I had a friend named Paul Goodman at our little Baptist church who was a United States Navy SEAL. Navy SEALs are warriors in our military who train extensively to operate in the sea or air or on land. They are the most badass human beings that exist.
If you know anything about a Navy SEAL you probably know that they are the most disciplined individuals in the world, able to withstand tortuous physical conditions and to deny their bodies anything to accomplish their mission. My friend Paul, the United States Navy SEAL, couldn’t resist pornography. He was in that regard just like me.
We were in a small home group Bible Study with our wives and some others and that’s where we met and learned this humiliating detail about one another. We probably each would have been more ashamed of ourselves if we didn’t know that we share this character flaw with just about everyone else on the planet. The Bible calls it “pornea,” a Greek word for sexual immorality of every sort.
Our modern English word “pornography” is derived from this ancient Greek word and literally means writings, from the Greek word “graphos,” about sexual immorality or “pornea” in the Greek of the New Testament portion of the Bible. I like to expand the meaning of “graphos” to include not just “writings” but also “depictions,” because pornography includes visual depictions that go all the way back to the crude obscene drawings of human beings found on the walls of brothels excavated from the ruins of the Roman city of Pompeii to the carved statues in ancient temples found in India to what any six year old can pull up on a modern parent’s so-called “smart” phone that many parents put in their children’s hands to serve as a handy mechanical nanny.
“So what?” you ask. “What’s the big deal? Isn’t THAT just your own personal problem?”
Let me ask you first, “Don’t you think that a six year old child viewing modern hard core pornography of every sort on his or her parents’ internet-connected phone is a ‘big deal?’”
“Yes, of course,” you respond, ‘THAT’s NOT GOOD, but how often does THAT happen?”
I don’t know, but I bet it’s millions or, worldwide, billions more times than we’d like to think.
However, whether or not it’s my “own personal problem” or a societal one, consider this. There have been two federal studies commissioned by two different United States presidents that tried to answer that question, the first under President Lyndon Johnson in the mid 1960s and the second under President Ronald Reagan in the mid 1980s, and the two studies came to diametrically opposite conclusions.
The Johnson commission found that, generally speaking, the then increasing prevalence of graphic depictions in magazine and movies of humans engaged in sexual activities, so called “hard core pornography,” was no “big deal,” and may even be a societal boon.
The Reagan commission found that “hard core pornography” during the 1960s had increased in availability from where a consumer of porn no longer had to go to a hard core pornographic bookstore in a seedy part of town or to an equally seedy pornographic movie house to get the stuff, because it now came straight into the homes of our nation with the invention of videotape playing machines that could be connected to a home television set or, even, broadcast on cable channels directly into homes whether or not people wanted it.
Most disturbingly, the Reagan Commission charted the tragic increasing prevalence of “child pornography” in our country that could also be distributed in similar easy fashion, something that all sides of the porn question agreed was NOT good, and should be, as it is, illegal and punishable by lengthy prison terms even for just possessing it and not just for producing this horrible product. THAT conclusion was unanimously adopted by the United States Supreme Court which held that child pornography was NOT a material protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote for the Court’s opinion in the landmark Supreme Court decision, New York v. Ferber, which upheld laws proscribing mere possession of child pornography, because it is actually the illegal contraband connected to a grievous crime involving the gross abuse of a child.
So which Presidential Commission was correct?
Look around with clear eyes, an open mind and honest heart and tell me which commission had a better read on the pulse of our nation.
On a personal level, all I can say is that I wish that I had never encountered pornography of any sort. The world was far more beautiful and so was my own soul before I ever had.
Anyway, our pastor permitted and even encouraged me to bring a guest sermon one Sunday at our little Baptist church on the “problem of pornography.”
When I told my friend Paul, the Navy SEAL who had personally experienced many instances of live combat in war, he looked at me with both fear and respect. Paul told me that his family who would normally sit in the back pews if they ever even came to church at all would be there the next Sunday sitting in the always empty first pew . . . and so they were.
My text for my message was taken from an Old Testament passage found in the Book of Numbers about when the Children of Israel were about to enter the long ago “Promised Land,” but an evil king tried to hire a fallen prophet of God to curse the people.
The story is an amazing one wherein God even makes the prophet’s donkey speak with a human voice to warn his master the prophet who was blinded by ambition and greed that God had placed an avenging angel with a drawn sword ready to strike down the disobedient prophet if he took one more step forward in disobedience to what God had instructed the prophet to do. In the end, the fallen prophet Balaam blessed the Children of Israel against the evil king’s wishes. However even though they could not be cursed, millions of the People of God were soon corrupted by the sexual immoralities later introduced to them by this same fallen prophet who’s name has become synonymous in the Bible with the belief that sexual immorality can be good.
I compared that Old Testament warning, which is also referenced in the New Testament as the “doctrine of Balaam,” with what is not only happening in modern society but also within the modern Church. I also shared from my own experiences about how just the viewing of pornography had scarred my heart, my mind, and my soul, and I addressed not only the men in the congregation but also the women, because women have their own forms of pornography in so-called romance novels and soap operas that provide them the thrills of illicit sexual activities and, even, immoral sexualities and that entice some to follow that temptation into reality.
At the end of my message, I gave an old fashioned alter call for any who are believers to come forward in a public profession of their faith in and love of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and also for any who had never placed their trust for salvation in Jesus to come forward too.
My friend Paul leaped to his feet to be the first one to greet me at the steps in front of the Communion table, then followed a newcomer to our church who was a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant who came forward, and finally a young man who was newly married to a beautiful young woman who so much reminded me of myself when Maria and I were in our mid to late twenties about ten years before I gave my sermon that particular Sunday.
I led the four of us in a prayer of rededication that I hoped that any of the men and women still sitting in their pews because they were too ashamed or afraid to come forward could also join.
Afterward at our church, something happened that was really surprising to me. I had been a little concerned that I and my family might be ostracized as a kind of spiritual lepers because of my message and my personal testimony. Instead, I became something of a hero in our church with many people telling me that they had wanted to go forward at the alter call, but that they were too afraid of what other people might think of them. I became known in our church and also a little bit in our community too when word of my message got out as the man who was brave enough to publicly admit his own weakness.
I wish that I could say that my sermon that Sunday was the end of my own struggles against sexual immorality, but it wasn’t, but it was a high water mark in my life, and I’m glad that I gave that message, and I’m also forever grateful for family and friends who prayed for me then and who still do.
[DISCLAIMER: ALMOST NOTHING OF THIS POST IS TRUE. ALMOST NOTHING OF WHAT’S DESCRIBED HEREIN EVER HAPPENED. ALMOST NOTHING. “YEAH, THAT’S THE TICKET!”]
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