Thinking Out Loud

October 13, 2010

Wednesday Link List

  • Our opening cartoon this week celebrates the release of David Hayward’s first cartoon book, Naked Pastor 101, which is available as a download, e-book, or paperback.  Simply click anywhere on the image to learn more.
  • The lastest news from Donald Miller and Steve Taylor is that the movie based on the book Blue Like Jazz is back on again.
  • After 30 years, Charisma magazine finally gets around to interviewing the man considered “the first Pentecostal scholar,” Regent College New Testament professor Gordon Fee.
  • Steve McQuilkin has a problem.   He’s “burst out out of the Christian bubble,” but all his old friends are alienating his new friends by speaking in Christianese on social media, which IMHO, is never a good idea even when it’s only our ‘in group’ in the audience.
  • And speaking of alienation, here’s an excellent article for worship leaders (and staff musicians, tech people, etc.)  on prioritizing your loved ones; under the title How Not To Be A Jerk to Your Family.  [HT: Worship Community]
  • Really enjoyed our weekend visit to Carruther’s Creek Community Church at the east end of greater Toronto.   John Thompson is the young pastor in what must be one of the largest churches in the AGC denomination, and they now offer recent sermons on video.
  • So what’s your guess on how many men in your church have a ‘problem’ with pornography?   An article at XXXChurch.com — people who should know — suggests you could be looking at something around 50%.
  • Next Tuesday (10/19) listen to a live interview with author Philip Yancey on the occasion of the release of his new book, What Good Is God? at 1:30 PM at Blog Talk Radio.
  • The staff at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas produced a five-minute, single-camera, single-take video celebrating their 20th anniversary.   Enjoy watching, and if you’ve got another five minutes, watch them making the video at BeDeviant.
  • Not sure you’re hearing from God?   This week’s Christianity 201 link is a quote from Bill Hybels’ The Power of a Whisper (Zondervan) about getting God’s voice to be heard over the noise in our lives.
  • I’ve also been hearing about another Zondervan book — one that Hybels himself could have written — Coffee Shop Conversations by Dale & Jonalyn Fincher.   I was reminded of it again reading Audra Krell’s blog.
  • So what would the people in your church do if Donald Trump turned up for Sunday worship?   Probably not seat him at the back.
  • Here’s another one of those “top blog” web pages, this one purporting to be the “top youth ministry blogs;” though as I pointed out a few weeks ago, the motivation for these sites is somewhat dubious.
  • Here’s a new version of sermon bingo just for fundamentalists from the blog Stuff Fundies Like (click on image to link).

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July 12, 2010

Rock Music and Pornography: Parallels

The 1960s was a time of accelerated social change in Western Europe and North America.   No chronology of those times is complete without some reference to the role that popular music played in both reflecting and shaping those times.

As folk singers protested Vietnam and The Beatles sported longer hairstyles, the church began to establish its somewhat defensive posture; and by the end of the ’60s, the psychedelic branch of rock music combined with the message of free love to confirm all their worst fears.     Any band with guitars and drums was immediately caught in the line of fire.

The actual music form itself was no different than the modern worship that was played in the church service I attended yesterday.   The drums, bass guitar, electronic keyboards, lead guitars and rhythm guitars would later be regarded as morally neutral.

By the 1980s we began to hear a redefined meaning to the term “rock music;” it wasn’t the music itself, but the performers and their lifestyles and ideals; it was the attitude and the surrounding culture.   The music itself — the notes, the harmonies, the rests — were simply the wave which carried youth culture along; in fact it was the youth culture itself that the church had really been afraid of all along.

The eventual emergence of Christian rock wasn’t so oxymoronic.   It showed the spiritual neutrality of the musical forms, and showed that those forms could be used to carry a positive and even Biblical message.

Over two years ago, I posted a rough manuscript online of a short book titled The Pornography Effect:  Understanding for the Wives, Mothers, Daughters, Sisters and Girlfriends. Part of the reason that I’m still looking for a publisher for the print version is that some people disagree with the book’s basic assumption.

I believe that the visual images that one thinks of when they hear the term “pornography” are not the ultimate core issue.    I do believe that they are addictive, that they are exploitative and that they can be devastating to men (and women) and especially teens and pre-teens.

But like the music issue of the ’60s, I think we may be focused on the wrong target.   (The parallel ends there however; I don’t foresee those images appearing in our worship services 25 years from now the way that contemporary music styles are part of modern worship.)

Just as rock music is about lifestyles and ideals and attitudes, pornography changes the worldview of those who partake.   Again, I think that the point in my manuscript that some people can’t get past is the idea that text pornography — chats, forums, stories, blogs, etc. without pictures — is every bit as serious a threat as sites with various types of pictorial images. If not more so.

click image to orderThe Church’s response is to think in terms of pictures and videos (a concern not to be minimized) and think in terms of addiction (an issue to be taken seriously) but to neglect what exposure to porn does in terms of how men look at their wives and girlfriends, and even their sisters, daughters and mothers.   (The promotion of incest is a major agenda on many websites.)  Perhaps we’re more concerned with the physiological sexual response than the brain ‘wiring’ or brain conditioning that is at work here.   Perhaps it is easier to choose a target we can see than consider the more serious concern which is invisible.

Pornography has even changed the expectations men have as to what constitutes normal sexuality within marriage.   (And, as we’re seeing, increasingly changing the expectations of women also.)   The result is an increase in unusual requests and even demands in the bedroom.   But it also causes men to think nothing of considering an office affair; it causes boys to make advances toward their sisters; it causes heretofore straight individuals to nurture same-sex attraction.

It’s the 1960s all over again.   The “Summer of Love” of 1969 is back with its message of free sex without consequences, but aided by a new technology tailor-made to get that message to the widest audience.

It’s the escapism drug-of-choice; with each dosage customized to meet individual desires.   In online pornography nobody ever gets pregnant, no STDs are spread, no one is arrested for rape or indecent exposure, no small children are ever left without a daddy.

Hedonism is the reigning philosophy.

Jesus said He came so that we might experience life to the fullest; however the “abundant life” is also the “narrow way.”  Countering the ‘message’ of pornography isn’t about saying “don’t look” anymore than putting up a wet paint sign on a freshly whitewashed fence is going to accomplish “don’t touch.”    Pornographers, advertisers and fashion designers will continue to keep pushing the envelope.   Men’s thoughts will continue to stray.

So while we do need to tell the world that,

  • pornography is an addictive behavior;
  • as an addiction it is subject to the laws of diminishing returns; the addict is never satisfied;
  • with God’s help you can be set free;

we also need to be proclaiming,

  • the version(s) of sex depicted online does not generally represent God’s intention for sex;
  • many of the subjects in online images are being exploited or being forced to participate; it’s not true that “nobody is being hurt”;
  • the movies and stories are unbalanced; they don’t show disease, unwanted pregnancy, loss of self-respect, or ruined lives;
  • if you keep watching, the images are changing you; as you give more time to worship at the altar of porn, the pornography effect is a sacramental effect; as you receive it, you’re allowing it to shape you and define you;
  • those so exposed need to recognize, confess and confront how pornography has so changed their worldview; both in subtle and greater degrees;
  • the consequences of long term exposure to the larger society is that it places that society in a downhill spiral (what pilots call a ‘graveyard spiral’) from which there is no recovery apart from dramatic repentance followed by dramatic intervention from God (or what might be called “a turning” or “revival”)
  • because it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness; more energy needs to spent promoting models of modesty, purity and chastity; and less energy on appearing spiritual by simply “denouncing” porn;
  • in the end, pornography is not the problem; the human heart is deceitfully wicked; the core of the problem is human rebellion against God;
  • finally, we need to proclaim the omnipresence of God; men and women need to be reminded that God is constantly sitting next to us as we click the mouse, turn the scroll wheel and stare at the monitor; His Lordship has to extend to be Lord over the URLs we visit daily.

Allowing myself to be a spokesperson on this topic has had to involve some awareness of its magnitude, and I think the people who say there are 200,000 pornographic websites online are terribly low in their estimating.   I believe the person who suggests 1,000,000 might be more accurate.

This means that realistically, we’re not going to see an end to pornography any time soon.  (Although, I applaud those who faithfully file objections to blog hosts, internet service providers, and search engines; each day sites all over the world are shut down because of their counter-measures; and even some of the most liberal pornographers recognize a need for someone to be applying the brakes, though often for different reasons.)

What we can do is build resistance (not immunity) to it.   We can recognize that just as the music debate really wasn’t about the musical forms itself, the sexual ethics debate is not about this picture or that video.

It’s a battle for the mind.

It’s a battle for the heart.

Want to study more on this?  Here’s an article also posted today on the complications of leaving internet choices to filtering devices.


May 22, 2010

Pornography? Not on Apple Products

Steve Jobs has decided to swim against the current.   I want to re-post some large chunks here of an article that appeared on Monday at the blog, Grace City.

The CEO of Apple Computers has been getting a lot of negative press recently – some people don’t like the way he carefully controls the software and hardware worlds of his computer empire. The most public stir has been created over his refusal to allow apps in the apple store that use or were programmed with Flash. Jobs argues (rightly in my view) that Flash is a buggy, bloated program which slows down computers. Since Jobs is trying to create portable computers that last for 11 or so hours on battery, he wants to avoid Flash. Personally I am more than happy to never see another Flash video on my computer – I can’t stand the way Adobe make their software bloated to the point where it slows my computer down.

Another aspect of Job’s defiance of critics has been less commented on. Jobs has argued that he wants his portable computer devices to not sell or stock pornography.

When a critic emailed him to say that this infringed his freedoms, Jobs emailed back and told him to buy a different type of computer.

Steve Jobs is a fan of Bob Dylan. So one customer emailed him to ask how Dylan would feel about Jobs’ restrictions of customers’ freedoms.

The CEO of Apple replied to say that he values:

‘Freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom. The times they are a changin’ and some traditional PC folks feel their world is slipping away. It is.’

The interlocutor replied:

“I don’t want ‘freedom from porn’. Porn is just fine! And I think my wife would agree.”

In the most revealing line, Steve Jobs dismissed the critic thus:

“You might care more about porn when you have kids.”

Pause for a moment and consider what the above emails represent.

The CEO of one of the wealthiest, most successful international companies, responds to the email of a customer. Business prospers on the mantra ‘The customer is always right.’ Business wants the customers’ money.

But in this case, over the moral issue of pornography, Jobs is happy to tell customers to buy a different product. He argues that children and innocence ought to be preserved – and that trumps the dollar.

Google (with their motto ‘Don’t be evil’) rake in billions through pornography. Ranks of employees spend their time categorizing and arranging advertising for pornography. (I know, I spent some time discussing the difficulties posed to a Christian who worked in their UK HQ) Pornography is huge business, yet here is the CEO of Apple telling the pornography businesses to take their dollars elsewhere.

Now Steve Jobs cannot actually stop pornography being accessed on the devices he sells – indeed you can jailbreak a device and run any pirated software on it. Neither can he necessarily set the ethical bar as high as a Christian may want it – but what he is doing is significant and commendable. He is taking responsibility for doing what he can. He is trying to not profit from pornography. Those deeds are important for the sake of his own soul. Matthew 18:7 comes to mind: “Woe to the world because of the things that cause people to sin! Such things must come, but woe to the man through whom they come!”

For the souls of other people, his public statements are valuable in that they permit consumers to identify with and commend his resistance to pornography. Our generation is saturated in pornography; a public statement from Steve Jobs resisting that, encourages others to believe that the secular-liberal-capitalist agenda is not the only show in town. Jobs’ comments are important for the manner in which they shape public cultural discourse.

Okay, so I actually copied the entire blog post.  I just couldn’t find a sentence to leave out.  I think Pete at Grace City, and Steve Jobs especially are on to something here.

Meanwhile,  the blog, Other Side of the World, notes that what is legal in the state of California becomes, by default, accessible around the world, in an article titled Die Pornography, Die!.

Freedom of expression and speech have often been used to defend some pretty vile things. On the internet obscenities are rampant, and produced as though it were legitimate business, when in fact it usually is not just illegitimate, but illegal. Many might be surprised to learn that California is the only state where it is actually legal to hire and pay people to have sex, and even there it supposedly requires a license. A new adult video is shot every 45 minutes, 24 hours a day, year round in California’s San Fernando Valley. Believe it or not, prostitution is still illegal in California. Not sure I’m clear on how porn production is not prostitution. Anyone remember the recent ACORN scandals?

Here is the strange part. On internet servers in virtually every state in the union, this illegal material exists. The peddlers will spam you, your parents, and even your children with provocative images and links in hopes of getting their hooks in, all the while the materials are actually illegal & virtually nothing is done to stop it. Even Google will boot your blog site out if you don’t update it often enough, but will thoroughly spider and reference thousands of pages that contain illegal content. Putting them right at the fingertips of any child who can type a bad word.

Recent news has been full of coverage of the new immigration law in Arizona. President Obama has called this law “irresponsible”. However, let’s just think for a minute. What did they actually do? Well… they decided to make it a crime to be an illegal resident of Arizona. What does illegal mean? How does official enforcement of the law qualify as irresponsible and lack of enforcement qualify as responsible?

That’s the problem with the internet, or any other kind of pornography. There are plenty of things in the US that are illegal, and pornography produced in any state but California would qualify as illegal, however I would submit that failing to enforce the law is the irresponsible part. Our federal government is legislating our socks off, but selectively disregarding major problems that are already matters of standing law. Recent legislation really seems much more focused on facilitating power and control instead of protecting legitimate liberty. Illegal pornography creation, consumption, and public distribution does not qualify as legitimate.

I hope and pray that this porn peddling can get under control. There are existing laws as well as precedents that make a strong case of legal question & the first amendment has faced this issue before. The current precedent at the supreme court level being the “Miller Test” that states:

  • Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to the prurient interest,
  • Whether the work depicts/describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct or excretory functions specifically defined by applicable state law,
  • Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.

While there is still clearly a matter of interpretation to be discussed, the courts have consistently required strong merit on the matter of artistry. In short, they consistently find pornography to not be protected under the first amendment. Scholarly consensus also requires regional variation as “community standards” denotes. So California might be off the hook for deciding that their community standards condone such behavior, but for the rest of the United States this stuff still violates legal precedence and the spam, uncensored advertising, and other tactics these peddlers of perversion employ violates our liberty.

No, Mr. President, your definition of irresponsible is quite inverted. What Arizona’s state legislature did was took responsibility and did their duty to those they serve. You, on the other hand, seem to be serving someone else. Pouring your efforts into expanding some Federal Government empire bent on dissolving state sovereignty. Sovereignty that is guaranteed in our Constitution.

Calling all States whose citizens in general find pornography patently offensive (offensive in a clear and unambiguous manner): Please dismantle porn peddling, it is, after all, still considered by most “community standards” to appeal to prurient (Arousing or appealing to sexual desire) desires. The Supreme Court has consistently defied claims of artistic value, with very little remaining defense it is virtually the definition of obscenity. It’s production is illegal in nearly every state in the union. Please, some state, take a stand against this destroyer of families and take steps to end its production and distribution in your sovereign territories.

God, please help us.

Finally, here’s a third item for your consideration, but don’t look for a link for this one.

Playboy magazine has exhibited a rather disturbing trend this year:  First the magazine ran a cover featuring animated character Marge Simpson.   More recently the magazine ran a special issue using a pair of 3-D glass supplied with each issue.

What’s the connection?

In a world where anything pornographic is available on the internet, Playboy desperately wants to keep market share and future market share.   The latter is guaranteed by hooking younger readers.   But with an animated character cover and 3-D glasses, the magazine may actually be trying to interest very younger readers.

You won’t see that suggestion on many blogs or newspaper editorials, but there’s no denying that both recent “features” identify heavily with an audience that is too young to purchase the magazine legally in some states and provinces.

But it’s something that needs to be said.

The author of Thinking Out Loud is also the author of The Pornograph Effect: Understanding for the Wives, Daughters, Mothers, Sisters and Girlfriends.  You can presently read version 1.0 of the book online for free, just click here.   (It’s a reverse-blog; pages come up in book sequence, ‘older entries’ actually yields later chapters.)

If you got here from a internet search tag and this article (and blog) were a million miles different from what you expected, but you have continued to read this far, please know that there is another way of living.   With God’s help, you can quit — cold turkey — in a single day, and I believe you can somewhat  ‘de-toxify’ your brain in as little as a single week.   Find encouragement at XXXChurch.com

HT for Steve Jobs & Apple blog post – Tim Chester

I apologize for the length of this post, but history tells me that many readers don’t do the “continue reading” jump, or click on the links, and this issue is simply too important to not make it easy for the maximum number of blog visitors to read it all.   To the original bloggers of the two articles:  Remind me I owe you some traffic.


July 30, 2009

Pornography: Help for Wives, Sisters, Mothers, Daughters, Girlfriends

Redemption comes in various forms.   The redemption of a period of several weeks being counted among the this-could-never-happen-to-me addicted to the internet’s dark side, was a book manuscript that would help females understand what’s going on in the lives of some male they know.

screenshot - book onlineToday marks one year that The Pornography Effect has been available online as a free internet resource.

Sadly, this is totally defeating the point.    The original idea was that as a crisis resource — which describes the under-24,000-words length — this book would be a print product that would be given to women who might be completely unfamiliar with the workings of the internet.    Having the book online is helpful, but that help is now limited to those who can get online to find it.

The original publisher contact — who told me his company did over 400 titles in 2007 — took this one step further and suggested that the book be shrinkwrapped in packs of four or five, so that pastors and counselors could have copies on their desk to put in the hands of those dealing with this problem.   But then came the “backhanded complement” that this project was “too big” for his company to handle.    Hmmmm.

Sadly, I’ve been unable to find a publisher who would catch that vision and meet two industry criteria as to its distribution to retail stores.   But then again, I think this topic is “hot” enough that I’m not prepared to pay an agent to place the title; and some of the largest publishers of Christian books only work through agents.   (Essentially, that’s how they all missed out on The Shack, which, whether you agree with the book or not, you have to admit it’s a major title to have missed out on.)   Perhaps I shouldn’t have limited its potential to the Christian book market.

In the meantime, people needed help; hence the online version.

So here’s the highlights of my book for those of you that don’t want to click the link at the beginning and end of this article.   If you do click; allow about 50-55 minutes to read the thing fully, and since it’s formated as a “reverse blog,” click on “previous entries” to find chapters 7-15.

Chapter by chapter, the book goes something like this:

  1. Any exposure to internet pornography results in immediate changes in relational dynamics between men and women.    A man who watches this stuff over time will look at his wife, or girlfriend — and perhaps even his sister, or daughter, or even his mother — differently.
  2. Addition to porn is at the extreme high end of the spectrum of addictive behavior and addiction consequences.   Its availability is not unlike the cigarette company is standing outside the junior high school passing out samples.
  3. After much exposure, the tastes of porn viewers “skews” to interest in things they would have previously considered reprehensible.   I don’t believe anyone just gets up one morning and says, “I think I’ll look at pictures of naked eight-year-olds.”  Doesn’t happen instantly like that.   But does happen over time.
  4. The long-term consequences of pre-teens and teens growing up with pornographic images freely available won’t be known for at least 20 years.
  5. Immersion in pornographic and related websites will eventually change your worldview on a number of issues connected to family and sexuality.
  6. Porn is more than pictures.    The guy in the office staring at a screen that is all text may well be reading erotica.   Text sites can also be a gateway to visual or photographic porn.
  7. For all the pictures on pornographic websites, don’t expect to see shots of people in love.    Porn sites are all about people “using” other people.  Nobody “cares” about anybody else but themselves and their own personal gratification.
  8. Whether it’s passive viewing on internet sets, or the more interactive nature of chat rooms, the “next step” of “acting out” on something seen online is just a heartbeat or two away from happening.
  9. There is a limitless number of formats that pornographic websites can take.   Many are inter-linked and all of them eventually want to you to produce a credit card number so that you’ll pay for what was formerly free.
  10. Just because it’s set up as “photography” or “art” or “modeling” or “recreation” doesn’t mean it’s not porn.   Many of these are just shallow attempts at establishing legitimacy.
  11. Cartoon pornography is porn nonetheless.   Aimed at kids, it’s actually more dangerous.   And it has a mission:   The incest agenda.   Promoting the acceptance of incest.   (Betcha those other books on this subject didn’t tell ya that one!)   And the kids are watching.   And downloading.
  12. While psychologists debate genetic predispositions to homosexuality, a lot of same sex attraction begins with the internet and is based somewhat randomly on the type of website — and surrounding online community — that gets to a young person first.
  13. If a family member is caught up in online porn, you are — whether you like it or not — engaged in a battle.   You have to start fighting back, for the sake of that person and the sake of nuclear and extended family.   The forces you are fighting are giants and you are David.   But…
  14. …Faith can be the slingshot you’ve got to go up against the giant.   Pray, yes; but pray very specific prayers. Teach your kids self control and delayed gratification.    Be intentional about the spiritual formation of yourself and your family.   But always remember that many people clicked on that first website because of personal hurts that also need to be addressed.
  15. You are not alone.   There are number of different types of resources available to help.

That’s the bullet-point version.   But you may know someone who needs to read this in full, with the topics fully discussed.   For them, here’s the link one more time to The Pornography Effect.

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