Quarantine and Pornography

I figured, after months of not typing a single letter toward another blog post, that the self-quarantine COVID-19 time called for a new post. It’s been awhile, and therefore lots has happened and lots has circulated through my mind. However, one thing in particular is critical to discuss. Hopefully churches take up their moral responsibility to address the following sexual sin and encourage followers of Christ to live the better way, avoiding the transient pleasures of the world and fixating our minds on the things above (Col. 3:1-2; 2 Cor. 4:18). 

I enjoy Instagram to see friends’ posts, follow some pastors from whom I love to learn, and look at mountain and climbing pictures. On the other hand, I solely use Twitter to read the insights of pastors and political journalists; theology and politics fill up my feed. While there have been some funny tweets recently, one serious tweet caught my attention more than any, and I have consistently found myself thinking of it time and time again over the last few days. The graph in the tweet is this:

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Relative to the PornHub traffic on the average day, worldwide traffic was up 11.6% on March 17th. Traffic went up approximately 7% in the U.S. and Canada. Time trends have adjusted, too, according to this Yahoo article:

Unsurprisingly, people are staying up later and free from the kind of restrictions to carnal pleasure that a rigid commute or nine to five job might provide.

“The largest increase of 31.5 percent happened in the early morning around 3am, while the gain at 7am was a nominal 1.4 percent. We can surmise that people stayed up later because they didn’t need to go to work in the morning and also slept in a little longer. Traffic at 1pm was 26.4 percent higher than normal when people may otherwise be at work,” they write about American audiences. “Traffic across all of Europe followed a similar trend as more people were working and staying at home, and many borders began to close. Overall European traffic was up 8.2 percent on March 17th, with the biggest increases from 2am to 4am, followed by a -1.4 percent dip at 7am. Afternoon traffic was 26.4 percent higher at 1pm. Traffic was adjusted for the individual time zone of all European visitors.”

Several Christ-following friends and I have been encouraged by the work of the church in our current livestream and home church days. Our current gatherings look more similar to the church in the book of Acts than 21st century megachurch gatherings. This morning, it was just my dad and I on the couch with our Bibles, watching The Village Church’s worship and preaching of the Word. Every day I’ve had even longer periods of time to read my Bible, pray, read books, and watch sermons. So have fellow believers. However, when not surrendered to the Holy Spirit and the prized goal of the glory of Christ, the extra time isn’t just unhelpful or boring. It is scary and dangerous. 

Sexual actions outside the covenant of marriage are sinful and outside of God’s intention for humankind. Paul said as such in his first letter to the church at Corinth: 

 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything. “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him. Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Cor. 6:12-20

And it is not just outward, external actions that God cares about. He also cares our thoughts and our internal heart posture. Jesus said as such in his Sermon on the Mount: 

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Matt. 5:27-30

Drawing people away from the good intentions of God, Satan is having a field day with isolation and quarantine. These truths have been around for thousands of years, and now this is just one of the many ways that science is catching up to the Bible. Recent research on the neurotransmitter dopamine and the hormone oxytocin strongly supports the Bible’s claims that sexual interactions are to be reserved for one person, of the opposite sex, within marriage. Outside of this, whether with a screen or with a date, we are harming ourselves and others spiritually, emotionally, and physically. We are not just objectifying others but dehumanizing them and ourselves, placing them and ourselves at a standard below God’s status for human beings: we are created in His image and have a inherent dignity that is above the sexual sin for which we all deserve condemnation. All of our sin separates us from God and we remain in this separation before repenting and turning to Christ. Paul, right before the above passage on sexual immorality, points to the culpability of all and the reconciliation to God of some: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Nobody has out-sinned the Cross. Realizing this grace, we must pray for those indulging to realize there is a higher pleasure and treasure: Christ himself. “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4). I don’t know who originally said this, but, if it breaks God’s heart, why would it fulfill ours? Quarantine and isolation, apart from the Spirit, create boredom and leisure time filled with more opportunity for sin. But Jesus came so that we might have an abundant life (John 10:10). There is a better way. 

While the vertical relationship with God comes first, there is also the horizontal relationship with others. God calls us to responsibility in both realms, not solely the former, which is why we seek justice around us. Unfortunately, no political party seeks this form of justice: the elimination of pornography and human/sex trafficking. Trump did vow to crack down on pornography and was the only presidential candidate to do so, interestingly enough. But both parties enjoy sexual sin as a whole. Liberal secularism cares for the trafficked, but does not see pornography as a big problem in the world of social justice (if it does, it does not engage the issue with such care). Furthermore, wrapped up in the sexual revolution, this side of the ideological spectrum can be rebuked by Paul’s words about certain indulgers in pagan practices: “They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4:19). Conservative civil religion is not characterized by the Holy Spirit and therefore enjoys the social benefits and the external morality of Christianity but is not transformed inwardly and therefore loves sexual impurity, however “secret” it may be. This is an issue of the heart, which is why both parties fall short, whatever glimmers of hope there may be at times. The church must rise up, love our neighbors better, and speak to the issue, teaching the whole truth. Only by showing the world that Christ satisfies eternally while sexual sin satisfies for a moment is there hope for a more vibrant Spirit-led culture and the elimination of sex trafficking and pornography. I will close with the words of Paul, hoping we can follow suit: “We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God” (2 Cor. 4:2). Furthermore, we must declare “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), seeking purity and regeneration in the church and cultural transformation outside the church. 

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