30 September 2013

Porn: Marriage and Integrity Killer

Yesterday I preached a sermon about pornography and how Christians should stand against it.  In my research for this topic (which was all done under the watchful eye of a trusted accountability partner), I came across miserable stat after miserable stat that left me frustrated and angry.  There are many lies that people buy into about porn in order to justify their use of it, but no justification is sufficient to conclude that porn is harmless entertainment and doesn't hurt anybody.

Here are some stats I found (mostly from Covenant Eyes and several of their research projects): (Note: p = pornography; it was shorthand in my research notes)

-       -More than 1.6 billion searches for porn so far this year

-       -1 in 5 mobile searches are for p

-       -24% of smartphone users admit to having p on their handset (and of that group, 84% say their significant other didn't know about it)

-       -Political persuasion doesn't make any difference; all political groups use p at about the same rate

-      - There are nearly 2 million p sites

-       -In a 2008 online survey of over 560 college students, 93% of boys and 62% of girls were exposed to p before 18.  Nearly 75% say their parents had never discussed Internet P with them.

o   In a 2009 survey of 29,000 college students, 51% of males and 32% of female students first viewed P before their teenage years.

-       -In a 2004 report from Message Labs, 70% of IP traffic occurs between 9-5, when most people are at work.

In the Church of Jesus Christ
-       "If you think you can't fall into sexual sin, then you're godlier than David, stronger than Samson, and wiser than Solomon."  - Bill Perkins

-      - Regular church attenders are 26% less likely to look at p than non-attenders, but those self-identified as "fundamentalists" are 91% MORE likely to look at p.

-     -  A 2006 survey reported that 50% of Christian men and 20% of Christian women view p regularly.

Effects on marriage and family
-       -Prolonged exposure to P leads to:
o   An exaggerated perception of sexual activity in society
o   Diminished trust between intimate couples
o   The abandonment of the hope of sexual monogamy
o   Belief that promiscuity is the natural state
o   Belief that abstinence and sexual inactivity are unhealthy
o   Belief that marriage is sexually confining
o   Lack of attraction to family and to child-raising
-     -  In 2002, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that
o   56% of divorces involved one party having "an obsessive interest in p websites."
o   33% involved excessive time spent speaking in chat rooms.
-       -"Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions." (US Dept. of Justice)
-      - in 2004, 70 million individuals visit p sites each week, 11 million of them are younger than 18.
-       -Nearly 2/3 of parents do not use online parental controls or filtering software.


03 September 2013

Amusement and the god of entertainment

Sometimes I feel like I could preach for an hour on a particular topic.  I'm pretty sure I'm the only one at church who feels that way, but some topics can easily be soapboxes for me.  This past Sunday, I preached on the god of entertainment (we are in a series on false gods).*  In doing an early Sunday morning run through of the sermon, it quickly became apparent that this sermon was way too long for me, coming in at nearly 40 minutes (I try not to preach more than 30, with rare exceptions).  So the difficult question surfaced: what do I have to cut to get this down to 25 minutes?  This is probably a good situation in which to find yourself; it's better than having to face the question, "What can I add to get this up to the right length?"  If you find yourself with a 10-minute sermon and you can't think of anything else to add, it's going to be a tough time for you sermonically.

So the gist of the sermon was this: entertainment is a gift from God, but it becomes an idol when it diverts and distracts us to the point that our most important relationships suffer.  The main part that was cut was a section on the concept of "amusement."  Here it is:

     Many forms of entertainment we seek because we want to be amused.  I never realized what the word "amusement" meant.  The Muses, according to Greek mythology, are the personification of knowledge and the arts: literature, dance, music, science, geography, math, philosophy, drama, and inspiration.  Music is an art of the Muses, and a museum used to be where you'd go to worship the Muses.  They were all about thoughtfulness, reflection, and creativity. 
     Now when you take a Greek word and put an "a" on the front of it, it negates the word.  It makes the difference between "theist" (someone who believes God exists) and "atheist" (someone who believes God does not exist).  Therefore, the word amusement basically means the lack of thoughtfulness, reflection, and creativity. 
     There's nothing wrong with a good laugh; it can help us cope with things that would otherwise drive us crazy.  But I have to wonder, does the god of entertainment really want to help us or hurt us?  Are we, as Neil Postman so aptly titles his book, amusing ourselves to death?  TV, movies, games, social media all promise to add value to your life - but they take it from you, one hour, one game, one newsfeed at a time.  We sit in front of the TV and say, "there's nothing on!"  maybe what we mean is "meaningless!  Meaningless!  It's all meaningless!"  As Kyle Idleman writes, "never in the history of humanity has there been so much entertainment and so little satisfaction."

* - shout out to Kyle Idleman for his excellent book Gods At War: Defeating the Idols that Battle for Your Heart (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013).