Mark Driscoll, megachurch evangelist extraordinaire, has written a book (well, a booklet) called Porn Again Christian. Yes, that is the real title. And the whole thing is free online, unlike many of the other Re:Lit books for which there is only a single chapter in PDF form. (Maybe I’ll get around to addressing some of those chapters someday, but it’s too easy to issue a blanket response to anything like that by saying, “Oh, the answer to that is in the rest of the book, and if you were responsible enough to read it you’d know that.” Obvious BS, but still. And I’m definitely not going to buy one of them.)
I’m going to go through Porn Again Christian chapter by chapter here, dissecting exactly what Driscoll’s problem seems to be with pornography. Today, we’ll start slow, with the introduction.
Driscoll starts off talking about how big the pornography industry is, and gives us an unintentionally clear statement of the problem.
As the pastor of a large and growing church filled with strong men, many of them young, I have seen the secret sins of pornography and masturbation paralyze many men with shame, guilt, and embarrassment.
The problem is not actually the pornography or the masturbation here. It is the shame, the guilt, and the embarrassment. Why do you suppose they feel that, hmm? I imagine it would be especially humiliating to have your completely normal feelings described as sinful on a weekly (if not more frequent) basis by all of your cultural authority figures. That would be awful. How do you think this book might contribute to their feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment? I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count.
Please note, by the way, that pornography and masturbation are lumped into the same big sin here. I’m just going to consider this pamphlet as attempting to make the Christian argument against both things, but I feel like I should point out that it is intellectually sloppy to try to blend two different things and pretend they are identical.
Note also that it is implied here that it’s only men who look at pornography, and only men who masturbate. In fact, Driscoll goes on to say:
Because I am speaking to fellow men, my tone may not be well suited for some women and, therefore, I would request that they not read this booklet, unless they are a wife whose husband has read it first and he can discuss its contents with her in love.
Oh, those poor dainty women! So unacquainted with their husbands’ genitalia and libidos that the slightest mention of masturbation or sexual fantasy might send them into a tizzy! So lacking in personal genitalia and libidos that they themselves would never think to look at pornography, have sexual fantasies, or masturbate! …What a fantasy land.
Driscoll promises that “We will begin by learning what God intends for our sexuality, and then proceed to examine how we sin against him.” I can’t wait to find out God’s one, clear, unambiguous message on human sexuality, and how Driscoll was able to extract it from the mire of incoherence and contradiction that is the Bible!
He gives us a couple hints of major themes to come. One is the idea that, because Adam alone was deemed “not good” unlike the rest of creation, but that Adam and Eve together were described as “very good,” that the union of man and woman is very special in God’s eyes. I suppose that this could be a decent point for a condemnation of masturbation, except for a few things.
- I’ve read Genesis 2 several times now in a number of translations and I can’t find one instance of God saying that Adam plus Eve was “very good.” I suppose it’s true that he calls everything “very good” in Genesis 1:31 which does come after verse 27, but then right before God creates Adam it says that “there was not a man to till the ground” so man would have to be created (again). And that’s a whole separate issue about why the Bible is generally incoherent. The point is, God never calls the specific union of Adam and Eve “very good.”
- Before making Eve for Adam as his “help meet,” God creates “every beast of the field, and every bird of the heavens.” Adam names them all, but none of them turn out to be satisfactory in the role of Adam’s helper. (Now is a good time to raise an eyebrow. …Yeah.) Only after trying all those animals does God come up with the idea of a female human.
- God makes Eve out of a piece of Adam’s body — his “rib,” his “side,” whatever. Adam goes to sleep, God does the equivalent of surgically removing a chunk of Adam, and Eve is formed out of that chunk. Adam was made out of dust. Eve was made out of Adam. If you want to make a case against an act euphemistically called “self-love,” you probably don’t want to design it around a relationship between a man and a piece of that same man.
The other broad idea introduced here is that God intended sexual pleasure to be reserved for married couples to experience together. This might be true, in the same way that you could make almost any claim about the wishes of this magical, definitionally-incomprehensible, never-proven being called God. God might want everybody to wear purple hats on alternating Wednesdays. Or, God’s highest morality might somehow involve the brutal murder of all left-handed people. Who knows what might be true about this mysterious God creature? And if he really is God, then whatever he declares to be moral must be, right?
If he actually declared it at all, that is. The scripture Driscoll cites to warrant this claim, at least here in the introduction, only seems to say that God looks well upon sexual acts by a married couple. It doesn’t say anything at all about other acts related to sexuality; it doesn’t make the claim that this is the only okay thing.
Then there’s the whole issue of reality not matching up with God’s supposed wishes and abilities. Why make people experience sexual desire in situations where acting upon that desire or even just experiencing it involuntarily would not be, well, kosher? And why give them the ability to satisfy that sexual desire without the supposedly required spouse? Just so that God could get mad at people for having the feelings that God put there in the first place? This does not sound like the work of a perfect, benevolent, omniscient, and omnipotent being.
Of course, there’s always the underlying issue that the Bible is amazingly unreliable and that there’s no reason to suppose God is anything more than a fantasy. For the purposes of my discussion of this booklet, I’m going to ignore this for the most part. I just have to get it out there once.
Driscoll closes up the introduction by bringing up original sin. He writes, “In the rest of Genesis sexual sin of every sort and kind springs forth because when sin entered the world, everything was marred by sin, including sexuality.” (I wonder if this means that, as far as Driscoll’s concerned, before the Fall it was okay for Adam — and Eve? — to masturbate.) You already know that I don’t think the whole forbidden fruit story makes any kind of case for Adam and Eve having committed a legitimate sin. But this is just the introduction, and perhaps Pastor Mark is going to make a more coherent case for his point of view in the later chapters.
Yeah … maybe that’s too optimistic.