The Porn Plague

A few years ago, an article in the magazine Atlantic carried the headline “Is Pornography Adultery?” The subhead noted, “It may be closer than you think.” According to the Family Safe Media website, every second over $3,000 is spent on pornography, and every second over 28,000 Internet users are viewing it. Is this just a matter of personal choice, or is society in the grips of what amounts to an international addiction to porn?

A 2007 survey among US college students showed that almost 50 percent of men looked at porn at least once a week compared to 3 percent of women.

An article in The Atlantic magazine quotes a Seattle-based sex columnist who embraces the often heard excuse, “It’s just a man thing. Get over it.” The article concluded, however, that indulging in today’s hard core Internet porn to relieve “the rigors of monogamy” could make adultery universal.

How does this sort of thinking affect relationships? What sort of people do we aspire to be? And what are the long-term potential results of viewing pornography?

Most Americans were stunned by the recent news that a former Cleveland school-bus driver was arrested for abducting three women and holding them captive for over nine years. According to a police report, the women had been bound for periods of time in chains or ropes and endured starvation, beatings and sexual assaults.

When given the chance to speak, convicted abductor Ariel Castro said this to the presiding judge: “I’m not a monster. I did not prey on these women. I just acted on my sexual instincts because of my sexual addiction.” He went on to say, “Like I mentioned earlier, my addiction to pornography and my sexual problem has really taken a toll on my mind.”

Interestingly, the New Testament has something to say about how we think deep down, and how we then behave. In the universally acclaimed Sermon on the Mount Jesus of Nazareth gave what some consider the greatest moral discourse available. Few people have a problem agreeing with Jesus’ words when He addressed the spirit of murder and said, “Everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:22). They see the truth behind this statement that murder begins in the heart, and that the spirit of murder is as wrong as the act itself. But they wonder whether the same principle applies to adultery, especially where pornography is concerned.

Is indulging in pornography adultery? With the advent of the Internet, it’s become much easier for anyone to become not merely one who fantasizes sexual relationships but a virtual participant in pornographic encounters. So is pornography adultery? Perhaps we should rather ask, “Is pornography wrong?”

In another part of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus is quizzed by the religious authorities about the grounds for divorce. He says that sexual immorality is the only reason. The Greek word for sexual immorality is porneia, a word with the same root as pornography. Porneia in Jesus usage means any kind of unlawful sexual intercourse or sexual unfaithfulness.

Christ’s teaching is clear. Looking on a woman or man who is not one’s married partner with a desire for sexual intercourse is defined as adultery. When you add to this Christ’s teaching that the only grounds for divorce is illicit sexual activity, one can only conclude that Jesus would have viewed indulgence in pornography as profoundly dangerous, destructive of the marriage bond, and socially catastrophic.

So did Jesus set an impossible goal with this teaching? There is every reason to point out that keeping the spirit of the law is possible for everyone. Without it we will descend, in the words of the Atlantic article, into “the sort of degradation and betrayal that only a minority of men have traditionally been involved in.”

Let’s be honest with ourselves and admit that pornography is not a necessary evil. It’s just plain wrong.