porn-again christian

14 01 2010

Porn again. And again. And again…

Lots of us view lots of porn. Christians included. Ones you know. They will probably never tell you, and you won‘t know which ones. The vast majority feel bad about it. Most wish they didn’t. Some are dealing with it. Some will deal with it tomorrow. And tomorrow. And tomorrow. Are you one? We all have issues that block the light we want to be in the world. This is a big one.

catchy t shirt

This issue matters. For lots of reasons. It is not simply harmless fun among consenting adults; there’s a more sinister underworld going on. It’s a billion pound industry intricately tied up with people trafficking, drugs, slavery, paedophilia and violence. People grow up thinking that other humans are simply for sex, for looking at, using, abusing and throwing away; or if not just for that, that real sexual encounters should resemble the encounters seen in magazines, in films, on the internet. Whether these are idealistically perfect or downright bizarre, this places huge pressure on real relationships. After all, what images of sex do you have in your head, and where are they from?

Some argue that the people involved are consenting. The vast majority are not. Even if they all were, would that make it right? Are human beings not worth massively, wonderfully more than what we can do with our bodies? Are human beings not precious and beautiful regardless of our ability to pose in front of a camera pretending we are having fun for a desperate and lonely remote viewer? When the bright lights and cameras are off, what of those women then? And those behind the camera, holding the sound cables…  what of them?

Let’s be careful.  Let’s not slag them off, call them names, separate ourselves with a wall of self-righteous indignation; let’s not simply be cruel to cover our shame, or outrage, or fear of people who are different. But let’s act.

We must talk about this. With our teenagers, yes. With our adults, yes. It must not be ignored and swept under the carpet because it is awkward or embarrassing or uncomfortable or not the sort of thing to talk about in church. Jesus said that even if we look at someone else lustfully we have committed adultery. That’s pretty strong, and pretty relevant. It affects what newspapers we buy, magazines we read, films we watch and TV programmes we view. If affects how we react to our friends and colleagues.

There are many motivations for acting against porn – preventing the images filling our minds, degrading us and the women we see; stopping the horrendous trade in people that sees many women, men and children trafficked into sex slavery and prostitution; and us being the salt and light of hope in a murky world of lust, fear and hopelessness. We are about light, not darkness.

Those of us who know the blindingly bright love of Jesus that exposes fully all of our indecencies and sordidness and forgives and loves and transforms and changes, don’t we want to just leave all that stuff behind? And don’t we want everyone to be free as well? Don’t we…?

Jesus loves porn stars. Jesus loves those who keep porn stars in business. Maybe that’s you. But Jesus does not love porn, and nor should we; and neither should we be a slave to it, as so many are, as we do not need to be enslaved to any addiction or temptation. And we also mustn’t simply turn a blind eye. May we make a difference. May we be different. May we not be porn-again Christians, but may we shine with light and glow with the Spirit and bring peace to the world’s rough edges. May we be gracious and compassionate, may we be pure and blameless. May we be filled with the Holy Spirit, real living temples of worship to God. May we be free. Amen.

catchy title

Some figures
You don’t have to try very hard to find porn. A few clicks on the mouse, some late night channel surfing, and you’ve got some explicit footage at your fingertips, on your phone, to watch where you like. 12% of all websites are porn; 8% of all emails are porn; 25% of all web searches are for porn; 20% of men admit to accessing porn at work; and 47% of Christians say it is a problem at home  (source: XXXChurch).

Action you can take NOW
I have installed a free piece of accountability software called X3Watch on my computer. It emails 2 friends if any ‘suspect’ sites are viewed. This post will probably set off an email because of its content. Vicars are particularly prone to laptop temptations.  4 in 10 pastors looked at porn today. Yes. that many.
So install X3Watch now, even before you ‘need’ to. Click on it NOW! There’s nothing quite like your wife finding out to stop you doing it! If it affects you directly, you need to have a difficult conversation with someone, to make yourself accountable. I’ve done it; you can too.  And if someone else has that conversation with you – be gracious.

Go to XXX Church for more information and to see their work within the porn industry in Las Vegas.. Get your church to take part in Porn Sunday. For more information on human trafficking and how you can get involved in stopping it, go to Stop the Traffik. Read The Girl Who Played With Fire for a novelists take on the sex industry. Ask your vicar or pastor to preach on it; get your youth worker to do a session about it. Watch them squirm. It’s important.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Advertisements

Actions

Information

24 responses

14 01 2010
The Church Mouse

Kevin

Well done for tackling a tough subject. There is a huge amount of work by Christians with the sex industry in the US, but hardly any in the UK. Are you aware of any organisations like XXX Church in the UK?

Mouse

15 01 2010
Kevin

Thanks Mouse – it is a touchy subject and one that many people would rather we didn’t mention, especially in church.

I am not aware of any organisations that work in the UK in the same way as XXXChurch – does anyone else? Please share if you do…

16 01 2010
Edge

A tricky subject in so many ways. You make some really good points.
Sex is such a powerful driver. Talking of powerful drivers, would Tiger Woods’ marriage and reputation still be intact if he’d had a secret porn habit to manage his high sex-drive rather than a penchant for call girls, I wonder? And if so, would that have been a better situation for all concerned? Or was porn where he started? And is it better to be exposed than closeted in the long run?
This has echoes of your war-game blog from a few weeks ago. Where are the lines between doing real things to real people in real life (bad?) and doing virtual things with virtual people in virtual life (not so bad?). The thing with porn, of course, is that these are real people. And some of them are us.
Yes, it’s an exploitative industry. People trafficking is a real problem. We need to protect people who are being exploited. But there will be many people working in the sex industry who choose to do so, maybe because they enjoy it and more likely because they can make a decent living from being indecent. And that troubles us, too, doesn’t it? Because part of us is still puritanical and judgemental about what people should be allowed to do with their own bodies.
There are probably many people working as, say, teachers, who are reluctant professionals. Many are perhaps victims of their historical circumstances (got a degree and not sure what to do for a living but need a decent wage…?). And now they are trapped in an industry that they have no wish to be a part of, and which makes them feel bad about themselves and bad about the system, but that’s what they do. That’s not necessarily who they are. Do we tell people working in industries that they might not have chosen for themselves in an ideal world to just be grateful that they’ve got a job and, by the way, stop whinging and get on and do it better in future? Or am I just being ridiculous suggesting ‘education slaves’ could in any way be comparable to sex workers? Probably. I’ve been called ridiculous before! But many non-vocational jobs can be de-humanising for the people caught up in them.
I think you’re absolutely right that we should be talking about this stuff in our churches. But we don’t. Because we can’t. Because our church members can’t be trusted to handle this stuff. No vicar or elder or worship leader or housegroup leader is likely to stand at the front of the church and say: “Help, I’m a wanker.” Are they?
I’m reminded of Tony Campolo’s story about a reluctant sex worker who was incredulous when it was suggested that maybe she could go to church. She felt bad enough about herself already. How could it help her to have a bunch of christians telling her that they thought she was bad too, thus making her feel even worse about herself?
The key to porn, maybe, is the secret desire for each of us to somehow be at the centre of the action. To be involved. To be powerful. To be validated. To be satisfied. Sex porn is difficult to confess to being a user of, because you’ll get judged and sneered at; and difficult to sanction as an industry because it clearly does exploit people, some of whom are being damaged. But porn pervades so much of our world. Emotional porn. Political porn. Religious porn. It’s everywhere really, and does much the same things in different ways as sex porn. But we are more comfortable being in the centre of the action in those worlds and somehow imagining that they are really all about us and our desires and our needs and preferences. And it’s probably less of a career-threatening move to stand up in church and say: “Hey, I’m a Daily Mail reader and I occasionally watch some of those right-wing Christian TV channels.”
What am I trying to say? Everything is problematical, I guess. It’s always sex that we get out of proportion somehow. Either because we get overly obsessed by it, or because we try and airbrush it out. Wouldn’t it be great if we could just be real with each other and worship in churches where sinners are welcomed and expected?
As an aside, statistics are so intriguing, aren’t they? I read somewhere else that 1 in 3 vicars admit to having a secret porn habit. Allowing for those in denial and those who are paranoid about confessing even to a faceless electronic pollster, that probably means it’s at least half of them are users. Which makes you wonder what the rest of them might do to get their illicit kicks. Maybe they’re the ones playing the virtual war games? Or voting on X-Factor (a.k.a. humiliation porn?)

18 01 2010
Kevin

Edge, just to pick up on one of your many good and interesting points, there is a difference between people trapped in an ‘ordinary’ job, albeit a hard, difficult or low-paid one, and people trapped in the sex trade. This difference is obviously more acute when certain boundaries are drawn about what is ‘right’ and what is not. If, like me, those boundaries say that the porn industry is by definition expoitative and degrading, because of what it does to the people involved AND the people watching, then it cannot be the same as other people trapped in jobs. Can it?

18 01 2010
c2drl

Well done Kevin for having the courage to blog on this subject. What you say has much truth in it.

having said that, I wonder why Christians are so obsessed with sex. We are against homosexuality, women in priesthood, lesbians, masturbation, petting, nudity, films, art, certain words …..

From what we hear you would imagine that the Bible was full of rules on sex and laid down a very prescriptive line on monogamous heterosexual sex and explicitly banned anything else. Well if it is I can’t find it. God seems remarkably disinterested in sex and seems to have more to say on other things like love and charity.

I don’t think that gives us license to do what we want, but it does make me wonder what God’s attitude to sex is and whether we, in our non-permissive holy enclaves have got it right.

Anybody got any ideas about this, or are you too frightened to think about it?

18 01 2010
Kevin

Thanks c2drl. My first response is to say that yes, it may appear that “the church” is obsessed with sex – but is it any more obsesed than everybody else? Newspapers, magazines, TV, films, advertising… It can be easy for ‘society’ to point the finger at the church, but whenever a finger points, 3 fingers point back to the person pointing…

My second response is that this post isn’t about sex per se. It is not ‘against’ sex; it is against oppression, exploitation, and addiction. It is against peoples heads being filled with images that drag them down and down into guilt. That will not be everyones experience, I know. But it is for many.

The trouble with believing that there is a line somewhere between ‘right’ and ‘not right’ is that saying something can leave you open to criticism of being obsessed, which is what happens to the church a lot. But that does not mean that people obsessed with “everything is permissible” should get away without any comeback. There are times when we must speak, and issues about which we must speak.

That said, sometimes we should just be quiet about sex! But whilst Stop the Traffik are still reporting that the illlegal sex trade is in operation, I’m going to keep talking…

18 01 2010
Edge

Kevin
My answer to your question is: yes it can be the same. These value judgements are all relative. Whether someone is trapped, or feels trapped, or appears trapped are all different positions and some of them are subjective not objective values. If someone is working in the sex industry and does so voluntarily (maybe because it pays their bills, funds their lifestyle or just gives them a buzz), then whose value system says that is worse for them than someone who works in, say, a MacDonald’s or Cineworld, because it is the only job they can get (and it still doesn’t cover their bills and they hate the monotony of what they do and the stuckness of being there)?
I’m not pretending that the sex industry isn’t sordid and degrading and dangerous and exploitative for many people on a number of levels. But it’s a big industry. It’s a complex equation. How much too bad is very bad? How little good is enough good?
People are strange. We do strange things. We make strange choices. God loves us all. We will (I believe) be judged (whatever that means). But not by each other, thank God.
I wonder how many people in the sex industry look at people in churches and consider them to be trapped, manipulated, brainwashed, exploited, addicted, etc? Are Christians not just religious psycho-masochist dependents masquerading as God’s guardians of morality and values? Some might think there’s a case to be made…
By the way, I think you’re completely right to flag up the concerns and to campaign on behalf of all those who need protecting and to fight for those who need defending. I’m just arguing philosophically, not morally or theologically or sociologically. You win on all those counts. And you’ll probably win a philosophical argument too, but it’s not the winning that counts, it’s the taking things apart.

18 01 2010
Kevin

Edge – You ask whose value system says that being trapped (voluntarily? oxymoron?) in the sex industry is any worse than being trapped in another line of work, like McD’s etc…: my answer, is that mine does. This cannot be an abstract philosophical debate. There is something about the human body and the way we treat it is different. For me, that is for reasons including that we are made in God’s image, created and loved; that the Holy Spirit lives in us, that we are temples, to be honoured, that are minds are like sponges and that we should think on things that are pure, holy, righteous, noble, wholesome lovely…

So much of our personal self-worth, self-image and identity is tied up with how our bodies are treated by ourselves and by others, and particularly how they are treated sexually. We know this innately, ‘religious’ or not; I guess it is one reason why there is such outrage over sexual crimes. We know – we just know – that sexual crimes are have greater impact, do more psychological damage etc…, than many other crimes.

So, exploitation sexually in the porn trade, be it of the people directly involved in the images/films etc, or of the people who become addicted to it, is different from those trapped in other crappy jobs. At least, that’s what I believe.

As for the possibility that I am manipulated, brainwashed and exploited – I suppose I am sticking with Rafa even at this stage in Liverpool’s season, so you could make a case…

19 01 2010
Edge

Kevin
Well, it’s your blog-site so maybe it’s only fair that you get to own the value system for what happens here. But just because you believe something doesn’t mean that it is true; and just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean that it isn’t true. And outside of your blog-site, society seems to be in control by the look of it.
Whether we like it or not, society seems to be valuing sexual indulgence, unethical trading, media manipulation, celebrity culture, war-mongering, etc;etc.
So it’s not an abstract philosophical debate, it’s a debate about freedom – freedom of choice. And when people are free to choose, they often choose to exploit and be exploited. Which makes it much harder for us to positively discriminate in favour of those who don’t choose to exploit or be exploited, but who get sucked into the manipulative mess in any case because they can’t prevent it.
Some things are criminal and societies have rules about those things. Which is how society chooses to protect victims of crime and to deter/punish perpetrators. That covers aspects of the sex trade in the same way it covers all walks of life.
Some things are moral and societies may have views about those things. And society regulates what it allows and when it allows it. Some people in society will always be unhappy or shocked about what is allowed.
God may have higher laws and different moral views to society, of course, and that creates conflict within a society for God’s people. But God may not exist. In which case, his views don’t exist either. Or God may not care a great deal about some of the things some of his people seem to care a great deal about. It’s all about faith and beliefs and understanding and judgement and grace and all that difficult to explain and enforce stuff.
So yes, we should continue to campaign against crime and we should seek also to influence individual and corporate behaviours where they seem (to us) to be legal but harmful or morally inappropriate. But you can probably only change a society’s morality through ideas, education or power, not through dogma or moral superiority. Persuading people to change relies on many different things falling into place over a period of time.
But let’s get real, can a man who believes in Rafa really be trusted to know what’s best for society?

20 01 2010
Kevin

One of the things Jesus has shown us, I believe, is that we can change society not simply through ideas, education or power, but through generous living, open-heartedness, and sacrifice. Which may seem to be weak things as compared with the might of society’s influence and brute force when it comes to “pro anything-goes” thinking, but that is one of Jesus’ points really. Oddly, it didn’t really work for him in his lifetime, but that is because greater things were going on than those that appeared to be.

This is also the case for us. The good thing is, whether or nor God does exist, which I do sometimes wonder, I think I would still think the same about this issue. That humans are worth more, that our minds are worth more, and life is meant to be more than just being slaves to our physical and sexual desires. However, without Jesus, I think I may not be bothered speak up. Which may make life easier. Thanks for that one, Mr Jesus.

20 01 2010
Poppygirl

I have really enjoyed reading the blog and associated comments. It’s a difficult one and, as stated, is about freedom of choice. Those who choose to be part of the industry for their own personal reasons have every right to be, well in this country anyway. However, those who do not wish to be part of it, in any way, shape or form, have every right not to be and it’s those people we need to protect. I don’t believe children, for example, should be bombarded with sordid pictures, however, they will be curious so should have access to controlled information to quench their curiosity so they don’t feel they have to look elsewhere for information.

I guess what I am saying is, as long as consenting adults’ desires don’t have an adverse affect on anyone else, they can do what they wish.

20 01 2010
Kevin

Thanks Poppygirl, and thanks for your comments. You raise a really interesting point about curiosity, and how much we should try to prevent children from seeing, and how much we should allow them in order to remove the intrigue of the forbidden. The perennial parents/pastors/youthworkers question! One of the reasons for raising this whole issue was because secrecy can be one of the biggest problems. If it is driven underground, then it lodges in the dark places of our minds, and we have to keep it hidden, which leads to all kinds of problems. Children and teenagers have always been curious – I remember seeing my first porno mag whilst at primary school, and it was fascinating!

As for whether pornography can exist without having an adverse affect on anyone, consenting or not… I’ll leave that one open for now…

21 01 2010
Edge

Now here’s a curious thing. Poppygirl commented at 11:18 yesterday (nice one Poppygirl, by the way); Kevin subsequently commented twice – at 12:30 and 12:39 respectively. But when you go back and read the conversation, Kevin’s 12:30 comment has been inserted prior to Poppygirl’s 11:18 comment. Whatever happened to chronology? Or has Kevin inadvertently revealed his secret time-lord status?

21 01 2010
Kevin

I’m rumbled, I am a Time-lord. Or, looking at the indentation you can see I specifically replied to your comment, rather than a general response. Thus, it is inserted above Poppygirls. Tho I prefer the timelord explanation…

21 01 2010
Edge

I was just wondering if you could go forward to the end of this debate, find out what happens and then come back and let us know?

21 01 2010
Edge

I’ve been thinking some more about this subject after going back over all the earlier posts. Conversation is good if it helps us to think and develop our understanding. I find this blog-site a helpful aide in that respect.
I’ve been thinking about the circularity of God. How everything (I believe) starts and ends with God. And how Jesus left Heaven as God and came to Earth as a man, then went back to Heaven as a man taking his human experience with him and returned to God.
Although it was interesting and useful for us to wander off down some tangential (genital?) philosophical and conversational paths earlier, it is right, I think, to go back around the circle to where Kevin’s blog began and not lose sight of something important.
The key to life is relational, not prepositional. Jesus has shown us that we can change society through generous living, open-heartedness, and sacrificial loving. All of which, by the way, were initially ideas, which Jesus then took and acted out into reality. And then he challenged us to act in the same way and, in the process, to change our way of thinking. More circularity.
Jesus is relational and Christians are called to be like him. We can pontificate in an academic sense as much as we like about what may cause or motivate people to work or participate in any of the many colourful and complicated strands of what we might call ‘the sex industry‘. I’ve done more than my fair share of pontificating above already. And Christians are indeed, I think, overly obsessed with sex, as c2drl points out above. But Christians probably don’t really understand sex and aren’t really interested in getting alongside anyone for whom sex is a way of life or an illness or a hazard. Unless it’s to categorize their sins, judge them and then seek to convert them (i.e. to impose a ‘Christian’ agenda on them)
Philip Yancey wrote something once to the effect that the more unsavoury characters appeared to be, the more at ease they were around Jesus; and by way of contrast, Jesus got a chilly response from the more respectable types. And we’ve inverted that in our churches so that our pews tend to be occupied by the respectable people and the less savoury characters are not made to feel at all welcome. So they don’t come anywhere near us and feel very uncomfortable if they do encounter us somehow.
How will we understand people and get to know them unless we can build relationships with them? And that means through spending time with them. So, if these complicated sexual people don’t come to our churches (or couldn‘t be open about what would be labelled their ‘vices’ if they did), then people who seek to follow Jesus would surely do what Jesus used to do and go to them? Which is what XXX church seems to be doing.
Shouldn’t all our churches be XXX churches?
I look forward to the day when our churches are full of prostitutes and their brothels are full of Christians…

22 01 2010
Kevin

Just as an extra, I was interested that 2 of the factors mentioned today in relation to the Edlington attacks were that the 2 perpetrators were freely allowed to watch horror and – yes you’ve guessed it – pornographic films. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/south_yorkshire/8473112.stm.

Of course that doesn’t mean everyone who watches them turns violent and sadistic. It is simply an interesting contributor. And it’s moving away from my original point, but that’s blogging for you…!

27 01 2010
Kevin

Today, someone clicked on this post after googling “how to around X3 watch” – I’m not sure they found what they were looking for here.

28 01 2010
Vic

What a wonderful philosophical debate on the morality or otherwise of the porn industry! Commentators have neatly side-stepped the issue that Kevin raises of the partners of the prepetrators. They are innocent victims of this rubbish. This stuff hurts. It hurts marriages & partnerships, the lies can tear relationships apart. And just because you may not be in a relationship right now doesn’t make it ok – you are hurting any future relationship you may have, possibly damaging it beyond repair. I know, I’ve been there. Friends of mine are there right now. This stuff stinks. It damages and degrades women – those in the ‘industry’ and those outside it. We are people, not objects. Jesus was explicit about few things, mostly He spoke in parables to make people think, but get this comment: ‘But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery in his heart’ Matt 5:28. I’m thinking that since subtly is lost on most men, He decided blunt was the way to go. In the next verse he talks about eye gouging – better get started, guys, as it’s that or hell.

28 01 2010
Kevin

Thanks Vic – sometimes we need to tell it like it is. I’d be interested in other people’s responses… and as to what Jesus meant by hell…

8 02 2010
a kiss from judas on the terry-go-round « the blog of kevin

[…] a horny overpaid sports star having an affair with a French underwear model (for rude picture see here). Another day in the life of the rich, privileged, and slightly bored. On another level, it does […]

27 12 2011
Matt

I came across your blog post while searching for the book “Prostitution and Pornography: Philosophical Debate about the Sex Industry”. The catchy title of the post immediately made me want to read it and it started off well enough by stating that many people watch porn – including Christians, a group particularly vocal when it comes to the abolition of all sex work.

But then I found that you seem to be just another one of those who believe it’s their duty to tell others how to live, and those others he of course divides into women in front of cameras – the supply – and men in front of screens – the demand, thus omitting male and transgender sex workers or female consumers of pornography.

If you’d know me and the nature of my research project (http://tinyurl.com/cmxqpxj), it wouldn’t come as a surprise that I arrive at different conclusions than you – who seems to think that ‘pornography’ and ‘human trafficking’ are interchangeable terms – but I’ll give you credit for the following passage in reference to the treatment of sex workers and those working in the sex industry.

“Let’s be careful. Let’s not slag them off, call them names, separate ourselves with a wall of self-righteous indignation; let’s not simply be cruel to cover our shame, or outrage, or fear of people who are different.”

Given the fact that abolitionists and sex workers’ rights advocates have such trouble to communicate with each other, I appreciate to read from someone who at least tries to reduce the stigma attached to sex work. But I encourage you, Kevin, to go one step further and accept that people have different ideas about sexuality – some of them wonderful and some that you might not feel so wonderful about. But apart from that, many of them first and foremost need to make a living in conditions much different from your own. You might mean well, Kevin, but if you want to help people, you might want to ask what help they themselves feel they need. Why not make it one of your New Year’s resolutions?

23 04 2013
Vince

Thank you Kevin for writing on this subject.

A large part of my Christian ministry involves helping men to break free from addiction to pornography and other sexual sin.

These men have usually started by thinking that looking at a few sexual images would be fun and can do no harm. Over time they have found that they no longer want to look at these images but they can’t stop themselves.

I have worked with men whose marriages are on the line because of their addiction.

I’m not into philosophical arguments, but I can say that my experience tells me quite clearly that pornography can be very damaging and can wreck marriages.

23 04 2013
Kevin

Thanks Vince. It’s such an important subject that is one of the elephants in the room. Glad you are able to do something practical about it. Bless you.

What are you thinking?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: