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***Porn*** (pt 1)

[This post contains explicit descriptions and is not suitable for all audiences]

How should we think about porn?

Porn has been normalized and seems to be accepted for the most part in mainstream culture. It may not always be openly promoted but it seems to be assumed. It seems wise, in part because of porns prevalence, to at least consider the impact it is having and the place it should (or shouldn’t) have in our lives. 

In America, there is no broadly shared consensus regarding sex.[i] For example, there are various answers to these important questions: What is the purpose of sex and when and with whom should we have it? Connected to people’s view of sex is people’s view of pornography.

Statistics,[ii] as well mere observation of culture (e.g. Snapchat, Instagram), show us that there is moral ambiguity towards porn. In fact, teens and young adults view overeating as more immoral than viewing porn.[iii] So, as “access to pornography has increased, the stigma toward it has seemingly decreased.”[iv] I would suggest, however, that we shouldn’t assume this is a good thing.

I don’t think that we should blindly accept that porn consumption doesn’t matter. We would be wise to have and be able to defend our position on porn. As Socrates reportedly said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”

How do we evaluate the acceptability of porn? There are two main ways we can evaluate porn and I believe they are both important to look at. We can look at porn from a 1) natural perspective and from a 2) supernatural perspective.

The Natural Perspective 

Here are two questions I believe it is wise to answer: Does porn promote human flourishing? Does porn help individuals and society thrive? Those are obviously big questions (that we can not exhaustively cover here) but they are important to consider.

Porn and Self-image 

Porn can turn healthy self-image into an unhealthy “sex-image” where people measure themselves by the images they view or by the images their partner views. Porn can very negatively affect self-image. For example, “A 2012 study of college-aged women with male partners who used porn concluded that the young women suffered diminished self-esteem, relationship quality and sexual satisfaction correlated with their partners’ porn use.”[v]

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Look before you… Entertainment

There is something about physical harm and pain that reminds us to look before we… leap. Why? Because we leaped one too many times without looking and our brain has trained us not to do that again. That’s the way our brains work. And our brains work well. That is, at least, for a lot of things. However, our brains may work against us when it comes to others things.

We sit down and watch a cute, funny dog video on YouTube and that’s fine; no pain. Actually, we quite enjoy it. Our brains do not tell us: Look before you… watch. So, we don’t. We don’t consider what we watch or how often we watch because, after all, we like it.

Plus, entertainment is everything.[1] But, is it? Or, should it be? We would do well to consider this question as (likely) the most entertained people in all of history.[2]

What is “entertainment”? What does that word mean? It has been defined in this way: “the action of providing or being provided with amusement or enjoyment.” So, entertainment gives us pleasure, enjoyment, and diversion; especially by a performance of some kind. For instance, I was entertained at NitroCircus when Travis Pastrana did a double backflip on a dirt bike.

To quote someone from a different arena, it would have been fitting for Pastrana to scream out:

“Are you not entertained?! Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!”

There is a danger that people will die in entertaining us but is there also a danger for us as we are endlessly entertained?

Neil Postman wrote in 1985 about the danger of, as his book title says, Amusing Ourselves to Death, and that was before public internet, let alone social media and the smart phone. It is not an understatement to say that we are likely to amuse ourselves to death. There are serious health risks for us when all we care about is entertainment. There is the further danger that we’re not living and loving as we should. We’re liable to amuse ourselves until death, and never do anything worthwhile with the time we’ve been given.

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Constructing A Christ-Exalting Home

Proverbs 24:3 says, “By wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established.” Building a house takes wisdom. Building a house takes intentionality. Building a house takes partnership. How much more a Christ-exalting home?

How is a biblical—Christ-exalting—house constructed? A Christ-exalting home is certainly not the standard option. It’s not the default model. It is intentional and premeditated. The home on its own tends toward chaos, not Christ.

A family that functions biblically and intentionally does not happen haphazardly. Wisdom, intentionality, and partnership are needed. Where will parents receive the tools they need? Or can they just subcontract the work out and have someone else deal with the messy issues of building up a family?

My goal here is not to layout the “blue print” for exactly what the house should look like. That is not my job. My desire is to point you to the crucial need that we all have to build on the firm bedrock of Christ. I can’t build it for you. But I can and must tell you to center your family’s life on Christ! 

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Parenting is a Blast!

Parenting is a blast to my plans, dreams, and aspirations. Parenting is a drain on my time and money. Parenting is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done; even beyond the difficulties of being married for 8 years.

Diapers, dishes, and unprecedented decibel levels, parenting challenges me and my wife. Parenting is a blast to our self-control and self-suffenticy. We crash and come to the end of ourselves on a daily basis.

We daily need to point each other towards grace and patience, but I’m not saying we always do. We more and more each see our need to abide in Christ and thus bear fruit (Jn. 15:4), fruit like grace and patience; but, again, I’m not saying we always do.

Parenting has added to me and my wife’s chore list, carpet, and cares but it is a blast in a fun sense as well. Even on days when the vacuum cleaner explodes and sends shards of old messes back to their familiar home, or when the entire glass of orange juice and bowl of milk gets dumped on the floor (in the dinning room that has white carpet!), or when the kids are begging for food when dinner is sill being cleaned up…

Even on those types of days (most days), when the kids are in bed, we often find ourselves looking at pictures of our kids and recounting the day’s fun stories. 

Two lessons we’re trying to remember in the midst of the blast:

  1. Abide in Christ and look to Him for grace and patience. He has been gracious and patient with me and my wife and He can help us be gracious and patient with our kids.
  2. Time flys. So we should enjoy all the fun with our kids as we can. And say “yes” whenever we can (without spoiling them). Soon it will be they that say “no” to us. 

Technology: Connected and Out of Touch

How surreal, I am sitting in a Starbucks and there is an older couple sitting across from me. By all appearances they do not know each other. Their “date,” from what I can tell from spying, consists of looking at their cell phone (maybe the new iPhone 6s), touching it, and occasionally showing each other something on their phone; no doubt a new high score on “angry birds” or some other profound thing like a YouTube video of a monkey.

This is surreal for two reasons: 1) When this couple got together and started dating they could never have imagined the technology that would be available in the palm of their hand. Maybe this partly explains why they are so captivated by their phone and not by the actual person setting beside them. 2) When this couple got together, maybe thirty years ago, they could not have imagined wanting to hold some device in their hand rather than their loved ones’ hand.

Yet how things change. Affections fade and technology grows. And perhaps there is a correlation between the two distancing polls. If we hold a device in our hand instead of our loved ones’ hand, if we have “facetime” instead of real face time, if we have “facebook” and not time with real faces, if we have tweets and not conversations there will necessarily be a distancing effect from technology. And it will likely be that as technology advances so will be the chasm between relationships. However, if we start to put the work in on our relationships that any computer programmer puts in on technology then we may be able to keep pace with the discordant dissidents of technology. But this will require the intentionality and work ethic of those that are bringing us these great advances in technology.

In all of this realize that I am by no means saying that technology and advances in technology are bad, they are not in and of themselves (For instance, things like Skype can help relationships). Yet we must be very conscious in our use of technology. We must consider, am I playing “Tomb Raider” (or whatever it is called) when I should be looking deeply into my loved ones’ eyes? Am I “iTexting” when I should be talking to the person beside me? When I turn on my phone do I turn off my head? Does the “feed” on Facebook or Twitter feed my soul and intellect or does it leave me malnourished and hungry for something of substance like a book? Does being connected to the internet connect me to the world or allow me to be safely removed from it? 

I have found these questions surprisingly relevant and present but often unheeded in my own life. I have noticed on more than a few occasions when my family is visiting that we will set around in the living room with more than one person on a technological device. We’ll be “hanging out” yet the majority of the people in the room are on a computer or some such thing. This form of “hanging out” is much different then I remember growing up, and I’m only twenty-eight! My kids will have to be especially careful in their use of technology.

Family Worship

Regaining family worship is essential to having a church, culture, and society that lives for the LORD. It is when parents love the LORD their God with all their heart that they will teach their kids God’s truth diligently (see Deut. 6:4-9). I pray that the Church will resolve and say with Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15).

Family worship does not need to take a lot of time but should be regular and strive to be appropriate for the age groups involved. What do we do in family worship? There are three vital things:

  1. Read: It is the Word of God that is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). It fun to ask a question about one of the verses that was read or have the child pick one verse to ask about. It is also helpful to teach kids to pray about something that is read in the Bible.
  2. Pray: We should teach our kids to go to God in prayer. This teaches them reliance on God.
  3. Sing: We are exhorted all over Scripture to sing songs to the Lord and this is something kids have the tendency to especially enjoy.

Other things that are helpful:

Bible Memory: Almost every night before the kids go to bed we say a Bible verse with them. My son at this time has around fifteen Bible verses memorized. It has been fun hearing him recite the verses and asking to say the Bible verse. He asks to say “the heart one,” referring to Proverbs 3:5-6.

Catechism: Another practice that has been helpful is teaching our kids theological questions and there answers. Uriah is part of the way through the little book at this point. It has been great to see the connections he is already making regarding the things of God because of this practice. 

Constant Intentionality: Take every chance you get to teach your kids (Deut. 6:6-9). When the sun is setting overhead tell your kids who made it and praise God for it. When a need arises pray about it and be sure to include the kids.

Resources:

  • Child’s Story Bible by Cathrine Vos
  • Jesus Story Book Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
  • Big Truths for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware
  • My 1st Book Of Questions and Answers by Carine Mackenzie
  • familyworshipproject.com
  • Read narrative portions of Scripture or even just retell them. This helps to engage kid’s attention.
  • Family Worship: In the Bible, in History & in Your Home by Donald S. Whitney
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