We live in a sex-crazed culture. And it isn’t because people today are any worse than they were in the past. It primarily owes to one development: the internet. The internet is arguably the most powerful invention of the 20th century, right up there with cars, airplanes, television, penicillin, and nuclear weapons. It’s changed life in ways that are unimaginable to people who were raised with internet access in the home. The internet has done a lot of good for mankind, but it’s also responsible for the diffusion of pornography and the associated cultural decay.
I’ve transcribed a clip in which Voddie Baucham talks about overcoming temptation in what he terms a “pornographic culture.” Baucham’s strategy is to sensitize people to the widespread presence of pornography, including pornography’s more subtle expressions in daily life. This habit has a cleansing effect on the mind and affirms ” the dignity inherent in human beings made in the image of God.”
Per his author description on DesiringGod.org, “Voddie Baucham is dean of the seminary at African Christian University and previously served as Pastor of Preaching at Grace Family Baptist Church in Spring, TX. He has authored numerous books, academic journals, and magazine articles. He is married to Bridget and they have nine children. They currently live in Lusaka, Zambia” (link).
When I encounter young men or young women who are struggling with pornography–and I think one of our greatest mistakes is that we talk about pornography only in terms of young men. There are young women who struggle with pornography, not in the same way, not in the same numbers, but it’s real. We live in a pornographic culture, and that’s one of the things that makes it very difficult to deal with pornography. We’ve been so inundated with pornography that we’re desensitized to pornography, and that line at which we will say, “That’s pornographic,” has been drawn so far out into the realm of the inappropriate, that we have people who dress pornographically, and they’re not bothered by it, and we’re not bothered by it anymore.
So one thing that I say to people in this area is that we need to recognize that we’re living in a pornographic culture. And the reason I say that is because part of dealing with the roots of pornography is acknowledging the fact that we have been desensitized to it, and acknowledging the fact that my problem with pornography–let’s say that there’s a pornography scale of 1-10, and 10 is, you know, full-on, I’m engaging in the worst examples and extremes of pornography. I think culturally we probably live every day around a 3 or 4. Just in commercials, just in the things that we’ve become desensitized to. So, if I’m living at a 3 or 4, and a 5 or a 6 really doesn’t bother me anymore, then when I get to a 9–my goal in dealing with somebody who’s at a 9, is not to say come back to a 5 or 6–my goal with him is to say “I want you to recognize not just that this is an issue, but that even those things are down here in the areas that we’re not even bothered by are issues.”
Not so that the person becomes just afraid of looking around, but so that the person becomes aware of their need for Christ to cleanse their minds, not just of the website where I’m watching pornographic sex, but also of my lack of sensitivity to those every day examples of pornography that are around me. Because to the degree that I go on accepting them and am no longer bothered by them, to that degree I’m setting myself up so that the leap from that 5 to that 9 is a very short leap.
And it’s not just so that I won’t leap over to the worst of pornography, but it’s so that I can understand the dignity inherent in human beings made in the image of God, and that how my embrace of a pornographic understanding of my fellow man and fellow woman is the embrace of the destruction of their dignity. So that if I see a young woman who is presenting herself in a pornographic way–and that’s not bothering me–I’ve just said something about the dignity of that woman, as made in the image of Christ. And until that becomes an issue for me–not in the sense of walking around, sort of with my eyes blocked off–but in the sense of appropriating God’s grace and asking him to appropriate that grace in me, even at that level. Until I’m there, I’m not really dealing with this issue of pornography.
And ultimately, when I come down to it, not only is it that issue of the inherent dignity and value of human beings made in the image of God–not defrauding my brother and my sister–but also this idolatry of believing that it’s OK to use another human being in order to gratify myself in any way–sexual or otherwise.
So what I want to do–and I know it’s a long way around–but what I want to do in dealing with this issue of pornography, I want to uproot and uncover all of that so that we can not just have this, sort of, legalistic response to “I’m not going to do that, and I’m going to put things in place so I don’t do that anymore,” but so that we have a response that goes all the way back to the cleansing of our minds to be able to appreciate one another as being made in the image of God, and not just accepting this ordinary pornographic predisposition that has become so normal.