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Monday, March 26, 2007

 

XXX

I am packing. I am sitting at a desk surrounded by cardboard boxes - did you know you can get papercuts off those things? - and while we've been packing for days, I'm seriously concerned that we may still not be finished by the time the moving van turns up. This is tiring and also dull, and I fear I have no interesting thoughts to share with you, about anything.

In the face of this intellectual drought, I reckon there's nothing left to do but distract you with pornography.

Have a look at this: a documentary called Missionary Positions. It follows two extremely nice young pastors in America who, having gathered that God wanted them to do something about the porn industry, went on a long, difficult and interesting journey trying to do just that. One of the things that stands out is how actually Christian they are about it, trying to be non-judgemental and pleasant to everyone even when they disagree with them. The sight of them being ranted at by a furious fire-and-brimstone Christian outside a porn convention stays with you (they reasoned that if Jesus was alive today, he'd be talking to porn performers just like he spoke to tax collectors, so in they went, set up a stall, handed out fliers saying 'Jesus loves porn stars' and put up with a lot of teasing very patiently): the guy denounces them with just as much hatred as he denounced the porn stars - because they'd dared to actually talk to the sinners, and be polite! Shocking. Anyway, whatever your position on porn, it's nice to see people trying to deal with something they disapprove of without being self-righteous or unpleasant.

Also, the Porn Clerk Stories. Many of you may have seen these, as they've been around for a while and are deservedly popular, but if not, have a look. They're a witty and thoughtful diary kept by a young woman who spent a year or so clerking at a video store with a large porn section downstairs, and include her experiences with colourful customers, difficult problems and reflections on the industry. She's as committedly pro-porn as the pastors were against it, and an equally nice person, so there's two sides of the story for you there.

Excuse me. I have to go and pack now.

Comments:
Thanks for the missionary link, Kit. I might have to steal that from you. As a Christian myself, I can say that I do admire what those two are doing and the approach they're taking, while everything that society sees wrong with the Church today stems from that other guys volatile reaction to their outreach. Jeez...if people read the Bible, they'd realize Jesus actually spent a bit of time going out of his way to be around prostitutes, tax collectors, and others who were shunned at his time. For some reason, there are those who think hatred is somehow going to be a more effective outreach method than love.
 
Help yourself; all I did was nick it from another site myself! Glad you enjoyed it.

Interesting question: is it a Christian thing to disapprove of porn per se? I'm agnostic, and my view on it is more mixed. I don't think it's worth people getting hurt for, and it's an industry where it's unusually easy for people to get hurt; I'm sure there are a lot of abuses, which is definitely bad. I think it's particularly easy for women to be exploited, and as a dedicated feminist, that pisses me off. And as a human being, I'm pissed off if men are getting hurt too.

But assuming it's done by people who are all perfectly happy to be there, who don't have profound psychological damage, with good health and safety regulations and a clear right of refusal at any time by everyone participating (and I don't think those conditions are impossible), I don't see the harm in it. Personally I'd like to see it regulated and unionised rather than banned.

I asked a friend of mine who's a vicar (and very nice, much more like those two pastors than the guy with the megaphone), and he said the problem with porn was that it indulged lust. Being an agnostic, I don't think lust is any more malign than hunger, and the morality is all in how you go about satisfying it. But do you differ? It's a complicated subject and it's interesting to hear different views.

But I'm definitely with you that those guys were right about the outreach method. I mean, who's going to be converted by someone shouting about how terrible you are? What are you supposed to think? 'Hmm, Christianity seems to be all about standing with a megaphone blazing hatred at people. That's the faith for me!'
 
There's a huge difference between not liking porn and not liking the people involved in the porn industry. Just because something is outside the standards of Christian faith, or is considered a sin, is not reason to go around calling down hate and spite for the people who are mixed up with it. God hates sin, but he doesn't hate the sinner. It is hard to separate the two in our minds sometimes, but it's something people get confused on.

As for porn itself...personally I think it can be very harmful. One can argue over whether its art, censorship, freedom of speech, or whatever. But it's the effects of porn on important things like relationships and people's self-images that I think must be taken into account. Porn gives men a reason to objectify women and see them as little more than sex toys. Where's the respect and dignity? And porn is often destructive in relationships, provoking feelings of inedequacy, jealousy, and selfishness.

Is there anything wrong with sexuality, sensuality and the like? Not at all. Those have important positions in life, but I think porn dilutes the power of those aspects...blunting the intimacy and satisfaction they can provide. Lust is an appetite, yes, and a valid one. But I don't think it should be as easy to satisfy as hunger, such as going hitting a drive through and getting a 99cent big mac burger. But that's what porn is. The fast food of sex. And does fast food tend to be healthy?

Maybe that's a bad analogy, but here's one last statement. Taken from the Bible, actually.

1 Corinthians 10:23

"Everything is allowable, but not everything is profitable. Everything is allowable, but everything does not build others up."
 
Porn is a tricky one. You might be interested in a blog I wrote about porn a while back:

http://goosefat101.blogspot.com/2007/02/free-porn.html

Kit: I pretty much share you're stance on porn. But I also share josh's. It's an issue where you agree with every side of everything really.
 
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