Recent survey data reveals that 68 percent of men who describe themselves as Christians – so approximately seven out of every ten Christian men in America – look at pornography. That is true even though 65 percent of all American men – Christian or not – say that viewing porn is morally wrong.
But that conviction is changing. Younger people, in ever greater numbers, are saying that viewing porn is a totally appropriate expression of one’s sexuality. The “clever clogs” (to borrow A. N. Wilson’s term) of social liberalism talk as if viewing pornography is natural and healthy, and assume that anyone who disagrees is a religious prude, hung up on ridiculous and outdated sexual mores.
In surveys taken of teen boys, 35 percent say they have viewed online porn “too many times to count.” More than half of boys and a third of girls have seen their first pornographic images before they turn thirteen. 64 percent of young men and 18 percent of young women say that they view pornography on a weekly basis.
There’s more. 40 to 50 percent of church pastors (depending on the survey) admit to struggling with porn addiction. Our country, our world and even our churches have been hit by a pornographic tsunami, originating in (of all places) the U. S., the supposed bastion of Christian values. (When the late Ayatollah Khomeini called America “the great satan,” he probably didn’t have this in mind, but when you think of how U.S. companies are spewing pornographic images of sexual violence around the globe, it’s bound to give you pause.)
What is so bad about porn? Well, leave aside for the moment – but don’t forget – the fact that pornography is demeaning to women, glorifies sexual aggression, and exploits the people whose images are being sold. Leave aside for the moment the fact that the women used in pornographic images and films are often sexually abused and drug addicted, and that the people who buy porn or visit pornographic websites support the monsters that inflict that abuse. Leaving that aside for the moment, consider what pornography does to the person who views it.
A man who is in the habit of viewing porn is creating neural pathways in his brain that become wider (for lack of a better word) each time he looks. Dr. William Struthers of Wheaton College writes that those neural corridors become the “automatic pathway through which interactions with woman are routed…” The brain on porn becomes more and more sexualized.
Here’s something else: As porn sexualizes people, it also desensitizes them. They feel less – less outrage, less excitement, less everything. In her book Pornified, New York Times editor Pamela Paul says that a person addicted to porn begins to find the real world boring and real people disinteresting.
We live in the wreckage of a twentieth century moral earthquake and the tsunami of porn it’s generating. It is in this context that we must wrestle with a concept that is largely unknown (or, if known, assumed outdated) in society, but is everywhere in the Bible: personal purity.
The biblical concept of purity certainly includes sexual purity, but it is not limited to it. It involves the whole person. Biblical writers repeatedly refers to it as purity of heart. To try to be sexually pure without being pure in heart is like trying to build a house from the roof down. It won’t work, and you’re liable to get crushed trying.
The Christian idea of purity does not primarily refer to sexual contact with another person, but to spiritual contact with a holy God. It calls a person to be changed in his or her thoughts, values and choices. As the heart is purified – that is, as attitudes and actions foreign to God’s character – are filtered out, a person is gradually freed from the domination of selfish desires to live a rich and fulfilled life. Jesus was right: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.” But then, as C. S. Lewis once quipped, it’s only the pure in heart that want to.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 6/13/2015