Thinking Out Loud

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.

July 9, 2009

Montreal Jazz Festival Defines Total Commitment

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:12 pm

One of the things that constantly strikes me each year when visiting the Montreal Jazz Festival as we did this week, is the number of business, professional and retail companies that are totally displaced for two weeks by this event.   Entire city blocks are shut down, traffic is detoured, and the evening events run quite late and quite loud.

I can’t help but think of the cities where this simply would NOT work.   I’m not sure what compensation is given to these business owners, but I do know that overall, for the entire city, this event brings in major bucks.   So you know that people are going to buy-in to the bigger picture.

Individual people sacrificing their personal freedoms for a greater goal.   This event is a great illustration.   While the music is excellent, and Mrs. W. and I love the free, outdoor concerts; you can’t help see something bigger happening here.

And if people will do this simply for the love of music, what sacrifices might people be willing to make for even higher goals?   Matters of life, death and eternity.    Matters of the heart.   Matters of the soul.  The good news about Jesus Christ.

We who possess this message ought to be willing to do whatever it takes to get it out there.   Even if it means closing city blocks and staying up late into the night.   But in our case, it may call for a different type of sacrifice, and quiet whispers instead of mass events. It may just involve you. Or me.

June 19, 2009

Sunday Morning = Worship + Preaching

Filed under: Church, worship — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:17 pm

Let’s start with preaching.

Rob Bell is hosting a conference in Grand Rapids in a couple of weeks that I hope is well attended by those who are paid to to entertain us minister the Word of God to us on a weekly basis.   The conference is called, “POETS, PROPHETS, and PREACHERS.”   It features ROB BELL, SHANE HIPPS and PETER ROLLINS, and runs July 5 – 7.

Here’s what he said in his sermon on May 10th about the conference:

rob_bell“A sermon should be electric.   It shouldn’t be something that people ‘sit through’ so they can go to lunch.   It should be something that rattles your cage and disturbs you and comforts you and inspires you and provokes you…  Preaching is an ancient, primal art form.  You didn’t just sit back and ‘evaluate them,’ you were caught up in something because the communicator was caught up in them.”

To learn more about the conference — registration fee of $250 covers both you and a spouse or both you and a friend — visit this website.   If you can’t go, read about the conference anyway.   You might just decide you do want to go.  Hey, you might even decide you want to preach.

Now let’s talk about worship.

The Internet Monk (a.k.a. Michael Spencer, who is not a monk) has done it again.  Although this one was one of his shorter posts, it has produced a lot of comments, which means this is an issue that causes people to want to put in their two cents.   (That’s two pence for you Brits!)

This was actually posted on June 12th, so we’re latecomers to this one:

treble clefWe have, within a matter of 50 years, completely changed the entire concept of what is a worship service. We’ve adopted an approach that demands ridiculous levels of musical, technical and financial commitment and resources.

We have tied ourselves to the Christian music industry and its endless appetite for change and profit. We have accepted that all of our worship leaders are going to be very, very young people…

…There is no way for this to end well. This is like a NASCAR car with the throttle stuck open. We’re stuck on a roller coaster and we can’t get off.

Worship has now become a musical term. Praise and worship means music. Let’s worship means the band will play. We need to give more time to worship doesn’t mean silent prayer or public scripture reading or any kind of participatory liturgy. It means music.

Even singing is getting lost in this. As the volume and the performance level goes up, who knows who is singing?

And who can stand for 20, 30 or 40 minutes?

Check out the whole article here.  It just takes a couple of minutes.   But don’t stop there.   There were 197 comments posted before iMonk got the concert security people ushers to close the doors.   Some of them will hit where you live.

The second graphic is a thing called a ‘treble clef.’  You see a long time ago, before there were guitar charts for everything, we used something called staff notation, a staff having five lines…

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