Pornification, part 2: 'Not that There is Anything Wrong With That'
Last week I began a series entitled "The Pornifcation of American Culture." You can read the first post of this series here. These posts come from a lengthier article I wrote for the Assemblies of God Enrichment Journal. The entire issue is worth your time and you can access it here. In this part, I deal with changing views of sexuality and inceased sexualization.
Here is more of the text from that article:
The issues of human sexuality are impacting evangelical churches in a profound way. The church must recognize and address the changing sexual mores of the world. Sex and sexuality outside of marriage has been around for millennia but the current is moving to new places.
The famous line "not that there is anything wrong with that" from a 1993 Seinfeld episode is an example of a new era in our culture. The main character, Jerry and his friend George were trying to not be seen as gay but neither did they want to come across as homophobic. They repeated the line throughout the episode in an effort to make the distinction. Acceptance of people's diverse sexual decisions is expected and demanded by American culture. We live under relentless pressure to "be conformed" to the world versus "being transformed" (Romans 12:2).
For the book, Lost and Found, we surveyed unchurched young adults to ask "If you were considering visiting or joining a church would knowing that the church did not welcome or affirm homosexual members positively or negatively impact your decision?" Eighty-three percent of the "always unchurched" young adults ages 20-30 responded "negatively." Even among the most friendly unchurched (often church drop-outs) who were still somewhat open to the church, fifty-two percent said believing a church is not open to homosexuals would negatively impact their decision to attend. Alternative expressions of sexuality are not just normal, they are expected and to be affirmed.
We see diverse sexual ideas and activities everywhere. Some porn stars are more than mainstream; they are business people who call the shots on their filming, their books, DVDs and websites. A recent on-stage lip-lock between Scarlett Johansson and Sandra Bullock made MTV's "The Best Girl-On-Girl List" (yes, that's a category now). Pop stars like Lady Gaga ('Poker Face,' 2008) and Katie Perry ('I Kissed a Girl and I liked It,' 2008) blur the line between porn star and pop star. Their popular songs address issues like oral sex, bi-sexuality, and lesbianism. Well known secular record producer Mike Stock says he believes children are being "sexualized" by popular culture. "The music industry has gone too far. It's not about me being old-fashioned. It's about keeping values that are important in the modern world. These days you can't watch modern stars like Britney Spears or Lady Gaga with a two-year-old. Ninety-nine per cent of the charts is R 'n' B, and 99 per cent of that is soft pornography. Kids are being forced to grow up too young." [Daily Mail UK].
We've come a long way when secular record producers are concern about our sexual mores.
Lawyer and author John W. Whitehead recently observed, "Children between the ages of 8 and 18 spend approximately 30-120 minutes a day watching music videos -- 75% of which contain sexually suggestive materials, and with the advent of portable technology, children's television and music are often unmonitored by parents or guardians. Not only does this accelerate adolescent sexual behavior (girls between the ages of 12-14 are two times more likely to engage in sexual activity after being exposed to sexual imagery), but it increases the likelihood of more sexual partners." [Huffington Post]
This is not a war on Perry or Gaga. Remember before them was Madonna and Brittany. They are the commercial products of our culture, not the root issue. When they go away (and they eventually will), they will be replaced unless our hearts change.
Looking more closely at the pornification of our culture will help answer a critical question - What does the world of the people we are trying to reach look like? Most of the Christian community appears overwhelmed or volitionally disengaged that what existed before in secret is now "shouted from the rooftops" concerning sex. Being overwhelmed about how to address the issue - we don't. Choosing to disengage, we allow a culture--and our own children--the go-ahead to live by the world's standards. The church has been given all that is needed to address sexuality from a biblical perspective. The Scriptures clearly teaches God's plan for sex. Yet we stumble awkwardly past the issues. If the church refuses to address the issues not only do we become irrelevant, but we leave the conversation open to others who feel more free to do so.
Who will be the "salt" and "light" source of biblical guidance to a culture "gone wild?" The church must provide a clear and robust biblical ethic of sexuality. Although it may be uncomfortable for Christians and churches to discuss, these are issues on the hearts of young Americans. Addressing the issues of marriage, pornography, and homosexuality in biblical ways will enable a church to engage with its community and thrive in many ways. We must resist the temptation to acquiesce to culture through silence. The church should hold up the "new alternative lifestyle" (men married to women for life in a sexually pure covenant relationship) and live it out.
This is a very real issue that impacts churches and leaders. In yesterday's Lausanne World Pulse, Brent Lindquist spoke about our need to respond to the "pornagraphy tsumani." I will be writing more on ways to deal with the issue later, but in the meantime his article is worth a read.
Lindquist explains how the church should deal with the issues:
[T]he majority of our church and culture has been impacted to some degree by pornography. If that is the case, then many of us are in recovery from pornography. If this does apply to us, then we are bringing this secret out of the darkness and into the light. "Into the light" means acknowledging to others that we are struggling with, or growing through, the effects of this problem. In our weakness we, through "He," will become strong...
Waiting until people have fallen or discovered to have fallen usually means they are put into a therapeutic program. These programs are good and needed, but we should be focusing our efforts on intervention earlier in this process. This is where accountability and purity enter. Certainly, people who have fallen need accountability groups and processes and need to re-establish commitments to personal purity. But we, as leaders ourselves, need to seek personal purity as part of our regular lifelong spiritual journey.
In part 1 of the series, I was struck and burdened by the comments in the post. Some shared their struggle and other shared solutions. Feel free to do so in the comments.