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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

God and Pornography

Banned by HWA! Books, News and Observations About Armstrongism and the Churches of God recently featured a post entitled What was Rod Meredith Thinking???? (http://armstrongismlibrary.blogspot.com/2015/03/what-was-rod-meredith-thinking.html). The piece alleges that this former Worldwide Church of God Evangelist and current Presiding Evangelist of the Living Church of God has an unhealthy interest in pornography. Although I am generally leery of the process of evaluating the personal moral behavior of others, I can see some justification for doing so for someone who claims spiritual authority over others.

From a scriptural perspective, it is clearly wrong to engage in sexual fantasy when one is committed to another in marriage (Matthew 5:28). I can also see that anything that turns into a preoccupation or obsession could be said to be interfering with one's responsibility to love God and your neighbor (Matthew 22:37-40). Finally, it is clearly wrong to condemn a behavior in others which is currently a problem in your own life (Luke 6:42 and Matthew 23:4). Anyone who has ever read the gospel accounts of his life knows that Christ was no fan of hypocrisy. Hence, my own post is not meant to defend or excuse the alleged behavior of the person referenced in the original article. Nevertheless, the question does arise: Is pornography inherently wrong/evil? (Is it a sin?)

According to Webster's and the Online Etymology Dictionary, our English word pornography is derived from the Greek components porne (prostitute) and graphia (indicating an illustration or hand-drawn picture). Indeed, the Greek word translated as "fornication" in the KJV of the New Testament is porneia, and it is suggestive of any illicit sexual act (http://www.blueletterbible.org). Hence, the etymology of the English word pornography is indicative of a practice that has been regarded as somehow wrong or shameful for a very long time.

Even so, if we are appealing to Scripture as our guide, we must acknowledge that it was man who attached shamefulness and sinfulness to his naked body (Genesis 3:6-10). In the story of the formation/creation of the human form, we are told that as YHWH surveyed his handiwork "He" pronounced the finished product as being "very good" (Genesis 1:26-31). Which, incidentally, makes sense if we were indeed fashioned in the form and likeness of Almighty God!

In 2013, I wrote a piece for The Journal about human sexuality. In that article, I said that all of the scriptural evidence taken together suggested that YHWH evaluated sexual behavior based on the following criteria: "Does the behavior bring joy and happiness to both parties? Does the behavior harm anyone? Is the behavior the product of two consenting equals?" If my thesis was correct in this regard, we can readily see that engaging in the viewing of pornography clearly has the potential for providing a NO answer to one or all of those questions (Is obsession/addiction ever the source of happiness? How were the people being portrayed in the pornography treated? Did they willingly engage in the practice? (I'm thinking here of human trafficking) Were they forced to perform? Did they do it for the money?).

Nevertheless, one can also imagine circumstances where the answers to all of those questions could be YES. Are private pictures of nude spouses inappropriate? Is a picture or drawing of you and your spouse engaged in a sex act shameful or dirty? Was the sex act itself designed by YHWH? If so, doesn't that make it good and wholesome? To be sure, anything that is good and wholesome has the potential to be perverted and twisted; but do you see the point that I'm driving at: There is nothing inherently wrong with the behavior! What if two people are not committed to anyone else in marriage? Does that mean that they are not allowed to see a naked body or fantasize about someone else in the same circumstances? By the way, if the traditional Christian view of this subject is correct, then we all may need to cover up those mirrors in our bathrooms!

Just for the record, this piece was in no way intended to legitimize the viewing of pornography. If the headline to any follow up or commentary on this piece is "Miller Jones/Lonnie Hendrix endorses the viewing of pornography," then the individual writing the piece wasn't paying attention. My intent was to show that blanket condemnations of anything or anyone are rarely (if ever) smart, helpful or right. What do you think?

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