What’s the problem with pornography?
It's bigger than lust, and more than just disobeying the Bible.
When it comes to thinking about how to live as a Christian, pornography is one of the most talked about topics that comes up. And you can guarantee that when you hear pornography being talked about in Christian circles, we're told that it's bad because:
- It's lust
- It's not living the Bible's way
And usually, the answer is accountability - signing up for the Covenant Eyes program, meeting regularly with an accountability buddy (someone you will talk about your struggles with and pray with).
Without undermining the value of Covenant Eyes and accountability, it's always seemed to me like a helpful step in the right direction, but ultimately not enough of a real answer to effectively deal with the temptation of porn.
The issue is bigger than lust and disobeying the rules of the Bible - faith is richer and deeper than simply obedience. So we need to think deeper.
A problem for men and women
Pornography (and ultimately any form of 'media' such as billboard ads, books, art, music etc) tells a story about what it means to be human. The story in pornography is that we like sex. We find other people attractive. The thought of being intimate is alluring.
But pornography has a stronger message still; about what it means to be male and female. And when we think about this, we'll see that pornography is devastating and destructive. Rather than just being an issue of lust and disobedience, pornography is evil, because of it's message about male and female.
But before we think about that, we need a good foundation. So it's helpful to stop and think about what the Bible says about being male and female. A really good place to start is Genesis 1-3.
How God views people
In Genesis 1, we read about God creating man and woman (1:26-27), together as bearers of his image and likeness. Man and Woman together are equally given the dignity and honour of being God's image bearers. One is not more in the image of God than the other; they are both equal in their status as "images of God". You could even say that it's together, as they relate to one another, that they reflect what God is like; a social, relational God.
In chapter 2, the story focuses more on the people and their role in the world. The man is made to cultivate the garden; yet it's not good for the man to be alone. So the woman is made as a companion to the man - not made for the man's entertainment, and not primarily made to make the man happy - she's made to work alongside him, as his partner.
However, they are not exactly the same. They complement one another. A big part of their role in creation is to make family - if man and woman were the same, then making family wouldn't work.
In chapter 3, we learn about sin - and we see what sin does to this relationship; when confronted with sin, the man blames the woman (and God for making her) , and the woman blames the snake for deceiving her. As a part of God's judgment, he says that man and woman would fight for dominance, but that ultimately, men would rule over women (3:16).
So the Bible's message about male and female is that we are both images of God. We are both given the dignity and honour of being made in God's image. We both share the role of ruling over God's creation and making families together. However an effect of sin is that our relationships are strained and damaged, and now there is a constant fight for power and dominance; a fight that men often win, resulting in the oppression of women.
The value of a woman
With this richer understanding of male and female; equal in value and status of being made in the image of God, we're able to think more critically about pornography. The overwhelming story of porn is that a girl exists for the entertainment of men, for the purpose of selling website subscriptions. Porn is all about male dominance and making money.
Porn is destructive and evil because it takes away from a woman what God has given to her; her equal status as a bearer of God's image; it degrades her from 'created in God's image' to 'created thing to be ruled over'. Porn is destructive and evil because it elevates a man's status; not as an equal bearer of God's image, but as a little god himself, who can do what he wants to his woman.
Porn makes women slaves to men. Slavery is not equality, or companionship, or even humanity. Slavery is dehumanising; she is a slave to a man's desires, for the purpose of selling website subscriptions. Pornography turns a woman from a human into cattle.
And that makes it repulsive. That should turn arousal into disgust.
Do you struggle with the temptation to watch porn? Then sign up for Covenant Eyes, or meet up with a youth leader or trusted Christian friend who will hold you accountable. But more than that; dig deeply into the richness of God's word; think about what he says about men, women and sex - there's loads more in there than what I've explained here.
Because the goal is not just to break a bad habit, but to grow a deeper understanding of God, and what it means to be made in his image, and what it means to relate to each other as images of God. And therefore, to grow a greater hatred of anything that dehumanises other humans, and therefore a greater appreciation and understanding of Jesus as the ultimate human, and his ultimate expression of love for us; one that gives life and freedom - not one that takes and enslaves.