The Church and Porn, part 3

porn3

This is the last of a three-part series: here are the links to part 1 and part 2.

Okay, to summarize my two previous posts: Paul Byerly, of Generous Husband, started a discussion among CMBA bloggers about pornography and the efficacy of the Church’s response. This is something I’ve been thinking about, and so did my first post on making the main thing the main thing, and not wandering off on crusades. My second post was a brief (for me, anyway) look at some examples of how Christians have affected society in the past.

Today, I want to try to tie those two posts together in a suggestion/rant (take your pick.)

First Off, Let’s Talk Reality

There’s pretty much nothing that the Church can do about porn, pure and simple.

  • It’s sex. Yes, a rotten, stinkin’ perversion of sex, but it’s not like it’s something that we can regulate. It appeals to a natural human urge, even more so than alcohol or drugs, which we have tried to outlaw.
  • It’s ubiquitous. According to a TEDTalk** that I watched some time ago, the average boy sees his first pornographic image before he’s 12. The internet has placed porn within the reach of every man, woman and child on the planet.
  • Unfortunately, in our culture, it’s become accepted. I realize that this is merely anecdotal, but I can’t count the number of references to porn I’ve seen in entertainment. For example, it have become a staple of our humor. I recall one entire storyline of Friends (one of the most popular shows in its time) being about Chandler and Joey getting free porn. If you’re a screenplay writer, a porn watcher is a stock character, along with the wine-drinking wife, or the stoner kid in high school.

Oh, we can stand and preach and make a lot of noise about the evils of that ol’ debbil Porn, but we will be as effective as Canute stemming the tide.

So That’s It, Just Give Up?

Well, yes and no. When I say “No, don’t give up”, I mean that the Church must uphold, through vigorous teaching and preaching, God’s ideals on human sexuality in all the venues it operates in. This means that in the pulpit, in the Bible studies, in the prayer meetings, in the church groups (even youth groups, *gasp*), the Church has to say, unequivocally,

  • Sex was designed by God for husband and wife in marriage, period. And mean it! (Oh, and when I say husband and wife, I mean man and woman, just in case there are any Methodists reading this.)
  • The marriage bed is to be kept holy by fidelity between husband and wife (and that means NO PORN! It’s not a marital aid.)
  • The marriage bed is seen as holy and good by God and there is not one single blush of shame connected with it.

The Church needs to present the teachings of the Bible clearly and without equivocation, qualifiers, trigger warnings, etc. The Bible is our defining document, our guiding light explaining what we believe and why. If we say that we are Christians but live a life contradictory to the teachings of the Bible, we are liars, pure and simple.

The Church needs to be willing to say to its members that this is how we should live, and make no bones about it.

And The Yes?

What do I mean by saying, “Yes, we need to give up?” I am saying that we need to give up our ways of trying to change society. I was part of the Religious Right and Silent Majority in the 80’s and 90’s. To borrow from Dr. Phil, that didn’t work out for us; look around. Oh, we elected politicians who said that they supported our causes, but nothing much came of them. 

We let our fear drive our actions, and not our faith. In a recent essay, Erick Erickson described the dynamic that drove the evangelical vote this past election but is an accurate description of what drove us in the 80’s:

People who do not feel safe believe the left is blaming them instead of protecting them. Consequently, voters are moving to those who they think will protect them and they are willing to hold their nose about those politicians’ flaws….. The left acts as if businesses should be shuttered if their owners operate as Christians. They not only don’t behave as if they can protect citizens, but they also turn the mob against citizens.

As the people of God, we need to remember that Jesus Christ is our savior, not the latest shibboleth-spouting politicians***. We need to realize that our faith should drive our lives, not our fears. We need to recognize that “Christian Political Action” begins with an oxymoron: “Christian” and “Political.”

Basically, “Christian political action” refers to political crusades undertaken by churches and Christians to attack social ills. Yes, it is possible that political victories may be achieved, to impose the will of the churched on the unchurched, but this is always temporary, as the unsaved will always outnumber and outvote the saved.

So What Can We Do, Then?

We can do what the church is supposed to do: present the Truth and stand firm in that Truth. When the Church has preached Christ and lived out the truth of the Gospel, then they have affected society and changed the culture around them.

In my last post, I presented how the Wesleys, with their “societies” and “classes”, helped their followers to live out Biblical teachings on living for God, and provided ‘guidelines’ for practical holiness that changed the behavior of England. In the case of the Prayer Meeting Revival, the addition of one million new Christians and the revitalizing of the four million established Christians resulted in social betterment impulses.

Now, Let’s Talk About What DOES Work

“If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it.”
~ Rev. Charles Finney

This is a harsh indictment, but it comes from one of the most successful ministers in church history. Wherever Finney preached, sin left.

And that’s the missing word, isn’t it? Sin. Oh, there’s also another missing word, now that I think of it: holiness. These two words, which fairly shout old-timey church meetings, are pretty much downplayed and soft-pedalled today. The operative word for the Church today is be relevant. The watchword is “Make the Church relevant! Make the gospel relevant!”

At the risk of coming across as some old deacon left over from a Billy Sunday campaign, I’m going to ask, flat-out, given the spiritual temperature of today’s church, what is there to differentiate the Church from the World? There is an old saw that asks “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict?” My question for the Church today is if there any reason to believe that it really wants to be His bride or merely “just good friends?”

Am I being unfair? I don’t think I am, and after reading a blog post by one John Wesley Reid, I’m feeling more secure in my assessments. Last week, my eldest son linked to Reid’s post from his FB page, and so I decided to check out his 5 Trends Christian Millennials MUST STOP Doing. Reid says that he is addressing millennials, but his post actually addresses the problems of today’s churches, and not just one generation. I recommend reading the whole post, but if you are pressed for time, take these three paragraphs and meditate on them:

We’re quick to sing popular worship songs like “O To Be Like You” and “Jesus, Be the Center Of My Life” but how practical do we allow this to be? We need to be Daniels, Esthers, and Joshuas. People of faith who love without ceasing and represent without compromise.
Also, I understand that nobody is perfect but it’s one thing to sin and try to justify it while it’s another to sin and repent; confessing and turning away from sin.
Stop flirting with what you can get away with, and instead pursue the holiness that we have through Jesus Christ.

We are called to follow God; failure to even try to do so means that we turn our backs on Him.

But CSL, Will It Work?

I don’t know. I do know it “worked” in Rome, in the time of the Wesleys, and in the three Great Awakenings in the U. S., but nothing is guaranteed. And does God tell us that His way will “work”, or just that it is His way?

Storytime!

One day, a man went to God to complain: “God, I tried doing what you said to do, to act like Jesus, but it didn’t work!”

God: “Oh, what did you do?”

Man: “I was in a restaurant, and while I was eating, I noticed that another guy took my coat off the coat rack and started to put it on. I told him that he had my coat, and and he said that it was his. So I said that if it was his, he could tell me what was in the pocket. He put his hand in the pocket, pulled my gloves and said, ‘My gloves.’
I remembered what Jesus said, that if a man takes your coat, give him your jacket too, and so I took off my jacket and said, ‘Take this, too.’ He did!
God, I lost both my coat and jacket because I was following what Jesus said. It doesn’t work!”

God: Did I ever promise that it would work? “What is that to you? Follow me.”

When push comes to shove, we are called to do nothing but follow Him and His ways. When our crusades take us away from that command, we should expect the ineffectual mess that is today’s church to be the natural result.

CSL

** The Great Porn Experiment. Seriously, watch it!!

*** Back in the 80’s Steve Taylor did a song that I think was/is so accurate in describing our church ethos, today, Whatever happened to sin? Here are two stanzas about Christian Politics:

A politician next door
Swore he’d set the Washington Arena on fire
Thinks he’ll gladiate ’em
But they’re gonna make him a liar
Well, he’s a good ole boy who was born and raised
In the buckle o’ the Bible Belt
But remember when you step into your voting booth
He’ll never lie, he’ll just embellish the truth

13 Comments

Filed under Christian Beliefs, Marriage & Sexuality

13 responses to “The Church and Porn, part 3

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

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

  3. Being a attender of a Free Methodist church I had to LOL at this statement : “(Oh, and when I say husband and wife, I mean man and woman, just in case there are any Methodists reading this.)”
    Excellent post, CSL !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, as well. I guess you know that the UMC is probably going to have to split within the next decade, right? This new “Way Forward” committee is going to be the final nail in the coffin.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Way Forward…..to the stone age. what a joke.
        When I first came to attend my present church 29 years ago the pastor who was a welshman actually preached on sin and holiness. The sanctuary was near capacity most every Sunday. It was a sad day (to me at least)when a year later he announced he was returning to a itinerant preaching ministry.

        Liked by 1 person

      • For the UMC, not to the Stone Age, but to Sodom and Gomorrah. The Way Forward committee is charged with re-examining all of the sections of the Book of Discipline that addresses human sexuality and suggest rewrites in order to keep the entire body together. Ain’t gonna happen.

        There are two warring camps, pro-homosexual and pro-Bible, who won’t be satisfied with anything other than total victory, and a middlin’ muddle in the middle wringing their hands and asking “Can’t we all just sing Kumbaya?” And with the African and South American UMC extremely unhappy with the American trend, it’s gonna get ugly.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. tjcox53

    Excellent post! All too often we forget that the world will always be well wordly. Our duty is simply to spread the good news to the world that those who are His can come out of it. Jesus said the world will continue to get worse and worse, so none of this should suprise us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. It’s so easy to get caught up in worthwhile actions, but so often, we let them become our focus, and not God.

      And don’t get me started on “relevance”! To me, there is a vast difference between being relevant and being meaningful, but you wouldn’t know it by the lemming-like rush to appeal to lowest common denominators in order to get people to join up. Preaching the Gospel is meaningful; offering a barrage of “relevant me-too”s isn’t.

      Like

  5. You’re a Steve Taylor fan? But of course you are!

    Great post, too,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. Again. 🙂

      And I’ll never forget the day my teenage son brought home Steve Taylor’s I Want To Be A Clone EP album. Songs like “Whatever Happened To Sin” and “Bad Rap” just naturally fit in with my weirdness.

      Like

  6. The remark by John Reid about loving ceaslessly is very important. I think that is one of the biggest problems, just not in the way most people think it is.

    Ask most Christians to fill in the blank: “God is _____.” They’ll tell you, “God is love.” They seem to honestly believe that they know quite a bit about what love is. Even with the Bible being so accessible, I believe that the concept of love in our churches has become distorted in a subtle but devastating way.

    First, our perception of God is skewed. Is God *only* love?? No. He is also the way, the truth, and the life. He loves justice and judgement. He is angry and patient. Allow all these things to take a back seat, and see how righteousness and repentance become considered rude and judgemental.

    Christians frequently read I Cor 13 and believe they have the whole story. But there is so much more in the rest of the Bible. The bottom line is that Christians have become convinced that their emotions are good for discernment, decision making, and may even be God’s voice.

    We have a christian cultural belief that love is being nice, and never being angry or unpleasant. Rebuke is relabeled as “judging”. Lev 19:17 is forgotten: “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but shall surely rebuke… ”

    Christians often deal with sins that have more cultural weight with harshness that makes one wonder if they are awake. Other sins, especially ones that don’t hurt them directly, are easily ignored. That is considered grace.

    As I have told my son, loving someone means valuing them. Being nice to someone you hate is still hating. Here in So. Cal. , smoking is just a *nasty* sin. If you come to my house, go outside if you *must* smoke. On the other hand, if you tell your in-law to leave his “partner” at home, you will be labeled as hateful. After all, we /all/ sin, right?

    Whether the sin is porn, or any other, if we can’t even really understand what love is, then our devotion to God will become weak and distorted. The Bible tells us that the church will become apostate and fall away. I doubt this is about doctrinal statements. It’s about our delusion and misperception of God and ourselves.

    Yikes! That got long and I was /trying/ to keep it short.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Bad Teaching: Women Rule, Guys Drool, part 3 | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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