- On Porn: A Catastrophic Pastoral Failure
- On Porn: Defining Porn, and Double Standards
- On Porn: Arguments Against It Examined
- On Porn: Some Interesting Links
- On Porn: More Interesting Links
- On Porn: Get yourself a reputation…
So far, in our study of pornography we have tried to define and differentiate pornography from other related phenomena. We also tried to examine closely some arguments against it. Our attention will turn now at the responses to porn in a Christian environment. This is a question of increasing relevance, after the recent news about high-profile Christian leaders who confessed the commission of different instances of sexual sin.
Starting from an hypotethical case of an adult Christian individual caught consuming porn, we shall look at responses from three angles: spousal, community, and pastoral. The approach should be descriptive, without any intention to judge or criticize. The time for criticism will come later.
Please have in mind that this exploration is highly tentative; and, as always, your comments and feedback will be highly appreciated.
The most intimate realm where a response could be noted is the spousal. For a Christian caught consuming pornography, the responses at the spousal level could be devastating for him/herself and his/her marriage. Please note that this applies most commonly to cases where the husband is the one caught.
If we could sum up the spousal responses in one word, this would be “victimization”. The responses tend to show that the spouse of a Christian caught consuming porn is a victim harmed by the offending spouse’s behavior. In our understanding, spousal responses to pornography consumption could be described by five aspects. Four of these are feelings: inadequacy, betrayal, repugnance, and self-righteousness. One is an intention: intention of divorce/breakup. In our analysis, we intentionally left out basic emotions (such as anger or sadness), for the sake of clarity and brevity.
Inadequacy One of the first spousal responses to porn consumption to make its appearance is the feeling of inadequacy. Upon learning of the shocking predicament of the offending spouse, the “victim” party usually thinks: “it is obvious that I could never compete with that bimbo at the Playboy centerfold!” In other words, they feel inadequate to satisfy the husband’s desires, or to ignite his passion. They feel un-desired, un-loved, un-cared. They feel rejected.
Especially for male consumers of pornography, a spousal response like this may come as a surprise. The porn consumer is an expert at hypocrisy, and the fact that he had been living a very compartimentalized life renders him unable to understand why his wife feel this way. Yet, this response is by no means fake or exaggerated. It is real and it should be dealth with both intimately, within the marriage, and pastorally, outside it.
Addressing this feeling is of utmost importance for adequate
restoration, since it essential for a wife to feel loved, cared for,
and accepted by her husband. The offending husband usually strongly loves his wife and cares for her, and would not dream, even for a single second, about leaving her or committing physical adultery with someone else; but he should keep in mind why his wife perceives his failure as inadequacy.
Betrayal. This is a strong response usually felt by wives of offending husbands. “I have saved myself for him; I tried to look pretty for him; I made countless sacrifices for him! I respected him as the head of the family, as my lord and master… and it turns out that, unbeknownst to me, the filthy pervert was debasing himself with that smut, all this time!” The feeling of betrayal stems not only from the “disgusting” or “forbidden” nature of the offense; the fact that the offending party concealed the habit for a long time is a big contributor.
Repugnance. This feeling emerges due to the shocking nature of the pornographic material, and, even more so, because most pornography tends to deviate from what we regard as accepted standard notions of sexual behavior. The response usually is more intense when the spouse had a strict upbringing, but ultimately the level of repugnance varies highly.
Self-righteousness. This response usually appears in the offended party. “What a dirty pervert! Thank heavens I would NEVER do something similar!” Spouses, on the wake of learning about the offenses commited by the husbands, think they are above committing something similar and, as a consequence, begin to think that they are “better” than their husbands.
Of course, a reality check would readily show that every person is an intrinsically perverted sinner, able in principle of committing the most heinous acts known by humankind. Women might not be readily attracted to the kind of pornography that catches the attention of their husbands, but they have their own basest temptations to fight. Self-righteousness is something that needs to be energically addressed by pastoral care in these cases.
Divorce/breakup. Sometimes, the extent of the hurt felt by the offended party is such that she deems the marriage void and thus she seeks to break it by separation or divorce. Again, this is not an exaggeration; the hurt feelings sometimes are so deep that restoration of the marriage covenant looks as something extremely difficult to achieve.
The next level where we could find responses is that of the community; specifically, the realm of the Christian community or local church where the offense took place. Sadly, the level of hypocrisy in such environments tends to be high, and therefore the key theme here is that of self-righteousness.
Among the responses, we can identify three important ones: repugnance, self-righteousness, and isolation.
We already considered feelings of repugnance and self-righteousness when we dealt with spousal responses, where we mentioned that one of the expected actions in return was the breaking up of the relationship. In the case of the community, the expected response is one of isolation. “He’s not one of us,” they tend to think. And, instead of reaching out to one fallen member in desperate need of discipline and restoration, the community turns its back on him.
Repugnance. Prevalence of this feeling in the community stems not only of the shocking nature of most pornographic material (as it was in the “spousal” case); it comes mostly because pornography is by definition outside the accepted morality standards of any community. Therefore, the expected social reaction should be that of repugnance.
Isolation. Since the community decides that they are different — i.e, better– than the offending party, the latter is isolated and often severed from the community, which has to remain “wholesome”. So, witness the case of pastors caught in sexual sin who are summarily fired instead of being offered church discipline and Biblical restoration.
Self-righteousness. This reaction comes when one of the members have been exposed as a committer of sexual sins. The community re-affirms their bonds of belonging by telling each one of the not-offending members, “we are better than him. Look at that awful thing he has been doing. We would NEVER do such a filthy deed, thanks heavens!”
For the most part, the isolation accorded to the offender by the community is motivated by the standard pastoral responses, who tend to be swift, firm, and usually not very careful. This is understandable, since cases of persons caught consuming pornography are usually high profile (generally a consecuence of spousal reactions to the incident), and pastors have the well-being of the congregation as their first concern.
I shall mention four typical pastoral responses: Intervention and disruption, shaming and exposure, treatment for addictions, and tight control.
Intervention and Disruption. Pastoral action usually intervenes inside the family life of the person caught consuming pornography, treating this case as a major emergency because, in the pastor’s eyes, said person is guilty of total moral failure. In some cases it even looks like the family is now being run by the pastors and not by the family head. This action is highly traumatic for all members of the family involved.
Shaming and Exposure. Pastors usually coerce the person caught consuming pornography into appearing before the congregation to “confess” their sin and asking for forgiveness. This is utterly strange, since the the consumption of pornography is usually done in private; but the sinner is publicly shamed and exposed as a filthy pervert.
Treatment for Addictions. Since pornography consumption is such a horrible evil, it must be an addiction. Pastors usually thinks that this is because pornography is done against the sinner’s best intentions and wishes and despite his better self. The guilty party is not only a sinner; he is also a sick, very sick person in need of “therapy”.
Tight Control. After seeing his family being run by strangers, after appearing before an auditorium full of acquaintances to say he himself is a pervert, and after submitting to a grueling “addiction” program, the person guilty of pornography consumption must give up all hopes of any significant privacy. Now his life is run by Big Brother.
Big Brother has access to everything. The emails are read. Logs of Web visits are saved somewhere else. There are “accountability partners” who ask about everything. And then there is the family; the spouse, if there’s still one left, feels endowed with the right to read everything, know everything, overhear everything.
Thus, the Church’s ongoing war against Christian males gets one more victim, whose life will never be the same again, and who supposedly has no one to complain for this but himself.
A brief survey of these responses against the consumption of pornography shows plainly the fact that they have two important traits: (1) a strong overreaction, and (2) an equally strong desire to punish the offender. Restoration concerns come second.
No one can deny that, given the emergence of pornography consumption or another similar sexual sin, these traits will be present with incredible force, and the responses will be very similar to what I have written here. Problem is, this is not the Christian way! (see John 8:1-11 for an example).
We need to change the way the Church is treating this problem. Right now, it looks more and more like an indictment of male sexuality than a pursuit of holiness. We can do better! We should improve all levels: pastoral, community, and family/spousal. The pastors, the persons who should know better, should change first. They, in turn, can help the community to become more prepared to exercise Biblical, restorative church discipline and then the community can help the spouses and the families to cope with their very real hurt. Again, we must do better than this sad state of things.
On the next post, I intend to explore the real reasons why pornography is bad. Stay tuned!