Part 20 of 27
There is always a war of technology going on in media. For reasons I will explain in a moment, the industry chose 8mm cameras and projectors over other technology. When I was young, the battle was between VHS and Betamax. Beta was superior in image quality. However, VHS won the battle and became the household standard for recording and watching movies. Tape rental houses popped up, shelves lined with VHS tapes. The digital revolution saw an epic struggle between DVD and laser disk. DVD won. Towers of disks replaced those massive racks of VHS tapes. Not many years later, the new battlefield was between HD DVD and BlueRay. BlueRay beat its competitor. The internet is the new battlefield. In each of these cases, there was a consistent player that decided the technological direction the industry would go. There is a sinister reality as to why 8mm, VHS, DVD, BlueRay, and others beat their competitors. It was the porn industry that did it.
The first pornographic film appeared in the late 1800s. Since then, it has driven the media world to invent and innovate. It was the porn industry that backed 8mm and thus that technology reigned supreme for a while. When the porn industry almost wholesale backed VHS instead of Betamax, the writing was on the wall. The same happened with DVD and BlueRay. It was even the porn industry that pioneered the technology that allows for automated closed caption and invented online payment.
It is wrong to think of the porn industry as a passive option. Porn has a dark evangelistic side. It is aggressive and active everywhere men, and now increasingly women, are. Porn is not merely "out there.” Porn is coming. It wants you and me and everyone you know. Even if you don't look at porn, you are using the technology that the porn industry backed.
If you've had the idea that through my years of ministry and Bible college, my porn consumption magically disappeared, that would be wrong. In those years, I was as involved with pornography as I ever was. Now, as the internet technology was maturing, so too was the content within. More privacy and anonymity meant the same thing for me as the rest of the young men my age — more hours on seedy sites watching and waiting for women to undress and do indecent acts.
There were times where I "struggled" with porn, but most of the time, I just swam in it. I spent at least a few hours a week, seeking out internet material that would allow me to find a sexual outlet. That was happening whether or not I had a girlfriend. It happened on nights after I'd preached at church. It even happened after I had led Bible studies in which I encouraged youth to be pure. I recognized the sickening hypocrisy of it all.
There were times when I fought back. I ripped the ethernet cable out of the back of my computer one night. I realized that wouldn't be enough, so I tore the socket out of the wall. I had enough of the temptation and I wanted out, but porn is insidious. It always seems to find a way back in. It wasn't long before I was back at it.
Sometimes I would groggily come to my senses after being asleep for a few hours, only to realize that I was on the internet looking for naked girls. I always refused to use the word "addicted" in those years because that made it seem like something beyond my control. Early on, I wanted to stop, but as time progressed, I became more complacent with the rotten state of affairs.
Despite a few short seasons when I swore off pornography, I endured my roaring twenties never going for more than a month, maybe two, without looking at porn. The eventual numbness I experienced on the subject took me to some unusual conclusions.
I had taken some pretty straight forward verses about lust and twisted them to mean what I wanted. For instance, Jesus said, "If you look at a woman with lust, you've committed adultery with her in your heart." That clearly means that lust and anything that results from lust is sin. However, I tried to pull a fast one on Jesus. I defined lust as "planning to have sex with a woman." I therefore reasoned that when I was looking at porn on video, I was not looking at women with whom I could ever be intimate. My twisted logic was that it didn't qualify as lust since I was never in the same room as these porn actresses, nor would we ever meet.
In addition to this, I calculated that it was possible to look at porn that was animated. I knew of guys who did. In this situation, there was no real person to lust after, so I extended this logic to live-action porn. I surmised that the actresses in porn clips were a kind of parody of real life. Therefore, I thought it shouldn't qualify as lust.
I always had my ticklish ears open for ideas that could alleviate my guilt. I wanted to feel free of the heavyweight that being a minister who looked at porn produced. In those years, I came across multiple arguments that sexual self-gratification was not a sin. The argument was, "The Bible doesn't specifically forbid the act."
Putting all of this together, I cautiously concluded that porn and its outcome was probably ok with God. It was a thin defense against the guilt I felt, though I was prepared to continue to build my blooming case. These were meager justifications that only partially staunched the growing wound that porn was creating in my life.
I was looking for an escape from the gnawing questions that the situation presented. I had often heard real Christians could not willingly live in sin. I wasn't sure exactly what constituted a willing life of sin, but by most definitions, I was living it. That didn't fit with my experience, though. I felt pretty sure that I was saved, especially because I was actively doing ministry, reading my Bible, and praying regularly. So if I could convince myself that porn was not a sin, then I could effectively get around the obvious logical dilemma.
One night I was lying in bed tired of the constant battle. I wanted to be free from the ever-present back and forth in my mind. My justification was beginning to tone down my guilt, but it wasn't a full-scale defense. I wanted to settle it once and for all, and resign myself to the outcome. If I could finalize my conclusion that porn wasn't a sin, I would continue guilt-free and stop worrying about it. It was an attractive option. I was excited because I thought I had found a reasonable solution that could free me from my moral torment. All that was left was to get divine approval for the plan.
I hit my knees and began to pray. I'm just going to admit that this was a weird prayer. It probably was not the weirdest prayer I've ever prayed, but it would make the top ten. I whispered these words to God, feeling like I might be almost at an end to a long road of guilt.
"Lord, I feel like I see the truth. I can see now that this isn't a sin. But if I'm wrong—If it is a sin—please show me." With that, I reached for my Bible and let it fall open to a seemingly random verse. I rarely, if ever, had played this form of Bible roulette, but it seemed to be simply a formality at this point. I had already come to my conclusion. I could feel the weight lifting. I already knew what I would be doing that night. It was exciting to imagine a life lived the way I wanted to, without the nuisance of guilt and shame. The freedom was short-lived as my eyes fell to the verse on which my finger had landed.
"Do not be a slave to your own body…" it read. I seriously am not sure if this was God speaking to me, or if it was merely a fluke. Though the verse seemed to be too on the nose not to mean something, it struck at the deeper problem with my porn routine. Even if the act itself was not a sin, any bodily habit that enslaved me was wrong. I had to admit that I was not in compliance with that verse. I was a slave to my sexual appetite. I closed the Bible more than a little frustrated with God and embarrassed at my attempt to normalize a deplorable habit.
My house of cards fell apart, and my man-made justifications blew away with that simple phrase. I felt the raw pain of it all. I was addicted to porn. I was living with sin. It was a sin that I willfully allowed into my life regularly. I was such a hypocrite. I was such a fake. So many preachers had said that being a new creation in Christ meant that I should not be able to live like this. The reality hit like a brick to my jaw. If they were right, then I might not be saved. It never even occurred to me that they could be wrong.