|Vol. 15 No. 12 December 2013||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
The word “pornography” means, “the depiction of erotic behavior (as in pictures or writing) intended to cause sexual excitement” (Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). It comes from the compound Greek word, “pornographos,” “porne” meaning “prostitute,” “whore” or “harlot” and “grapho” meaning “to write.” The word “pornography” entered the English language in about 1864. It is no wonder, then, that the word did not appear in the earliest English translations of the Bible, which predate 1864. Although subsequent translations of the Bible do not include the word “pornography” either, biblical instruction definitely warns against it.
First though, let’s attempt to quantify “pornography” so that we can see more clearly the scope of its reach and affect. Generally, pornography is typically categorized as “soft porn” and “hardcore porn.” Hardcore pornography is a worldwide exploding epidemic, but so-called soft pornography has already completely saturated especially western culture to the point that nearly everything advertised is marketed with some degree of sex appeal (e.g., hamburgers, jewelry, clothes, cars). Movies, music videos, video games, magazines, books and the Internet are awash with soft and hardcore pornography. Pornography of some degree is so plentiful that it is not uncommon for children or adults to come in contact with it even involuntarily. As long as pornography continues to be big business (billions of dollars annually) and to appeal to the baser side of humanity (mostly to men but to many women, too), it will continue to reshape both individuals and society in the mold of wickedness away from the “good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1-2 NKJV).
In addition, pornography desensitizes men and women about the interpersonal, reciprocal sexual relationship that God designed for one man and one woman alone within the bounds of God-approved, lifelong marriage (Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6, 9). Pornography highjacks the true beauty of physical intimacy between a husband and a wife (Song of Solomon 4:5; Proverbs 5:18-20; 1 Corinthians 7:1-5), relegating it merely to compassionless physical activity with no moral significance, which furthermore, has as its only object carnal pleasure. Through pornography, men and women and children are degraded to the status of tools as though they were mere inanimate objects with no greater value. Pornography changes individuals adversely and has scandalously altered western culture, too.
Some estimates state that up to 10% of the Internet is comprised of pornography, and that 25% of web searches daily are for pornography. High percentages of men and women to a lesser degree engage in pornography regularly through various media and find nothing wrong with consuming it and being consumed by it. The plague of pornography cuts across all demographics (e.g., race, politics, religions, education levels, economic brackets, etc.); no one is immune from its allurements or from its pervasiveness. Frequently prepubescent children encounter some form of pornography innocently, which happenstances can never be entirely undone.
Pornography is an ancient vice with pictures, statutes, huge rock carvings and writing depicting nudity, intercourse and sexual perversions. Only contemporary technology and media have modernized the venues and the ease with which pornography is viewed. The devices have changed, but mankind is the same—corrupted through the same three avenues of sin by which men have always been allured (1 John 2:16). Pornography is infectious and resistant to expulsion; it dulls the perception of reality and has altered the conscience of the world.
Biblical principles would have us expunge from our lives pornography and be on guard against its appeal. For instance, Jesus said, “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and cast it from you; for it is more profitable for you that one of your members perish, than for your whole body to be cast into hell” (Matthew 5:28-29). Our Lord’s words strike at the heart of pornography—“lust”! He also indicated the nature of viewing women in such a way; it is a precursor to the physical sin of adultery. Then, Jesus underscored seriousness of lust with the hyperbole (exaggeration) in such instances of gouging out one’s own eye if that’s what it takes to avoid that sin. Visual sexual excitement outside of marriage is forbidden!
From the words of our Lord in Matthew 5:28-29 above as well as from Mark 7:21-23, it becomes clear that one does not have to commit explicit, physical acts to commit sin, but one can commit sin internally—within his or her own mind. “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” However, we also commit sin when we approve the sinful activities of others (Romans 1:32), and no truly pious person would dismiss as spiritually inconsequential various gradations of public undress to fornication, adultery and every conceivable manifestation of carnal debauchery. We cannot approve of sin and remain innocent ourselves!
We must “flee sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18), which implicitly would preclude our appreciation of it acted out by others. We must bring “every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and we must choose to “mediate” on “anything praiseworthy.” “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
We need to police ourselves to view the world and its enticements, not through the corrupted lenses of ungodliness, but instead as Almighty God views it. We need to screen the television shows that we watch, the movies to which we go or view, the places to which we go, our music (lyrics and videos) and the companions with whom we spend time. It may be necessary for us to reevaluate what we perceive as beautiful to coincide with what God deems lovely and honorable.