Pornography is the new bubonic plague.
So says Jay Dennis, pastor of the Church of the Mall in Lakeland, Florida. We’ll have to assume that Dennis is engaging in a little over-the-top hyperbole, because bubonic plague has a mortality rate of up to 75%; if a proportional impact was seen among Americans who like to look at pictures of other people getting it on, no doubt we’d see more than a hundred million corpses rotting in our streets and homes.
Yes, porn is popular and plentiful, and these days it’s mostly free. This is a big problem for nannies, who simply cannot brook the thought of other people having fun, especially if there are various stages of undress involved.
Dennis is issuing a call for one million Christian men to live porn-free. They must promise God, their pastors, and their wives/girlfriends that they’ll go cold turkey. Why has Dennis turned into a smutfighter? When you visit his site, you learn that porn “leads to broken marriages, child abuse, and physical harm”; that it is a “cancer,” a “war,” and a “deadly lure”; as well as “an addiction as powerful as crack” that is spread by “Satan.”
Setting aside the lurid and ludicrous language, I can’t say I have a problem with the no-porn challenge. More power to those who want to break a habit that they don’t feel is right or healthy for them. Dennis’s targets must be in the majority, because there’s likely to be serious underreporting in the following findings about porn use among the religious (not all respondents will cop to pornography-fueled solo sailing when asked about it by a perfect stranger who is documenting their answers):
47% of Christians admitted pornography was a major problem in their home in a survey conducted by Internet Filter Review. Even more discouraging are the 53% of men belonging to the Christian group Promise Keepers who admit to visiting pornography sites every week.
A survey of evangelical Protestant clergy conducted by The Leadership Survey in 2001 found that 40% of those responding struggled with pornography. Another survey in 2002 conducted by Rick Warren of Saddleback Church found that in the previous month, 30% of pastors had viewed pornography.
For people steeped in faith, bodily pleasures other than sex between a husband and wife have been frequent sources of shame, confusion, embarrassment, and guilt.Whatever. My motto has always been, to each his own. And that’s what I like about Dennis’s initiative. He doesn’t try to buzzkill other people’s chosen gratifications (except if you’re already part of his tribe).
This is good news. It’s part of a long and positive trend: Over the past few decades, the Christian Right has gradually moved away from censorship attempts of the adult industry. Those efforts never got any lasting traction, ultimately doing more harm than good to the movement’s goal; the fingerwaggers’ whole impotent crusade exposed them for the shrieking bluenoses and scolds they are.
Or were. The days of Supernanny Edwin Meese, Ronald Reagan’s Attorney General who tried his damndest to expand the definition of obscenity, and to abolish sexually explicit materials, are never coming back. That’s despite the occasional misguided anti-porn flareups (hi, Alberto Gonzales) that still plague certain quarters (hello, Mitt Romney).
One thing does worry me. I’m not sure what the reverend Dennis thinks of the arousing images that his followers stealthily form in their minds. After his no-porn pledgers give up pictures of nekkid people, should they also promise that they’ll never dream of a dalliance with that comely stranger at the airport, or fantasize about a tryst with the pretty girl at the checkout counter? The punishment for such thoughts is perfectly clear and perfectly hideous. I refer you to Matthew 5:27-30:
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.
On the plus side, I’m envisioning an uptick in business for crematoriums, who may well start advertising the respectful disposal of body parts severed on Christ’s behalf: “No job too small.”
(Photo via Join 1 Million Men)