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Technology and Education (7) – Romantic Relationships

It used to be that if someone wanted to view pornographic material he would have to go to a seedy place to procure it. There was a natural fear of being seen in one of these places and this fear kept many people from viewing pornography. This has changed. The internet has made pornography accessible in the privacy of one’s home. And this, in turn, has normalized pornography. We see this normalization not only in the gratuitous nudity and sexual activity in mainstream shows such as “Game of Thrones”, but in the sheer volume of pornographic consumption. The most visited porn site, Pornhub, averages 115 million visits per day, nearly the equivalent of the combined populations of Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Poland and it is the fourth most visited site on the internet behind only Wikipedia, Microsoft, and Netflix.

This, along with “dating” apps that foster and encourage hookups, is wreaking great destruction. Even secular writers that are pro “sexual liberation” are recognizing that a world in which people are sexually liberated is a world wherein people will be miserable for a world with no sexual morality is a world in which people are harmed. As a recent article in The Washington Post put it, “What if one party hopes for a future together and the other does not? What counts as a relationship, and what is “casual,” if the definition isn’t mutually shared? If men and women have different fertility timelines, does that affect the power dynamic? Where does money play in, or status?” The article goes on to say that using consent as our only moral standard can lead to behavior that is “harmful to an individual, their partner or to society at large.” To which the Christian replies, “of course! You have taken a small step towards the understanding of sexuality that the Hebrews already had as they wandered through the Sinai desert.” I mention this not because God’s revealed word needs support from secular thinking, but that secular thinking is so broken that even honest secular thinkers cannot deny its faults.  

There is a lot that can be said about pornography, from how it rewires the brain to its indelible connection to human trafficking, to how it exploits even those that voluntarily get caught up in the “industry”. I want to focus on just one thing in this message: Pornography is a lie.

Whereas God designed sex as a means by which a lover would connect with his beloved, pornography is the voyeuristic connection between a viewer and performers.

Whereas God designed sex to be private, pornography is a public performance.

Whereas God designed sex to be outward looking in that it is the means by which we (pro)create and receive new life, pornography is inward looking in that the viewer customizes his searches and “experiences”.

Whereas God designed sex to require that both parties exercise self-control by being exclusive with one another and deferring to one another in matters of frequency, pornography encourages and fosters impulsive and immediate gratification.

Whereas God designed sex to lead to an intimate connection of people in both their bodies and souls as part of a relationship that comprehends all of human life lived together, pornography objectifies human beings by reducing them to a collection of body parts.

Whereas God designed sex to be part of a comprehensive union, the consummation of a covenant made before Him and others, a part of a union that is filled with both joy and pleasure and duties and responsibilities, pornography reduces sex to a commercial activity to be produced and sold for profit and consumed on the consumer’s terms.  

Viewing pornography creates a mindset that undermines, if not destroys, the type of romantic relationship that God designed for us to enjoy in marriage. What is more, because pornography commodifies the human body it is inherently degrading and exploitive and thereby leads viewers and participants alike to look at others and themselves not as image bearers of the Triune God, but as mere objects.

In short, pornography is a plague. Anyone believing in some sort of universal Progress should spend five minutes reading statistics on pornography; that alone will cure him of his naivety.

The internet did not invent lust, but it has normalized and facilitated a sin that, when engaged in, makes a flourishing marriage impossible. I imagine most of us want our children to grow up to have joyful, flourishing marriages. But no matter what books they read at Charis or what sermons they hear at church, they won’t have one if they give themselves over to pornography. We as parents have a God-given duty to do what we can to keep them from this plague while they are under our roofs.

And this is hard. How do keep our children from a sin that some of us are bound in?

First off, we need to recognize that there is hope! Christ died not only to forgive our sins, but to free us from its indwelling power. I think a good first step toward freedom is to call the sin out for what it is, which is what I have tried to do in this message. A think a second wise step is probably something like confession and accountably to an elder or spiritual mentor.

In terms of our children, I know there are blocks and programs to keep them from wicked websites, but I don’t understand these well enough to comment on them and frankly I assume that most of our children are more tech savvy than we are and that they will thereby be able to bypass any digital road blocks we put in their way (though my understanding is that Covenant Eyes is something that tracks without blocking and it seems pretty reliable). I think a wise course of action is to not have our children be on screens in private places. And finally, we need to talk to them about this. More than once. As uncomfortable as that can be, we have a duty to keep our children from this noxious plague.