Let’s Not Equate Porn and Gaming

Thanks to a Rick Warren tweet, I ran across this article that’s racing across the internet.  Called “The Demise of Guys: How video games and porn are ruining a generation,” it begins:

Is the overuse of video games and pervasiveness of online porn causing the demise of guys?

Increasingly, researchers say yes, as young men become hooked on arousal, sacrificing their schoolwork and relationships in the pursuit of getting a tech-based buzz.

Every compulsive gambler, alcoholic or drug addict will tell you that they want increasingly more of a game or drink or drug in order to get the same quality of buzz.

Video game and porn addictions are different. They are “arousal addictions,” where the attraction is in the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content. Sameness is soon habituated; newness heightens excitement. In traditional drug arousal, conversely, addicts want more of the same cocaine or heroin or favorite food.

The consequences could be dramatic: The excessive use of video games and online porn in pursuit of the next thing is creating a generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment.

As a gamer (In fact, one of my proudest media moments is this profile by an online gaming magazine), I cringed.  Look, I know that many, many men and boys spend too much time gaming.  There are also many, many men and boys who spend too much time watching television, playing golf,  or obsessing over sports (and sometimes all of the above) — you name the diversion, and you’ll find people who indulge in excess.  But it’s a category error to equate games and porn.  To do so exaggerates the danger of games and minimizes the evil of porn.  So if I stay up too late Saturday night playing Diablo 3 (and I probable will!), is that remotely comparable to downloading porn?  Simply put, overuse of video games is destructive.  Any use of porn is sinful. What’s next?  An article proclaiming that women are ruined by adultery and Pinterest?

We must, however, do a better job working out the relationship between balance and absolutes.  How many people, having proven themselves incapable of achieving proper balance now argue for absolutes?  No television!  No games!  No carbs!  Conversely, we have so much trouble with the true absolutes — particularly sexual absolutes — that I’ve seen Christians more forgiving and tolerant of unscriptural divorces than they are of bad TV or even inefficient automobiles or non-organic food purchases.

Yes, it’s absolutely true that we guys have problems.  And it’s absolutely true that by many measures we’re approaching a moral and cultural crisis in young men.  But porn is pure poison while a good game is more like a bowl of ice cream: delightful in moderation but destructive in excess.

No One Can Unite Evangelicals and Mormons Quite Like Barack Obama

I must confess that I awoke this Monday morning feeling a bit useless — feeling very small and insignificant in fact.  Not that it’s a bad thing.  After all, in this graduation season if I could give one piece of advice to young and ambitious graduates it would be this: “Learn to get over yourself — and quickly.”  But still, it’s not necessarily fun to feel insignificant.

Why did I feel like blowing off work, skipping even my shower, and just heading straight to my favorite video game to tune out the world?  Because last week Barack Obama accomplished more in about two minutes and thirteen seconds than I was able to accomplish in more than six years of continual effort.  Barack Obama united evangelicals and Mormons around Mitt Romney.

In late 2005, I realized that Mitt Romney was not just an outstanding governor of Massachusetts and a man of character and integrity (that much was obvious), but he should also be President of the United States.  Starting in early 2006, Nancy and I did our best to try to make that happen — organizing straw polls, launching a website, giving money, writing a book, and generally talking to anyone who’d listen.  Our message was simple: Mitt Romney and evangelicals certainly have theological differences, but they share core values, and Mitt can be counted on to defend those values.

Over time, our blog morphed just a bit and became a home for thoughtful Mormon-evangelical dialogue, and I treasure those conversations (in fact, that may ultimately prove to have been the highest and best purpose for our efforts).  At the same time, it sometimes felt like we were making zero headway with our fellow evangelicals.  In 2008, they flocked to a less-conservative Mike Huckabee rather than support Mitt.  And in 2012, southern evangelicals flocked to the less-conservative Rick Santorum.  Heck, at one point it even seemed like Newt Gingrich would sweep the evangelical vote.

But Mitt hung on, kept fighting, and won enough evangelicals to win the nomination.  But what about the general election?  After months of opponents hammering Mitt for being “no different” from Obama, would evangelicals see reality?  And if so, would they see in time to make a difference?

Now we know the answer.  It turns out that no one can draw distinctions better than President Obama.  We already knew that he was radically pro-abortion (after all, he refused to support the born-alive infant protection act), that he believes sexual liberty trumps religious liberty (see, for example, his HHS contraceptive mandates), and that some of his key supporters were contemptuous of stay-at-home moms, but last week he went all the way.  Last week he adopted the secular left social platform in its entirety when he endorsed gay marriage.  On life, religious liberty, and marriage, he is a firm “no.”  Mitt Romney is a firm “yes.”

My work is done.  My mission is accomplished.  But I didn’t accomplish it.  Thank you, President Obama, for doing my job far, far better than I ever could.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some gaming to do.

Read more on the Faith and Family Channel

The Geek’s Guide to the Kindle Fire

Trust me.  This is the only Kindle Fire review you need to read.  Why?  Because if there’s one thing I understand, it’s how to use technology to enhance your life.  To be clear, I’m not a techno-geek.  I don’t know how anything actually works (nor do I care).  I’m a geek who uses technology to, well, enhance my geekiness.

Before I begin, let’s put the Kindle Fire in context.  The Fire was designed for a particular purpose and it has to be evaluated in light of that purpose.  The question is not, “How good is the Kindle Fire?” but instead, “How well does the Kindle do what it’s designed to do?”  For me, that means it has to fit within my technology plan.

And what is that plan?  I’m glad you asked.

I’m a gamer/reader/lawyer/blogger/(very) frequent traveler, so I need the following:

1.  The gaming machine.  When I say that I’m a gamer, I’m not joking.  I’ve invested seven full years of my life in the greatest video game ever spawned by the mind of man, and with a new expansion coming I have no intention of slowing down.  When dragons threaten Azeroth, I need to put them down with a machine that combines SKYNET’s power with IMAX graphics.  My solution?  A 27 inch iMac with 8 gigs of RAM (soon to be expanded to 16 gigs in time for Diablo III).

2.  The work machine.  I need power and portability.  I haven’t traveled less than 100 days per years since 2006, so I need to edit briefs, draft blogs, write emails, and create manuscripts in airplanes, in terminals, in hotel rooms, on trains, and occasionally in the office.  There is no better portable writing platform than the new 11 inch MacBook Air.  I’ve got 4 gigs of RAM, 128 gigs on the hard drive and enough graphics to log into the World of Warcraft when my guild calls.

3.  The smartphone.  iPhone 4S.  If you need me to explain this, you need help.

So what’s missing?  Ahh yes, the tablet.  I used to think the iPad was the answer.  And for a while it was, kinda.  Before my Macbook Air, the iPad was my travel machine, a small and light tablet that could — in a pinch — serve as a replacement to the laptop.  But the MacBook Air is virtually as small and light and vastly more capable.  So then as I traveled, my iPad became, well, a big Kindle.  I read my books, checked email, and occasionally caught up on the latest episode of Walking Dead.  But the Kindle app interface was a bit awkward (migrating to and from the Kindle store was hardly seamless), it was tough to read while sipping coffee, and ever since iOS 5, the darn thing has run a bit slow.  In other words, I woke up one morning to the startling revelation that my former pride and joy, my iPad 3G, just wasn’t working for me.  It wasn’t cool (everyone has one, so how can it be cool?), it was a bad laptop, and a bulky Kindle.

So, if what I really need is a good Kindle, I took the next revolutionary step and . . . actually bought a Kindle.  The bottom line?  I’m impressed.  Amazon has learned the right lessons from Apple.  Make it simple — and the Kindle interface is ridiculously easy and access to the store is every bit as convenient as iTunes — make it work, and make it stylish.  My oldest daughter, who had made fun of my decision to abandon my iPad, took one look at my new Fire, and snatched it right out of my hands.  She’s reading Hunger Games, I’m reading Zone One, and I think we need a second Fire.

It’s small, but it feels solid.  It’s not metal like the iPad, but its combination of glass front and rubberized back feel substantial, and it looks sleek.  The actual visuals aren’t too busy (the downfall of many a Droid device), and the rolodex-style touchscreen is extremely easy to use.  It lasts just as long as the iPad and seems to charge many times faster, so it smashes my iPad on total uptime.

I’ve been Amazon Prime since launch and for the dedicated Amazon customer the Kindle Fire is an outstanding entertainment delivery device.  As I said, the store interface works well, and the small size makes it an afterthought to pack and hold.  The bliss of reading my book with one hand while sipping my coffee is now routine, and the display screen allows AMC’s zombies to come to . . . umm . . . life in all their gory glory.   And while I’m reading or watching, I can easily pop over to my email or surf the web.

Yes, it’s got droid apps, and droid apps are second-rate, but who cares?  I’ve got an iPhone 4S so my core apps are located within its cavernous 64 gig memory.  No,  the Fire doesn’t have 3G.  But again, who cares?  My iPhone is a hotspot.  The Kindle Fire drops perfectly into its niche.  It’s everything a Kindle should be — an entertainment delivery device more portable than the iPad, linked to better reading and video content than iTunes and iBooks, and — at least for a shining moment this holiday season — actually cooler and more of a conversation starter than any Apple product.

I got my Fire last Friday and even as I opened it a small crowd gathered.  I was first with a Fire, and I basked in the glory and adulation as I passed the small tablet from person to person.

“Very cool,” said one of our young radio producers.

I smiled, slid it into its graphite case, and replied, “Yes, it is indeed.”