In his TV series Edges, Christian communicator and broadcaster MAL FLETCHER looks at some of the big issues of the day. Here, Mal examines the pernicious growth of pornography.

Mal Fletcher
Mal Fletcher

Some very prominent social commentators say that the growth of the porn industry reflects the breakdown in western culture. Once upon a time, pornography was something pedalled "under the counter" by people you didn't want to know. Today, porn is big business. Porn movies, for example, cost a fraction of the budget of a major Hollywood release and the US porn industry releases around 10,000 new titles each year. Most of them are played in the anonymity of private homes. The Internet revolution has opened up huge new opportunities for the distribution of porn. Experts say that the most visited sites on the web today are those containing so-called "adult content" - an industry code word for porn. Pornography is more than a harmless pass-time. It is a form of spiritual, moral and social poison.

The word pornography comes from a Greek word that literally means "the writing of prostitutes". We should reject pornography for the same reason that most people reject prostitution - because porn reduces people to something lower than they really are. People, who are awesomely complex beings, become "pleasure food"; they exist for nothing more than the gratification of others. Porn also demeans the people who use it. Studies have shown that frequent porn users suffer a breakdown in the way they see relationships. If you're used to treating people as objects whose sole purpose is to make you feel good, it's hard to switch that off and build a great relationship based on mutual respect. It's hard to start putting someone else's interests above your own. Masturbation breaks the link between the sexual act and a loving relationship. It revolves around orgasm without love. And love's the thing we need most.

Pornographers are constantly looking for new ways to spread their material and preach their message. The Internet is an ideal medium: it's fast, it's affordable and it's anonymous. Porn on the net is such big business that it's coined a whole new term, "cybersex". One expert said: "Sex on the net is like heroin. It grabs [people] and takes over their lives." Cybersex pornographers offer people thousands of easyto- access experiences with fantasy sex figures. The idealised partners of cybersex don't make demands or have needs like reallife partners do. They exist only for my pleasure. With cybersex, people feel they get maximum return for minimum effort. But ultimately cybersex is all just a sham, a fantasy. As with all porn, the only thing that's real about cybersex is the pain it leaves behind.

Today, cybersex is clearly digging its claws into marriages and families. One woman whose husband is involved with net sex said: "How can I compete with hundreds of anonymous others who are now in our bed, inside his head?" The fact is, whether people do it on the net or in the bedroom, adultery is always soul-destroying. It doesn't matter who we are, or what our background, we have all had problems at some time dealing with sexual fantasies. None of us can claim that we have never entertained a thought that, if we acted on it, would lead us to dangerous or unhealthy behaviours.

The Bible recognises how weak with are - but it doesn't excuse it (cf Romans 7:18-19). Temptation is never the end of the story: it's what we do with the temptation that shapes who we become. Jesus himself was tempted in all kinds of ways, but he didn't give in to temptation even once (cf Hebrews 4:15). The Bible teaches us how to take responsibility for our lives and how to "renew" our minds with God's help. According to the Bible, self-control is like a wall that protects the city of our emotions and thoughts (Proverbs 25:28). If you break down that wall in one corner, you expose the whole city to attack. One negative behaviour pattern can lead to many others.

The Bible concept called "sin" is about much more than breaking rules. Sin is actually another word for "spiritual poison". Sin is taking into our lives anything that works against our system, anything that acts against the way we were made. For example, if I commit adultery I will hurt others and myself. I was created in the image of God who is always faithful and compassionate and who always keeps commitments. Cheating works against the way I am "wired". Pornography is a form of spiritual poison - it is a sin. Moral and spiritual poison will always do three things: it will take us further than we wanted to go; it will keep us longer than we wanted to stay and it will cost us more than we wanted to pay.

Today, we live in a world that is filled with temptation. Sometimes, it may seem impossible for us to avoid falling. When Paul considered the human condition, he said, "Oh, what a terrible predicament I'm in! Who will free me from ... this deadly lower nature?" (Romans 7:24, Living Bible). In the next line, though, he gave us the answer. "Thanks be to God [I am free through] Christ." CR

The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.