The Church and Porn, part 2

porn2

This is the second of a three-part series: here are the links to part 1 and part 3.

Members of the Christian Marriage Bloggers Assn. are in the process of discussing the damaging effects of porn on marriage, and how the Church is responding to it. I have been thinking about the issue of porn and the Church’s response, and I’ve come to the conclusion that much of our response, while not necessarily ill-advised, is merely ineffective. In my previous post, I presented the idea that when we choose to come against a sin, we do two things: we approach the fight in our own strength and not in God’s spirit, and we change our identity from Christians to Crusaders.

My thought is that we need to “make the main thing the main thing” by downplaying what we are “agin” and emphasizing the evangelism of our society. In essence, as some might deride it, return to that old time religion. It’s worked in the past, so why do you think that mankind is too sophisticated for God’s good news?

It Worked In Rome

Think about it—120 frightened followers of an executed Messiah hiding in an upper room in a conquered backwater country. In less than three centuries, this conquering Empire would itself be conquered by the message and faith of these 120. They didn’t have political clout or military might, and certainly didn’t have courage. Less than 30 years later, followers of their faith would be in the palace of the Emperor (Phil. 4:22).

Led by the Spirit of God, seeing themselves as citizens of a better kingdom, they took the message of the Gospel to every province of the Empire, and shared God’s word with every class and caste. What began as a faith of defeated, conquered Jews spread into the markeplaces and homes of Roman slaves and citizens and transformed the culture of Rome. Julian the Apostate, the last non-Christian emperor, complained of them

For it is disgraceful that, when no Jew ever has to beg, and the impious [Christians] support not only their own poor but ours as well, all men see that our people lack aid from us.

It Worked In England

Historians tells us that the social conditions in France and England during the 18th century were very similar, but they had very different outcomes. The end of the 18th century saw France descend into a bloody revolution that brutalized a nation and only ended when Napoleon Bonaparte seized Paris and declared himself emperor. On the other hand, Great Britain completely avoided this descent into madness, and instead morphed into the Victorian Era that we so love to mock for its Christian prudery.

Many historians give much of the credit to John and Charles Wesley and the Methodists. While they did not change the social and political structures of Great Britain, their work changed the British people. James Townsend, in Radicals in Times of Revolution, wrote:

The spirit of the French revolutions of 1789 and 1830 is captured in Delacroix’s painting Liberty Guiding the People (a bare-breasted French woman with Phrygian cap and musket, leading the onslaught). England was spared such revolutionary political upheaval; many church historians have argued that it was because of the spiritual revolution, linked to the Wesleys, that swept the country. Drunkards, wife beaters, and rabble-rousers found their lives revolutionized by the Wesleys’ message.

The editors of the Christian History Institute said of his influence,

His exhortations to live perfectly in love today seem harsh, but consider the effects on his congregations. Swearing stopped in factories, men and women began to concern themselves with neat and plain dress, extravagances like expensive tea and vices like gin were dropped by his followers, neighbors gave one another mutual help through the societies.

It’s of interest to recall, when they speak of the effects of Wesley’s sermons on “his congregations,” that Wesley didn’t have any congregations, that all churches were shut to him and his followers. Wesley’s sermons were delivered in the public streets and fields, wherever he could gather an audience. He didn’t “speak truth to power”, he didn’t confront institutionalized evil and injustice. He preached the Gospel, and transformed a people. Which, in turn, transformed a nation.

It Worked in the U. S., in the First Great Awakening

While Luther is one of my personal heroes, you will note that I didn’t include the Reformation, above. The main reason I didn’t is because I see that as not so much as a revival of religion, but a correction of Christianity. But one of the great truths of Luther and the Reformation is that each man is his own priest, that there is no mediary between man and God save Jesus Christ.

Believe it or not, while America was founded on the principle of religious freedom, religion wasn’t all that free in America. For example, we all know that Roger Williams was drummed out of Puritan Boston, and so founded Connecticut on the principle of “religious freedom”, but what we aren’t told is that Williams was just as theologically intolerant of those different from him, persecuting followers of George Fox.

By the 1700’s, church membership was the privilege of a few; in New England, of the “proven saint” and in Virginia and the South, of the landed gentry. In essence, religion was the property of the propertied class, with church membership also conveying rights of citizenship in the colony.

Beginning with the Dutch Reformed churches of rural New Jersey in the 1720’s,  and spreading to New England in the 1730’s, ministers began to preach to men and women who were excluded from the established church and from the seats of power. Ministers such as Theodorus Frelinghuysen and Jonathan Edwards preached about the need to come to God outside of man-made institutions.

The First Great Awakening sparked a spiritual renewal among colonists by preaching that redemption was available to all, no matter what class they were in. As a result of this preaching, thousands of colonists became Christians and turned from their sinful practices to serving God. Thus, the impact of the Great Awakening was a transformation of American society and life for decades to come.

Besides Edwards, the iconic figure of the First Great Awakening was George Whitefield, a contemporary of the Wesleys, who first came to America in 1739. In a fascinating read, Benjamin Franklin wrote about Whitefield and his impact on both Americans and Franklin.

It was wonderful to see the Change soon made in the Manners [behavior] of our Inhabitants; from being thoughtless or indifferent about Religion, it seem’d as if all the World were growing Religious; so that one could not walk thro’ the Town in an Evening without Hearing Psalms sung in different Families of every Street.

~ ~ ~

I happened soon after to attend one of his Sermons, in the Course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a Collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my Pocket a Handful of Copper Money, three or four silver Dollars, and five Pistoles [Spanish coins] in Gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the Coppers. Another Stroke of his Oratory made me asham’d of that, and determin’d me to give the Silver; and he finish’d so admirably, that I emptied my Pocket wholly into the Collector’s Dish, Gold and all.

It Worked in the U. S., In the Second Great Awakening

The history of OT Israel was the cycle of Rest, Relapse, Repent and Revival. This cycle occurred under the judges, the kings and the post-exilic prophets. The history of Christianity shows that this same cycle follows true in any movement of God. The spiritual high of the Luther’s Reformation in Germany was followed by a cold deadness in German clergy 100 years later that only changed with Philip Spener and the Pietist movement. Another hundred years saw the need for Zinzendorf and the Moravians (who led Wesley to seek after God, btw.)

In America, the First Great Awakening changed American society, and even contributed, intellectually, to the American Revolution. But the all too human tendency to complacency and relapse led to the need for another Awakening a generation later. Many of the churches had, again, become temples of dead formality, a stodgy Calvinism that discouraged personal seeking after God.

As well, the new nation had people moving westward, through the Cumberland Gap and into the Ohio Valley. In this spiritual void, the Second Great Awakening sprang up, stirring up spiritual renewal. The First Great Awakening was directed mostly toward those who were members of the church; the Second Great Awakening, with its brush arbor revivals in the new territories were directed to those not in the church, and resulted in a spiritual fervor being was once again kindled in the hearts of the common people.

It Worked in the U. S., In the Third Great Awakening

What’s that you say? You’ve never heard of the Third Great Awakening? This third awakening is more commonly known as the Prayer Meeting Revival, but even then, it isn’t all that well-known. Despite being ignored by history, some think that it was the greatest of the three awakenings, and was so powerful, so strong, that the only thing that could bring about its end was the Civil War.

In the fall of 1857, Jeremiah Lamphier, a NYC businessman asked for permission to conduct a weekly prayer meeting, from noon to 1:00 p.m., in the North Dutch Church on Fulton St. He began to hand out notices announcing this meeting, and at his first meeting, had one attendee—himself. At 12:30, another man did come in and joined him in prayer. This was Sept. 23rd.

By Oct. 14th, less than a month later, the meeting was being held daily, and had 100 men attending. Within six months, the meetings were affecting 10,000 New Yorkers, and it is said that business stopped in NYC daily, at noon for one hour. When Horace Greeley wrote an editorial in the New York Times, it became nationally known and began to spread to other cities across the country.

The results of this unmarked revival?

Churches benefitted greatly from the Revival. At its peak, there was an estimated 50,000 converts per week. During a two year period, 10,000 were joining churches weekly, and Sunday schools flourished.
The Awakening of 1857-1858 brought over one million new converts into the American Church, and revived the over four million members present before the Revival. The new life within the churches was shown most dramatically by the resurgence of evangelism.

There is a rather long, but fascinating write-up of this move of God at The Great Awakening of 1857-1858.


I understand that this has been a rather long post, and did not directly address the topic at hand, the Church’s response to porn. I actually do have a reason for presenting information concerning just some of the moves of God and how they affected the society around the Church, and including it in a discussion about a response to the evil of pornography. So please be patient with me and come back for part 3.

CSL

2 Comments

Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

2 responses to “The Church and Porn, part 2

  1. Pingback: The Church and Porn, part 3 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  2. Pingback: The Church and Porn, part 1 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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