Moral Choices when Viewing

Moral Choices when Viewing

When I saw the post Virtual Gomorrah: Temptation, Technique, and Technological Progress on the evangelical outpost, I expected to be annoyed by calls for censorship. And indeed there are a few words that tend to annoy my libertarian approach, such as these:

. . . My basic position is that while they are desperately needed they are also hopelessly ineffective. I’ve come to believe, as Princeton Professor Robert George says, that “laws are likely to be least effective when they are needed most.” I’m still trying to decided how to say that is a way that doesn’t sound defeatist or pessimistic. . . .

After that note from the introduction, however, the post is right on target, and worth reading. The question I think we need to ask ourselves is simply this: Do I have the will to live my convictions? For a Christian I would put it more precisely: Will I allow the Holy Spirit to keep guiding me into greater maturity?

The success of pornography and violence in the public media, whether on television, video, games, or via the internet suggests that many people who claim to be disgusted by x-rated material really aren’t. When nobody is watching, they are quite ready to watch the things that they condemn. If that were not the case, e-mail inboxes would not be flooded with offerings of pornography. Those who sell this material know that if they scatter their ads far enough there are people who will pause before hitting that delete key and then they will get sucked in, one step at a time.

I wrote about this a couple of years ago (pre-blog) in an essay titled Off-Switch Censorship. I think it’s still applicable now.

We are far too anxious to get someone else to solve our problems of will. There is a simple but difficult solution. Learn to say no. Decide not only what you will watch but how much. This can apply to politics, war coverage, or entertainment. There are some things that are no good in any proportions, but there are also things that are good when used in balance, but are dangerous when used to excess.

Consciously establish your own boundaries and then work hard to stick with them. If you have problems doing so, then get some help. Christian churches should provide opportunities for people to be accountable to one another. I’m not talking about big brother, in which the church tries to monitor your private life, nor am I talking about an intervention group for acknowledged addicts. I’m talking about a group of people who talk to one another about how their Christian walk is going.

Let me give you an example from my own life. My morning starts with a short time of prayer, then there are certain morning activities, things that need to be done immediately. Then I have my time of Bible study and prayer that is somewhat longer. Now my wife knows by experience that my day goes much better if I have that second period of study and prayer. That’s my time with God that lets me hear from the Lord about my priorities for the day and generally feeds my soul.

Unfortunately, I have a strong tendency to look at the list of things I really need to get done that day, and to decide I need to get started. After all, I’ve already had prayer time. I can rationalize this by noting that I will spend several hours working on a manuscript having to do with a Biblical or spiritual topic, so I am, after all, studying the Bible. Well, your mileage may vary, but for me there is a huge difference between relaxed, devotional study, and editing or writing a manuscript, however good that manuscript may be.

As I said, my wife knows how this works, and she can identify when I’ve done my devotions and when I haven’t by my attitude through the rest of the day. Devotional dependency? Perhaps. 🙂 But the fact is that she gently holds me accountable on that point. When she notices the results, she’ll ask me, “Did you have your devotional time?’ Now your spouse is not likely to be an adequate source of accountability, though I think a spouse can help a great deal. But having someone just ask you can be a big help.

I would suggest that laws against pornography and obscenity are not going to be generally successful. Like drug laws, we have the unfortunate tendency to measure their success by the number of people caught, not by the number who have access to the material. (I am opposed to censorship in any case. I just happen to believe in this case that censorship is also going to be ineffective.) That means that those of us who do not approve of such materials need to take responsibility for our own actions.

One last thing–turn the switch off before the program you don’t want to watch even starts. Delete the e-mail before you gaze at the thumbnails and wonder. Once you’ve decided on the boundaries, enforce them on yourself with rigor.

3 thoughts on “Moral Choices when Viewing

  1. You’re absolutely right about accountability. Porn batters women by proxy but I am not in favor of outlawing it for the reasons you list. According to a 2006 study, 50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women are addicted to pornography. Our church recommends, and we use, the software called Covenant Eyes. It’s not a filter. It tracks what websites you visit, and sends the log to the accountability partner you select. Knowing that you absolutely will be caught at it takes away much of the appeal. I get a lot of porn traffic at PH, and I refer as much of it as possible to this free, mentored online course:

    Bottom line: like abortion, porn is a heart issue, and should not be a legal one.

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