I am so bothered by the news right now.
Full disclosure: I don’t watch a lot of news. I get most of my news on Twitter, like any normal person aged 35 and under with a smartphone. But I try to follow a lot of different accounts with different points of view so I’m not limited to one side of the story.
And every side of the story right now is horrible.
You’ve seen the headlines — actors, comedians, directors, senators, presidents (past and present). I’d rattle them off, but it would almost immediately make this blog irrelevant, because every day, new names are being added to the list.
Names of (mostly) men who are being accused of sexual harassment, or worse. Accusations from (mostly) women — some women as young as 14 at the time — telling stories of horrible comments, degrading requests, and despicable actions on Hollywood sets, hotel rooms, and campaign trails. And now, months, years, decades later, those acts are coming to light.
Everyone is horrified, everyone is outraged… and me, too. My heart is broken for so many victims of real evil. The people coming forward have every right to demand justice for the horrible things that have been said and done.
And yet, I’m surprised that so many of us are surprised, though, because as a culture, we reap what we sow.
How did we get here?
Our world loves to think that anything and everything is permissible as long as no one gets hurt; loves to pretend like there’s no such thing as a real right or wrong, especially when it comes to sex and our sexuality. As long as it feels good and there’s consent, does it need any boundaries? Labels? Conventional standards? Please, that is so backwards. This is 2017, right?
But then, when people say and do things that are so obviously wrong and offensive, we’re shocked and offended. We’ve spent the last several decades as a culture accepting any and all understandings of our sexuality as healthy. It’s ironic that now we’re appalled that people have acted out inappropriately, sexually.
TV, movies, celebrity gossip all treat sex like it’s no big deal. And even worse than being no big deal, pornography distorts what sex is really supposed to be even farther. Horrible, degrading things are done to human beings made in the image and likeness of God – and then sold to other human beings, for profit and pleasure.
I understand the temptation to engage with pornography, I really do. We live in a world we don’t even have to go looking for porn, because porn comes looking for us. It’s on our TVs, tablets, laptops, and phones. Our sexual curiosity is normal and our sexual urges are healthy. But seeking to satisfy those healthy desires with pornography is really unhealthy. It twists our brains to a sick, disfigured place where we start seeing people who are supposed to be loved as objects to be used.
So many of the allegations making headlines these days include apologies from people who claim to have ‘misread the signals.’ They thought that their actions were wanted. It’s not outrageous to assume that these perpetrators have a history of engaging with pornography; some of them have spoken about it publicly.
And so what’s happened is a very human, very unsurprising chain of events: we fill our minds with garbage, it changes the way we think, our thoughts lead to actions, and horrible acts take place. This isn’t a new storyline – even the Scriptures predict this turn of events. Proverbs warns us to guard our hearts, since our hearts are the source of our life. Philippians encourages us to think about things that are true, pure, honorable, and just so that we can conduct ourselves with truth, purity, honor, and justice. Romans talks about resisting the darkness and putting on the Light. What we think about, becomes what we care about. And what we care about, we act upon.
So what do we do?
We can’t change the culture until we change ourselves. We are the culture, however big or small a part of it; and the way we think, speak, and act does have ripple effects on the culture at large. So it starts with us.
First, let’s make sure we have a healthy understanding of human sexuality: sex is supposed to be about love and life in the context of a committed, monogamous married relationships. One man and one woman stand up in front of God and their community and promise to give themselves to one another freely, faithfully, totally, and fruitfully, until death parts them. Sex is a good, awesome, holy, sacred thing. In the sexual act, a husband and wife say to one another, “I give my self, my whole self, to you and you alone, forever.” Sex is a renewal of the marriage vows, and an important part of a healthy marriage.
And so we must conduct ourselves with purity. Learn more about the virtue of chastity and start living it, to the best of your ability. Dress modestly. Don’t laugh at or tell dirty jokes. Call out others who do. Watch what you let into your mind – binging on shows with tons of nudity and extramarital sex in the storylines aren’t going to help you live purely. And on social media – there are plenty of celebrity accounts (or people in your English class) who have no problem posting full-body shots in in underwear, or less. It’s a great idea to stop letting those fill your feed, maybe even avoiding the ‘Explore’ page on Instagram, as an added way to guard your heart. Date with purity. Run to Confession every time you fall, in big or small ways, so you can be forgiven for the ways you’ve messed up and receive grace to be better in the future.
And avoid pornography at all costs — you deserve a better understanding of sex than the lies portrayed in porn. If you haven’t gone there, don’t go there. If you’ve been there and need help, find a trusted adult to talk to and get some accountability in your life through the Victory app (victoryapp.com). Go to counseling and/or spiritual direction (you may need one or both – these are two different things that are both equally helpful in healing the wounds caused by pornography). And work on rewiring your brain to a healthy place — fill your mind with pure things, to edge out the impure things that you’ve seen in the past. Perhaps switching from Game of Thrones to Boy Meets World, or following @CuteEmergency on Twitter would be a good start…
It starts with us, my friends. I’m tired of these headlines, of people who have used and abused one another. As we pray for healing for all victims of sexual misconduct — in Hollywood and politics and our own neighborhoods — let’s also pray for a cultural rewiring to a healthy sexuality. And let’s do what we can to bring real change to the world.
To paraphrase, and update, St. Augustine: Lord, give us chastity — right now.