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Feb '05

Spiritual Pornography

The traditional American church has become the best place to score porn on planet earth. I’m not talking about the huge number of pastors that admitted that they struggle with pornography. What I am talking about is a systemic problem within the body of Christ. I have coined it (thanks to my wonderful wife Heidi) Spiritual Pornography. What, you might ask is spiritual pornography? Let me start by talking about why I think pornography is both dangerous and so attractive to some men.

A Black Hole of Death
Pornography by it’s very nature of images of unattainable people readily

available to men desperate for something more than they already have, is a deceptive snare. I believe one of the most alluring attributes of pornography is the sense of false intimacy that is associated with it. The entire pornography industry is founded on the premise that everyone wants intimacy and the way to get intimacy is through sex. Therefore if you can’t get real sex then the next best thing is pictures or movies of it. This very destructive because it deceives it’s victims into thinking that they are finding intimacy when they are being sold a lie and a cheap substitute instead. Instant gratification that only pacifies it does not really gratify. In fact, it is a gratification that gratifies the wrong things and so the cycle is perpetuated. So thousands upon thousands of people think that they are getting a need met when all they are doing is being given a horrible facsimile that barely resembles the real thing in form but the substance of which has been replaced with a black hole of death. This may sound a little alarmist in it’s tone to use phrases like “black hole of death,“ but what does scripture say?

James 1:15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Porn Church?
So what does porn have to do with the modern church? I believe that the Christianity of the majority of people in American churches have bought lock, stock and barrel a similar facsimile that rarely if ever resembles what it was intended to be. Let me explain. In the average church in America the “brand” of Christianity sold is one that has “a form of godliness but denying the power thereof.” I know I am painting with a very broad brush and I do not, by any means, want to question the intentions or integrity of any pastor, denomination, or church, however, the ineffectiveness of the church is becoming more and more obvious. How can I say this? What authority do I have? None but let’s look at the average congregant in the average American church.

Church Viagra
More and more churches are being taught how to grow. You grow by being more sensitive to those seeking spiritual meaning. You grow by using slick marketing, mailers, webspace, etc. You grow by providing the best “services” possible. Great musicians; great teaching; great chilren’s programs; growth (numerically anyway) becomes a matter of “performance” and “efficiency.”

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with putting on a great service..I am obsessed with quality in the church, but might it be that we have for so long thought that we would “lure” the spiritually depraved in through better performances that we have forgotten what our churches are supposed to be?

The Exodus
For some time now I have been asking those leaving the church I am currently employed at why it is that they are leaving. The most common response? I’m just not getting fed. What does that mean? For along time I thought it must mean that they didn’t like the preaching. But that can’t be the whole reason. I decided that, rather than try to figure out what they meant by “I’m not getting fed,” I would begin asking what their motivation was in coming in the first place. In other words, I stopped asking “why are you leaving” and started asking “why were you coming at all?” The answer to this is much more important. When you start asking people why they are coming and they talk about their needs, then what we have done is set up a consumer oriented system where shoppers walk the isles of churches looking for the one that has the most products that appeal to them. I know we live in a consumer oriented world but aren’t we as Christians supposed to live a life that is so different that it makes us stand out like “cities on hills?” Ought not our churches to be communities of like minded people that are sojourning this spiritual journey together? That doesn’t sound like a multi-million dollar organization to me. Though it may have thousands and even hundreds of thousands of members, it still remains a community; an organism if you will, and not an organization.

Our churches have become corporations of spiritual porn peddlers handing out instant gratification and doling out instant solutions to problems and needs that will take a lifetime of grappling and growing to understand let alone solve. Some of the mysteries of God we were never meant to know, yet we have this thought that if we simply package biblical knowledge in a more relevant style then more and more people will come to the faith…but statistically it is not happening. I truly have reached a place where I am beginning to fear for the future of the church in America. If we continue to bring up a generation of believers that have the form of what they are looking for but the substance is filled with something else, we are going to create an entire generation of disenfranchised, calloused, congregants who, like restaurant patrons who got terrible service, will never “eat there again!”

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