For an evening's entertainment, I picked up a movie from the video store. Having been produced before the rating system, it was unrated, but the review on the box made it sound harmless enough. So we all sat down to enjoy the story.
The movie progressed innocently until suddenly a nude figure of a girl appeared on the television screen. I panicked, fumbling with the remote, and dropped it several times before accidentally pressing "pause," then "slow motion." I think I pushed every button on the remote before finding the right one to clear the screen of the unexpected and unwelcome sight. "You're too late," cried my wife with a bit of irritation in her voice. "The scene is over." Of course, it had nothing to do with the plot and added no value to the movie.
In this decadent society, we are increasingly confronted with a barrage of pornography. More and more sexually explicit material is being shown on television every day. Just about any convenience store, book store or magazine rack has a row of "adult" periodicals. "Adult book stores" try to weasel into the local shopping areas, as do "adult clubs" and "topless bars." "Performance art," much of which is sexual in nature, is a growing medium in the cultural arena. Self-interest groups lobby that pornography is an "art form," or they demand "freedom of artistic expression"!
The origin of the word "pornography" reveals a great deal about its influence through the ages. It derives from the Greek word pornographos and simply means "the writing of prostitutes." Originally, it described prostitutes and their trade, but later came to refer to writings and pictures intended to arouse sexual desire.
As incredible as it seems, pornocracy is a recognized form of government! Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines pornocracy as "government by prostitutes; domination, sway, or influence of profligate women; specifically, the government of Rome in the early part of the tenth century." Now that is influence over peoples' lives!
In Ezekiel 16:43, God tells Israel that he will "recompense" or "return in kind" their deeds on their own heads, commanding them, "And you shall not commit lewdness in addition to all your abominations." Prior to this, God graphically describes how He will expose Israel's nakedness to all her previous "lovers" (verses 35-42). Of course, we understand that the principle here is that Israel had committed spiritual prostitution (James 4:4) with other nations through making alliances and treaties, welcoming their religions within her gates and worshiping their gods. The United States has "excelled" in spiritual adultery with other nations. Just look at the proliferation of non-Judeo-Christian church buildings and temples springing up everywhere.
However, on the literal side of this dual prophecy, many of the Israelites had indeed exposed themselves in lewdness. God says, "I have seen your adulteries and your lustful neighings, the lewdness of your harlotry, your abominations on the hills in the fields. . . . Will you still be made clean?" (Jeremiah 13:27). "In your filthiness is lewdness" (Ezekiel 24:13).
Perversions of the flesh either accompany or follow idolatry. The children of Israel participated in such abominations after arriving at Mount Sinai. When Moses delayed coming down from the mount, the people built a golden calf, ate, drank, rose to play and danced (Exodus 32). Some commentators speculate that some were engaging in a type of ritual prostitution.
Later, the idolatrous ceremonies that accompanied the worship of foreign gods in ancient Israel, particularly the worship of Baal and Astarte, commonly involved lewd and sexually explicit behavior. Around the time of Paul, Corinth was known worldwide for the Temple of Diana and its sacred prostitutes. Young, virgin, Corinthian girls were required to serve for a time in the temples as prostitutes before they could marry.
The ancients considered sexual intercourse to be a re-enactment of the fertility cycle in nature, and that such re-enactments pleased the gods. They hoped, then, to be blessed with abundant crops and herds in the coming year. Carnal human nature had no arguments against such "logic," especially when it satisfied its lusts.
God decrees, "Whoever commits any of these abominations [including nakedness and lewdness], the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people" (Leviticus 18:29). God's commandment concerning "uncovering the nakedness" of another, a euphemism for illicit sexual relations, is very specific (verses 6-20). Uncovering another's nakedness defiles the land, and the land will vomit out the inhabitants of nations who practice it (verses 24-28).
The same punishment will be brought upon the descendants of Israel today, as pornography, lewdness and sexual sins continue to increase. Ezekiel 23:27, 29-30, 35, 47-49 prophesies what will happen to modern Israel:
Thus I will make you cease your lewdness and harlotry brought from the land of Egypt. . . . [The enemy] will deal hatefully with you, take away all you have worked for, and leave you naked and bare. The nakedness of your harlotry shall be uncovered, both your lewdness and your harlotry. I will do these things to you because you have gone as a harlot after the Gentiles, because you have become defiled by their idols. . . . [T]herefore you shall bear the penalty of your lewdness and your harlotry. . . . [The enemy] shall slay their sons and their daughters, and burn their houses with fire. Thus I will cause lewdness to cease from the land, that all women may be taught not to practice your lewdness. They shall repay you for your lewdness, and you shall pay for your idolatrous sins, Then you shall know that I am the Lord God.
God will eventually have mercy upon Israel, and He will cover her nakedness both spiritually and literally when she repents (Ezekiel 16:8). Satan will then be bound and his enticing influence stopped.
Not an Isolated Problem
How great a problem is pornography in the United States? Rentals of hard-core videos rose from 75 million in 1985 to 665 million in 1996, with Americans spending more than $8 billion last year on videos, peep shows, adult cable programming, and various products and publications. More is now spent on strip clubs than at all kinds of theater (Broadway, off-Broadway, regional, and nonprofit), opera, jazz, ballet, and classical music performances combined.
The United States now produces and exports most of the world's hard-core videos, despite some of the tightest restrictions on sexually explicit materials of any Western nation. About 75% of the 150 hard-core videos produced weekly in this country come from Los Angeles County. The apostles condemned peddlers of pornography (Ephesians 4:29; 5:3-6; Jude 7).
In 1985, a Gallup poll reported that 75 percent believed that sexually explicit magazines, movies and books lead to rape or sexual violence, and 73 percent favored a total ban on magazines that depicted sexual violence. Would the percentages be this high today, twelve years later? Probably not! Since we have become a society that is accustomed to lewdness in the arts and entertainment, our senses are becoming desensitized to "the writing of prostitutes." I Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits.'" This society's formerly good habits are being corrupted as it "keeps company" with pornographic materials.
Lewdness is bitter and poisonous but enticing to those who are deceived by lusts (Ephesians 4:18-22). Nudity is a powerful enticement, as the sin of David and Bathsheba shows (II Samuel 11:2-5). Adultery and fornication are born of lust and thrive on desire. The apostle James clearly expresses this process of entrapment:
But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is fullgrown, brings forth death. (James 1:14-15)
Jesus also reveals that sexual perversions grow out of lust:
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, . . . covetousness, wickedness, . . . licentiousness. . . . All these evil things come from within and defile a man. (Mark 7:21-23)
Pornography draws to the surface the desires simmering within. In a decadent society, those lusts bear the fruit of horrible sexual crimes: adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, rape, child molestation and incest.
Pornography degrades that which God created in His image (Genesis 1:27). It brings man, created a little lower than the angels (Psalm 8:5), down to the level of animals (Jude 10). Lewdness is an affront to God; all that pornography glorifies and promotes is in direct and open violation of God's law. These are emphatically stated in Scripture: adultery (Exodus 20:14; Proverbs 6:32), carnal desire (Ephesians 4:17-22; Matthew 5:28), bestiality (Deuteronomy 27:21; Leviticus 18:23), incest (Leviticus 18:6-9; 20:11-14), rape (Deuteronomy 22:25-27), sodomy (Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26, 27), child molestation (Matthew 18:10).
Pornography is an intricate part of false religion which sets up man as the object of worship. The pagan religions of the ancients had their obelisks (phallic symbols), temple prostitutes and fertility rights. In the end, this is just a form of humanism, the worship of the human body and mind. "Humanism," according to a former president of the American Humanist Association, "is a polite term for atheism." Simply put, humanism is man trying to be God.
Today, humanism, a fixture in our public schools and government, is the fundamental principle of our civilization. It is this idea that changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man. . . .
Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves. . . . And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting. (Romans 1:23-24, 28)
Today's pornography—whether photographs, videos, statuary, paintings, erotic literature or "performance art,"—is nothing more than a modern adaptation of age-old idolatry. It is, plain and simple, the adoration of the human form accompanied by the sinful practices it is bound to generate. Soon the bell will toll in righteous judgment for those who engage in pornography, for Paul writes, "Those who practice such things are worthy of death" (verse 32).
The apostle Paul advises, "Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against [harms] his own body" (I Corinthians 6:18). Rebellious against God, human beings are cursed for their covetousness, the desire for things they should not have. Peter describes it well:
Having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, beguiling unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. (II Peter 2:14)
We are not to partake of other men's sins, neither associating with nor condoning man's promotion of pornography. Jesus taught, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8).
Government Research and Conclusions on Pornography
The following list summarizes American governmental rulings on pornography and indecency over the past forty years:
» 1957 The U.S. Supreme Court decreed that material could be ruled obscene only if it could be shown to be "utterly without redeeming social importance." Justice Hugo Black commented that this definition was "about as clear as the composition of the Milky Way."
» 1967 The Supreme Court reversed several obscenity convictions and virtually licensed pornography.
» 1970 The President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography concluded that no relationship exists between exposure to erotic material and subsequent antisocial behavior.
» 1979 Jimmy Carter created a Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography. The commission held two public hearings and concluded that pornography is benign and upheld the 1970 commission's findings. This report opened the flood gates of perversion and sexual violence that has occurred in the years since.
» 1984 Ronald Reagan announced the creation of the U.S. Attorney General's Commission on Pornography. The unpaid members of this commission spent more than a year wrestling with this issue. They reviewed the hard-core pornography in 2,735 magazines, 1,725 books, 2,370 films; held two-day public hearings in six major cities; listened to 224 witnesses, and inspected sixteen porn outlets in seven major cities.
In this most extensive study of pornography ever, the commission concluded: "A causal link exists between sexually violent materials and antisocial acts of sexual violence." Psychiatrist David Scott testified before the commission that "half the rapists studied used soft-core pornography (e.g., read Playboy and Penthouse) to arouse themselves immediately prior to seeking out a victim."
The commission found the combination of sex and violence explosive and prevalent in pornography. It also found that "non-violent materials depicting degradation, domination, subordination, or humiliation" bears "causal relationship to the level of sexual violence, sexual coercion, or unwanted sexual aggression in the population so exposed."
» 1996 The Communications Decency Act had many Americans concerned over censorship, as they felt the act reduced freedom of speech for politically incorrect statements in the media. Though it did monitor obscenity and pornography for children, it left them virtually unregulated for adults.
» 1997 The Supreme Court ruled that the Communications Decency Act was unconstitutional because it limited adults' freedom of access to sexually explicit material. Even though it limited the exposure of children to indecent material, the mental perversion of our children was not seen as important enough to ban access for adults.
Modesty in Clothing
Some have argued for nudity by saying, "After all, did not God create Adam and Eve in their ‘birthday suits'?" Such people ignore Genesis 3:7 where Adam and Eve sinned against God. Their sin caused them so much shame that they covered themselves. When God found them hiding from Him because of their sin, "the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them" (verse 21). The clothing that God made for them was of a far finer quality than the fig leaves they used.
Obviously, God had intended to clothe them all along, but as long as they were alone as man and wife, there was no shame in their nakedness. Paul argues in Hebrews 13:4 that "Marriage is honorable among all, and the [marriage] bed undefiled," meaning the sexual relationship between spouses is pure and approved by God. Yet Leviticus 18 is clear that seeing another's nakedness outside the marriage bond is a perversion.
When Jesus cast a legion of demons out of a man, he was later found "clothed" (Mark 5:15). Apparently, the demons had caused the man to rip off his clothes, or they had been shredded by his violent behavior. Demons are bent on defiling and degrading mankind, and lewdness is one of their methods.
Satan encourages perversion in dress. For example, notice the weird clothing and adornment worn by the more perverted entertainers today. Isaiah prophesies that degenerate styles will be common among Israelites at the end time:
Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with outstretched necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, making a jingling with their feet, therefore the Lord will strike with a scab the crown of the head of the daughters of Zion, and the Lord will uncover their secret parts. In that day the Lord will take away the finery: the jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents, the pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; the headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; . . . the charms, and the rings; the nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles, the outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; the fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. (Isaiah 3:16-23)
With the constant influences from this world's styles and pornography, our society is losing its sense of decency. Many teenagers and young adults today try to copy the immodesty of the entertainers they admire. The result is that they increasingly look like prostitutes, pimps and gang members!
In contrast to this world's idea of acceptable dress—or its lack—Peter instructs us in the godly principle of modesty in dress. I Peter 3:3-4 speaks specifically to married women. "Do not let your beauty be that outward adorning of arranging the hair, of wearing gold, or of putting on fine apparel; but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible ornament of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God."
Paul concurs, "Women [should] adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works" (I Timothy 2:9-10). The image he describes is a woman clothed in humility. No humility is found in immodest dress, lewdness or pornography. Those who expose their bodies to the world reveal their arrogance and vanity.
The principle is the same for men as for women, that is, men, too, should be clothed in humility. In the incident when Noah's sons saw him naked (Genesis 9:21-27), the lack of clothing was considered shameful.
Deuteronomy 22:5 instructs that neither men nor women should wear clothing pertaining to the other sex. Even in this decadent society, the majority of people think that cross-dressing is perverted. Such a thing blurs gender roles and mocks God's creative sovereignty over us.
The apostle Paul writes that we should avoid anything that even appears to be evil (I Thessalonians 5:21-22). This includes our attire. We are not our own to do with as we desire, "For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's" (I Corinthians 6:20). Modesty in dress is an outward sign that we value God's way of life.