Porn

  1. One simple question
  2. Sinsick
  3. Christianish reductionism
  4. BenOp: too cold, too hot, too grim

[Note: I’ve made a few small changes since the initial publication of today’s blog.]

1

Whenever I go to a Christian college to speak, I talk to professors, staffers, and campus ministers about what they’re seeing among the students. Two things always come up: 1) far too many of their students know next to nothing about the Christian faith, and 2) pornography is a massive problem.

At one Christian college I visited over the past few months, a professor said, “For the first time, I’m starting to see it becoming a problem for my female students, not just the male ones.” A campus minister who works with young undergraduates headed for professional ministry told me that every single one of the men he mentors has a porn addiction.

Every. Single. One.

A Catholic priest who ministers on campus said that porn addiction is the biggest problem he deals with in his work. “Nothing else even comes close,” he said ….

(Rod Dreher) I’m reluctant to address the epidemic problem pervasiveness, apparently, of pornography. I tend to forget it until reminded by someone’s jeremiad.

Nudes, some of them very provocative, have been a staple of the www world since the beginning of web browsing, in my experience. (Yes, I said “in my experience.”) It’s my understanding that much rawer porn is now available. (No, I did not say “in my experience.”) But I hesitate to call porn an addiction, because in my experience (Yes, I said “in my experience.”) its spell can be broken for a Christian with one simple question.

But I need to put that question in context.

One of the books that most influenced my life was C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce. I don’t reread it every year or two, as I do with his Abolition of Man, but I’ve read it several times.

In it, a busload from hell takes a day trip to heaven. It appears that they are being given a bona fide opportunity to remain in heaven. (If they do, then hell for them really was purgatory.)

But none of the day-trippers is not inclined to stay. Heaven is just a little too real, or some grudge or habit must be abandoned if one wishes to remain. What I recall overall is this impression:

  • They formed a bad habit on earth
  • That habit now binds them powerfully
  • That habit, not God’s rejection, makes them choose against heaven

So that one question, which in my experience can break the habit of porn before it becomes eternal fetters is this: “What is my porn use doing to scar my own soul so deeply that it will be repulsed by eternity in God’s presence in heaven?”

There is no repentance after death; you do it now or you don’t do it.

You can quibble about synergism versus monergism, and “salvation by grace alone,” but in this context, aren’t those just dodges because the vise is already tightening down on you?

2

When I blogged on Wednesday, I had no idea that Denny Burk and Rod Dreher were going to take up critique of of Jen Hatmaker, or that Jonathan Merritt had recently mounted an irate defense of her.

Burk and Dreher don’t need much help, but I really liked this (H/T  Dreher, but I’m linking to the original):

In his essay Sinsick, Stanley Hauerwas famously explores the notion of authority using a medical analogy. If a medical student told his advisor, “I’m not into anatomy this year, I’m into relating” and asked to skip anatomy class to focus on people, the medical school would reply, “Who in the hell do you think you are, kid? … You’re going to take anatomy. If you don’t like it, that’s tough.” Hauerwas delivers his crucial point by saying: “Now what that shows is that people believe incompetent physicians can hurt them. Therefore people expect medical schools to hold their students responsible for the kind of training that is necessary to be competent physicians. On the other hand, few people believe an incompetent minister can damage their salvation.”

(Tish Harrison Warren, emphasis added)

Don’t you dare think that incompetent ministers lack huge followings, either. The sermon title satirically attributed to Joel Osteen, “Claiming Your Comfort Zone,” cuts uncomfortably close to the bone, and the appeal of such sermons is obvious.

I am not exactly the sort of person about whom Warren is writing, I guess, because I’m a Tonsured Reader, the lowest order of Orthodox Clergy, and my tonsure charges me with being able to teach. But I don’t want to push my luck, or exaggerate my meager qualifications. Let me therefore interact gingerly with Warren.

The sort of “free agent” spiritual guides about whom she writes are nothing new in Evangelicalism. Funny, relatable, charming, uncredentialled and unaccountable preachers are common.

But “parachurch” ministries are also in a sort of limbo of loose or non-existent authority and credentialing. This is a direct eventuality of Evangelicalism’s deficient ecclesiology (their doctrine of the Church).

This came to my attention 47 years ago when, at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship‘s Urbana ’70 missionary conference, it was proposed to take the bonhomie and Kum-Ba-Ya spirit all the way — with a New Year’s Eve communion service in Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois.

At that point in my life, sorry to say, I saw nothing whatever problematic about a parachurch organization administering one of the sacraments under no discernible ecclesial authority (quite apart from what that gesture implied about the real absence of Christ’s body and blood in communion). But my consciousness got raised by someone with better sense than I who challenged the mummery. (The show went on anyway. And I remain fond, though much leerier now, of IVCF.)

The internet may have democratized and radicalized the free agent Christian guru biz, but it’s only a change of degree, not of kind. Or so it seems to me.

[I]n this new Internet age, women still—as much as men—deserve the best teaching the church has to offer. We don’t need less than funny stories, relatable prose, or charming turns of phrase, but we certainly need more than that. We need teachers and writers who can break our hearts with beauty and who also do the hard work of biblical interpretation, of learning the doctrines and history of the church, and of speaking clearly out of a tradition that they name and know. As Christian women, all of us can embrace writing and teaching that is relevant, compelling, and down to earth, and also ask that our leaders—both male and female—embrace theological study, intellectual rigor, and church hierarchy and accountability.

Preach it, Tish!

3

Burk, Dreher, Warren aside, a word or two about Jonathan Merritt’s indignant howls about the treatment of Jen Hatmaker by Evangelicals:

Hatmaker’s original sin is that she broke ranks with the evangelical powers-that-be on same-sex relationships. In an interview with me last October, Hatmaker stated that if she found out one of her children were gay, she would love that child just the same. If an LGBT friend of Hatmaker’s got married, she said she would attend the wedding. And Hatmaker said she believed LGBT relationships could be holy.

In the interview, Hatmaker did not deny a line in the Apostles Creed. She did not promote a historical heresy. She merely claimed that after a careful study of the scriptures, she had arrived at a different understanding of same-sex relationships. But this was enough to outrage some conservative Christians. Lifeway Christian Stores even banned her books from their shelves.

I will leave it to Evangelicals to deal with Merritt’s argument in Evangelical context, which is a context I’ve forsaken for multiple reasons and about which I’m less and less qualified to opine as Evangelicalism continues morphing and my memory even of what it used to be fades away. (If memory serves, though, I’d say “Good luck with that. LOL.”)

But in the larger, more history Christian context, the idea that everything’s copacetic because nothing in the Apostle’s Creed has been denied is just plain goofy and reductionist. Creeds are fences guarding the most dangerous historic cliffs. There’s a lot of room to go wrong without falling over the Arian, Nestorian, Monophysite or other venerable heretical cliffs.

And it smacks of “what’s the least I can get by with believing,” eschewing “what’s truly true?”

4

A reader e-mailed from an Evangelical school yesterday to say that from what he can tell, the Evangelical right hates the Benedict Option book because it calls out the failure of the Religious Right. The Evangelical left hates it because they are ready to compromise (quietly) with the culture on moral theology. And most of the people who actually read the book but disagree with it don’t really think the situation on religious liberty and the rest is as bad as Rod Dreher does.

(Rod Dreher) That seems to me to fit the criticisms I’ve read.

* * * * *

Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.

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