The Pagan Temptation


When Gentiles came to Christ from a pagan background, their newfound sexual restraint was not a negative but a positive. It was freedom from unchecked desires that had become normalized sexual compulsion.         It is difficult for some to imagine a world where sexual restraint was limited and boundaries were minimal.    Pagan society tended to be a world of shallow interactions and tragic, intense brokenness that was experienced as an “unbearable lightness of being.”  What some praise as liberation was little more than the vibrato of despair tuned to the monotone beat—“life is cheap.”

But enter the Christian beauty and dignity of ordered desire.  Restraint and creative redirection made for a glorious freedom that could be respected and even envied by outsiders. The pagan world was learning how we were made for so much more—that the real reveling is in being who and what we are created to be.

The pagan temptation is always with us. Every day there are the siren calls of those who would present the unrestrained pagan sexual world as the “way home” to the ideal society.  These make up for their lack of vision and understanding by overconfidence and loudness.  But they are foolish and blind, with fine-sounding words that disguise a council of despair.

Perhaps the strongest vestige of the pagan era is the continuance of pornography. It constantly encroaches with a tunnel vision of how much less things could be.  As a Christian, how do you critique pornography?  Here is one assessment that I found helpful from some friends of mine whose church made an official statement.         (Quoting from the Seventh Day Adventists):

We “deem pornography to be destructive, demeaning, desensitizing, and exploitative.

It is destructive to marital relationships, thus subverting God’s design that husband and wife cleave so closely to each other that they become, symbolically, “one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

It is demeaning, defining a woman (and in some instances a man) not as a spiritual-mental-physical whole, but as a one-dimensional and disposable sex-object, thus depriving her of the worth and the respect that are her due and right as a daughter of God.

It is desensitizing to the viewer/reader, callousing the conscience and “perverting the perception,” thus producing a “depraved person” (Romans 1:22. 28, NEB).

It is exploitative, pandering to prurience [inordinate interest in sex], and basally abusive, thus contrary to the Golden rule, which insists that one treat others as one wishes to be treated (Matthew 7:12). . . . .

Though Norman Cousins may not have said it in Biblical language, he has perceptively written: “The trouble with this wide open pornography . . . is not that it corrupts but that it desensitizes; not that it unleashes the passions but that it cripples the emotions; not that it encourages a mature attitude, but that it is a reversion to infantile obsessions; not that it removes the blinders, but that it distorts the view. Prowess is proclaimed but love is denied. What we have is not liberation but dehumanization.”–Saturday Review of Literature, Sept. 20, 1975.

I remember the preacher where I grew up saying of pornography, “Avoid it like the plague.” While some want to romanticize the pagan world, it was a hard place to live, and with plagues aplenty. Let us not open the door to this one.           Lance Hickerson  FH


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