When it comes to porn, the question facing many men and women is simple: is it really wrong? Is it really that big of a deal? I mean, it’s just an image on a screen. It’s not someone I know, or someone I’m having an actual affair with, so I’m still faithful to my future (or current) wife. It’s just sexual release, like masturbation, and we all know that masturbation is not condemned in the Bible. It’s not even mentioned.
And isn’t sex a good thing, so what’s wrong in watching it happen? I’m just admiring beauty. And besides, I’m single, so what do you expect me to do with all this pent-up sexual energy? It seems like a safe release until I am married.
I’ve heard all of this, and more.
So is it really that big of a deal?
Yes, and here’s why:
It is sexual sin. Jesus made it clear that when we give in to lust, it is akin to the act itself. It makes no difference whether you know the person or not; lust is not tied to relationship.
It is addictive. The ubiquitous nature of porn is new to our culture, and to human sexuality, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is highly addictive in nature. As a result, it can not only begin to dominate a life, but can demand ever-increasing levels of exposure and ever-increasing degrees of experience to continue to stimulate.
It is degrading to women. In pornography, women are treated as objects. They are not fulfilling God’s dream for their life as His precious daughter, nor are they fulfilling His design for sexual expression and fulfillment. You are watching a woman who is being sinned against, treated in a way that is contemptible to her heavenly Father (whether she sees it or not – and the fact that many may not only adds to its tragic nature). And if you are a woman watching it for the men, it is equally degrading to them.
It leads to other sins. Studies are beginning to show that the effects of porn on men are more than temporary sexual stimulation: as they see women treated as objects, they begin to treat women that way. They become more sexually aggressive, leading to date rapes and expected “hook-ups.”
It harms your relationship with your current, or future, spouse. It is absolutely ridiculous to say that watching porn enhances a sexual life. Instead, it cheapens it. Those caught in its web testify to how porn quickly becomes a substitute for sexual intimacy with your spouse.
It desensitizes your soul. Sin of any kind desensitizes your spiritual life. Continued exposure to a sin such as pornography is like shooting novocaine into your soul. It deadens you and grieves the Holy Spirit in your life, forcing Him to withdraw His utmost filling in a way that diminishes His power and presence in your life.
It distorts sex. Nothing reduces sex to lust more than pornography. Yielding to such images is overwhelmingly addictive, like a narcotic that delivers a quick hit to the emotions or senses, but ravages you from within. It destroys real relationships, real intimacy, real sexuality.
I’m a pastor.
I talk with men who are dealing with the spiritual torment and guilt of engaging in pornography while trying to rationalize it away;
I talk with men who are having to fight it as an addiction;
I talk with men who are finding it is leading them to a warped view of women;
I talk with men who are experiencing its direct path to other sins;
I talk with men who are seeing its assault on their marriage;
I talk with men who are trying to awaken their souls from its deadening grip;
I talk with men who have distorted views of what sex is about.
I also talk to the wives of these men – I’ve seen the hurt, the betrayal, the wounding to intimacy, trust and self-esteem. And increasingly, I am having the same conversations with women who have become caught in its snare.
There is little doubt to those of us who work with people, and those who are themselves caught in its web, how pornography is destroying the sanctity of sex and the glory of marriage.
And we haven’t even broached what it is doing to the coming generation of men and women who have been exposed to it at the earliest of ages over multiple years.
So is pornography really wrong?
In every possible way.
James Emery White
Adapted from James Emery White, A Traveler’s Guide to the Kingdom (InterVarsity Press), available through Amazon.
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, N.C., and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His newly released book is A Traveler's Guide to the Kingdom: Journeying through the Christian Life (InterVarsity Press). To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, log on to www.churchandculture.org, where you can post your comments on this blog, view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.