A Letter Not Really About Porn Complete

*Note: This blog post is also broken into smaller chunks for your convenience starting here. Reading this may be useful to follow along, but maybe not necessary.

A Letter for the writer of “A Letter to My Sons about Pornography”

http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-letter-to-my-sons-about-pornography

Dear Liz,

I wonder what happened in your life to make you sit down and pen this letter. I wonder if it was a web history forgotten to be cleared, or perhaps web history cleared a little too frequently. Maybe it was the frantic closing of web browsers as you entered the computer room. I wonder how much harder it is to parent in this digital age were you can no longer lift up a mattress to check for images of scantily clad buxom beauties. Your mini bio says you have two little boys, so maybe they are not tech savvy enough just yet to find their way to illicit websites. Perhaps it was a tale of woe of a marriage of someone you know ruined. Either way I applaud you for opening a dialogue with your children about sex and even more importantly, how men treat women.

In my opinion far too many Christian homes treat sex as too taboo to discuss, creating far more problems than they hope to solve by burying their heads in the sand. And as someone who saw their first illicit magazine at the tender age of 7 (how the world has changed in the short 26 years I’ve been alive), I know that (age appropriate) conversation cannot happen soon enough.

I have no intention of trying to convince you that consumption of pornography, or the sex industry in general is right or wrong, but I do think it is time for you to have another difficult conversation with yourself, and with your boys, a conversation that maybe you don’t want to have. You see, as you were staking your moral flag in opposition to lust, pornography, and the sex industry, I was amazed at how closely your concern for how those things affected women today mirrored my own concerns about how the Bible says God (and his chosen people) treated women throughout the Bible. You see, I simply cannot understand how a Christian can be opposed to something like pornography on any sort of moral grounds and ignore the way God is depicted treating women.

Below is a list of claims you made about pornography or woman that I find difficult to square away with the Bible. I’ve modified of them for brevity, I hope you don’t mind.

  • Pornography fuels the industry that enslaves and trafficks women.
  • Men are to care for women, not exploit and dominate
  • Women are strong, capable, and equal
  • [Women are] not objects to be used and discarded.
  • The porn industry diminishes both men and women, instead of celebrating them as complex and glorious image-bearers of their Creator.
  • Consumer society devalues human beings as they’re offered up for consumption.
  • You are called by God to reject sexual consumerism.

Pornography fuels the industry that enslaves and trafficks women.

I think you may be painting with a broad brush here. At risk of veering away from the topic at hand many women enter pornography, or prostitution, or various other compartments of the sex industry because it is lucrative, or they enjoy it, or both. They are neither enslaved nor trafficked, nor do they have any desire to be “rescued.” Porn actresses have gone on to become porn directors. There is a Ted Talk on creating “feminist pornography” that may interest you https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z9LaQtfpP_8&feature=youtu.be

That is of course not to say that women can’t contribute to the enslavement and trafficking of other women. But to advocate for the complete shut down of the sex industry (which is not something I saw you advocate for in your letter, so I’m just speaking generally) would be to say that you know what these woman should do with their bodies better than they do, which would be to deny them their own agency. Not to mention, in America, the first amendment covers the right to both produce and consume pornography http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/prosecuting/overview.html

But the enslavement and sex trafficking of women unfortunately does happen, and I, like you, stand vehemently opposed to it. It is also a valid secular argument as to why one might want to make the personal decision to abstain from pornography, I’m just not sure where exactly you are grounding your morals on the issue, as it certainly does not come from the Bible.

The Bible, in fact paints a different picture entirely in regards to women, sex, and slavery. You only need to turn your Bible to Exodus 21 for slavery laws (for context Exodus 20 are the famous 10 Commandments), including the differences between Hebrew and non-Hebrew slaves (spoiler non-Hebrew slaves get treated worse) and how to sell your daughter into slavery.

The Hebrews are not even out of Egypt, escaping from their own slavery before they begin thinking about buying their own slaves. See Exodus 12:44

1 Peter 2:18 encourages slaves to submit to their masters, both the good masters as well as the cruel masters (as if there was such a thing as a morally good slave owner).

So I think you can understand my confusion as to why you would be opposed to slavery on any sort of biblical basis. The Ten Commandments does not condemn slavery (or rape). Jesus does not condemn slavery. By all accounts (sex) slavery, is a permissible, morally acceptable, lucrative business to be engaged in. So at worst modern day sex traffickers are guilty of, biblically speaking, is perhaps not owning slaves the “correct” way.

Men are to care for women—to provide and protect—not exploit and dominate

When you say it like this it doesn’t sound so bad, but who exactly gets to decide what “caring for women” and “providing and protecting” look like? Because in Biblical times it looked a lot like exploitation and domination. Let’s go back to Exodus 21:7 where a father can sell his daughter to another man for money. That is the definition of exploitation. The father of course would argue that he was providing for and protecting his daughter by securing her a master-husband.

Verse 10 offers some protections for the woman should her master-husband decide to buy, capture, or otherwise take another slave-wife. Of course an alternative law could have been to forbid polygamy, thus no protections would be needed. Somehow in a book that despises adultery, homosexuality, and other sexual “sins,” polygamy didn’t make the cut of immoral behavior. I remain unconvinced that lust didn’t play a factor in that decision.

Even in the event of rape, Deuteronomy 22:28-29 tells us that if a man rapes an unbetrothed virgin, the rapist must pay her father 50 shekels of silver and the rapist must marry his victim. The father wins, the rapists wins, and the woman is exploited.

Deuteronomy 22:23-24 tells us that if a woman does not yell loud enough when she is being raped she should be stoned to death. Nobody wins here, the woman just loses more.

Women are strong, capable, and equal

I agree with you completely that woman are strong, capable, and equal. But pardon me for being blunt, what Bible are you reading? There is nothing in the Bible to indicate that women and men are equal, in fact just the opposite. You said it yourself in the previous sentence, “men are to care for women—to provide and protect.” Women need protection because they are not strong. Women need to be provided for because they are not capable. Again these are not things I believe, but that is the paradox you just created. In my opinion women don’t need a man to protect or provide for them, they are qualified to do that all on their own.

If there was a divine mandate coming from the Garden of Eden, it is that women are inferior to men. Genesis 2:18 tells us that it was not good for man to be alone, so God would create a “helper” for him. A helper is not an equal.

Genesis 2:18-20 tells us God and Adam actively considered bestiality before God decided to create Eve, which is how much of an afterthought women were.

1 Timothy 2:11-15 specifically mentions woman being created after man for why woman should not be permitted to teach or assume authority over a man, but must instead be quiet. If the Bible considered woman equal to men, there is no reason why a woman should not have equal opportunity to impart wisdom to men, or be in positions of authority, yet Biblically, woman being equal with men is forbidden.

Furthermore God could have chosen to create women from the earth as he did with all other living things, but he chose to build her out of a rib bone taken from a man. Which literally and symbolically makes Eve less than Adam, as it only took one rib bone from a man to create her.

If you ever wondered the value of a person Leviticus 27:3-7 has the answer. If there if I left any doubt in your mind that the bible considers women inferior to men, the fact that depending on the age of the woman, women are valued at roughly half to two thirds as much as men.

[Women are] not objects to be used and discarded.

I once heard that everything one needs to know about the Bible can be found in the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Sunday school we are supposed to be appalled at the wickedness of the mob, and awed by God’s divine wrath and justice, and simultaneously his mercy for rescuing the righteous man Lot and his daughters (but not his wife). Somewhere in there we forget, or maybe we don’t wish to see, what Lot’s actions were during the ordeal.

With an angry mob at the door (every man in the city in fact), demanding to rape Lot’s two guests. Lot offers an alternative, since the men have fallen under the protection of his roof the angry mob can do as they please with his two virgin daughters, they were to be used and discarded, Genesis 19:7. Apparently the protection of his roof does not apply to his own daughters. Again this is the only righteous man in the city of Sodom worthy of saving. Yet offering to let an angry mob brutally gang rape two young girls instead of protecting them doesn’t disqualify him from being saved. His wife on the other hand gets turned into a pillar of salt for looking behind her. That is how God and God’s righteous people treat women

Surprisingly the two angel/guests saved Lot’s daughters from being brutally gang raped, despite the best efforts of their father. The concubine who faced a similar situation in Judges 19:25-29 was less fortunate. After being used by a mob of angry men all night she was discarded and discovered dead on the doorstep the next morning. Her master then proceeded to dismember her and sent pieces of her to the twelve tribes of Israel as some kind of message.

The porn industry diminishes both men and women, instead of celebrating them as complex and glorious image-bearers of their Creator.

King David, a man described as a man after God’s own heart. Once saw a married woman bathing on a roof. He inquired after her, had her brought to him, impregnated her, then tried to cover up his actions, and when that failed, he murdered her husband. Now of course, David is a fallible man like any other and apt to sin just like any other, what I find interesting is Gods response. 2 Samuel 12:11 tells us that in order to punish David, God is going to take his wives, give them to his neighbor, so his neighbor may rape them in broad daylight.

Just to be clear, David rapes a married woman, and as punishment God has another man rape David’s wives. Again the wives didn’t do anything wrong, their sexual abuse is merely God’s tool to punish a man for sexually abusing another woman. Personally my head is still spinning trying to follow the logic. Not to be crude but if God were following “an eye for an eye” then God should have had another man rape David. But as Deuteronomy 22:28-29 demonstrates rape is always a transgression against her father or her husband, never against the woman herself. God’s chosen punishment for David, having his wives raped, highlights that fact.

Do you think God was celebrating King David’s wives as complex and glorious image-bearers of their creator/himself while he diminished them to nothing more than sexual pawns in order to punish David? If God doesn’t celebrate women as his complex and glorious image-bearers perhaps it is because he (or the authors of the Bible at any rate) doesn’t view women that way.

God also deems it appropriate to kill David and Bathsheba’s new born son, again not for anything the son did, being an infant and all, but again another person punished for what David did. Bathsheba of course should have been stoned to death for not yelling loud enough as the king forced himself on her, as we previously saw mentioned in Deuteronomy 22:23-24, so I guess she should just be thankful it was her son who died and not her. David of course also should have been stoned to death for sleeping with another man’s wife, but I guess it is good to be King, but I digress.

Consumer society devalues human beings as they’re offered up for consumption.

You are definitely not the first person to make the argument that pornography objectifies and commodifies women. And like I’ve said, I’m not interested in trying to convince you otherwise, and that is also another valid secular argument to abstain from pornography. But let’s return to the Bible and see how the Father of God’s chosen people used women for consumption.

There was a man named Jacob who was later renamed Israel, as in the father of Israel. He worked for a man for 7 years in order to marry this man’s daughter, Rachel, in a business arrangement. After his 7 years, Jacob says to his business partner, “Give me my wife so that I may go into her,” which pretty graphically reveals Jacobs true intentions. The bible explicitly states that Jacob was in love with Rachel, so much so that those 7 years felt like mere days, but somehow Jacob didn’t realize until morning that he was actually given Leah for a wife. Of course, by then he had already had sex with her, thereby defiling her (because a woman’s worth is closely tied with her virginity) we can’t even be mad with Jacobs business partner because Jacob actively swindled his business partner out of a large portion of his herd by using absurd pseudo-science to manipulate the herd’s genetics, (where is a punnet square when you need one?) Somehow this worked anyways because #god, this is the same man who also stole his older brother’s birthright and blessing. Jacob had a week long honeymoon with the wife he didn’t want before he was allowed to marry the wife he did want (in exchange for 7 more years of work). Now Jacob didn’t hide his disdain for Leah, which created a birthing contest between the two sisters (because no longer virgins, their worth is tied to how many children they can produce). When either of the women became barren they forced Jacob on their slaves in order that they may steal their slave’s children for their own. Thus the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people were born of a thief and a swindler, and of four different women two of whom were procured in a business arrangement and two of whom who were slaves of the first two. Genesis 29 and 30

Jacob’s wives were business arrangements, you cannot be much more than a commodity than that. Jacob was so focused on consuming his new product that he didn’t even realize he didn’t get the model he wanted, until after he had spoiled the first one.

Abraham, the Father of Judaism, and his wife Sarai, treated their slave Hagar (who Abraham was raping) so poorly for doing what she was commanded to do (namely let Abraham rape her so she could bare children for Sarai to steal) that Hagar ran away. God confronted her, and turned her back to a life of abusive slavery (as if there was any other kind) which is a direct violation of his own law found in Deuteronomy 23:15 “If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master.” Hagar couldn’t even find refuge with God. To throw salt in the wound when God tells Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, God somehow conveniently forgets about Abraham’s first born son with Hagar, Ishmael. Although Ismael probably dodged a bullet there.

You are called by God to reject sexual consumerism.

Again I have to ask what bible you are reading?

Judges 21: 10- 24

Describes the capture the destruction of a town and the capture of 400 women to be sex slaves, and when that was not enough women for all the men in the tribe of Benjamin, they hid in the bushes to kidnap and rape more women

Numbers 31: 7-18

After the destruction of a town Moses is furious that the Israelites allowed some women and children to live. He commanded them all to be put to death, except for the virgin women who they may keep for themselves, except for 32 of them who the lord demanded for himself, who were then conveniently given to the priest.

Deuteronomy 20: 10-14

God commands the enslavement of a town, and should the town be opposed to that idea, the Israelites were to kill every man, but the Israelites were free to enjoy the women, children, livestock, and plunder as spoils of war (women and children once again equal property).

Abraham, Jacob, King David and King Solomon, God’s best of the best list all engaged in various degrees of polygamy, sexual slavery, and rape.

God himself instituted a sex slave trade where women were kidnapped and trafficked, and if there were not any villages to ransack nearby you could always sell one of your daughters who you produced with your own sex slave. If anything the Bible teaches us that sexual consumerism is a great way to make a society thrive.

Based on your letter, and the concerns you expressed about pornography’s effects on women, I believe you have little choice but to either reject the bible or change your views about women to more biblically acceptable views, I’ve made a short starting list for you.

  • Taking women as sex slaves from conquered enemies is actively encouraged: Judges 21:10-24, Numbers 31:7-18, Deuteronomy 20:10-14
  • Selling your daughter into slavery is permissible: Exodus 21:7
  • Even “free” women are property: Genesis 29-30, Exodus 21:7, Deuteronomy 22:28-29
  • A woman’s worth is tied to their virginity or her ability to produce children: Genesis 29:32, Deuteronomy 22, 1 Timothy 2:15
  • Women are inherently unclean: Leviticus 12:1-8
  • Rape is always a transgression against the man the woman belongs too, never the woman herself: Deuteronomy 22, 2 Samuel 12:11
  • It is permissible to offer your daughters to be raped by an angry mob to save a man from the same fate: Genesis 19:7, Judges 19:25-29
  • Women are always inferior to men: Genesis 2, 1 Timothy 2:12-15
  • Women are not to presume to teach men: 1 Timothy 2:12
  • Women are not to be in positions of authority over men: 1 Timothy 2:12
  • Women are to be silent: 1 Timothy 2:12

It is my humble opinion that it is not your views on women that need to be changed. But rather your acceptance of a book that teaches you otherwise.

I can already hear the protests that most of my examples are from the Old Testament and Jesus isn’t like that. In fact you actively desire your children to look towards Christ and to act more like him. The unfortunate reality is the bible clearly teaches in First John 1 that the Word [Jesus] was with God in the beginning and the Word was God, and nothing was made without the Word.

So we know thanks to First John that whatever God did in the Old Testament, Jesus also did, as they are in perfect accord.

Desiring your sons to look to Jesus is desiring your sons to become like someone who exploits and devalues women in all the same ways you find abhorrent about the porn industry. To deny this is to deny the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus.

You use the analogy that pornography is like tea, and the longer you steep yourself in it, the bitterer it becomes. I think the Bible is like that. Many Christians are enamored with the honey taste of the New Testament. It feels good to meditate on the sweet promise of heaven and loving your neighbor. But the honey doesn’t remove the bitterness, it only covers it up. The longer you steep yourself in the Bible the more apparent the bitterness becomes.

So the only question is, are you going to spit it out, or continue to pretend like you don’t taste the bitterness?

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