Pornography … the Distortion of the Divine Image

By: Wolfgang Vondey
Monday, April 26th, 2010

Few topics are as difficult to discuss in Christian circles as pornography. We may find an occasional sermon about the human body and perhaps a tract on sexuality in the church pews. But can you recall a sermon, a Sunday School lesson, college class discussion, or just your everyday conversation with other Christians to broach the subject of pornography? The reasons are all too obvious. Pornography is the silent addiction that holds many Christians to the unwanted reality of their carnal nature. We do not bring up the subject in conversation because we fear that the other might be involved in it or might think that we are. And perhaps both of those assumptions are true.

Pornography is an addiction. And as all addictions, it seeks to destroy us. Once the hidden secret of those who purchased the magazines tucked away in certain areas of book stores and newspaper stands, pornography is now available openly to everyone. We expose our toddlers to the bikini girls in the check-out lines, sex magazines have moved next to home and garden publications, invitations to pornographic sites clutter our junk email, and a simple click on the Internet takes our teenagers to the pages that know no secret. Yet even in this scenario, the reality of the pornographic addiction is passed on to others. Yes, indeed, our children and spouses are at risk. But let’s change the subject more clearly. Let’s stop pretending that pornography is like a rare disease that strikes only certain people, certain age groups, a certain cultural demographic, and a certain gender. Pornography is available to everyone. Everyone is exposed. We all are. You are. I am. We have made the means to become addicted accessible to apostles and prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. And as Christians, we have surprisingly little to say about it.

I have noted in an earlier post that the absence of thought about God in the sex life of Christians is symptomatic of the problem that we isolate God to only certain parts of our lives. Pornography is no exception. The world of glamour (and especially the not so glamorous depictions) leave no room for the glory of God. Don’t get me wrong, the human body is created by God and as such is beautiful in all its forms. The sharing of our nakedness in the marital relationship can be a means to reflect the glory and presence of God as it was shared by Adam and Eve in their unfallen condition. But the Fall immediately led to a distortion of the image of God in the other. Aware of each others nakedness, they began to cover their bodies. In a manner of speaking, the opening of their eyes (Gen. 3:7) is the biblical way of speaking about pornography. What is implied here is that their eyes should have been closed. Closed, at least, to the temptation of visual pleasures offered by the serpent. Instead, their eyes should have been open to the glory of God, the beauty, and splendor of God’s presence. But pornography had distorted the image of God.  The same distortion of the image of God in the lives of many Christians is real and dramatic. It is a sign that God has been left outside of the technological revolution, the success and attraction of the new (and old) media. As we switch on the power of our televisions, computers, monitors, cell phones, and electronic book readers, we turn off our thoughts about God.

Addiction is not easily broken. Those who are addicted often cannot free themselves. Those who are not addicted do not know how to engage the addicted person. More importantly, both sides often do not know why they should engage each other in the first place. We fail to see the theological consequences of pornography. What is exposed in graphic detail is not only the exploited body of the human being–it is the image of God (in us and the other). Our theology books offer no help here, no sermons admonish, no Sunday school lesson teach. What’s worse, many Christians simply condemn the activity. Those who have become aware of their own addiction are often left with overwhelming guilt. In the aftermath, they accuse themselves to have lost all power of the Christian life. In the midst of the act, the choice between turning off the power button and switching on God’s presence appears overwhelmingly difficult. And yet, it is there where we have to open our eyes to God’s presence: in the midst of our struggles, in the maelstrom of our addictions, God is not absent! The very thought of God in that situation is in fact a reflection of God’s longing for us. Theology needs to invade these areas of discussions, the problems, hardships, and addictions of the human life. We need to bring God into our most private, most personal, most intimate moments. What we will discover is that God is already there!

Can you imagine what Christians would have to say about pornography? About sexuality? About the physical reality of the human life? About the beauty of God and the reflection of the divine image in the human body? All of those questions are the subject matter of Christian theology. Why do we hesitate?

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Wolfgang Vondey
This entry was posted by on Monday, April 26th, 2010 at 5:00 am and is filed under Faith & Culture, Family Life, Renewal Studies, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

6 Responses to “Pornography … the Distortion of the Divine Image”

  1. Jason Wermuth says:

    Dr. Vondey,

    This is a huge issue and I’m glad someone was able to tackle it with such boldness. The image of God in men and women is being distorted by this evil enterprise. Pornography is one of the most serious issues our culture faces today. Christian pastors and parishioners are falling daily to this growing cancer and young people are inundated with these images at younger and younger ages! The church needs to stop ignoring this albatross and go on an active offensive against the degradation of the image of God in the men and women sucked into pornography on both sides.

    JW

  2. Laura Latora says:

    Dr. Vondey,

    This is an issue that is close to my heart. I am very passionate about seeing people freed from this addiction. I believe that the rise in availability of pornography is one of the major contributors to the growth in human trafficking. It’s frightening to look at the statistics of how many pastors are addicted to pornography. I really believe accountability and transparency are needed in this area. http://www.xxxchurch.com has been helping people fight this battle for a long time and they have great accountability software. This is just one practical step, among many, that can help people educate themselves about this addiction so they can begin to heal.
    God Bless,
    Laura Latora

    • Thanks, Laura. That is a good resource. With our pastors suffer their families, their parishoners, their confidence and spiritual authority. Pornography is Babylon. It time for the church to say together with the Lord, “Come out of her, my people!”

  3. Deb Vaughn says:

    Hello Dr. Vondey -
    Laura beat me to it on the xxx.church resource. There is also a re-print of a Mutuality Magazine available from Christians for Biblical Equality (www.cbeinternational.org.) (direct link to purchase is here: http://equalitydepot.com/pornographyandthechurch1.aspx)

    What is especially disturbing as I work with women in the church is that pornography not only hurts the marriage (not to mention the trust fact in the relationship) it degrades human beings into sexual beings only. We are all much more than that.

    Peace -
    Deb

  4. Marc S. says:

    I was recently thinking about the sacredness of Eden and how Adam and Eve were “naked and unashamed.” But then I think about this “Girls Gone Wild” & “MTV Spring Break” culture in which we live and think, “These guys & gals are getting naked and they don’t seem very ashamed.” Is this like Eden then? But the more I ponder it, I think that there’s a big difference between being “unashamed” and “un-embarrassed.” I think we can seemingly be unembarrassed–but, because, we are all made in God’s image, shame is inevitable whenever we trump our sexuality with sensuality.

    When you wrote that “the opening of their eyes” (Gen. 3:7) was, in a manner of speaking, a reference to pornography (pornea), I found that to be insightful. For, indeed, when Eve & Adam were exposed to a knowledge beyond their capacity to bear, the exclusive sacredness of their sexual reality was splintered…and they were left having to deal with shame. And many experts in addiction (like Patrick Carnes) will tell us that shame is an integral ingredient to the addiction cycle. Because so many sex addicts find themselves branded by and drowning in shame (because of their behavior), they just need to feel good again–to find a temporary oasis from their shame–and they turn right back to their porn addiction because of the chemical brain rush and emotional secuirty it offers them (for the moment).

    Anyhow, the sad thing is that porn and shame are symptoms–bad symptoms of hungry hearts looking for connection and intimacy on their own terms. We are all broken and starving for our Edenic heritage–and we are all trying to find this kind of “relational shalom” in any way we can. Some look for it in porn, some in homosexuality, some in adultery, some in fantasy, some in one bad relationship after another…the list goes on. Thanks for shedding some theological light on this taboo topic of porn. Perhaps families and churches will do their part in bringing this secret addiction to the pulpit, in small groups and in the desperate moments of deeply personal conversations.

  5. Domingo Gladish says:

    Very intereresting reading. thx