Of Child Porn and National Defense

Sitting in class this morning, we were discussion how to handle someone in our church being accused of child pornography. Of course, this has happened recently at a North Texas church, and this was the basis for our case study. This particular case was handled very well. The accused did indeed have child porn on his computer. He is currently in jail serving a 7 year sentence. What concerned me was the reaction of the class.

It was nearly universally agreed upon that this man should be scorned. This “zero tolerance” approach advocated making this man a pariah. Many people at this church ended up leaving the church because the church did not excommunicate the man or his family. A congregational meeting was called and this man’s sin was bare before the entire church. Even though the man had not molested any children, and even though he was in jail, there were Christians that left the church because the church wasn’t harsher to the man. It appeared as if anything less than a noose wouldn’t have been enough. The real moment came for me when he was referred to as “pond scum” by someone in our class.

Why is it acceptable to label someone as pond scum, no matter who they are? Let’s pretend for a moment that it is ok to call someone pond scum. Who would be on that list? Child molesters? Rapists? Pornographers? What about people who kill children? Those who violate the human rights of others?

Uh-oh. See what just happened there? We have those people in our church. Dudes look at porn all the time. Should we call a congregational meeting so everyone knows? Many of us have people in our congregations who have been involved in killing children. It’s called war. Just this last month, we dropped a bomb on an Afghani village that killed a bus full of women and children. Should we call a congregational meeting for the people who dropped the bomb? For those that authorized it? Those who voted for the war? Those that made the bomb? Those that make their living making airplanes of war? Hmmm.

What is pornography about? Not sex, according to psychologists. It is about control. It is about dehumanizing the other. Pretending the person being looked upon does not have a soul or person-hood, but exists only for the pleasure of the person looking. Is this not what our militaristic consumerism in America does? Do we not take advantage of the resources of others for our own pleasure and enforce this with our military? Why don’t candy bars cost $5 a piece? Because of child labor in another country. Why do computers not cost 10 times what they actually cost? Because the material for computer chips comes from villages in the DRC where entire cultures are destroyed to mine cheap ore.

The next time we look down on those whose sin seems greater than ours, we should first realize that if our greatest handful of sins were paraded for everyone, we would not come out of that very intact. Second, we should realize that sometimes a person’s sin is not born from within, but though external sources. The child pornographer may have been a victim at one time himself, thus skewing his view of right and wrong.

And I would suggest that we have all been abused. The Technological Therapeutic Militaristic Consumerism (America’s version of Satan, or the powers and principalities at work in the West) have made us their object. As a result, our view of right and wrong is skewed. We no longer view people in other countries as people. We view the lives of the unseen masses as objects that contribute to our pleasure. We become uncomfortable with even talking about it, fearing that the realization of what we are really doing will force us to give up some pleasure.

We are all child pornographers. Fearful that someone will come along and tell us that the people we are taking advantage of are actually underage, when we have been pretending that they are consenting adults. But we are all wrong.

15 thoughts on “Of Child Porn and National Defense

  1. David B.

    Why was everybody so aligned in ostracizing this offender? Several reasons. First, child pornography=child molester in most people’s minds. This triggers a very real fear in their heads and hearts for their kids or kids in their community. Fear provokes a powerful response in people. Second, all socially labeled sexual perversions are under heavy fire in our culture during this day and age; one could go so far as to say that this is the witch hunt of our time – an accusation of child molestation/rape/pornography use is as good as a conviction in most people’s minds. This means that it becomes socially acceptable to unanimously condemn a person who has been accused of this sort of thing. My third point stems from the second – for once people can see the world in simple black/white, good/bad, wrong/right terms without having to think too hard, face too many internal contradictions, or ask too many questions. Some people can see the world in these terms anyway, but most people have an understanding that we live in a complicated world where things are (or at least seem) very gray. When child pornography comes up almost anybody can point a finger and say “that is evil and it will not be tolerated, accepted, or condoned!” Finally, you make a good point about first world exploitation of third world resources (this is not just a US problem, although we do tend to be the most egregious offenders on the whole), but people do not see the damage that is inflicted on others by their way of life. If we don’t see it, then it’s not real for us and we will not be moved to care about it. Conversely a local child molester is an exponentially more visible evil to us, which makes it very easy for us to condemn that person.

    Reply
    1. Optimistic Chad

      You make a good point about the assumption that a child pornographer is automatically a child molester. This is not true anymore than people who look at adult pornography are automatically rapists or adulterers. In giving appropriate grace and love to these, while keeping responsible boundaries as well, we are offering grace and love to ourselves as well.

      Reply
  2. Mike Hoverson

    HEAR…HEAR!!! It always amazes me when the church makes a sin list from greatest to least…”Well, of course someone who looks at child pornography is much worse than someone who gossips to their friend about it.” Amazing that we can’t even see our own sin, therefore, we have to point out the sins of others…Just preached about not even being able to agree on what is right and what is wrong when it comes to following Jesus. But it is where God has us, and the real question is, “What are we going to do about it?”

    James 4:10
    “Humble yourselves before the Lord , and he will lift you up. ”
    NIV

    Reply
  3. Rod of Alexandria

    @Chad:

    “We are all child pornographers. Fearful that someone will come along and tell us that the people we are taking advantage of are actually underage, when we have been pretending that they are consenting adults. But we are all wrong.”

    YIKES!

    Reply
  4. Tusk M

    As you beautifully pointed out, making a lost of people you can call pond scum, begets a huge and likely humbling list that includes everyone. 

    My problem here is that most Christians have traded one abusive relationship (“sin”) for another (in the “loving” care of a god). Don’t believe me? “Amazing Grace…that saved a WRETCH like me.” 

    Even a cursory glance at psychological studies of women in abusive relationships, and the parallels that can be drawn between a human in a relationship with God are…at least staggering. 

    How often does a woman stay with a scum bag because she fears she won’t have anyone else to love her? How often is the woman convinced that this man loves her the most? That this man loves her more than she deserves? That this man hurts her BECAUSE he loves her? To simply pick that feeling or desire or fear out of a woman and give an invisible infinite being, is just rearranging deck-chairs on the Titanic. Trading one abuse (in some cases ADDING one abuse) for (or to) another. 

    Reply
  5. Tusk M

    For example:

    Reasons people stay in abusive relationships. 
    1) Fear
    Fear of physical harm (Hell)
    Fear of threats (Hell)
    Fear of harassment (Come back, I loooooove you)
    Fear of making abuser angrier (God’s wrath, anyone?)
    Fear of living alone or being alone (excommunication)
    Fear of losing children (raising your children in the way they should go, makes parting from that way very difficult)
    Fear of losing house, car (or your life, if God so chooses. Anything to convince you that you’re better off with Him)
    Fear others will blame you (You must not have REALLY been a Christian)
    Fear of the unknown (there’s no getting around this even in unabusive relationships. People are pretty fearful of the unfamiliar. It’s why we’re still alive.)
    Fear no one believes you
    Fear of the court system (Judgement, and infinite torture for finite offenses.)

    The problem here is that this fear is placed in the abused’s mind from the beginning. Nobody knows If there’s really a judgement or a hell or a god or even sin. Christians are made to feel guilty and “wretched” from the start.  They are made to feel like they shouldn’t even be loved, but that this God is gracious enough to love them anyway.

    2) Emotional. 
    Low self-esteem
    Being emotionally exhausted
    Loneliness
    Guilt
    Self-blame for the abuse
    Feeling like a failure
    Feeling defective
    Feeling unwanted by others

    And all of these feelings and emotions can be miraculously rectified, but just staying with and accepting the “love” of the one who instilled the problems to begin with. 

    3) Of course, often the most difficult people to convince there is a problem are the ones who are being abused, so before the fear and emotions and even the thought of leaving crosses their mind, there is Love. 

    Still loves the abuser. (yeah, he’s hard on me sometimes, but he died for my sins, you know?)
    Commitment to the relationship
    Sex, affection, and kindness during non violence times (ok, so it’s not such a sexual relationship with God, but you have to admit, God has manipulated what you do with your body)
    Companionship (turns into fear of loneliness later on…every time.) 
    History together
    Hope it’s going to improve (Heaven)

    Like I said though, often the most difficult people to convince, are the ones who have been abused to the point of complacency. If you’re told you’re deserving of death and you’re capable of nothing good or worthwhile without the loving and tender embrace of some creator and his son and his ghost, maybe you’ll run headlong into those arms…or maybe you’ll say, I am quite capable thank you. 

    Reply
    1. Optimistic Chad

      Thank you Tusk. Are you saying that all Christians live this out and relationships with “God” are all abusive? Or are saying that many have a skewed view of God that leads them to act out an abusive relationship pattern, even though God is not so?

      Reply
      1. Tusk M

        I’m suggesting that, if there is a god, and said god is the God of the Bible, as so many churches claim, that God is the abuser.

        Reply
        1. Optimistic Chad

          It seems as if you know people who have been hurt by this thinking. If so, I am sorry to hear it. Nevertheless, I don’t find the representation of God or the relational dynamics you wrote about to fit how I see God. I too am sensistive to abuse of power dynamics and I have seen that at work in Christians, but most of the time, it is because of a particularly unflattering interpretation of God or the scriptures.

          Reply
  6. david tonkovich

    I agree that the church member should not be called “pond scum” Since we are all sinners and are forgiven by Jesus, we should do likewise. However, there is that key phrase from Jesus…”Go and sin no more” . Sometimes we could go so far in depth that the only way it would seem possible not to be “child pornagraphers” would be to abandon all forms of our everyday living, buy land, run around in clothes we made, and eat food that we grow. No, we are not child pornographers. As most pyschologists today act, it isn’t really anyones fault they did something wrong, something or someone else made them or caused them to act that way. To me Pornagraphy is about self gratification. That includes control, because control makes some people feel better about THEMSELVES. As for candy bars and shoes, unless we adopt the life I suggested above we have to buy what we do as we need them.

    Reply
    1. Optimistic Chad

      David, that is exactly what I mean. Our entire culture and lifestyle is built upon the exploitation of others. We can’t escape it. Although, if you want a serious look at how to try, watch the Ghandi movie. Ghandi indeed made his own clothes and grew his own food. I think once we realize that this is the case in our culture, we can begin the process of making others aware and changing hearts and minds to correct this. Rome had similar problems up until its fall.

      Reply
  7. Justin Tiemeyer

    Chad, I think you bring up (but don’t fully address) the question of a church’s duty in the face of criminal actions. Is it the church’s duty to censure, expel and condemn people? How does this balance with a message of redemption? Can we easily divide the state and church into “the state does the condemning” and “the church does the redeeming”? Can a church justly carry out some sort of “sentence” on members of its congregation, and especially in cases where there is a legal sentence prescribed would a church’s ruling be considered excessive on top of the legal sentence?

    I guess I am wondering what you and Rodney (and anyone else who wants to chip in) think about the idea of the church’s power to excommunicate in general.

    Reply

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