The Porn Papers: counter response #1

XXX iconDavid Lee’s porn papers, NSFW: Not Safe For Watching, was posted a week ago on Burning Religion. It was to some degree, a counterpoint to my thoughts about the dual enslavement of pornography, which I used in my book Burning Religion as an example of how we become enslaved by our own beliefs and worldviews. I will respond to NSFW in more than one post, and depending upon the amount of time, I have over the next 6-7 weeks, I hope to cover my counterpoints to his counterpoints sufficiently.

The paper is well written with a large number of footnotes, showing a degree of study on the topic of pornography. It comes down on the side of presenting pornography as a potentially positive influence for Christian men and women, and argues for the fact that we may not be able to condemn it on the basis of scripture.

Clearly, my point on the dual enslavement of pornography (of both the “entertained” and the “entertainer”) is in disagreement with those positions.

Of note, The Porn Papers are more than an apologetic for pornography, they are also a confession, and highlight a personal struggle with this issue. I will respond gracefully to the paper with this in mind.

This first response will evaluate the approach toward sin, and sin management, which takes place throughout the paper. The paper comes from a Wesleyan framework, which is not dissimilar to my own Armenian/Pentecostal theological leanings, although I am also persuaded by Anabaptism/Christian anarchism. The Wesleyan Quadrilateral of reason, tradition and experience being weighed by scripture is my basic framework for pursuing truth as well, and so David Lee and I have a similar framework for approaching these issues.

My first look at this does not critique pornography itself. Rather, it is a look at the concept of sin management in the pursuit of a theology toward pornography.

The experiential element of the paper begins with the inability to eradicate the use of pornography. It attributes the desire to the writer’s “humanity”, and “God-given sex-drive.” These comments tend to place uncontrollable erotic passion into categories of one’s personality (who I am as a person), and God’s intended design. Problematically, this is not the view of sin in a Pauline or Wesleyan viewpoint. Paul sees sin as something almost separate from himself creating a warlike tension, and the evidence of that separateness is his struggle with the power of sin, which Paul says is, “no longer I but sin that dwelleth in me.” (Romans 7) The insinuation that the sex-drive is “God-given”, and therefore guilt being attached to it is somehow wrong, is a leap in logic the scriptures do not take. There is no sin, which cannot be attached to human desire. That is the very nature of sin. Sin is an extension of our own passions into places God does not desire them to go, places rooted in uncontrolled selfishness. The very thought that sin would have a mastery over us, is at the heart of the concept of deliverance in scripture. (Romans 6)

The idea of becoming a voyeur of sin (fornication, adultery to mention only two common and comparatively tame themes in today’s pornography) to manage sin is not something we find in the Biblical framework. Sin and death are enemies of our souls to be eradicated. We battle them to death. This does not mean we always win against them, but it does mean we continue to fight. Anything short of this appears to be short of the Pauline, the Wesleyan, and the Jesus model. Such an approach is reminiscent of Lot’s wife. (Genesis 19:26)

David Lee’s experience, combined with the anecdotal evidence of others, highlighting the impossibility of eradicating this struggle against pornography lays a foundation for his particular theology of an acceptance of pornography. Yet, impossibility being an obstacle is never used for an excuse in the life of Jesus concerning the issues of greatest importance to His ministry (sin, disease, death, reconciliation, corporate evil). Impossibility does not justify or sanctify anything – in fact, it becomes evidence for the greater need for God.

John Wesley’s approach to sin management was a 20 question self-examination to be used every day. This highlights his radical approach to working toward “perfection.” And yet, a radical approach to eradicating the sin in me does not negate a radical acceptance of others who are struggling – others who are struggling, just like myself.

Time eludes me to continue to say more now, but I will return to this in the coming days. Please add your thoughts about this, and help further this recently begun dialogue – either here or on Facebook.

 

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2 thoughts on “The Porn Papers: counter response #1

  1. Hi Phil!

    I’m very intrigued by this conversation and thought that David Lee had a very interesting argument. I find myself a little underwhelmed with your initial response (though I know you’ve promised more to come!).

    David Lee’s entire argument is based on the question “what if it isn’t a sin?” All of his arguments come from that hypothetical question. You seemed to completely step over the main question and proceed to discuss sin management (and I find your thoughts on the topic insightful and useful), but you’ve essentially acknowledged that there is not argument to be had. Porn is sin. End of story.

    While I hear David Lee saying that this is a topic that’s important to him because he’s struggled with it (who hasn’t?), I don’t hear him trying to justify his sinful acts with his theology, he’s asking if we’ve been doing it wrong. Evangelical Christianity has a terrible relationship with sexuality and I think questioning what healthy sexuality is requires us to examine things we’ve taken for granted. I was disappointed to hear you jump straight to that bias seemingly without seriously considering the theological argument presented.

    I truly find you insightful and thought provoking on so many levels. I think your mind is an important one in this topic of “navigating the impossible space between the church and the world.” I’d love to hear a discussion that starts in a more neutral place. These are important questions and we should treat them as such.

  2. Hey Kevin, Thanks for the reply. I purposely started with an observation on sin management, because it was something that jumped out at me in the paper. There was an apparent long struggle with what was once viewed (and is now being challenged) as “sin”, and the inability to overcome the desire appears be a significant driving force at the heart of the question of whether porn is sin. It seemed helpful to set that argument out there first. So, the first post was simply saying that because something is impossible to overcome, it does not in any way insinuate that desire and acting upon the desire is legitimate in the eyes of God.

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