I hate pornography!
I hate it for all the sorts of reasons that you might have guessed. I hate the exploitation of women and the cheapening of sexuality. I hate the cheap label it places on love. I hate it because I love women—I have a mum and a sister; I have dear female friends and sisters in Christ; and if I can one day convince someone to marry an old sinner like me (25, single, good-looking, likes walking and romantic dinners), I will have a wife.
But I have recently railed against it for a different reason. I hate pornography because it has taken away my freedom. It serves to remind me that western culture is no longer my home because I no longer move freely in it. Last century, as I tried to live a life worthy of the Lord, a lot of things were going my way (at least, I understand they were; I wasn’t there to enjoy it, but someone like me was). I could walk into a newsagency, buy the paper, and walk out again without my ungodly thoughts being fuelled. Someone—the government!—was helping me, by not allowing material I didn’t want to see to be displayed.
But today, the relaxation of the censorship laws has meant steady erosion of my freedoms. I love film, but the proliferation of pornography has meant that I need to check every film I see carefully. I love the inner city, but the proliferation of sex shops have meant that I now have to keep accountable to friends at home about where I have spent my time. I love literature, but pornography has limited my freedom to avoid reading what I don’t want to read.
And newsagencies. Newsagencies! Those most normal of places—the place we go to buy our paper, our cool drinks and our bus tickets—have become places that cause me to pray before I enter. And, once I have prayed and rallied my heart to heaven, I must buy my paper in the manner of an Israeli Commando Mission—get in and get out as quickly as possible. Perhaps one day, I shall have to forgo my beloved copy of the Weekend Australian altogether.
The relaxation of censorship has not meant freedom for me, and a furthering of my rights; it has meant my freedom has been exchanged for another’s. Those of us who wish to avoid pornography (not only Christians, but also Muslims, some feminists, and a host of other groups one would think a pluralistic society would be quick to listen to) have had our freedom exchanged for the freedom of the pornographer and his/her clients. Our freedom to walk the streets without being confronted by offensive material has been lost to the freedom of the pornographer to publish. So much for the notion that society has brought freedom for all! In this game, some people have won; others have lost.
Once upon a time, you would have had to make some effort to get your hands on pornography. Now you have to make some effort to avoid it. I feel less and less at home in the culture that raised me. When the local newsagency is working against you, you realize that, as a Christian, you are not a citizen of Western society; you are a prisoner in it.
Thankfully, the Scriptures were not written to a people with the cultural ascendancy, but to spiritual and cultural prisoners. Perhaps they will come alive to us in a new way as they address people in the same situation that we increasingly find ourselves in—aliens and strangers in this world. But I’d still like the government to give me back my freedom. I want my weekend paper!