willpower and determination. 5. God tells us that those who don’t break with it will be excluded from the Kingdom of God In 1 Cor. 6:9-10, the Apostle Paul says this: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” Despite the wonderfully elaborate attempts of many modern Christians to ignore, twist, deny, camouflage or dispute much of this, there it is. Seems pretty clear to me. Make of it what you will. The solution? No half measures Yet finally, as I mentioned above, whilst these are all good reasons and inducements to break the porn habit, they are not the remedy itself. What is that then? Biblically speaking there is only one, which is this: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18). That’s it. All the reasons and inducements in the world will not help the user of porn to break his or her porn habit unless they are prepared to do the one thing necessary. Flee from it. Don’t walk, run. Don’t dabble, don’t skirt along the edges, don’t case furtive looks. Get away from it. Have nothing to do with it. Rob Slane lives with his wife and six children in Salisbury, England, about 90 minutes drive from Wales. He is the author of A Christian and Unbeliever discuss Life, the Universe, and Everything and contributes to the Samaritan Ministries blog where a version of this article first appeared under the title "The pornification of society, part 2."...

Sexuality

Is Porn more like heroin, or driving a car?

Explaining why it's evil to our non-Christians friends ***** In recent weeks, I’ve come across what seems like a multitude of articles on the subject of pornography, especially articles focused on the fact that more and more teenagers and children are now viewing pornography on a regular basis. The latest piece to catch my eye came from Rod Dreher on The American Conservative website. At one point, Mr. Dreher writes a paragraph in which you can almost hear him weep in sorrow as you read it: “This society has a death wish. I wish I had some idea how it could be saved. What concerns me most of all right now is the horrifying complicity of conservative, even conservative Christian, parents in the spiritual, moral, and emotional ruin of their children and of their moral ecology because they, the parents, are too damn afraid to say no, my kids will not have a smartphone, I don’t care what they and society think of me.” I hope that readers will share his sorrow, and that it might induce parents who have perhaps been blasé to take a long, hard look at their situation and take whatever action they can to protect their children’s innocence. The issue of pornography is a difficult one to even talk about, but we must. I want to consider the societal phenomenon, addressing what I believe is one major way we are being deceived, and how we can communicate the nature of that deception to our non-Christian friends and neighbors. It’s not just a problem for children I would assume that all Christians reading this know instinctively that pornography is wrong. At the same time, I am also aware that we can often fall into the world’s way of thinking on issues, and that this can mean that we accept its solutions to problems and fail to see the real issue. One of the ways we are doing this around pornography is increasingly seeing the major problem as being its spread to children, rather than pornography itself. Of course the spread to children is a massive problem, but it is not the problem. Here’s an example: an article by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic quotes one of the world’s biggest “porn stars” expressing concern that we’re not doing enough to stop pornography getting in front of children. Yet the same article states that “accessing hard core porn is (properly) legal.” This now seems to be the default position: pornography is fine for adults, but we just need to keep it from children. Now it is of course true that pornography filtering down to children is a very great evil. Young minds are more susceptible to habit-forming from new stimuli in ways which adult minds are perhaps not. Nevertheless, if we concentrate all our efforts on simply stopping pornography getting into the hands of children, we miss the point completely. For the problem is not primarily that pornography is falling into the hands of children, but rather that as a society we have opened the floodgates to allow porn in and normalized it. It is absurd to think that it is possible to normalize something like this, and for it not to filter down to children. Children, by their very nature, want to grow up to be adults, and they often want to do adult things before their time. So if we have largely normalized pornography amongst adults – and we have – then no amount of paywalls and banning of smartphones or anything else is going to make much difference. We have become a pornographic society, and children, who aspire to do what adults do, will generally find ways of getting their hands on it by hook or by crook (though of course responsible parents will take as much action as they can to prevent their children coming into contact with it). Drugs? Or driving? Look at it like this. There are two types of activity that adults seek to protect children from. First, there are perfectly good activities that we want them to grow up into, but for which they need to come of age before we allow it. For instance, driving a car. Then there are activities which are bad in and of themselves, and which we try to protect them from not just because they aren’t old enough to do them, but because we don’t ever want them to do them. Taking heroin would fall into this category. So which category does porn fit into? Is it like driving? Or is it like heroin? Is it something a child should one day be able to do, only not just now? Or is it like heroin; something that no sane parent would ever want their children to get into, no matter how old? If our culture puts it in the same category as driving a car, something to be avoided as a child, but something that is perfectly normal once you turn a certain age, then it can be safely said that we have lost all moral compass and are quite sick. If, on the other hand, we see it in the same category as heroin, then at least we would be acknowledging it as a problem to be dealt with. But why don’t we want kids seeing it? Sadly, I would say that we have moved in the last ten years from treating it in the heroin category to the driving category. “We don’t want you to touch it now, but of course there will come a time when it becomes your right to consume as much of it as you like,” is essentially the message. And yet the schizophrenic nature of this is obvious when you think about why it is we don’t want children seeing it. Isn’t it because we know it pollutes their minds? Isn’t it because we instinctively know that it demeans and degrades them? Isn’t it because we are well aware that it will give them a terribly unhealthy and warped view of the opposite sex? Of course it is, but are we really naïve enough to think that it doesn’t have the same sorts of effects on adults? But they’re adults, and we can’t stop their rights, can we? And, of course, if we did enact a law that bans it all, such a law at the point we currently find ourselves at would be as effective as King Canute commanding the sea to go back. What I am suggesting is that our culture urgently needs to stop looking at the main problem as being one of trying to prevent pornography falling into the hands of children. That is only byproduct of the much larger problem society needs to acknowledge: the normalization of pornography among adults. Rob Slane is the author of “A Christian and Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe and Everything.” A version of this article first appeared on SamaritanMinistries.org and is reprinted here with the author’s permission....

News

Porn and the smartphone: parents should be freaking out

In a May 2 piece in the American Conservative, journalist Rod Dreher said that when he goes to speak at Christian colleges, the professors, staffers and campus ministers he’s talks with tell him that “pornography is a massive problem.” How massive? “A campus minister who works with young undergraduates headed for professional ministry told me that every single one of the men he mentors has a porn addiction. Every. Single. One.” Parents who grew up with the Internet might think they understand the temptation their kids face. But this, the smartphone generation, is facing something new. While their parents could put their desktop computer in a public place, our children now have a portal, in their jeans pockets, that allows them access to porn everywhere and always. Dreher’s solution? It’s not as simple as any one thing. But he doesn’t like smartphones. What concerns me most of all right now is the horrifying complicity of conservative, even conservative Christian, parents in the spiritual, moral, and emotional ruin of their children and of their moral ecology because they, the parents, are too…afraid to say no, my kids will not have a smartphone, I don’t care what they and society think of me. Now Dreher isn’t advocating an anti-technology lifestyle. He knows we can’t just bubble-wrap our kids and ban them from the Internet for the first 18 years of their life. If we did, then, when they move out and get their first smartphone, it won’t be much better for them than if we just handed one to them at age 10. So no bubble-wrap, and no technology bans. But we also shouldn’t hand our children tools without first figuring out if they have the character and knowledge to use them properly. We wouldn’t hand our son or daughter a chainsaw without some lessons and precautions and it isn’t hyperbole to say we should be much more cautious about handing them a smartphone. After all, the chainsaw can only hurt or kill them; pornography can enslave them. To conclude his piece Dreher shared a conversation he had with a two readers who lead a Christian school. He told these men about how, in the article he was writing, he wanted to help parents understand just how “serious this situation is regarding kids, porn and smartphones” but that he didn’t “want to freak them out.” “Freak them out,” he was told, “They need to be freaked out.”...

Adult non-fiction, Internet, Parenting

Parenting the Internet Generation

Parenting has always been intimidating – it wasn't so long ago we were kids, and now we're raising them? – but one thing parents of the past could count on was that they knew more than their kids. For today's parents there is one very big part of life where that isn't true – when it comes to the Internet, and Apps, and smartphones, and social media, then even our youngest children can quickly outpace us. They can know how to use these tools better than we do, and yet they aren't mature enough to deal with all the dangers that also come with them. So what's a parent to do? Our children live in a "pornified" culture and it seems that no matter how protective we are, it's only a matter of time before our children run across something on the Internet that we wish they'd never seen. So how can we do all we can to push that eventual exposure to as far out as we can? And how can we prepare them for what they need to do when it does happen? To answer those questions and more I can't think of a better resource to turn to than Luke Gilkerson's Parenting the Internet Generation. It is not only fantastic, it's even free. Parenting is foundational 144 pages / 2016 What makes Parenting so much better than other books on this topic is that it digs much deeper. This isn't simply a pornography problem; what it really comes down to is Christian parenting. If we want our kids to resist temptation, and come to us when they do mess up, then we need to know how to discipline them rightly, as God instructs us. The best way to show just how good this book really is might be to share some excerpts. So I'll begin with one of Gilkerson's biblical-based thoughts on discipling rightly. Paul reminds fathers, “Do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21, NIV), and again in another letter, “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4, NIV). Training and instruction happens as parents create an environment of authority, structure, correction, and consequences, but Paul knows how easily parents can become frustrated and resentful in the process of parenting. This, in turn, leads us to embitter and exasperate our children by breaking their spirits. One of the most common ways parents do this is by using shame-based strategies to get their kids to behave. What exactly is “shame-based” parenting? It is a family dynamic where shame – the looming threat or presence of disapproval and disfavor – is the primary motivator used for good behavior. This can show up in a thousand ways. •  Expecting perfection by overestimating what their sinful hearts can do •  Failing to really listen to them as we correct them •  Speaking bitter or harsh words (“What is wrong with you?” “When will you ever…?” “You always…” “You never…” “You idiot”) •  Showing little compassion •  Giving the cold shoulder or being dismissive •  Pushing kids to excel in peripheral tasks •  Showing favoritism to other siblings It is a rigid environment that leaves children discouraged and exasperated. This kind of environment often trains children to be obsessive over “doing the right things” in order to be approved – or else totally rebellious. This kind of environment has unwittingly made so many children ripe for sexually sinful habits. See where Gilkerson is going here? How we parent can either help our children resist temptation...or push them towards it. Most of us have indulged in this shame-based parenting at one point or another, and if we are going to help our kids, then we need to stop. We need to repent. The alternative is too horrible to consider. As Douglas Wilson puts it (in a quotation Gilkerson includes): Gracious fathers lead their sons through the minefield of sin. Indulgent fathers watch their sons wander off into the minefield. Legal fathers chase them there. I read this and found it daunting. It seemed simply too much for me, or me and my wife, to pull off. We know we're going to mess up, fall short, and just generally fail our kids. But it’s just that understanding that’s key. We are going to sin, but our gracious God is ready to forgive a repentant sinner. When we fall on God's grace then even our failures can be instructive to our children, showing them the graciousness of God that they can depend on. So we don't need to be perfect. But, our parenting goals should be clear: Make this your goal every day: In each phase of the day when I interact with my children, I will either be an example to them in my obedience to and love for God, or I will be an example in my repentance. Contents In nine chapters Gilkerson lays out: 1. How porn harms our children (Introduction and Chapter 1) 2. What parents need to teach our children and model to them (Chapters 2-6, 8) 3. Tools parents can make use of (Chapter 7 and the Appendices) 4. What the gospel is, and how it applies to the matters or parenting and pornography (Chapter 9) Each chapter ends with a half dozen or so reflection questions and some of these are so very pointed they may draw blood. A few examples: "If our sin is small, then our Savior must be small. But, if our sin is outright rebellion, then our Savior must be a true rescuer.” In what ways have you made Jesus small in how you’ve parented? If you have a tween or teen, have you ever directly asked him/her, “Have you ever seen pornography?” What would you say if he/she said, “yes”? Are you ready for that conversation? At some point, it will happen — maybe not in your home, but maybe at school, on the bus, or at a friend’s house. Does your child know what to do if he/she ever sees porn? Each chapter also includes a link to a short (4 minutes or less) video summarizing what the chapter just went over. These questions and video are great study aids, probably best suited for a couple to go through together, but they would work great for a weekly parents' study group too. Whether you're going through it alone, or with a group each chapter has a lot to chew on so the best pace is probably just one chapter per week. The material is simply too thought-provoking to run through any quicker. Conclusion This isn't a perfect book - I could list some minor quibbles (I think the distinction Gilkerson makes between guilt and shame is a bit confusing) – but I've not run across any better. It is the best guide available on a subject parents would love to have help with. I should mention that the author works for Covenant Eyes (CE), which sells accountability software – this is software parents can use to monitor all the websites their children visit. This isn't spying - the CE logo pops up every time the computer loads up, so children will know they are being monitored. This is, instead, a parent coming alongside their child, helping them resist temptation, and being aware of when they don't. The book is made available for free on their website (you do have to give your name and email address to get the e-book but they won't spam you). While companies generally give away books for promotional reasons, and I'm sure that CE will gain a few clients because of this book, CE's motivations for giving away this book are of the very best kind. It's clear they want to help parents. And with this excellent resource, they most certainly are. You can get a free pdf copy of Parenting the Internet Generation here...

Sexuality

FIGHT! A message from the most porn-riddled country in the world

In 2016, Google pronounced the country where I pastor, Papua New Guinea (PNG), the most porn-riddled country in the world. This “fact” was established by the number of times the word "porn" or "pornography" had been typed into their search engine. However, I know the Western world is not any better off; they merely search under more perverse words, which cover the full orb of sexual perversions known to mankind. What saddens me more is that those who claim allegiance to Christ are not free from this perversion. A recent study from Barna Group revealed that in America: 77% of self-attested Christian 18-30 year-old men (with a growing number of women) view porn at least monthly. And 77% of men 31-49 view it at least every three months, while over 20% are addicted. This is huge. If you view porn weekly, monthly or bi-monthly or whatever the interval of time between viewings might be, there are serious signs of addiction prevalent in your life. And you will feel the impact: viewing porn throws one's faith into question, one’s life into a constant cycle of guilt and shame, and can throw the sacred institution of marriage into jeopardy. Do your deeds match what you profess? We can talk about being justified by faith. We can boldly proclaim that, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). We can say, "I am a sinner saved by grace”, and say it a thousand times a day, but if we are living to gratify the flesh then the fact is we are not pleasing God! Further, it may evidence that we may not even belong to Christ. As we read Romans 8:7-8: “…the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” The word hostile here in Romans 8:8 may be better translated as enmity.  That means you cannot look at porn websites, or read trashy, porn-riddled novels like Fifty Shades of Grey, or watch nudity in films or in online games or on apps (and etc. and etc.), and have peace with God. You are creating enmity between you and God. But not only is there enmity between you and God, this also moves on a horizontal level.  Hostility grows, especially between spouses and family members, at the cost of this perversity.  The fact is, you cannot look at porn and be at peace with or be a blessing to your spouse – present or future – or your family, your friends, or anyone else. One cannot do both. You cannot feed the flesh and feed the vertical or horizontal relationships with love and truth. To feed the one is to starve the other. And if we feed the flesh, satisfying its insatiable hunger for more, we leave those we love with all the pain of a relationship starved of the attributes that sustain its healthy growth.  Hope Is there hope?  Yes. The Gospel still rings with the clarion call of reconciliation between us and God, in Christ. And through that restored relationship, we can also find hope for reconciliation between us and those around us. There is hope because it is still true that "…there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Amen.  There is grace for the wretched man or woman, like you and me, who daily confesses their sins and addiction and seeks God’s grace!  Grace upon grace. However, this is the point of our salvation:  the new birth in Christ by God’s Spirit creates a radically new lifestyle! As we read in 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old has gone, the new has come.” And if you are found in Christ you do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who living according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit” (Romans 8:5). There is another clarion call in this Gospel of grace and that is that we need to fight! Fight the flesh.  Make it our slave.  Make it obedient to Christ (cf 1 Corinthians 9:27).  In short, we need to take up spiritual arms. Make war! “No more murmuring about our imperfections,” as Pastor John Piper has said, rather: "make war.” Make war with all the artillery and armament of heaven: the sword of the Spirit; the belt of truth; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation; the feet fitted with the Gospel of peace; the breastplate of righteousness and prayer. (Ephesians 6:13ff). Fight with all the resources at your disposal: accountability with spiritual friends or mentors transparency with those close to you seek counsel from your pastor or elder filters on everything (eg. use Safe Eyes, or Covenant Eyes, or others) if your smartphone enslaves you, throw it out pray and meditate upon the Gospel promises daily as you trust in Christ’s righteousness And do not surrender.  The cost of surrendering to the flesh is too high. I live in a country where fights are sparked at the drop of a hat. But I assure you that the fight worth fighting is this one. And know that the blessed value of winning this fight daily, in the grace given us from above, is indescribable peace and a clear conscience! That is a precious gift! May this Gospel of grace and truth flow through this porn riddled land we call PNG, and no less every country in this world lost in deep sexual perversion. Pastor Ian Wildeboer is a missionary from the Free Reformed Churches of Australia serving in Papua New Guinea. A version of this article first appeared in the June 2016 issue of Tulait Magazine and is reprinted here with permission. In that publication the article was paired with a very good article by John Piper on 6 strategies for fighting lust....

Entertainment

Here’s the problem with just closing your eyes during the sex scenes

Several years ago, Kate Beckinsale was conned into signing a movie contract that required nudity—something she didn’t want to do. With her acting career in jeopardy, she found herself browbeaten by the director. At long last, she gave in to intimidation and performed the nude scene, which made her feel, as she put it, “violated and horrible.” Afterwards, she secretly urinated in the director’s thermos in revenge. In more recent history, Jennifer Lawrence wrestled with inner turmoil while filming her first sex scene (for the sci-fi movie Passengers). During an actress roundtable” for The Hollywood Reporter, Lawrence described the experience: I got really, really drunk. But then that led to more anxiety when I got home because I was like, “What have I done? I don't know.” And he was married. And it was going to be my first time kissing a married man, and guilt is the worst feeling in your stomach. And I knew it was my job, but I couldn’t tell my stomach that. So I called my mom, and I was like, “Will you just tell me it’s OK?” Notice three sobering facts about Lawrence’s experience. First, she battled anxiety before and after filming the scene. Second, she felt intense guilt for sexually acting out with a married man. Third, she tried several coping mechanisms to eliminate her distress: alcohol (which only made things worse), telling herself everything was okay, and asking for consolation. 1 Would you believe me if I told you that stories like these are numerous? Sadly, it’s true. The amount of pressure and intimidation Hollywood places on actors – especially women – to undress and sexually act out for the camera is commonplace. When asked about sex scenes, celebrities often reply with something like, “We’re actors; it’s a part of the job.” Indeed, those who want to make it as an actor won’t be taken seriously if they have qualms about nudity and bed scenes. The movers and shakers in Hollywood have acquired what seems to be an almost limitless amount of power to enforce the sexualization of actors. To cite one more example (this time from the world of television): director Neil Marshall once commented on how he was pressured by an HBO executive to put more sex and nudity in an episode of Game of Thrones: …one of the exec producers…took me to one side and said, “Look, I represent the pervert side of the audience, okay? Everybody else is the serious drama side – I represent the perv side of the audience, and I’m saying I want full frontal nudity in this scene. So you go ahead and do it.” Notice the implicit acknowledgement that the nudity had nothing to do with art – that it was designed solely for the satisfaction of a perverted audience base. The producer pushed his weight around, and the director (and everyone else) acquiesced. All of this to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Follow the money What gives entertainment executives the authority to force others into such compromising situations? What gives a producer the power to manipulate a director into catering to perverse fantasies? What gives a director the right to coerce an actress into agreeing to do more than she meant to? If this page was a mirror, you would be looking at the answer. You see, when average folks like you and me support films and TV shows like these, we are perpetuating the sexualized culture we say we deplore. My guess is that, because it’s often hard to see how “A” eventually leads to “X,” we think little of doing “A,” even if we abhor “X.” We may complain about the objectification of women (and men) in our culture. We may complain about how movies are ruined by sex scenes and gratuitous nudity. But if we then turn around and financially support that culture, something is askew. It doesn’t matter if you avert your eyes during sex scenes – at the end of the day, studios care about profit margins. That being the case, prudes and perverts give equal support for a film when they buy a movie ticket or purchase a DVD. The truth is, if people stopped financially supporting the abuse of actors, the industry would change. But producers follow the money, and there’s money to be made through the objectification of entertainers. As one acquaintance of mine with ties to Hollywood once put it in a Facebook discussion: I know how many of the women in these scenes (and probably men too, you just don’t hear from them) have talked about throwing up in the bathroom between scenes, crying, stressing out constantly, etc. So basically, I’m paying for that person to do that for me? .... There are perhaps no handcuffs involved with these performers, but social constraints/expectations/demands/culture can be equally, if not more, powerful. And that’s the problem. I’ve lived in Hollywood. I’ve worked with prostitutes one on one. The line between the two worlds is thin. I know no other culture more willing to use people and throw them away. Consider also that plenty of actors in the entertainment industry are not professing believers. They do not subscribe to a Christian sexual ethic. Still, their consciences bother them when it comes to nudity and sex scenes. Yet most moviegoers, including many professing believers, say their consciences are clear when they watch the consciences of others be violated – for entertainment, no less. They pay for actors to be abused or debased and experience no qualms about it. In contrast, Paul calls Christians to give up their rights if it means hurting the conscience of others (see 1 Corinthians 9 and Romans 14). We have it backwards: we participate in the violation of others’ dignity so we can benefit from their moral and emotional compromises. Granted, the context of Paul’s teaching on this matter is the relationship between members of the church, but I don’t think that gives us an excuse to disregard the wellbeing of unbelievers. As patrons of Hollywood, our pursuit of personal freedom has hijacked our ability to consider the needs of others. We have adopted a consumeristic mindset that disregards most every other factor in favor of us having a positive, cathartic experience. If the story is interesting enough, and if it “demands” the objectification and dehumanization of actors, then the needs of the story win out. Brothers and sisters, this should not be! What about actors who undress willingly? Now, it is true that some actors do sex and/or nude scenes willingly, with little or no manipulation involved. Even so, that shouldn’t be of supreme importance to people of faith. Not if we take seriously God’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. With this command in mind, whether or not actors agree with the nudity and sex acts required of them is actually beside the point. Why? Because it doesn’t negate the fact that they are being objectified and degraded as human beings in what is essentially a pornographic act.2 It is unloving of us as Christians to support such actions, even when they are free from coercion. We see this principle at work in Romans 13, which says loving your neighbor includes avoiding adultery. The point is not that all adultery is rape. Some adultery – much of it, in fact– takes place by mutual consent. Does that suddenly make the adultery excusable? Not according to Scripture. By its nature, sexual perversion is sin, even if it takes place between consenting adults. All forms of immorality are inherently unloving. That’s the Bible’s stance. That should be the Christian’s stance. In contrast to this, the film industry has created a socially acceptable ménage à trois: two actors commit sexually intimate acts, and audiences sit in on the proceedings with complete approval. The law of love What finally opened my eyes to this culture of sexual abuse was Wayne A. Wilson’s book Worldly Amusements. Wilson himself became aware of the issue after watching a movie in which the director had his own daughter perform sex acts on screen. The fact that a director would sacrifice his child’s dignity for the sake of a movie changed Wilson’s perspective. He now implements what he calls the “law of love” in his movie watching habits: he refuses to support films that sexually objectify or degrade actors. He now asks himself, “Would I approve if my sister were asked to behave or expose herself in any way that undermined her purity?” It is a question we would do well to ask ourselves. This law of love exhorts us to consider the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of men and women in front of the camera. Is that restricting for a movie-going audience? I suppose so. It has definitely kept me from visiting the theater on several occasions where I otherwise would have willingly and excitedly done so. Not a restriction But this law of love is not “restricting” in a lastingly negative sense any more than monogamy is a negative restriction for married couples. It’s a law that protects, not harms. It’s a law that governs for good, not evil. It’s a law that helps one cultivate the greatest motive known to humankind. In the end, what is truly more freeing: living a self-centered or an others-centered life? The Bible’s answer is the latter. Think about the implications here. How would it affect you if you put the law of love into practice? What if you refused to financially support movies that objectified actors because you wanted to treat them with the humanity they deserve? Would you not start viewing the actors you encounter in the movies as real people and not just potential sources of eye candy or gratification? Would the law of love not help you fight sexual lust even more effectively with gospel power? Would it not help you keep from focusing on yourself (which is what lust does) and instead focus on the needs of others (which is what a healthy, Biblically-informed sexuality is all about)? Would that not be a gloriously countercultural way to demonstrate God’s love to your fellow human beings? I think it would. In fact, my personal experience has been that it does. I dare you (in the most positive sense possible) to prove me wrong. Endnotes 1 For a more in-depth treatment, see “A Tale of Two Sexual Assaults on Jennifer Lawrence” at CapStewart.com 2 This argument is fleshed out in my article “Promoting Porn for the Glory of God?” at CovenantEyes.com, and in the “Sex Scenes = Porn” blog series at CapStewart.com Cap Stewart blogs about movies and the arts at CapStewart.com...

Popular but problematic

Fifty Shades of Grey - the phenomenon

I have to begin this piece with a couple of confessions. The first is that I have not yet read Fifty Shades of Grey, the bestseller that “everybody” is talking about. The second is that I have no intention whatsoever of doing so. The downright tawdriness of it all just doesn’t appeal. Now, as everyone knows, it is bad form to review a book that one has not read so rather than fail miserably in the attempt, my aim is simply to look at the Fifty Shades phenomenon through a Christian worldview lens. If you are wondering why we even have to consider this sort of thing, the answer is simply this: the walls of the church and of families are probably more porous than they have ever been, and rather than light pouring out from them into the surrounding culture, the traffic is largely the other way. Stuff is getting in, much of which is not good. Pretending it doesn’t exist is not an answer. Even Christians are reading books like this, which is obviously not good, but even if they weren’t touching it, the influence of such stuff would still manage to find its way into Christian families and churches as once cultural taboos become cultural norms. The only way to stop its pernicious effects is to know what it is we are dealing with and to be fully persuaded that we have the antidote. What is it? Just in case you have managed to remain blissfully unaware of its existence, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey is the biggest selling book in the world right now, having sold somewhere in the region of 40 million copies. It is also reputed to be the fastest selling paperback of all time, knocking J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series off the top spot. The plot centers on the “relationship” between a naïve 22-year-old woman, Ana Steele, and Christian Grey, a successful 27-year-old businessman whom she meets when interviewing him for a college paper. She is attracted to him and hopes for a romance, but it soon becomes clear that he is not the “flowers and chocolates sort” and the only kind of relationship he is interested in is a purely sexual one involving BDSM (bondage, dominance, sado-masochism). I won’t bore you with any more of the tacky details, suffice it to say that the rest of the book is littered with scenes that would find a comfortable home in any “hardcore” pornographic magazine. Why feminists love/hate it The most interesting thing about the Fifty Shades phenomenon is that the overwhelming majority of its readers are women. Why interesting? Well here we are half-a-century after the apparent emancipation of women, and millions of women are eagerly lapping up a pornographic book about a girl who submits to an overbearing, domineering deviant and lets him do pretty much whatever he wants to her. How empowering! How emancipating! Feminism can be mighty confusing to those of us outside the loop. Do feminists approve of pornography or do they condemn it? Is it a liberating and empowering force in the hands of women, or is it a demeaning and oppressive tool in the hands of men? Well that all depends on which feminists you happen to be speaking with. During the late 70s and early 80s a schism opened up amongst what were known as the Second-Wave Feminists, and in the ensuing Feminist Sex Wars two groups emerged, both using the term “feminists” to describe themselves, yet managing to come up with diametrically opposite views on issues such as pornography. A quick search of the web reveals precisely this divide over Fifty Shades of Grey. For instance, over on Feministing.com are the “Fifty Shades is liberation” sisters who speak in gushing terms about how refreshing it is for women to be able to read such apparently enlightened literature without feeling ashamed. One commentator says, “To me, the popularity of Fifty Shades is evidence that, at the very least, women like reading about many kinds of sex – and people should probably try doing all of them, because they all seem really great.” Meanwhile over on Hercirclezine.com, the “Fifty Shades is oppression” sisters stand aghast wondering how on earth their fellow feminists could possibly endorse such a book. As one commentator says, “These books tell women that they want not only to be objectified … but also that they want to be dominated – in the bedroom and outside of it. It’s pornography in its purest form, and pornography thrives because men demand it.” I must admit that if I have to stand with one group, I come down fairly and squarely on the “Fifty Shades is oppression” side. Of course pornography turns women into objects – that is the entire point of it. It is specifically and intentionally anti-relational. Fifty Shades of Grey is no different, and if the “Fifty Shades is liberation” sisters really believe that books such as these will not do their bit to further chip away at what is left of honor and kindness between the sexes then they need to do three things: Get with the real world; Study the statistics on the increase in sexual and violent crimes over the last 50 years and set them next to some figures charting the explosion in pornography; Go figure. What biblical submission isn't But much as I am with the “Fifty Shades is oppression” sisters in their criticisms of the book, this is as far as any alliance can go. They are right in-spite of their worldview not because of it. This is seen in the following comment posted on Hercirclezine.com, reacting to the news that the Anglican diocese of Sydney is about to include a pledge by the bride to “love and submit” to her husband: What I find especially disturbing is this new trend happening in Sydney in which women have adopted a trend from Fifty Shades of Grey. Their wedding vows includes a submission contract. This is degrading and is a giant leap backwards. All of these women who revel in being submissive are pathetic sheep stuck in a different time era (or possibly need psychological help). Somehow this lady and many others like her, seem to believe that the kind of submissiveness being vowed in the Sydney marriage service – lifted from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians – is the same as the kind of submissiveness being portrayed in Fifty Shades of Grey. For such folks, there are only two possible types of submissiveness in male/female relations: Islamist-style, where the woman is nothing but a drudge, emptied of any thoughts of her own and made to walk behind her husband dressed in something resembling a bat costume, or sexual-chattel submissiveness, where the woman is a mere slave to the demands of some overbearing deviant. And so when Paul writes that women must submit to their husbands, he must be urging either Islamist-style submission, or sexual deviance submission. Or both. Right? Well, not quite. This is what Winnie-the-Pooh might have called A Very Big Misunderstanding. Let me put it like this: Fifty Shades of Grey did not come out of a Christian culture. Nor could it have come out of a Christian culture. The culture it came out of is a secular humanist one which puts sex and the right to an orgasm on a par with the liberties granted in the Bill of Rights. So to the feminists who confuse the Apostle Paul with E.L. James: much as you might loathe Fifty Shades of Grey, you didn’t get it from my worldview, you got it from yours – a worldview that specifically rejects Christianity and all it has to say on male/female relations. What it is For the record, the type of submissiveness envisaged by Paul does not resemble the relationship of shoe to doormat, nor the relationship of pimp to prostitute (see Hebrews 13:4), but rather a wife submitting herself to a husband who “loves his wife as Christ loves the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:22,25). Of course it will be objected that many women aren’t married to such selfless men and so how can they be expected to submit. True enough, but Paul is writing to Christians within the context of the New Covenant, and so if any husband behaves in such a way as to make it just about impossible for her to submit to his headship, then as a last resort she has every right to go to the elders of the church, and they have every obligation to deal with it. At the same time, such an objection is a red-herring. For the feminist rejection of Paul’s teaching is not that a woman might have to submit to a lousy skunk, but that she has to submit to anyone – even to a self-sacrificing, loving husband. What they simply don’t get is this: the Christian woman’s submission is not a sign of inferiority. It does not mean that she is in any way beneath her husband in dignity or honor, or that her opinions and desires are of any less worth than his. On the contrary, she is his equal in every respect – the glory of her husband as Paul makes clear elsewhere – but with one exception: in the hierarchy established by God it is the husband that is the “family CEO.” He is the one who bears responsibility for its direction and he is the one who will have to give an account for what went on in it. Fifty Shades of Grey will no doubt continue to draw in its millions, and in so doing will give the hordes of women reading it a false sense that what they are reading is female emancipation. It is not. Neither is female emancipation to be found in first rejecting a Fifty Shades type of submission and then rejecting an Ephesians kind of submission because you can’t tell the difference. The truly emancipated woman is one who first trusts in Jesus Christ and then seeks a man who strives to resemble Him. Submitting to that kind of man will be her glory and her delight. This article first appeared in an edited form for Samaritan Ministries International....