Tag Archives: Pornography

Quick review: Captured by a better vision

Captured By A Better Vision: Living Porn FreeCaptured By A Better Vision: Living Porn Free by Tim Chester
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The prevalence of pornography in our electronic age is an important matter for the whole of society, and even more so for Christians who know that sexuality is a wonderful gift from God that can be awfully twisted into ugliness.

Chester is not all about ‘a technique’ to stop porn in one’s life. But he does not mock techniques, either, but places them in a better whole-of-life context. Use the skills (like accountability software, etc), but use them as tools in the bigger picture of life with Christ.

Chester’s five broad topics are, in my words: hate porn, love God, trust God, actively avoid porn, get help. As is clear, there are reasons why, and there are tips how. And both are important.

Chester quotes extensively from people who completed an on-line survey for him, and this illustrates his points nicely while introducing a chatty feel to parts of the book. This complements the parts which are more solid sections of thoughtful argument.

I have a few criticisms, but none of them are major.

    • Though a shortish book, about 160 pages, I think it could have been edited a bit more. The chapters seem to have long introductions before getting to the major point. And those intros don’t always really tightly connect to the main point, in my view.


    • Chester acknowledges that porn is a problem for both men and women, and can be expressed in ‘non-porn’ ways (like romance novels, or underwear junk mail). But I certainly had the sense this book was more about blokes with porn problems. If there was some editing out (above), then the book could edit in more on women’s experiences of porn.


  • Chester takes the line of Genesis 2:18 – that it was not good for the man to be alone – to mean he was lonely, needing companionship. That’s a tempting preaching point, believe me!, but is probably not the point of the text.


But to finish with negatives would be way off – this is a good book, on an important topic, written with gospel-shaped truth, which shows love to all touched by the damaging scourge of pornography.

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Should Christians watch violence?

Is there any effect on individuals, or society, when people watch lots of violent media? Or if they play gore-filled computer games? Or sexualised content on the internet?

You and I can easily find arguments for freedom to watch anything, as well as arguments in favour of tightly restricted access. And such arguments will have social science studies to back them up. Perhaps I’m too cynical, but I tend to see that groups who commission social science studies get results that reinforce their initial beliefs. Science isn’t as ‘objective’ as we assume.

Instead of Professor Suchandsuch, I am turning to an unqualified Jewish carpenter. He happens also to be Lord and Saviour of the world. How does following Jesus guide media consumers like us?

All foods are clean, all people are not
Jesus did not follow the empty human traditions of his day. Special hand washing techniques, he knew, do not place people nearer to God. Yet Jesus went further: he also taught that even the God-given food laws of the Old Testament do nothing for godliness. “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him” (see Mark 7:14-22). The problem is the human heart – yours and mine – from which arises every evil.

This tells us that no media can create a murderer, or adulterer. Advertising does not create greed. None of us can blame another for defiled thoughts, behaviour, and conscience. Defilement is all our own work! In a real sense the murderer who copies a gruesome movie scene has merely found a media image that fits the already-existing violence their own heart. Perhaps the movie helped uncover it – but it was already there.

Jesus did, however, warn us about what enters the body. This time he spoke of light: “When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness” (see Luke 11:33-36). What we watch counts, for the eye is the lamp of the body. We are to watch and watch and watch Jesus – the one who is greater than Solomon, greater than Jonah, greater than all. In other words, our eye obeys our faith. We watch what we trust.

So, it’s worth asking, why do we watch any media? What is it we seek, what is it we see? As Jesus said, be careful.

Heart and eye in practice
What Christians watch comes down to heart and eye. We take responsibility for our own heart: no one else is to blame. We are careful with our eye: we choose what will illuminate our soul, not darken it. My summary of the two principles is this:

  1. If what you watch stirs the evil already within your heart, stop watching
  2. Choose to watch that which gives light, not dark

What that looks like in real-life will vary enormously. Here are some examples:

  • If you can watch without stirring up evil, you could be part of the classification board for media. I’d hate to do it, but am thankful for the national system to review and classify
  • If you find yourself copying the unhelpful language or thought process of a popular show, you happily give up watching
  • You might watch something you don’t like, just because people you care for are watching it. You want to know what ‘light’ these friends are attracted to
  • Christians won’t make simplistic protests that blame media for all social evils. We know the problem is the human heart
  • Christians won’t blithely ignore what’s happening in media. We want to give every eye light to watch, not darkness

No doubt there are many more examples. Can you think of any? Please share them in the comments below. Or perhaps you know of a knotty media problem you’d like to share. Again, please comment. The media are so prevalent that we need to talk about media consumption more often.



The treachery of images

A favourite painter for me is René Magritte. His work is not always as technically skilled as other painters, but his ideas are engaging. He could be playful, or he could be serious. Magritte, with painted image, often raises the question of what we actually see, and how visual images are related to each other or to reality.

This is one of Magritte’s famous pieces.

The translation of Ceci n’est pas une pipe is, “This is not a pipe.”

The brilliance of this work is that we automatically ask, “What, then, is this?” Exactly the right question!

What is this? It’s an image, it’s a painting, it’s a fake. This ‘pipe’ has no bowl for tobacco. It lacks that which is almost the definition of pipe-ness, the tube. Instead, it’s an artifice of oil paint on backing. And, on a blog post, the distance from reality is increased: a digital image of a painted image of a real world item.

And yet, consider our response as viewers. We see the image and immediately think ‘pipe’. It takes no effort to jump to reality. It takes great mental effort to think ‘painting’. We enter into the realm of the painterly world so deeply that we ignore the art itself. Isn’t ‘art’ short for ‘artifice’? Magritte completed the painting, but we viewers are required to complete the circle of reference. Observers are required for the artifice to work, for we say ‘Oh, that’s a pipe.’ We decode the fake and it becomes a sign of the real.

Which reminds me of pornography. The torrent of internet porn and slew of soft porn advertising all depend upon the willing participation of observers. Porn is an artifice that needs our eyes. Observers are complicit in linking the obviously fake (pornography) with the ‘real’ world (this is how sex works). Unfortunately, we twist the real world in the process.

For the sake of honesty, porn should all have some Magritte-inspired words:

Star of the movie 'Emmanuelle'

This is not a woman

She has been created. The image is a fake, not a person. Someone has tried to dupe you, and you are willing to be duped. This person/sex scene will not help you, involve you, satisfy you. If you mistake this for real life, the result is pain.

The English title for Magritte’s painting is ‘The treachery of images’. There could be no better title for porn: treacherous images, misleading us, destroying from within.