Pornography and faith...

(Tim) These wise words were made as a comment under the recent post, Stats on internet pornography, by Alex McNeilly, a young sax student in Church of the Good Shepherd. Thank you, Alex.

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Regardless of how guarded any home is against sin, particularly the sexual sin of the media, in the world opportunities to indulge in it will abound. But even as we build larger and stronger walls against these sins in the home, worldly access to them becomes ever more available as we see in the stats in this post. As a result, I agree with Kevin that the strongest defense against these things lies in the spiritual battle.

We must teach our children the dangers of sexual sin and pornography, so that when they go into the world (a friend's house, a computer lab, a video store, etc.), where there are no guards, their hearts will already be fortified against these iniquities...

Parents can prohibit their children from exercising malicious violence within the home, but what is to stop this child from violence or murder outside the home unless he believes and understands it to be wrong? Similarly, parents can put up dozens of safeguards against pornography (filters, locked rooms, etc.) in the home, but there will always be loopholes and outside access. Only a child who believes pornography to be a sin and knows why it is wrong will ultimately overcome the temptation to indulge in such a sin when the opportunity inevitably presents itself.

I encourage everyone to read Michael Foster's recent post on the ClearNote Fellowship blog regarding raising children, even toddlers, to be fortified against pornography: Training Your Toddler to Battle Porn.

The actual physical prevention of access to inappropriate material should only be an aid to the instruction of the heart. We must be careful not to focus too much on the external manifestation of sin. Pornography is wrong because it lies about sexuality by turning it into something trivial, impersonal, and self-centered. Since we know sexuality is to be a picture of Christ's relationship with the Church, we can see that pornography is a lie about Jesus Christ. We must focus on teaching our children the fear of the Lord and reliance upon Jesus Christ's all-sufficient grace.

Restriction of Internet and TV access in the home aids in teaching this to children because it removes access to things that distract from what we are to focus on, which is Christ. But we must be careful not to swing to far in the legalistic direction which does not teach about the grace of Christ, but simply provides a law which will certainly awaken sin in our children. Such legalism in the home can unfortunately lead to even firmer enslavement to the sins of pornography outside the home. The law only identifies the sin, which is half the battle. Only Christ sets us (and our children) free.

For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:5-6, ESV)

In Galatians, Paul refers to the law as our "guardian," set in place for our protection. When we present a rule or a law to our children, it is for their protection against a particular sin, until they learn to rely on Christ's strength to overcome temptation toward that sin, at which point true freedom is gained. The law is only a guardian for the child, but it is not enough, because the law protects, but it also enslaves. And only through Christ can freedom from the imprisonment of the law be achieved, because he fulfilled the law, which we and our children can never do.

Comments

Alex,

Thank you for strengthening me in my work of trying to raise pure and godly sons.

With love,

Amen--and not just sons, but their dads. I use physical and electronic barriers to protect myself and my family, but far more important in protecting from this sort of thing is to remember that sexuality represents Christ's love for His Church.

So if I look at that nasty picture, I am looking at the Church portrayed as a whore (possibly with Ba'al or Molech right there!), and myself as a whore-monger--not to mention the earthly picure of the degradation of my neighbor's wife or daughter.

I agree with everything Alex has said and I think I'm not refuting anything he said but ideas I have seen surrounding these things.

Faith and practical protection are not mutually exclusive they work together.

One thing I find very interesting is that virtually every time I hear a conversation against technology, conservative Christians tend to extremely quickly jump to the defense of these technologies.

Why shouldn't we prepare on all fronts? Faith is great but it's sometimes like people saying Grace Grace.

I know why I tend to want to defend technology, because I like it more than righteousness. I don't want to be inconvenienced even if my slight inconvenience will dramatically improve my sons' chances of staying pure.

Let me ask a question, isn't it foolish to buy your 12 year old son an iPod touch with wireless access?

-Clint

There's another part of this also. I constantly tell my kids that they're important enough for me to protect them. I've wondered what sort of message it would send to them if I got rid of the net. They know I love it and use it all the time. They know I love TV and we got rid of that years ago.

The message is, "Dad loves us enough to get rid of things I know he loves - this purity thing must be pretty important - he's put his money where his mouth is."

Now of course, I worry about how they'll behave when the gloves are off - so at this point I plan to give them access to most things when they're 16 and see what they do.

My practical things are done in faith, as I said, not mutually exclusive. Like in James.

Also, I am a big proponent of early marriage as the sex a man experiences in that should be formative. As I said to one young man recently, "When you were looking at pornography, did you think about whether that woman would be a Godly wife and mother?"

"One thing I find very interesting is that virtually every time I hear a conversation against technology, conservative Christians tend to extremely quickly jump to the defense of these technologies."

I think it is because conservative Christians realize that, "there is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him."

"Let me ask a question, isn't it foolish to buy your 12 year old son an iPod touch with wireless access?"

Depends on the 12 year old, right?

"Depends on the 12 year old, right?"

No, actually I don't think it does.

On the one hand, I'm tempted to say, "Well, those Baker boys, they'd be okay or those Wegoner kids etc."

But, if I think about boys in that age group, who I love like the Bakers, the Lehrs, the Wegoners, the Hucks etc. I end up thinking not, "Those boys are well trained, they can handle it" but "wouldn't it be a travesty if those really good kids were corrupted due to unnecessary conveniences." And you know, I have reasons to care, I want my daughter to marry a man who's as pure as possible. And I seek to make my sons as fitting a man as I would want for my daughters.

Conservative Christians love their comforts as much as the world. Heck, I hate the vapidity of TV, but even I started watching Lost when my sister suggested it and The Office and even really stupid shows that I won't confess to watching (I watched them all on Netflix watch on demand - so internet and TV mixed together.)

I'm all for philosophies that sound good and pithy statements such as the one above.

However, there are real demons out there and I am constantly shocked by the evil done by men I've known who look as innocent as doves. Including my own acrobatics to justify my own evil.

"The fiend in his own shape is less hideous than when he rages in the breast of man."

Michael, you know, I sounded a lot like you when I was your age. I was fairly certain that my kids would never fall into these sorts of sins, because I was training them so well etc. etc. But as time goes on I see the battle raging more than I ever realized, I see who I was at 25 and am sure I was a complete fool. Heck I see that now. You're a very smart man, Michael, you run rings around me, but you're also very confident in yourself. Be careful. I say this in love, brother.

In some measure, I realize how naive I was. This doesn't make me redouble my human efforts but it makes me rally all forces God has given me as head of my home and begin to ask, "Why am I not using every ounce of what I have to teach and protect, instead I make excuses for the things I love - if my eye betrays me or my sons, will I truly pluck it out?"

I don't like the answer I have for myself and I look to Christ as the author and perfecter of my faith (my kids recently memorized all of Hebrews 12), but I know he doesn't expect me to use faith as an excuse for complacency.

And I'm not saying others are but it's all of our tendency. We should keep each other vigilant.

Why do we love our technology so much? Why is it that there's no reason that is ever sufficient to trump it?

-Clint

My husband and I don't care how "good" our son is when he is an adolescent- we've already discussed that he is never going to have a computer/TV in his room, he's never going to have an iPod touch, and he's never allowed to be alone with a girl. Why? Because no matter how whole-heartedly compliant he is, he will still have the same raging hormones that every other boy his age will have. Obviously, there are no guarantees how children will "turn out," but it is our job as parents to be as wise as possible to guard and protect what God has given to us.

Yeah, it's funny, many times I've heard Christians talk about not letting their kids have a computer in their bedroom, but that same thinking doesn't seem to translate to an iPod or iPhone, which you could have everywhere!? I don't get it.

But Alex's point definitely still stands very well, they'll find this stuff if they want to, but let's make it difficult for them to sin.

Clint,

>No, actually I don't think it does.

I disagree. Perhaps, I will change my mind as Hudson, Athan, and Pascal (Come on, Em! It’s a great name!) get older.

>Michael, you know, I sounded a lot like you when I was your age. I was fairly certain that my kids would never fall into these sorts of sins, because I was training them so well etc. etc.

This isn’t my attitude at all. I’m quite insecure about my fathering abilities. I didn’t realize that we had talked about child-rearing before or do you refer to something else I've said/written?

>You're a very smart man, Michael, you run rings around me, but you're also very confident in yourself. Be careful. I say this in love, brother.

I appreciate the warning. Could you be more precise what is regarding? Is regarding my usage of Mark 7? Help a brother out! I have my dull moments.

>Why do we love our technology so much?

How are you using the word technology? Does your definition include dishwashers, cars, e-mail, or even *ahem* blogs?

>Why is it that there's no reason that is ever sufficient to trump it?

There are some great reasons. I think Neil Postman outlines a lot of them in his book, “Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology.” I highly recommend it.

I like what Luther said: “Do you suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused? Men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?”

A quibble, at least, with the last paragraph of the article. The law doesn't enslave. The law condemns. Sin enslaves. There is a difference.

The reason the law isn't enough is because it can't justify, it can only condemn.

FWIW

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

"22But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed" (Galatians 3:22-23).

Perhaps "imprisons" would have been a better word choice. But the real distinction is that the law imprisons UNDER SIN. So it is through the presence of the law that sin is awakened and holds us captive. And even then, we are held captive "under the law."

And it is true that the law does not justify. Only Christ sets us free from both sin and the law, by the justification of faith: "24So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith" (Galatians 3:24).

Thanks, Don, for bringing this up.

>"Help a brother out! I have my dull moments."

I trust we will help each other out, brother. We've had a lot of good discussions that I've really learned a lot from. We'll definitely have a lot more.

>"or even *ahem* blogs?"

Ha! Remember the Facebook blog, that's why I was teasing Tim.

Luther also said, "Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail."

You know from my previous posts that I'm not claiming to abolish those things but I am saying I'm willing if it should be found to be necessary.

Recently, I had a most painful break with family members who are dangerous to my family. There is a time and a place to put a hedge around your family.

I'm holding that a 12 year old with an iPod with internet is one of those.

With love and appreciation,
Clint

One quote I love sums up some of this,

"What is your fascination with my forbidden closet of mystery?"

It's really very interesting how forbidding something makes it more attractive. And this isn't something can be solved outside the body. Do I overprotect my kids and awaken desire to sin because of my legalism?

I think I let my kids see more movies that are risky than most Christians. But I have pretty strict rules about the net and work to help my kids choose clothes on their own that are modest but I also veto my daughter's tight jeans and I think she's glad I care enough to tell her plainly and hear her explanation of why she wore them.

I had a very frank discussion about sex with my son, confessing many of my past sins and making it plain to him that he has to guard his own heart and he can talk to me. He was embarrassed as heck at first but an hour or so afterward it was over, he gave me one of his signature uber-happy attack hugs and said, "Thanks Dad!"

I of course talked about biblical principles and during talk plainly about these things as we hit them in devotions or plan specific lessons on it.

I don't think my kids are overprotected and sheltered. But now that I'm in a church where my brothers and sisters do speak plainly about sin, I do trust them to tell me about the plank in my eye or my kids'. I'm thankful for youth group, small group, people in our homes and countless other interactions with men and women who have told us about the hearts of our children.

This stuff is pretty daunting, and scripture informs our practice and then practice causes us to study scripture more. It doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Now, one thing I'm willing to admit is that I'm relying too much on my own reasoning here instead of scripture but I always thought of this as an example of the faith and works talked about in James.

Also, I typically save my in depth study for devotions not the blog which maybe is an indication that I shouldn't write here.

I get very wary when anyone starts talking about faith as a sign implying that the law is done away with. The most evil men I know also always do that. I don't think at all that Alex is one of those, but my alarms go off when the law talked about this way. And yet I just finished Galations with my kids and whenever I say to them, "What's the law equated to in scripture" - they say "the flesh, death and works."

-Clint

Clint - I was with you until your last paragraph. I didn't read Alex's notes like that at all.

Michael Foster - Here's a terrible fact: there was a recent attempt to study the effects of pornography on men. They couldn't do the full study, however, because they couldn't find a control group; that is, they could not find enough men that hadn't viewed pornography against whom to judge the effects. I don't think it depends on the 12-year-old at all. Being 28 and having home internet at 12 with just about every 12-year-old I knew, I think it does not depend on the 12-year-old at all...and thinking it does is why the church is often shocked. "But he was such a good boy!"

And now for the completely off-topic point: there are several times when abortion comes up on this blog and someone in the comments inevitably posts the question as to why the men are silent on the topic. Is it fair to ask why the women are silent on this topic? We're talking about the raising of young men, this is not a topic only the province of fathers.

**To explain part of my comment there, I'm now 28, and I was 12 when having the internet at home was just starting to hit. There are surely fathers on here who were older than that when the internet first made it into the home, so they may not appreciate the effects as dramatically. Giving a boy unfettered access to internet will not turn out well. Depending completely on the fact that you do not give him unfettered access to internet while he is at home will not turn out well, either. Hence, Alex's excellent points.

Kevin,

Thanks, I'd said on the other blog that started this one - stats on Internet porn, I know Alex isn't arguing a bad angle, we're just arguing from different angles but what little I know of Alex and just knowing that he's in the same body with me, I know we mostly agree.

I see this as us all sharpening each other. And that's one reason I enjoy talking to Michael, he's really direct like me.

What you said about fathers is something I've thought a lot on. I was 19 in 1993 when the web came out. I made some of the first webpages for Vanderbilt. Even before then, every one knew porn was easy to find if you were at a university - on usenet groups. I was part of a public school project called "Virtual School" and I used to tell the k-12 teachers not to let their kids on the net without supervision, they acted like I was nuts. I can't imagine being a young teen and having the temptation boys have today. It's horrible! I'm so glad the web wasn't around for me then.

Even young men from good Christian families have told me about horrible stuff they look at. I can only imagine what David Canfield has heard. The danger is absolutely huge, and we should fight all angles.

And the results of our perversion never come out more clearly than in the discussions I've heard at Planned Parenthood and the evil cold numbness I see in the eyes of the men and women there. Coldness I wish I didn't remember.

Even with filters, the net is a bad liability. I mean, my kids have had email since 12 but I never give them unrestricted access, I doubt anyone does, but I do three things.

1. Biblical Heart Training and frank discussion
2. Restricted access / Boundaries / "legalism"
3. Encourage early marriage.

Ha, I spelled Galatians wrong, funny.

-Clint

Kevin,

I wasn't a good boy growing up. I had a juvenile record that included b & e, vandalism, shoplifting, and so on. I come from an extremely poor and pagan family. No one would of have been shocked if I used porn from a young age. Nonetheless, porn was never a problem for me--even through my teens. A lot of my friends were watching their father's porn videos in 8th grade but I thought it was dirty. So, I abstained. It is for this reason that I have a hard time making a blanket statement regarding 12 years and iPods. Yes, I agree that most shouldn't have them. I'm not naive. I've pastored a church of mostly male college students and have had to tackle this problem head-on. However, I maintain that there are, without a shred of doubt, some young men that can use an iPod without falling prey to porn.

Michael - I will grant that there are some young men that do not fall prey to pornography. My point is that no one, not their parents, not they themselves, no one short of God will know which boys those are until after the fact. It isn't proven by the time they are 14, or 16, or 25. There is never any proving that they will not fall prey to this sin. There is no ability to forecast, even compared to other sins. Men fall for the first time in their 40s or 50s. I'm not all that concerned about many Christian men breaking and entering once they are past 30, because most don't do it, but this can't be said of pornography. It is the exception. And that is why it deserves special rules.

And you are, regardless of all factors mentioned, far and away the exception that proves the rule. And that's what makes it a good rule and why I am comfortable making that blanket statement about men in general. Men should not allow themselves unfettered access to any material that is not Godly.

To approach it as a risk-reward scenario, I think we can clearly see the risk profile, both in numbers that can not handle this risk well (almost all), and what damage it does (catastropic). What is the reward in giving a 12-year-old unfettered internet access? Kid ain't curing cancer. So what we're talking about here isn't should the kid be exposed to information, it is that unfettered access to any information that the rest of the world decides to show him is not beneficial.

We've moved back towards the physical restraint side, even though my first statements to Clint were that physical restraint can't compare to spiritual growth, and that's where I stand. This is just elaborating on the point of physical restraint.

"And now for the completely off-topic point: there are several times when abortion comes up on this blog and someone in the comments inevitably posts the question as to why the men are silent on the topic. Is it fair to ask why the women are silent on this topic? We're talking about the raising of young men, this is not a topic only the province of fathers."

Thank you for the invitation! My thought is that there are two aspects to this battle, one defensive and the other offensive. The defensive would include restrictions, warnings, explanations of damages and so forth. The offense is perhaps more nebulous and thus more rarely considered.

What I'm referring to is a renewed effort to impress upon boys and young men (and even older men) the sacred glories of manhood. Our culture in so many ways demeans masculinity as God designed it, not in the least by telling them that women can do just about anything they can do, and often more effectively.

For example, young men are no longer raised with the sense that they will be responsible for the provision and protection of a family. If a teenager actually believed that the full weight of a family's financial support would be on his shoulders by the time he's in his early twenties, it might mean he would have less time for his electronic indulgences.

Yet there needs to be much more than simply a call to responsibility. We should also train our sons to see themselves as Sons of Adam (to borrow a phrase from Narnia), glorious bearers of the image of God in a way that women do not. Part of the pull of pornography lies in its devious offer of success, of acceptance, of virility and worth, something young boys too rarely find on this side of their video screens.

While the world will of course continue to scorn men, I believe the church should intentionally head in the other direction. For example, Father's Day could become one of the most significant days in the year. Rather than using it as an opportunity to list what men are supposed to be doing (and probably aren't), it could be a time where men are given the solemn recognition and strong honor God intends them to have.

I realize this is a tall order, because for men to apparently exalt themselves (especially over against the status of women) certainly won't go over well in our contemporary milieu. But I think it needs to be done--particularly by Christians who understand what God has created manhood to be.

Parents who wish to protect their own children from pornography, euphemistically called "adult" content, need to also look at their own lives. Children learn more from what parents do and watch themselves than what they say or forbid.

Here's an article I wrote connected to this issue.
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Pornography, Prostitution, and Human Trafficking
- Joel Linton

I am the father of four daughters and so I decided to watch the movie, "Taken." It is about a father who is trying to rescue his daughter who had been abducted by organized crime. It's not for the faint of heart. It makes you sick at heart, and you wonder -- how many women around the world are abducted and treated as sex slaves. How many are suffering right in your town and maybe even in your neighborhood?

And I think about Taiwan. Pornography is a major problem among Taiwan's youth even as early as middle school and high school. Taiwan's government has recently been working towards making prostitution legal again. Taiwan needs your prayers.

In these matters, really, Taiwan is just copying the rest of the world including your own countries. I think that the movies and lack of parental direction to the contrary have cause the society to go down this path.

Do you think pornography or prostitution only affects the one doing it?

People often argue to themselves as well as to others when they are justifying their acceptance of these practices -- "It's a free country; people can do what they want with their own bodies as long as it is consensual." Or couples will say, "What's wrong with us watching an "adult" video together?

1 Timothy 5:2 tells us to treat "older women like mothers and younger women like sisters, in all purity."

Think of it this way -- For those of you who think it lightly to occasionally dally in peaking at pornography -- would you want your mother or your daughter to be the one in the picture? Think some more -- would you want your sister or your mother to be abducted, raped, caused to become addicted to drugs, and sold into prostitution and slavery because people, simple people like you, have flirted with the short thrills of indulging sexual lusts on the internet, in magazines, on movies, or even further with prostitutes.

When you participate in these things, you are contributing to the market and the demand that results in women being violated and their lives destroyed.

Think about the non-criminal nature of things. How many women are pressured into exposing themselves in the movie and fashion industry in order to get better jobs? How many have degraded themselves to get ahead -- because it is expected -- and this is the taste of the consumer? The television news stations follow the people who are famous, but in particular those considered "hot." It is a game to throw in as much raciness as possible without going over the line. Why? It works to gain viewers. But also, because the overall culture has been degraded and these TV hosts and program coordinators themselves are caught up in the culture.

There are no uninvolved spectators. Watching is participating. Participating is contributing to the problem.

Now we come back to the verse: 1 Timothy 5:2. True love for others will be to seek to protect them from harm and protect their honor -- just as we would our sisters or mothers. And we Christians need to get involved in truly protecting these nameless women just as we would our sisters or mothers. We should have the same attitude as the father for his daughter in the movie, "Taken", who dropped everything and risked his life to seek out and free his daughter from her abductors.

Sadly, it seems not only do Christians not feel much care for these nameless women, but rather they will dally with using them, too.

The power to overcome that is to know the goodness of the Lord.

Too often Christians sit at the edge of a vast, burning desert (not dessert) that is dry and empty and will lead to death. We try to step over the line as much as we can as if this dust and ash is something delectable. And instead we need to fully turn away from it and turn towards a relationship with God, and the life He calls us to. That life is beautiful, rich, lush, verdant, full of everything good, noble, just, pure, loving, trustworthy, excellent, praiseworthy... How could we rob ourselves of the truly delectable by turning to the lies and cheats of Satan that only gives a momentary thrill but then leads to death?

Joel,

I agree with much of what you've said. I know someone who is exposing herself in the name of getting famous in modeling, her husband says, "I respect her independence." He won't listen to my wife and my pleas to protect her and his children.

So how exactly would this protection look in our families?

Clint

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