When Sin is allowed to persist, it becomes a part of the culture.
Rev. Jonathan David Faulkner
Let me start by saying, it would be easy to make this an outrage post, screaming at evangelicalism and at the Duggar’s in general for how they have mainstreamed a virulent form of Purity Culture that has done damage to both the men and women who have participated in it. By making women “enemies” of men (the term used by the Atlanta Shooter and a popular purity culture book) when talking about the way they dress or in relationship to sexual purity, in general. We have created a toxic and abusive culture where men and women actually have no clue how to interact. I will come back to this in a second, but for the purposes of this article, I want to state up front that what we are seeing, have been seeing, played out in the story of Josh Duggar is a tragedy, not just because Josh has succumbed to sinful habits, but because it has to be devastating to Anna and the kids, including their unborn child. While commentary on these topics is appropriate, it should not, I repeat, should not, be divorced from prayer for both the victimizer and the victims. As Christians, we should always want to see both Justice and Reconciliation, federal law is pretty clear in cases of both embezzling and possession of Child Pornography and we can hope and pray that the legal system will enact justice and pray for Josh’s repentance and reconciliation, even if that comes while behind bars. It is also not my intent to paint Josh as a victim here, as a grown man, he should know and can do better. He could have repented and got the help he needed after the Ashley Madison Scandal, If I recall he did, only to have another scandal come to light now.
But this story does bring to light one of the most pervasive struggles with sin that exists within the Church and it is one that affects everyone on some level. That is the issue of Pornography. Here are a couple of country wide statistics on Pornography from Webroot.com:
- About 200,000 Americans are classified as Porn Addicts
- 40 Million American people visit Porn sites
- 35% of internet downloads are related to Pornography
- 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content
- Two-thirds of porn viewers are women.
Pornography as a pervasive problem in our country affects the health of individuals, families and society at large. Our youth suffer the worst outcomes as webroot notes, Pornography does the following to youth viewers:
- It increases the odds of teenage pregnancy
- It hinders sexual development
- It raises the risk of Depression
- It creates distorted expectations which hinder healthy sexual development.
As for families in general, 47% of U.S Households reported that Porn was a problem in their home. It infidelity rate goes up by 200% I will let you read the rest of the article.
How about the Church? Consider this information from Baptist News:
- 70% of Youth Pastors report that they have had at least one teen come to them for help dealing with Pornography
- 68% of Church going men and more than 50% of Pastors view porn on a regular basis. Of young Christian Adults 18-24 years old, 76% actively search for Porn.
- 59% of Pastors said married men seek their help for porn use
- 33% of women ages 25 and under search for porn at least once per month
- 87% of Christian women say they have watched porn
- 55% of married men and 25% of married women say they watch porn at least once a month
- 57% of pastors say porn addiction is the most damaging sin in their congregation and 68% say porn has adversely impacted the Church
- Only 7% of pastors say their church has a program to help people struggling with pornography.
I am not a mathematician , but I passed every statistics class I ever took because averages come easy to me. So if you compare porn use in America with Porn use at the Church, it would seem obvious that porn is consumed at a much higher percentage than our secular counterparts, and the problem is not just with the person in the pew, it makes up a majority of our pastors as well. I have often wondered why the Mormons were leading the way through their organization Fight the New Drug. This is why, it is an invasive part of Church Culture, and it is fueling a lot of the other sins that have been exposed as the Church finds itself in the midst of a reckoning that includes the dismantling of purity culture from inside and outside of the Church. God’s Heart Podcast Co-Host Katie Mason spoke about this when we talked about the RZIM Report back in March. David French also did an excellent job breaking down Purity Culture on this episode of the Bulwark Podcast with Charlie Sykes that I highly recommend. My friend and Colleague Elizabeth Ross has also done a fair amount of dismantling over at her blog: Elizabeth Ross Writes. I also highly recommend Shelia Gregiore’s blog: To Love Honor and Vacumn and her new book “The Great Sex Rescue” if you have not already.
All these sources point to one thing, Josh Duggar is not an anomaly in the Church, he is representative of a majority of Christian Men and Pastors. I will not advance an argument that “Child porn is worse” all porn is inherently evil and as the Church of Jesus we should be putting it as far from ourselves as we possibly can. Instead, “only 7% of churches have a program to help people who are struggling with pornography” and “The Mormons are leading the way with their organization “Fight the New Drug.” I also do not believe that porn is a private sin, nor do I believe in a sin that does not harm someone, every sin harms someone, even if it is just the sinner, but pornography is listed as a root cause of over 68% of divorces, and as I noted above, ruins our kids. Given that this sin destroys families and deeply affects our children, shouldn’t we be quick to get rid of it? One would think so.
But why is it such a problem? I believe the answer to that question is found in the purity culture dictum that says that men are nothing more than the product of their mental impulses and so women need to make sure they are not triggering a man’s “mustang mind” and men need to do everything possible to not think lustful thoughts and “bounce their eyes” away from their “enemies.” Others have taken apart these arguments more thoroughly than I have time for here, suffice it to say I agree with the critique of these viewpoints, especially Shelia Gregiore and Dr. Beth Allison Moore who have said these things are all results of the fall and do not reflect God’s original intent at creation. I absolutely, 100% agree with this statement and would add that the point of Christ, His person and work, is to provide a way for the restoration of the original intent of all creation and so in Him and through Him we should be walking towards the restoration of all things as in the Garden of Eden and not continuing to live in our fallen state. If the Holy Spirit brings: “The washing of regeneration and renewal” (Titus 3:5) than those things that happened as a result of the fall, those things that happened in Genesis 3, are things the Holy Spirit is working to reverse in our hearts as we live for Christ. Christians should be working towards the ideal, not slumming it in the flesh because we are no longer of the flesh. Granted, there are some things that cannot be reversed in this life, nakedness is still a shameful thing outside of the bond of marriage, we will always have to wear clothing in this life. But that is getting out in the weeds a bit.
The reality is, we are called to submit ourselves to: “The transforming of your minds” (Rom 12:2) so that our minds are no longer consumed by the life of the flesh, but that we may discern the will of God, “what is good, acceptable and perfect.” We are also commanded to “put off the old self and put on the new self that is hidden in Christ” (Col 3:14) and to put away all the vices of the flesh and put on the virtues of the Kingdom. We are also told that: “we know that those who are in Christ no longer (continually) sin” (1 John 3). All of this comes through submission to the Lordship of Christ. When we continue in the flesh, we are not only denying that we are believers, but denying Christ, even if we do great things for him, we are only adding window dressings to a dying soul. Relationship with Christ will produce the fruit of Christ, and that will mean we will grow up into maturity as believers as Christ increases in us. That means, gentlemen (and ladies who struggle with porn) we should no longer give ourselves to the lustful passions that often drive a porn addiction, but grow up into Christ.
This is the thing that has always baffled me about the Purity Culture argument “boys will be boys.” When do boys do all that growing up into Christ that the bible talks about? The result is a church culture where men are permitted to walk around with untransformed minds who have been classified not by the new life of Christ, but by the old life of the fall. The idea that a man cannot think maturely about a women he meets is ludicrous, and if you genuinely cannot, that is a sign of a much deeper issue that you need to seek professional help for. The fallen condition is not supposed to be the way it is, the Church is meant to be a people who live out, imperfectly, the restored life of Jesus, that means we should reject pornography as an evil and resist it with all our might, not excuse its use. Why? Because in the resurrection community our sisters are hurting from pornography use by husbands and sons and a smaller number of husbands and sons are hurting from pornography use by wives and daughters. Pornography continues the post-fall trend of dehumanization that led to the destruction by flood in the time of Noah. It is even more problematic when you consider the incredible amount of money spent on “pro-Family” platforms that Christians consume porn at higher rates than the secular society around us.
As a people, we need to stop excusing the actions of people like Josh Duggar, they have preyed on innocent people or have paid money to those who have. We need to renew our understanding of what it means to be transformed in Christ and we need to actually then submit to being transformed by Christ. We need to look to the garden and men and women’s fellowship with God there and know that Christ wants us to reclaim that, imperfectly now, but perfectly in eternity, until He comes again. Men, we need to grow up into Christ, stop putting so much pressure on our wives and daughters to dress in certain ways or do certain things. Its time for men to actually be courageous and walk as a people renewed in Christ, built on Christ, with the “same mind of Christ” (Phll 2:5). The includes modeling what it means to grow up into maturity and not get lost in the excuse of the fall. If God’s original intention was that man and women work together for the care of creation and population of the Earth, then we have to model that in our churches and homes. We have to stop living in Genesis 3 and seek Christ’s vision of a people restored to Genesis 1. Until we do this, we will continue to struggle, men and women, image bearers, will continue to be hurt and we will never experience the blessings of a life lived in Christ.