The Normalization of Porn Is Not Normal

Carl Trueman has some important reflections on the normalization of pornography in Great Britain, but I think his observations apply to this side of the Atlantic as well. He writes:

Internet pornography is probably the number one pastoral problem in the world today. I wonder if it is set to become yet more so: as the social shame dimension passes away, it will be harder to maintain discipline on this issue. The Christian church is currently mesmerized by developments relative to sexuality, not least because these development are couched in the rhetoric of civil rights and have serious legal implications. I wonder if a more serious and lethal internal issue for the church will actually turn out to be pornography. Holding the line on this will probably not come with direct legal and financial penalties attached; but when even The Spectator carries not one but two articles in a single week which assume the harmless normality of porn consumption, the pastoral challenge of preaching and maintaining basic sexual purity in the church is set to escalate beyond our wildest nightmares.

I think Trueman’s suspicions are right on target. The pornography epidemic is an absolute spiritual crisis in the church. Twenty-five years ago, it was normal to hear Christian men confess to one another about their struggles with lust. It was not normal to hear those men confess to a daily diet of hardcore pornography. That has all changed.

Now what is considered to be a “normal” struggle with lust has been completely transformed–changed in ways that we could hardly have imagined two decades ago. It’s not just that men are looking at internet porn. It’s that they’ve been viewing it for years on end. The internet has been with us long enough now that some of them were hooked while still children living underneath their parents’ roofs. For them, the perversion has become hard-wired and all too normal.

The pastoral challenge is indeed immense, and it consists in large part in trying to convince users that this behavior is anything but “normal.” It’s a deviancy that is enslaving and carrying away an entire generation. It is spiritual poison.

That is why I cannot end these reflections without highlighting Heath Lambert’s new book. It is just the right resource for our time. I have read this book, and it is a gospel-centered, bible-saturated guide for men who wish to be free from the normalization of porn in their own lives. I don’t know of any other book like it. It’s titled Finally Free: Fighting for Purity with the Power of Grace. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Although porn may be ubiquitous in the culture, we must not accept its ubiquity in our churches as “normal.” We have a generation of Christians before us that need their minds renewed on this very point. We need to foster communities where holiness is cherished and that do not acquiesce to the ways in which our culture has defined deviancy down.

14 Responses to The Normalization of Porn Is Not Normal

  1. Debbie Mosley August 7, 2013 at 2:10 am #

    One major problem within the church walls is how women dress. Sundresses, lowcut shirts and extremely short skirts are the weekly norm. I heard Jack Graham address this in his series on parenting. The moms dress provacitively and they teach their girls to do the same. They want to be like Britney or Beyonce.
    men write letters to pastor Graham that this is a very serious problem. They don’t want to see women dress down on Sunday. They get a daily dose of it at work and school. In his sermon Jack tells parents to not let girls have a “slutty ” self image. Pastors should address this problem more.

  2. Brett Cody August 7, 2013 at 8:45 am #

    This is loosely related, but I have noticed with regard to women’s appearance standards that the women in church are able to display their sun tanned skin very easily in church. It is troubling that they can easily and with a sense of personal ‘right’ show off their tan. What’s worse, they have taken the time to bare their bodies long enough to be tanned in areas that I find objectional for Christian ladies to tan! I am not trying to shift blame for sexual sin off of men, but when a man sees a woman with a tan being displayed in certain areas of her body it is a serious challenge to his thought life! Isn’t protecting the purity of the men in the congregation of the church worth more to the Christian ladies than sporting the latest fashion trends and exercising their ‘right’ to wear what they want? And where do we/how do we draw the line? I am mentioning this because I really do believe that sexual purity should not just be a personal pursuit, but is a community pursuit.

    • James Stanton August 7, 2013 at 5:47 pm #

      I think the issue is a loss of a modesty. More and more exposed real estate is considered acceptable.

      I’ve been more bothered by the constant PDA I see in church services. Then again I did grow up in a church where men and women sat on opposite sides of the pews.

  3. Chris Ryan August 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm #

    Trying to control men’s lust by controlling women’s fashions is like trying to fight a fire at your house by pouring water on your neighbor’s house: Its not just ineffective, its dangerous. Sin comes from within, as Jesus says in Mark 7:15 and again in Mark 7:21. So its up to men, aided by the power of the Holy Spirit, to resist temptation and stay Christ-focused.

    Men have been accusing women of fomenting sin & lust since the Dark Ages. But if we blame women for men’s lust we may as well as blame shopkeepers for tempting shoplifters because they place the candy by the cash register, lol 🙂 And what abt women? If women said to men, “Stop wearing those polo shirts b/cs your arms are so big they give me impure thoughts” we’d laugh ourselves silly.

    The real issue is that women’s fashion can change dramatically over time. Back in the ’60s my own grandmother stopped talking to my mother for 6 months b/cs my mother started wearing pants. Grandma (born in 1916) considered it a sin. So in a single church we’re going to have some people born in the ’30s who think a particular set of attire is absolutely scandalous; other people born in the ’60s who think the attire is fine; and a set born in the ’90s who think that same attire is positively prudish.

    Now, I’m not suggesting that women go to church dressed like they’re going to the club. Quite the contrary, all of us have an obligation to respect God’s house by dressing in modest attire. But honestly this isn’t abt men’s feelings; its abt God’s house.

    • Lauren Bertrand August 8, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

      Good points, Chris. Blaming women for men’s sexual indiscretions also very obviously evokes some of the characteristics we see in fundamentalist Islam. After all, if we force the women to dress more modestly, how do we start defining modest? Call it “slippery slope” if you will, but who’s to say it wouldn’t escalate to honor killings?

  4. Brett Cody August 8, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    I agree. Expecting to solve the problem by requiring women to dress more modestly is a little like a bandaid on a headache. However, are you implying that it is okay for Christian women to dress “for the club” anywhere but church?

    • Chris Ryan August 8, 2013 at 12:08 pm #

      No, I’m not implying that. We’re pretty conservative at our church. If a woman wore a sundress to service we’d offer her a scarf or shawl to cover her shoulders, but I don’t think there’s anything immodest abt wearing a sundress out to a nice dinner. Heck, at our church, we disapprove of women wearing pants to church or going w/out stockings/hose… I don’t think we need to be that conservative outside of church… And, besides, some of the women with the longest dresses in church have acted the wildest outside of church, so we can only do so much…

  5. Roger August 8, 2013 at 12:01 pm #

    Denny, I seldom hear the word “accountability” any more. I remember when I tried to start an accountability group revolving around moral purity while in Seminary, there was little to no interest. The same has been true as I have asked repeatedly in my Sunday School Department for men to join with other men to hold each other accountable. One can still be involved with immorality and be part of an accountability group, but it then takes a conscious decision to look into the face of a Christian Brother and lie.

  6. Andy Moffat August 8, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    ChrisRyan I agree with your comments. I don’t believe we should be blaming women for mens lack of self control. However, I will also say that I wish more women would help us out a little. While in the end the responsibility for ourselves lies with ourselves, there are plenty of women who dress in ways that make that job tougher than it may need to be. Some do this knowingly, some unknowingly.

  7. Lucas Knisely August 8, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

    Denny,

    My comment isn’t showing up?

  8. Hannah Lewis August 8, 2013 at 5:43 pm #

    My comment isn’t showing up either.

    • Hannah Lewis August 8, 2013 at 5:46 pm #

      But Chris and Lauren echoed my thoughts up pretty well anyway so I’ll let it go. 😉

  9. Daniel Bartholomew August 9, 2013 at 10:10 am #

    My comment got eaten…I wonder if this one will, too! 🙁

  10. Daniel Bartholomew August 10, 2013 at 12:11 am #

    I’ll try posting again:

    No, we cannot blame immodest women for male lust. Lust is a sin. But immodesty is ALSO a sin. Don’t minimize either sin or try shifting the conversation; both are sinful in God’s eyes.

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