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Christian Desire in a Culture of Pornography

Jason Byassee has a great article in the January edition of First Things on the culture of internet pornography.  Here’s just two paragraphs:

“Early Christians were baptized nude. It is one of the most striking images from the early Church, all the more so given our forebears’ supposed repression and our age’s proud liberation. When Paul says we are those who “have stripped off the old self with its practices” and been clothed “with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness,” ancient Christians took the language ­literally enough to remove their outer garments and emerge from the water as naked as the day they were born and then be covered with a white garment, symbolizing the purity of the eighth day of creation.

“Perhaps it should not surprise that ancient Christians were comfortable with earthy talk of nakedness. Many of today’s churches have bought the culture’s lie that religion is not about sex or anything else of much importance. But, as theologian Sarah Coakley has so brilliantly said, ancient Christian reflection on desire shows that Freud is exactly wrong: Talk about God is not repressed talk about sexuality; talk about sex is, in fact, repressed talk about God. To paraphrase C.S. Lewis, porn users are not to be rebuked for desiring too much but for desiring too little.”


  1. Hill wrote:

    Thanks for bringing this up. This is without a doubt the most underestimated detrimental social force in the modern world. We ignore it at our absolute peril. Hart has an article on the pornography culture in The New Atlantis that is also very good:

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 2:56 pm | Permalink
  2. Salima wrote:

    This is EXACTLY what’s brought up in the movie “JESUS WAS A TERRORIST” and in the book “ZEN AND THE ART OF PORNOGRAPHY” – fascinating coincedence!

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Permalink
  3. Craig Carter wrote:

    That is a brilliant quote from Coakley. It utterly shatters so many modern assumptions. Good thoughts.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 7:07 pm | Permalink
  4. Halden wrote:

    Agreed. Yet one more reason why I need to finally buckle down and purches Powers and Submissions.

    Tuesday, April 29, 2008 at 7:27 pm | Permalink
  5. Thanks Halden. This is especially important in an era where even seminary professors tell future struggling pastors to “cut back” on their pornography if they must, simply for pragmatic reasons of saving face with one’s family or church. Fundamentally, the desire for consuming pornography is deemed as a necessary and good desire, and so being liberated from Christian anti-sexuality means being liberated for self-healing (or self-centered) sexuality – i.e., pornography. But as you point out, our sexuality is far greater than the world has to offer.

    1 Peter 5:5b talks about being clothed in humility, but the image is of being sparsely clothed, of being open and vulnerable. The Christian fruit of humility should harken back to our baptism precisely in the image Coakley has resourced of our nakedness before God and the purification we receive there.

    Thursday, May 1, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

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