Christian Porn

Christian Porn

If you grew up in church, you know that the worst thing any young man can do is look at pornography. This post isn’t about that kind of porn, but if you’ve been paying attention, the definition of porn is actually expanding, especially in the world of young Christians. It seems that with dawn of the instagram age, where we habitually highlight only our best, proudest moments, we’ve reduced our discipleship exclusively to displays of spiritual triumph. Most of us are Christian porn addicts without even knowing it. So what is Christian porn? Here are some examples of porn that we usually don’t think about, the last few having a lot to do with how we live and broadcast our faith:

1. Food Porn

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Dang that looks good…

2. Ruins Porn

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Nothing spells redemption like turning someone else’s bankruptcy into my new laptop wallpaper. I might even take my engagement pics here to accentuate my modern elegance against the backdrop of destruction… #beautyinthebroken

3. Story Porn

I still remember doing homeless outreaches or seeing new volunteers coming into our shelter asking homeless folks, “Tell me your story,” as if each person could be reduced to their hardships. It isn’t necessarily bad to share stories, but when stories become the currency of our spiritual success, we end up using poor folks for what they can teach us about life. Why does it give us pleasure to hear about someone’s dysfunctional family? Does it justify our outreaches if we suddenly realize how blessed we are? It’s a privilege that we get to ask people for their stories in the first place; we wouldn’t do that to strangers we meet at school or work, does it become ok when the subject is homeless? We commodify sad stories when we ask for them in the absence of committed relationship, especially when we take that story and retell it on the internet. Church testimonies often do the same thing.

4. Poverty Porn

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Similarly, we love taking pictures of poor people. Nothing tells your supporters at home that you’re doing God’s work more than a picture with brown people, especially if we’re carrying them or laughing with them or praying for them. Yes, that’s me.

5. Missions Porn

Last week, our apartment was broken into (for the second time this trimester), and they took some good stuff. But God is good, and this has taught me over and over again just to be thankful to be alive and to love the people around me.

There were 10 homicides during Memorial Day weekend. Please pray for restoration for our neighborhood and city, for prevention and protection against violence and gangs.

50 shootings and 10 deaths happened in Chicago last weekend alone. If that much violence can happen in 3 days, imagine how bad it can get during all of summer when Chicago violence reaches its peak. Please pray for safety and restoration for this city as well as comfort for the many victims.

– Direct quotes from my Mission Year newsletters

Tips for writing a good support letter for a missions trip: 1) mention how poor an area is, 2) talk about how you got robbed on your missions trip, 3) talk about how Christians are persecuted in the area you’re bringing the Gospel to, and 4) highlight any and all suffering. Trust me, it works! Case in point: it was much easier for me to raise money for my work in Chicago working with the urban poor than to raise money for my work with Intervarsity, where I took pictures with college kids sporting iPads and j.crew sweaters.

6. Worship porn

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Nothing tells people how great a service, event, or revival is going to be more than a picture of people worshipping passionately with their hands raised, especially if the lighting is ambient. Worship and discipleship is reduced to a feeling of euphoria; worship becomes a product to be sold. Don’t you want an intimate encounter with the Lord too? Well just come to our event and purchase your spiritual high!

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We don’t do these things intentionally of course, but we’re all stuck in the grips of a consumerist gospel where everything is about me obtaining my feeling of spiritual satisfaction. However, any form of pornography, be it erotic porn, poverty porn, or worship porn inherently objectifies, fractionalizes, and commodifies people. It does us all harm because it cuts out the very thing we all needed from the start—relationship and deep understanding (in other words, Love).

An article I read said, “Learning how to have sex from watching porn is like learning how to drive from watching The Fast and the Furious.” The most frightening thing is that we see these images so often that we start to believe that the pornographic image is the real thing. We normalize Christian porn so that every experience that is not as spiritually sexy as what we see on instagram or in newsletters is somehow seen as less than.

You didn’t take pictures with black and brown kids on your missions trip? Well you must not have done real work.

People didn’t raise their hands at your worship service? The Holy Spirit don’t like you.

No one cried at your prayer service? Your prayers are weak.

If you grew up in church, you know that the worst thing anyone can do is to look at pornography. It’s true, only that we need to expand our definition of pornography. None of these things are bad necessarily; sex is good but pornography distorts that goodness by taking it out of the context of relationship. In the same way, none of the types of porn I’ve mentioned are necessarily bad, but they are moments extracted out of their people- and God-honoring contexts. Yes, to pray for homeless people, to hear their stories, to play with kids on our missions trips, to highlight the victories in our ministry, these are all good things. But when this is all we share, we forget that the boring moments are just as important: saying hi to neighbors, waiting at a bus stop, saying “Good morning” to a stranger, babysitting a neighbor’s kids–these moments are just as sacred. When we pornograph-y God, we are no longer capable of seeing him in the ordinary. Let us commit to the slow, unsexy, humble work of God that honors people and lifts them toward wholeness.

Can you think of other types of porn that I forgot?