Pornography is one of those areas which most people treat with disdain and it’s not often discussed in polite society. To be clear, pornography is sexually explicit material whose primary purpose is to cause sexual arousal. Addiction to porn is characterized by an individual compulsively accessing and viewing pornographic material and feeling a complete lack of control over their porn-viewing behaviours. It is becoming increasingly prevalent in modern society due to the availability of the internet and other forms of technology, allowing this type of material to be accessed and downloaded anywhere and at any time.
It’s hard to think of the pros and cons of pornography but I’ll give it a try! In its favour – it might stop potential offenders attacking other people if they get their sexual gratification online or via magazines or other media; porn and violent entertainment might serve as an exhaust valve for people’s aggressive impulses; it could be viewed by society as a harmless substitute for infidelity; some people and couples derive a lot of personal pleasure from viewing pornography without suffering any ill-effects.
The arguments against pornography are many and varied including that it can ruin relationships and may lead to break-ups or a reduction in trust and feelings of betrayal if one person finds the other indulging in external sexual behaviour; it can lead to the deadening of the erotic senses, leading to an increased desire to go from simple to hard-core pornography.
It could be construed as akin to adultery – “prostitution through a screen”; the people taking part may be coerced or involved in modern-day slavery, being forced to participate against their will as they are desperate for money; it could be viewed as encouraging violence, mostly against women; often a male-centred objectification of women’s bodies and sex is often depicted in a way that lacks caring, kindness, responsibility or any long-term commitment.
It can lead to issues such as peer pressure and low self-esteem, negative body image, eating disorders and risky sexual behaviours, especially in young people. Graham – does the bible talk about pornography and did Jesus ever express any sentiments on it?
Rev Graham replies:
Wow, Carol, you certainly are giving me lots of difficult questions to think and comment about. You have outlined already quite a number of issues that relate to the subject of pornography and its influence and effect within society. As you have asked, I think it is important to be clear as to what Jesus and the bible might say on the subject and how practically we may follow its advice and guidelines.
The Top Shelf
In quite places people explore online and traditionally, even in present days, items of a sensitive nature are placed on a top shelf and out of reach of young and vulnerable people. Materials and activities of a sexual nature to induce arousal have existed since prehistoric times as found in various figurines and images throughout ancient cultures and civilisations.
Jesus and the bible do not specifically speak about pornography but they do offer a wider moral perspective in regards to adultery, sexual immorality and temptations. They also uphold the value of preserving and maintaining loving and faithful relationships that may otherwise be eroded in the face of contemporary moral standards and viewpoints.
A big part of human living is how we can get fixated and addicted to certain actions and feelings that can become harmful to us and affect all our relationships. Any addiction will ultimately dictate how we think, see and act. At this point we have to think about how the concept of sin and temptation is viewed because it will determine whether or not we consider pornography as a good or a bad thing. Through faith in Jesus as our Saviour and Redeemer we have the opportunity to bring all our addictions and short- comings to Him and find healing for our bodies, minds and spirits.
For a moment think about how your eyes are instrumental in any engagement or abstinence around pornography. The eye gate is instrumental to enticing the mind to think about what actions may be taken or avoided in regards to sexual arousal and activity. The eyes of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3) were opened and they realised that they were naked and felt ashamed and embarrassed and so clothed themselves before God asked the question: Who told you that you were naked?
Sexual awareness and activity in respect to procreation is a good thing and given by God to enjoy and not be ashamed or embarrassed about. The apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 6: 13) makes it clear that the body is not meant for sexual or emotional immorality but for the Lord and so we need to honour the body and mind the Lord has given us. God’s kingdom on earth does not include sexual immorality, impurity and greed as found in Ephesians 5: 3.The apostle Peter (1 Peter 2: 11) advises his readers to abstain from sinful desires because they wage war against our souls and will not sustain a sense of peace and healing.
As people, we all have the capacity to be sexually attracted to individuals we meet and any literature and online viewing we may engage in. However, if we linger and ponder too much on them then they will be transferred into lustful thoughts as opposed to appreciating the wonders of God’s beautiful creation. Job confessed that he found it difficult to contain the use of his eyes: ‘I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl’, (Job 31:1) and he recognised that, in lingering, it may lead to actions that would not be appropriate in God’s sight and for the well-being of the girl. King David in 2 Samuel 11 got into trouble when his lingering eyes beheld the beauty of the married Bathsheba which resulted in an adulterous affair and subsequently the sad loss of their lovechild.
Jesus, in Matthew 5: 28, speaks about people looking and lingering inappropriately upon each other. It is clear that anyone who looks lustfully at a women or man has committed adultery with them in their heart and mind. In this context it is very difficult and requires not only a different mindset but an active oversight of the use of the eye gate.
In 1 Peter 3 we are instructed to think about the contrast between an inner and external beauty. If we concentrate on physical beauty at the expense of inner beauty we will understand it in a limited way. It is important to aspire to an inner beauty first that will then extend to an external beauty which God wants us to live out in the presence of each other. Physical beauty is only skin deep but internal beauty will last an eternity.
The places we live, work and socialise in will affect how we develop certain moral standards and activities. If we want to embrace all that sexual freedom offers, which includes pornography, we will also have to accept and work with its consequences in any addictive or improper ways that may take place. In Christian living we have to accept the notion of sin that is an offence to a Holy God who wants us to live holy and fulfilled lives and relationships.
The Best Shelf
As Christians the Lord does not want us to reach for the top shelf that represents shame, guilt or embarrassment but wants us to be freed to live and enjoy our lives with love, fun and lots of laughter. God gives us His Holy Spirit, to live as far as humanly possibly, a holy life here on earth. The best shelf to reach out for may be one that is described in Philippians 4:8 ‘whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things’.
To use the best shelf instead of the top shelf, we have to discipline the use of our eyes, minds and actions. The attraction of pornography will always be knocking on our doors but we can chose to ignore it and concentrate on sustaining and maintaining a Godly and moral life under the Lord.
Individuals and societies have to make choices as to what they consider to be acceptable, liberal, conservative and holy in a religious sense. It’s been quite interesting to observe how the objections raised by Mary Whitehouse, who opposed many demands for more sexual freedom, have been recognised by many outside the traditional church as possibly a good thing in the context of many years of sexual liberation that has resulted in various harmful effects on families and societies.
So thank you, Carol, for your very relevant question which would not often be referred to or preached in a church. We all can be tempted to judge the virtues and vices that we see around us but, as the proverbial phrase associated to John Bradford goes, we have to be very careful for ‘there but for the grace of God, go l (we)’.
Sex and Porn Addiction – spokanechristiancounselling.com
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Go For Greatness website – email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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UK Addiction Treatment Centres – Tel: 0808 258 3032/0808 258 0710/0203 131 5346 or
Recovery.org.uk – Tel: 0203 553 0324 or complete the online enquiry form.
Sex & Porn Addiction Help Resource – Tel: 01926 339594 or 0207 965 7302 or
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