Probably the most famous quote about pornography is by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: “I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description, and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it.”
Perhaps pornography is difficult to define, but I think we can all agree that it has a few important characteristics.
- Pornography is exploitative (of both the subject and the viewer)
- Pornography is designed to make the consumer feel good
- Pornography is damaging to the consumer’s perception of reality (relationships, women, etc)
I read a fair amount of books. I also read a wide variety: novels, business books, theology, church and ministry books, history, politics . . . Two books that I read most recently have made me consider some problems with many of the other books in my library. These two books are Twilight of the Elites and The Poisonwood Bible. These two books have very little in common other than the fact that they are both well written and quite challenging to the reader. They both have complex language and ideas, extremely well formulated themes, and ideas that require the reader to dig deep and think hard.
While reading these books I was struck that there is very little in the world of popular Christian literature that deeply challenges the reader. We might think that we are being challenged, but mostly we are being made to feel good. I would also argue that much of our Christian literature exploits the complex ideas of the Christian faith by giving us trite, simplistic answers to complex issues. It makes us feel good, it is exploitative, and it distorts our understanding of reality.
We are guilty of burying the eternally profound truths of the Gospel in pornographic fluff.
I believe we have often complicated things that should be simple and simplified things that should be complicated. While there are elements of God that can be easily understood on a basic and primal level, we must acknowledge that comprehending the eternal character of God or His work with mankind is eternally complex. We should be suspicious of anyone who claims that they fully understand the way God works or wants to boil experiencing God down to easy steps.
Learning about God should bring us peace and joy, but it should also be a struggle. It should challenge us to think differently, to change our minds, and to live differently–not once, but continually. Coming to understand God should not simply make us shout “Amen,” but it should make us squirm uncomfortably. Learning about God should make us scratch our heads, ponder, and meditate. It should not be easy. It is beyond feel-good.
The Christian Industrial Complex has become very good at producing sermons, books, movies, magazines, web sites, musiuc, and household decorations that exploit our desire for a Jesus-will-make-my-life-better kind of religion. Once again, we have filled our lives with products that make us shout “Amen” rather than making us squirm uncomfortably.
In many instances Christians have become people who are always on the lookout for the next feel-good fix. We are people who are intellectually stagnant (or sometimes intellectually regressive). We are uncomfortable with the new or the unknown, preferring the familiar arms of our comforting fluff. We come to believe that God can be squeezed into the limited definitions that we conceive for Him rather than admitting that we will never fully understand Him.
Can we become people who are not comfortable in the comfortable world of Christian pornography? Let’s be stretched. Let’s be challenged. Let’s be uncomfortable. Let’s be changing.