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?