by Sarah Jane Head – 2003 – Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission
The State of the Issue
“Pornography is a ravenous cancer destroying modern society. It is Satan’s corruption of God’s design for us as sexual beings. It is one of the most wicked and powerful weapons in Satan’s arsenal as he seeks to encourage an ever-increasing sexual lust that enslaves and consumes its victims1.” With more outlets for hard-core pornography in America than McDonald’s restaurants, Christians face the growing accessibility to a vile corruption2. Defended by the Free Speech Coalition, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and the American Library Association (ALA), corporations like General Motors are free to peddle obscene movies from its DirecTV distributors, a business that rakes in a hefty $200 million on its porn industry alone3. Altogether, pornography generates $8-10 billion a year, third only to narcotics and gambling in profits from criminal activity4.
Pornography no longer has to be viewed in steamy theaters or perilously bought at an adult bookstore; the Internet’s useful and productive tools have also proven to be a tool of immorality. Porn on the Web is accessible, affordable, and anonymous. Accessibility allows small children as well as adults to view explicitly obscene images. While many parents opt for a filtering system, public libraries and many schools allow open access to all web sites. Continued pressure from the ACLU and ALA to protect First Amendment rights has led to children being exposed to pornography and the increase in usage of illegal child pornography. Starting with the Communications Decency Act of 1996, concerned lawmakers attempted to obscene material. The proposed act, which never passed Congress, was to be reinforced by the Children’s Online Protection Act (1998) and the Children’s Internet Protect Act (1998). The COPA requires commercial Web sites displaying explicit material to collect a credit card number or access code as proof of age, and it defines indecency more specifically. The CIPA would require schools and libraries receiving federal funds to keep child porn and extreme obscenity off their computer screens. It also calls for libraries and schools to use filtering or blocking technologies that screen out child pornography, obscene content (bestiality, etc.), and material deemed harmful to minors (such as the porn magazines one might find in plastic wrap at a newsstand5). And contrary to allegations, properly installed filters do not limit access to information about birth control, breast cancer, or other sex-related health issues.
Those who in the past shied away from purchasing pornographic books or magazines now have access to hundreds of thousands of free Web sites with pornographic images. In fact, 69% of the online consumer market consists of adult sites6. The infiltration doesn’t stop there. One only has to enter a local mall, saunter to an Abercrombie & Fitch store, flash an ID and six dollars, and walk away with their latest catalog, complete with nude and semi-nude teenagers provocatively draped across each other, ironically attempting to sell clothes7!
Answering Some Pro-Pornography Arguments
Restricting pornography violates the First Amendment of the Constitution. “The First Amendment protects free speech but was never intended to permit the sale or distribution of porn to children on the Internet or anywhere else8.” “The ACLU,” attempting to defend their First Amendment position, “opposes…laws that restrict the production and distribution of any printed and visual materials even when some of the producers of those materials are punishable under criminal law9.” While the rights of citizens to express themselves freely should be protected, it should not be done at the expense of morality or the well-being of other citizens. A citizen’s right to drink stops when he wishes to drive, thereby possibly endangering others. In a victory for decency, twelve Minneapolis public librarians won a lawsuit claiming that exposure to pornography by patrons on library computers subjected them to a hostile work environment (a type of sexual harassment10).
Pornography is a harmless thing. 87% of those who molest girls and 77% of those who molest boys admit to regular use of hard-core pornography11. Convicted sex-murderers admit to using pornography 81% of the time before they committed murder12. The pornography industry exploits vulnerable children, exposing them to a harsh world of sexual and physical abuse before they even reach adolescence. Pornography also rips families apart. Any type of secret activity erodes communication in a marriage, especially when that activity tears at the basis of sexual intimacy in the relationship. Spouses addicted to pornography turn to fantasy actors, instead of their partners, to find fulfillment and excitement. Normal sexual activity within the marriage may also decrease, and any form of sexual contact is not “good enough” for the disillusioned person. The images of pornography lead to unrealistic expectations of body type, relationships, sexual intimacy, and marriage. Even the best hiding places for smut in a house rarely escape children’s investigations. Also, the growing amount of technology kids are familiar with allows them to easily retrace the steps of a parent on the Internet. Children exposed to pornography cannot remove the traumatic images from their memories, and often delve into a cycle of addiction as well.
The Biblical Response
With such a vast array of immorality to combat, where should Christians begin? Realizing that even the forbidden fruit was pleasing to the eyes (Genesis 3:6), we must constantly guard what enters our homes. We must also hold up the intimacy of marriage and its “one flesh” principle as the absolute best for humans today (Genesis 2:24-25; Matthew 19:4-6). Paul warned against defiling God’s temple by what is seen, or by what seeing leads a person to do (1 Corinthians 3:17). Jesus spoke out against self-gratification through lust and adultery (Matthew 5:27-30). Even if a viewer never physically acts upon what is seen, infidelity to his or her spouse, as well as to God’s plan, has been committed. The lust of the eyes (1 John 2:15-17) has been the downfall of many a person. Christians should also protect against using their liberty as a license to sin or indulge the fleshly lusts (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 2:3). Just as Joseph fled the temptation of Potiphar’s wife, we should also flee when temptation tries to entice us (Genesis 39:12; James 4:7).
Churches often think that pornography only affects people on the outside of its walls. However, a 1999 study cited in the Journal of the American Psychological Association found that 86% of men and 14% of women were likely to view pornography on the Internet13. And studies consistently reveal that the largest pornography consumers are males 24 years old and younger14. It is very likely that many of the young men who fill the pews in our local churches are among this group. With such a vast number of Americans affected by this sickness, pastors must confront the issue from the pulpit. Perhaps the childhood song from Sunday school, “Oh, be careful little eyes what you see…,” rings truer than we ever expected.
1 Richard D. Land, “Porn profits reflect its potency versus even Hollywood, rock music,” Baptist Press (Nashville, May 4, 2001).
2 “Pornography’s Relationship to Sexual Violence and Exploitation,” National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families (Cincinnati, Ohio).
3 Peter Bronson, “Porn peddlers—CEOs in raincoats,” Morality in Media (May/June 2001), pp. 4-5.
4 “Pornography’s Relationship to Sexual Violence and Exploitation,” National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families (Cincinnati, Ohio).
5 Frank J. Murray, “High Court agrees to hear second case on Internet porn,” The Washington Times (May 22, 2001); Rip Rense, “Cyber Sodom and Gomorrah III,” WorldNetDaily (July 18, 2001).
6 Robert P. Libbon, “Datadog,” American Demographics: April 2001, p.26.
7 Debra Saunders, “The catalog has no clothes,” The Washington Times (Creators Syndicate: July 16, 2001).
8 Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice, as quoted in Frank J. Murray, “High Court agrees to hear second case on Internet porn,” The Washington Times (May 22, 2001).
9 Donna Rice Hughes, Kids Online: Protecting Your Children in Cyberspace (Revell, 1998), p. 253. (emphasis added)
10 Lawrence Morahan, “Porn Created Hostile Work Environment,” Cybercast New Service at cnsnews.com. (May 30, 2001).
11 Dr. William Marshall, study at Kingston Penitentiary (Ontario, Canada, 1983).
12 “Porn Not a Victimless Crime, Activists Say,” Cybercast News Service at cnsnews.com. (May 2, 2001).
13 Robert P. Libbon, “Datadog,” American Demographics: April 2001, p. 26. (see also apa.org)
14 Richard D. Land, “Porn profits reflect its potency versus even Hollywood, rock music,” Baptist Press (Nashville, May 4, 2001).