Opening the Door to Your True IdentityIt’s basic physiology that an orgasmic response is functional in the male and female bodies of many animals. But the animal bodies of humans have an amazingly elevated status in creation. We surpass all other creatures, including angels, because we embody the image of the Creator. While a sex drive and the capacity for sexual enjoyment are parts of our total selves, our personally integrated self-image finds fulfillment only in reflecting the One whose image we bear. In that divine reflection alone can we realize our true value and true identity as individuals and as a race. The modern church isn’t silent about the porn epidemic. But it fails both society and its many porn-addicted members by ignoring the human body’s crucial role in imaging God. That neglect is behind the many religious attempts to fight porn with woman-unfriendly solutions based on body shame. Yet the Bible’s first and foremost adjectives used for describing God’s image are not theological or psychological terms but physical ones: “male and female.” Because Christians—when it comes to women’s bodies—have generally avoided the practical implications of this divine revelation, I believe God let prophetic voices outside the church have the floor. It may shame us to say so, but those who unconsciously use His principles to denounce pornography are most often feminists. Feminist lecturers are notorious for being the loudest and most outspoken in lambasting our culture for demeaning and exploiting women by reducing them to female body parts. They urge women to rebel against this sexualization—to toss the script that has them playing the role of society’s sex toys. When feminists exhort women to see themselves wholistically—finding their self-worth in the valuable persons they truly are, not in cultural or religious patterns that treat them as sexual objects—they are unconsciously preaching God’s truth. Why do women who hear and heed this part of the feminist message find freedom? Because the truth sets people free. Humanity’s “final frontier” isn’t to explore the cosmos but to discover who we really are. From childhood to old age, the search for personal identity is life’s grandest quest. Only in a personal relationship with “I AM” Exod 3:14), who created us as His image-bearers, can the question “Who am I?” be fully answered. New birth in Christ, who is “the express image of [God’s] person,” (Heb 1:3) begins the resolution of our cosmic identity crisis. But growth in Christ means learning to have His “mind” (Phil 2:5) toward others, who also bear God’s image. If we are putting others—like porn-models—ahead of ourselves (Phil 2:3), we won’t be profiting from their degradation but praying for their deliverance. Practicing Christ’s attitude of self-denial brings a market-crash to pornography, because the economy of porn is totally driven by self-interest.
Closing the Door on a False IdentityA false self-image translates into a false lifestyle. Eve took forbidden fruit because it seemed edible, pretty, and prestigious (Gen 3:6). It promised a world of physical, visual and personal satisfaction. But in warning us about gaining “the whole world” and losing our souls, Jesus said, “Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it,” (Mat 16:25). By living in surrender to “the mind of Christ,” we lose only our false selves, which have been either squeezed or stretched to fit worldly patterns. In union with Jesus alone we find our true selves, our full humanity. The porn-addicted woman’s freedom comes by living out her true identity in God, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Our human self-understanding comes from being created in the imago Dei. Male and female porn addiction, and the porno-prudery that fuels it, will persist until we mentally abandon the sexually objectified view of the human body taught by our upbringing. God’s evaluation of our naked embodiment—as His “very good” divine image and sacred temple—must reign supreme in our minds and hearts. A divine perspective on human anatomy and sexuality also calls us to a Creator-honoring view of masturbation. Because almost all porn addiction includes a collateral addiction to self stimulation, porn-addicted men and women hoping to find freedom need to evaluate this controversial issue cautiously but realistically. In closing the door on a false identity, the true self in Christ must dismiss the idea that retaining an obsession is essential for emotional survival. But many cycle through transient hope and recurring guilt from a unilateral condemnation of masturbation that isn’t found in Scripture. I believe that a more realistic understanding of the body’s sexual physiology may facilitate closure with this obsessive habit. One danger described by Jesus is mental “adultery” (Mat 5:28). To “look lustfully” is an activity of the imagination. In an imitative way, masturbation spurred by lustfully visualized or fantasized human images implies this mental sin of adultery. Objectifying the imago Dei, even if only imaginatively, is not part of our Christian identity but a latent habit typical of the false self. Shut the door on it. But open a door on realism. In Christ, we remain physiological beings. God’s created the mechanics of orgasmic function to include periodic discharges of the sex drive for our sense of well-being. This psycho-physical urge is often met by nocturnal orgasms. But when marital union is absent or orgasmic dreams fail, is it right to wallow in legalistic guilt for manually addressing this God-designed need? As “male and female” in God’s image, we must live out our physiology whether or not our genitals serve their procreative and conjugal purposes. Accepting our sexual identities means thanking God for the dynamics of orgasmic function. When a physiological build-up peaks, why call its manual release a “glitch” or a “sin,” when we should be praising God for our “fearfully and wonderfully made” bodies? But when someone claims to need masturbation daily or imagines its release must be assisted with pornographic images or lustful fantasies, it’s clear the deceitful false self is still in control.
Conclusion: a New Way of SeeingMen can quit their pornographic game of solitaire by ceasing to treat the female body as a self-gratifying sexual commodity. Women who gamble at the same table can find freedom by no longer treating their bodies as slot machines for pleasure-coins minted by the porn industry. There’s no jackpot of authentic self-esteem won with porn’s “play-money.” Women must stop selling themselves short of their true value as sexually embodied persons. Also, they must strongly resist those voices that sexually objectify their femininity, even if they resound from otherwise respected and honored pulpits. In a complete change of mind (metanoia, the Biblical word for repentance), a porn-addicted woman must learn to see and treat her body as a “temple” of the Holy Spirit, “fearfully and wonderfully made” in the image of her Almighty Creator. Her sexuality and its powerful drives are part of that holy temple and image. In that divine identity alone lies her freedom from porn addiction. This closing poem conveys my strong feelings about the nature of our gender-distinctive bodies as God’s sacred territory. It is perhaps my most impassioned rebuke to society and religion for objectifying women, whose bodies were meant to reflect their Maker.
WOMANShe is woman . . . and much abused: Her lovely womb and breasts and buttocks were infused With sordid meaning, twisted thought, By vain imagination packaged, sold, and bought. A wayward culture holds her chain, And even sermons preach the sex-obsessed refrain That turns her body parts and skin Into ignition points for carnal lust and sin. Yet in her flesh, along with man, She bears the image of the Maker’s master plan For a Self-portrait, so designed That in their bodies they declare His holy mind. God’s leadership and strength is shown In shoulder breadth and muscle, for which men are known. But women’s wombs, that swell for birth, Reflect God’s own heart pregnant with creation’s worth. And in their breasts, where babies feed, We see the nurture from God’s bosom humans need. These signs laid bare in wholesome light Should launch our souls to praise God’s glory at the sight. She is woman. . . . Lord, set her free To be the temple You intended her to be. And let Your church repent her rape, By calling lewd the beauty of her shape. Since in her flesh You wish to dwell, Lord, damn these lies that make her form a path to hell. David L. Hatton, 12/31/2009 (from Poems Between Birth and Resurrection© 2013) Just as this poem expresses my heart’s true prayer, I pray this article reveals the truth that can set you free. Your freedom must begin with Jesus—the Truth Who is a Person and Who makes us God’s children by new birth. That freedom continues as Christ’s view of the body and of human sexuality affirms the sacred, gender-distinctive embodiment of both yourself and others. Believing, adopting and applying His view of reality will close your account with pornography’s fantasy world. God’s grace through the Holy Spirit is ever-present to support your decision to embrace His truth, and the pastoral team at MCAG are here to assist in whatever way we can.
Depersonalized, Then CommercializedIn good mental health, all aspects of a person are integrated. God’s plan of salvation and sanctification targets our “whole spirit and soul and body” (1 Thes 5:23). When bare bodies are objectified, it isolates them from the people who live in them. Also, disassociating gender-distinctive body parts from their owner fails to treat them as true components of personal identity. It reduces men and women to something less than their full humanity. Such a reduction is the essential groundwork for pornography’s success. While God created us “male and female” for the purpose of reproduction (Gen 1:27-28a), He also designed our reproductive anatomy to offer mutual pleasure during sexual intercourse. God blessed us with this orgasmic gift to enhance relational communion between spouses. But this physiological capacity works before marriage and beyond reproductive purposes. This means coitus can be immorally misused outside the marital bond and the orgasmic function immorally abused through pornographic fantasies. Just as objectification isolates the body from the person, so pleasurable sexual activity can become disassociated from divine intentions. This rift—between sexual thrill-seeking and God’s plan for wedded love—commercializes sexuality, turning it into a form of promiscuous pleasure-shopping. Porn is profitable only because sex sells. Objectified sexual thrill is its currency.
The Way In . . . But Why Stay In?Because secrecy surrounds involvement in pornography, some porn-addicted women believe they are alone or in a shameful minority: “Only bad girls, like me, get into such a ‘filthy’ habit.” Others may assume their stories are identical to those of all others who get hooked on pornography. But just as men get drawn into porn in a variety of ways, so do women. My research leads me to believe that most women who presently struggle with porn will resonate with at least one or more of the following scenarios. Some girls started out merely trying to satisfy natural, childhood curiosity. When families and churches failed to provide safe, wholesome avenues for familiarity with nonsexual human nudity, these girls checked out the Web. There, the porn industry filled this educational void from its own twisted agenda. With the ongoing help of pornography, a legitimate fascination with God’s magnificent artistry in the human body gradually morphed into fantasizing forbidden activities on the devil’s playground. Nothing in creation surpasses the grace and glory revealed in the embodiment of God’s image. But pornography uses the awesomely handcrafted beauty in the naked human body as a hook, distorting its glory-filled reflection, perverting its sacred display, and effectively blocking godly thoughts about it. Once captured by porn’s false image of our gender-distinctive anatomy, girls raised in prudish and legalistic environments may see no hope of escape. The shame of their sinful habits—especially when erroneously labeled as “only a male problem”—walls off any hope for help from church leaders whose unreal assumptions merely fan the flames of their shame. Sometimes it was youthful self-exploration that led adventurous girls from pleasant sensations of self-stimulation into compulsive habits associated with porn. God’s marital reason for creating the pleasure of orgasms is not canceled by their misuse. Whether they come from coitus or from masturbation, their divine design includes an elevated brain-chemical “high” that begs repeating:
Orgasm releases a dopamine-oxytocin high that has been compared to a heroin hit, and many regular users of internet porn report experiencing an almost trance-like effect that not only makes them feel oblivious to the world, but also gives them a sense of power that they don’t have in real life. “The PC becomes an erogenous zone. The more you keep trying to put porn out of your mind, the more it keeps popping back in. The brain then learns that porn is the only way to cope with anxiety. . . .” While both men and women may use pornographic images as fantasy-support for masturbation, most men can manually induce a climax without visual stimulus. Some women seek an imaginative narration beyond the visual in order to supplement their stimulation. One woman privately confided to me:
“. . . it’s generally very important to have some kind of story or text – just pictures don’t usually do anything for me, at least. And that makes it nigh impossible to masturbate without fantasizing or using porn to provide that mental component. . . . So while men may be able to orgasm just from the physical act of masturbation, I think women in general will find that far more difficult, and that greatly limits our ability to relieve our sex drives.”When a repetitive neuro-chemical reward is coupled with a woman’s heightened need for the fantasy inherent in porn, she may feel helpless in trying to break free from her addiction. Another sad scenario is where a girl’s first experience with nudity was that of having her own body sexually assaulted. Childhood’s defenseless submission to such degrading abuse can cause her to grow up feeling “dirty,” worthless, never again “normal.” But if she finds her past sexual trauma visually glamorized in pornography, the discovery might distort her memory by reinterpreting reality: “See! My experiences were typical, expected, even desirable.” This can make their porn habit a temporary “feel-good” salve to soothe the hurt of old wounds that become repressed while growing deeper. Or worse, that same girl might have falsely identified with her abuse: “Just like these girls in the videos, I gravitate toward this crap! I’m one of them!” Past sexual trauma, present sexual sin, or even the continuation of watching porn itself—while realizing its wrongness—can perpetuate her sense of defilement. She may hide this falsely adopted self-identity beneath the personal facade of “a normal girl.” Yet this carefully constructed social mask may actually be more her than her unhealed self is willing or able to believe. A woman might have been misled to feel religious shame for even having a strong sex drive—a trait mistakenly preached as only characterizing men. Sadly, this religious error may push her toward involvement with porn as a dysfunctional way to confirm her guilt-ridden self-concept: “It’s my curse . . . I’m so messed up, it can’t be fixed!” Because of such self-deprecating thoughts, porn usage may serve as an indirect form of self-punishment, which a girl imagines she deserves for what she feel is her “oversexed” disposition. This shame factor might also be connected to a fear of intimacy. Imaginary individuals are less threatening than real persons. A sex object comes without the personal expectations of a living subject. Fantasy-lust and cyber-sex require none of the demanding work of a real relationship, like the one sealed in a for-better-or-worse marriage vow between two strong personal wills. The porn addict is seemingly on her own, in control. No need to fear conflict, failed performance, lack of acceptance, venereal diseases, unintended pregnancies, and all the other messy risks that self-sex is able to avoid. But porn’s promise is a lie: the sexual autonomy it offers is a ploy that eventually puts porn in the driver’s seat. I’ve also known women whose first exposure to porn was through boyfriends who had them watch sex-ploitation videos to see how other girls performed the popular perversions. Emotionally duped into thinking, “This is how to win and keep his affection,” they began emulating the persona of submissive girls portrayed by porn stars. The unconscious result of this repetitive role-playing was to adopt the mindset of the script. The role itself took over, giving her a new self-image. She became the star of a distorted drama played out on a stage of sexual props with porn as the director.
Your Investment in Female DepreciationIt’s obvious to all porn-addicted women, as well as to everyone else, that these pornographic portrayals are grossly demeaning to females. The girls involved are being virtually raped, often violently. So, what’s the kickback? Where’s the remuneration? There must be a takeaway. Otherwise, why did so many women devour the erotic “bondage” novel 50 Shades of Grey, turning it into a bestseller and making its movie-version a 500-million-dollar blockbuster? Beyond investing in the porn-drama for orgasmic excitement, a woman can find in porn’s objectified sexual thrill a kind of mental cash-flow. Even if she knows her body isn’t the “eye candy” showcased by porn-models, her equipment still works in the pleasure-market. The more she buys stock in pornography’s monopoly game, the more she gains imaginary sexual leverage, a mental form of sexual clout, validated by its orgasmic payoff. Because porn advertises her value in a consumer-relationship with men, tapping into that evaluation becomes an emotional “fix,” a shot of self-confidence, a reassurance of power in porn’s fictional economy. But her rewards are as fictitious as the treasures won in a role-playing computer game. Contemplate carefully the full impact of this repeating cycle. The porn addict transfers a young model’s deposit of lost personal dignity into her own account as a stimulating sexual dividend. For this transaction to work without realistically falling apart, the porn model must never be seen as a real person with normal desires and emotions. She must remain an object, a tool, a trade-commodity. Banish the thought that she might be a troubled teen, a high school drop-out, or a single mom selling her body like a prostitute to make ends meet. The addict’s mind must stay self-absorbed, focused on self-gratification, until the episode plays out to its literal climax. And the mental block must continue even after the session ends, or guilt from the porn addict’s lack of compassion will only add to the pain of emotional emptiness left by pornography’s aftermath. For women caught up in this depressing game, porn has already determined their net worth in terms of their body parts. They watch men seemingly control the commerce, but they get to treat their own bodies as the sought-after merchandise. Although they must watch nameless girls become objects for sexual consumption, they can make a short-term profit from this arrangement by temporarily joining it, imagining themselves a part of the show. But participation in that fantasy—either to release tension by an orgasmic high or to replenish an emotionally diminished sexual ego—has a long-term downside: the porn-addicted woman spends her true self-worth on imaginary relational assets which are totally worthless in real life.
Endnotes: 1. For an extensive testimonial that exemplifies how shame prevents seeking or finding help from those who legalistically teach prudery and body shame, read the book by Jessica Harris, Beggar’s Daughter (2016).
2. “Why More and More Women Are Using Pornography” in The Guardian (April 7, 2011); quote by Jason Dean, a counselor to the porn-addicted.[Do not stop where Part One of this article ends, that is, with a descriptive explanation of the porn-addicted woman’s plight. Part Two (click here) follows with the heart of God’s answer for her liberation.]
Single Vision or Double Vision?The central theme of MCAG is simple: adopting a proper, Creator-honoring view of the naked human body and its sacred meaning is lethal for porn addiction. Happily, a healthy view of nudity already exists in society, but it’s buried under a social and religious schizophrenia that describes nakedness as non-pornographic one moment and deems it sexually obscene the next. Such double-mindedness is supposedly excused by calling these contradictory designations contextual. But in both contexts, the external anatomy is still absolutely naked. The only authentic difference between the non-pornographic and the truly obscene is the wholesome or unwholesome manner in which the unclad body is intentionally presented. The naked body itself is not and never was the problem.
The Corrective Lens of the Nude in ArtOne generally accepted avenue for nudity’s wholesome presentation is the world of figurative art. Almost every artist skilled in depicting the human form had to study its structural anatomy. In fact, when I took art classes, my course in figure drawing was a great review of the bones and skeletal muscles memorized in nursing school. But figurative art students must become even more familiar with how the bare skin envelops these underlying structures. This requires many hours of intently observing and trying to capture on paper different nude models, both male and female, in a variety of postures at rest or in implied movement. A shapely nude woman is no more pornographic in this educational context than if she had to be stripped entirely bare for emergency treatment in a trauma center. Since I’ve seen such nude females in both situations—and in those latter cases, more times than I care to remember—I know whereof I speak. In both these environments, the naked body and the careful inspection of its bare surface fall into a category properly recognized as normal, nonsexual nudity. For the artist, as well as for those in healthcare, this natural, realistic view of nakedness can sabotage the porno-prudish mindset implanted by years of cultural training.
An Embarrassing Religious HistoryWhy have young Christian artists not been groomed for excellence in figurative art? By their own well-documented testimonies, churches in early America were preaching a pornographic view of the body long before we became a nation. Christian preachers who deny this history jeopardize their ministerial credibility. Even worse, if they defend this past error, they sacrifice their spiritual allegiance on the altar of the religious status quo. How so? Because, by tragically abandoning a Scriptural view of our embodiment and adopting in its place a Victorian view that sexually objectifies gender-distinctive human anatomy, American Christianity has zealously and persistently contributed to today’s pornified culture. When a religious obsession with the sexual aspects of the body pervades a society that is dysfunctionally obsessed with sexual self-gratification, porn addiction is inevitable. In the midst of these two worlds of toxically obsessive sexual fantasy, the healthy realism of nudity in art can be redemptive.
Gaining the Single Vision of the Original ARTIST. . .The porn addict seeking mental liberation from both these sources of ‘”vain imagination,” must learn to see nudity with the same respectful gaze of the porn-free artist. A serious study of “the nude” in art history is an excellent way to regain this healthier view of the naked body, reforming a lifetime of porno-prudery’s false indoctrination. Such an endeavor actually follows the holy eyes of the Original Artist, Who designed the naked beauty of the human body in the first place. If you decide to experiment with this, research the library or go to an art museum and begin a review of the nude in classic art (see my article “The Impact of Naked Truth” published by the Christian art appreciation website ArtWay). But also, study the few modern Christian artists who have defied prudery’s “flight from the body,” heretically assumed by some to be part of the Gospel. A bold example of using the nude artistically is found in the work of Edward Knippers, who has long incorporated into his paintings of Biblical scenes the naked human form as a strong Christian metaphor (see my article “A Modern Use of the Nude” also published by ArtWay).
Wholesome Reality vs. Sexualized FantasyIf you’re ambitiously serious about allowing normal nudity in art to help wipe out your years of training in a pornographic conception of the body, try taking a figure drawing class yourself. I did (see my results). It won’t take you long to discover for yourself what I learned in both practicing healthcare and studying figurative art. My mind’s focus became the real thing. Whether it’s the body of a nude patient or of a nude model, the bare anatomy is seen as an extension of his or her personal identity. The wholesome reality of seeing people in their God-given birthday suits has a tremendous ability to quench the habitual fantasy that obsesses over a naked body part by isolating it from the human being who owns it. Can the art of the nude change a lustful heart? No. But the sacred light it reflects from the beautiful originality of our Creator can nakedly expose the darkness of prudery and the ugliness of porn. The glory seen in the Supreme Artist’s greatest handiwork—His own Self-portrait in human flesh—is bright enough to dim the fires of porn addiction and the prudery that fuels them.
It’s not what you think…To correctly understand what the Bible really means when it associates shame with nakedness, we need to first take off the cultural glasses we’ve been wearing… and read the biblical text with a clearer understanding of the ancient context from which the scriptures sprung. To do that, we must first recognize—and reject—a false “marriage” of concepts that was foreign to the writers of the Scriptures.
The False “Marriage” of Nudity and SexWhenever a society is trained to interpret the sight of the unclothed body as a sexual event, it produces a “pornographic view of the body.” This sex-focused perception targets the nude body for sexploitation. Pornography thrives on this wedding of sexual stimulation to nakedness. When churches blindly “tie the knot”—teaching that God ordained this conceptual marriage—they unwittingly foster a “pornified” culture. Such blindness is self-perpetuating, for it keeps Christians from seeing that most occasions of nudity in Scripture are nonsexual. My term porno-prudery effectively describes the widespread religious thinking that sanctions this unholy matrimony of sex and nudity. Prudery and pornography are fraternal twins, born from the same false, Creator-dishonoring concept of the body. Porno-prudery promotes endless debates between those who see “modesty” as hiding skin and those who see its correct biblical meaning: dressing up with internal virtues rather than external adornments. Porno-prudery, by its very nature, sabotages an accurate understanding of the biblical shame of nakedness. By supposing that visible nakedness always has a sexual meaning, it treats the public sight of nudity as always shameful. Scripture does not support such an assumption.
Correcting Culturally Colored VisionWe moderns need to remove our culture-colored eyeglasses and stop reading back into Bible times the existence of swimsuits and private bathrooms. Archaeology helps us with this by showing how ordinary the sight of nonsexual nudity was in ancient civilizations. Not only were there public latrines and baths designed for group use, but in the Roman Empire, during the time of Christ, separate constructions to segregate males and females were deemed unnecessary. It is clear that our biblical ancestors did not share our present-day preoccupation with body shame. In all ancient cultures, patterns of outdoor bathing and excretory hygiene reflected this same healthy body acceptance. The many examples of manual laborers working without the encumbrance of clothing also speak of a healthier attitude toward bare human anatomy than we now have. So, neither in Bible lands nor elsewhere was a condition of visible nudity exclusively interpreted as sexual or shameful in nature. In view of this ancient way of perceiving nudity, we can begin to comprehend what the biblical shame of nakedness actually meant. But a full appreciation of that shame also depends on understanding the significance of clothing.
The Nakedness of the PoorIn the first place, the purpose of clothing in Scripture was not to hide the body, but to protect it from the elements and to adorn it either officially or aesthetically. Second, clothing was handmade and expensive. A single garment might be all that a working-class person owned. For the poor, literal nakedness and the coldness it brought were realistic possibilities that called for practical compassion. An outfit’s combined financial and practical value often made it the logical possession to take as a pledge to insure debt repayment, leaving its owner naked during the day while working off what he owed. Again, this is not new information, but missed information, which becomes misinformation in the mouths of teachers who read porno-prudish assumptions from the present back into the past. Once we realize the extreme value of clothing—not for hiding anatomy, but for protecting the body—we can begin to understand the Bible’s most frequent references to shame in relationship to nakedness. Naked shame is almost always related to clothing being lost or taken away in the contexts of coercion, military defeat, or poverty (both physical and spiritual). Less frequently it’s associated with sexual violations or with personal and religious disrespect. Exploring these biblical examples of the shame about nakedness would require another article. But in contrast to these, the sight of the body’s exposure in work (John 21:7 [lit.]), in a prophetic role (Isaiah 20:2‑4; Micah 1:8; 1 Samuel 19:23‑24), or in outdoor bathing (Exodus 2:5‑7; 2 Samuel 12:1‑9) are never depicted by the writers of Scripture as shameful. Yet all these very public activities made the naked body commonly visible to friends, family, and neighbors.
Read It Again… Without the Cultural FilterAgain, a preconceived idea that weds nudity with sexual involvement can bring a blindness to the study of Scripture. This culturally performed wedding veils the eyes of Bible readers, so that modern culture dictates what they see in various passages where publicly visible nudity is either mentioned or implied. Even I—who reread God’s Word with that veil removed—failed for a while to see what was really taking place in the following passage, 2 Chronicles 28:8‑11, 14-15:
The men of Israel took captive 200,000 of their relatives, women, sons, and daughters. They also took much spoil from them and brought the spoil to Samaria. But a prophet of the LORD was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out to meet the army that came to Samaria and said to them, “Behold, because the LORD, the God of your fathers, was angry with Judah, he gave them into your hand, but you have killed them in a rage that has reached up to heaven. And now you intend to subjugate the people of Judah and Jerusalem, male and female, as your slaves. Have you not sins of your own against the LORD your God? Now hear me, and send back the captives from your relatives whom you have taken, for the fierce wrath of the LORD is upon you.” . . . . So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the assembly. And the men who have been mentioned by name rose and took the captives, and with the spoil they clothed all who were naked among them. They clothed them, gave them sandals, provided them with food and drink, and anointed them, and carrying all the feeble among them on donkeys, they brought them to their kinsfolk at Jericho, the city of palm trees. Then they returned to Samaria. (ESV)What about this open nudity of 200,000 women and children prisoners during their long march from Judah to Samaria? It receives no comment of moral shock or reprimand. In those days, stripping clothes as spoil from defeated enemies was too commonly practiced and anticipated to be of special concern. In fact, this nakedness might not have been mentioned at all, if Oded’s prophetic words had gone unheeded. But in that inspired warning, not even God’s prophet drew any attention to the naked state of the captives. Instead, he decried Israel’s intention to enslave these unclad women, girls and boys. Plundering hostages of their garments was a normal demonstration of military success. Because clothing was such a valuable commodity, it was part of the economic spoils seized from the defeated. Yet this was not a perverted stripping to gawk at the kind of nudity these soldiers had grown up seeing all their lives. If it had been, God would surely have spoken against it in the mouth of His prophet. Was it shameful? Yes! Their naked condition displayed the shame of an impoverishing defeat, which always meant losing one of their most expensive possessions: clothing. The prophet Isaiah went nude for three years to preach this same kind naked “shame” that would befall Egypt and Cush. It was no more shameful for Isaiah’s unclad body to be seen by his neighbors than for these naked women and children to be under the gaze of their captors. Their shame consisted of more than just being stripped of clothing. They had lost everything. It was the naked shame of utter poverty. Always remember that Scripture was written in a cultural context. It recorded only information that God deemed worthy of inclusion. What was too ordinary for comment was left out. Yet, in this passage, it’s the very absence of a moral concern about the sight of a naked multitude that makes it noteworthy to us. Its lack of concern shows how, in those days, the commonness of nonsexual, openly visible nudity was not so scandalous or inappropriate that it warranted explanation. We are hard put to imagine the shame felt by this poor crowd of naked captives, because it was not the visibility of their external anatomy. Their concerns were the shame of defeat publicized by their naked poverty and the painful cold of wind and weather to which such nudity exposed them during this long outdoor march.
Attitudes: Gained From… or Imposed Upon… the Scriptures?An allegiance to cultural upbringing is difficult to overcome. However, when the Bible clashes against pet doctrines or inherited hermeneutics, the seriously committed believer will side with the authority of Scripture, no matter how large a mental paradigm shift is demanded. This biblical incident provides one of those opportunities. This passage, and many more like it, confront the popular, widespread idea among many believers that nudity itself is intrinsically sexual in nature and its visibility a source of shame. From the perspective of the human author of 2 Chronicles, the context of captivity and potential slavery made this extremely large multitude of naked females marching before the eyes of male soldiers a culturally understood or even expected situation. It held no apparent sexual significance. God Himself drew no moral attention to the public nudity involved—not even to please a prudish group of future Bible readers. God does not condone nor confirm conceptual “marriages” that humans sanction against His will… such as this one between nudity and sex. Our society and churches are suffering the sexual havoc that springs directly from this pornographic view of the body. By marrying nudity and sex, Christian porno-prudery has made a huge contribution to that perverted, pornographic view. Any successful attack on porn addiction by the Christian church must start with a careful and thoughtful review of Scripture passages like the one just explored. In the process, we might even regain the wholesome body acceptance of our biblical ancestors. — Pastor David Hatton
Endnotes: Missionaries discovered this the hard way by creating fertile ground for pornography through spreading prudery as a part of their Gospel to “naked people” groups. Modern cross-culturally savvy mission agencies warn their interns against this damaging practice of “clothing the naked” to morally cover the body. Wherever nudity is considered normal, an unnatural hiding of the body produces an unwholesome preoccupation with what’s hidden. The Western church is shamefully late in figuring this out.  Obviously, with nothing to wear, the body’s need is warmth, as James 2:15‑16 clearly points out: “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” (NKJV). Just so, John the Baptist’s exhortation in Luke 3:11 implies that the compassionate duty of a person owning two outfits is to clothe a naked person with one of them: “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Luke 3:11, ESV).  “If you ever take your neighbor’s garment as a pledge, you shall return it to him before the sun goes down. For that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin. What will he sleep in? And it will be that when he cries to Me, I will hear, for I am gracious.” (Exodus 22:26‑27, NKJV).  Isaiah 20:2‑4 (ESV), . . . at that time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, “Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,” and he did so, walking naked and barefoot. Then the LORD said, “As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Cush, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptian captives and the Cushite exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, the nakedness of Egypt.”
Mistaken FervorThere’s a general lapse of strong evangelical faith throughout Western culture. Viewing it from that perspective, I laud the stubborn attitude of believers who mistake MCAG’s message of body acceptance as just one more facet of the sexual insanity eroding today’s church. To be sure, strong stubbornness is needed to stand against the tide of moral confusion capturing the power-brokers of our nation. But stubborn beliefs, while laudable, aren’t always God-honoring or theologically correct. These faithfully stubborn saints will never entertain a message that separates nudity from sexuality, if they’re unwilling to test the validity of their religious conviction that keeps the two inseparable. A stubborn unwillingness to change is not at all praiseworthy. Reformation in line with truth is the church’s historical lifeline. The truth of body acceptance has transforming power, both to liberate porn addicts and to reform sentimentally preserved errors in Christian thinking. If believers faithfully hold and teach any falsehood as a “gospel standard,” it will eventually destroy their Gospel testimony. When loyalty to church tradition supplants a commitment to truth, legalism can be accepted as divine light, and true light can be mistaken for darkness.
The Error of Body ShameSocial waywardness outside the church isn’t as dangerous as doctrinal error inside. Body shame is a destructive cultural dysfunction. It was a grave religious blunder for past church leadership to baptize it as a Christian virtue. The ripples of that mistake have become devastating tidal waves in the modern world. By treating this porno-prudery as sound doctrine, Christian teachers incorporated it into “the faith,” believing that Scripture supported them. Yet, a careful review of the Bible and of biblical history does just the opposite. It exposes how they read their religious porno-prudery back into the culture of Bible times. One of my purposes in writing Meeting at the River—and why I played the devil’s advocate in the story—was to expose how the adoption of skin-hiding Victorian modesty as a Christian doctrine sabotaged modesty’s true biblical meaning. Creating a clothing-dependent morality was tantamount to cultural idolatry, and it remains so today, whenever believers dare defend it with the same zeal shown in defending the Gospel. This legalism is a perilous path, for it has either directly usurped God’s role in moral jurisdiction or religiously replaced His authority with human wisdom. This is grievous error and grave sin.
The goodness of Body AcceptanceI’ve written so much about the mundane normalness of body acceptance that I become redundant. But the truth bears repeating, especially when I get personally reminded of the first little essay I ever wrote on the subject (“What about the Hospital Nudity Problem?” on my “L&D Tips” webpage). Recently, I had a reverse-role clinical experience of getting a cystoscopy with a female attendant and a colonoscopy with two females assisting. The down-to-earth routineness of medical nudity broadcasts an obviously overlooked discrepancy in the porno-prudery most Christians doctrinally uphold. Indeed! What happens when these believers become patients themselves? Do filthy thoughts plague their minds when doctors and nurses see them naked? Their porno-prudery portrays the naked body as sexual in nature. So, are they suspicious that their opposite-sex attendants are having the lustful thoughts their doctrine predicts? If not, do they then logically question the validity of that doctrine, or just momentarily ignore the discrepancy? And what’s their take on a guy like me, an ordained minister who sees women’s breasts and bottoms every night in my L&D job? When I tell them I experience no lust in working with nudity, do they think I’m lying? Are they willfully blind to the fact that my testimony—corroborated by multiple millions of other healthcare workers—reveals the bankruptcy of their porno-prudish doctrine? Or have they just decided to live with the inconsistency, content with double-mindedness?
The Price of our Porno-PruderyThere may or may not come a day when a majority of Christian leaders finally recognize the deception in porno-prudery and repent of how it directly and indirectly fueled the rampant flames of pornography, human trafficking and gender confusion in today’s world. Religious porno-prudery not only affirms society’s unwholesome sexual focus on human body parts but also distracts attention from God’s focus on the real problem: wayward human hearts. But whether repudiators of body acceptance listen or refuse to listen, we must be faithful to call a spade a spade. No matter if we are heard or ignored, we must persist in telling fellow believers the truth.
A Future Reckoning…Like the preaching of many Old Testament prophets, our message may change social and religious climate very little or not at all. But all truth proclaimed now will echo in eternity. God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34, KJV). Jesus was revealing His Father’s heart when He condemned those “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9, ESV). That leaves little room for Christians with the same audacity to be treated with impunity, when “judgment must begin at the house of God” (1 Peter 4:17, KJV), especially if they let allegiance to those man-made doctrines close their ears to the truth. On that Day, when all minds and motives will become naked before the God of truth, any past stubbornness in upholding falsehoods will be indefensible. In other words, while the light shed on the darkness of porno-prudery may become for some a present liberation, it will become, for those presently and persistently repudiating it, a future liability. — Pastor David Hatton
You Can Stop the CycleA frequent concern raised in emails sent to us by fathers with porn problems and by mothers married to porn addicts is how they can help keep their children from succumbing to the strong pornographic mindset saturating our culture. There’s a very effective answer: stop promoting a pornographic view of the body in the home. It must be rejected by precept and example. At their level of understanding, children should be taught the principles given on the MCAG website. They need to learn the truth of body acceptance long before they reach their teens.
You Have to Live ItBut demonstration of body acceptance is more powerful than explanation. Children cannot be porn-proofed if a porno-prudish view of the body is continually reinforced in the home by how we act, even if the mindset is mentally and verbally renounced. Parents can pass on a true family legacy of body acceptance only if they practice it. In other words, nudity at home should be routinely seen without ever being treated as obscene. For most American families, the practical living out of body acceptance would mean courageously reversing old prudish habits, establishing new body-friendly customs, and inventing creative opportunities for ordinary nakedness to teach its crucially needed lessons. Some new of these might be:
- Adopting the age-old, healthy habit of sleeping in the nude,
- Never shutting bedroom doors for dressing or undressing
- Celebrating a relaxed “birth-day suit breakfast” on the weekends
- Keeping bathroom doors open for sink or toilet access while tub or shower is in use
- Investing in a Hot Tub for no-swimsuit family fellowship
- Building a backyard enclosure for full-body family sunbathing
Instill Body AcceptanceA picture is worth a thousand words, but words are still important. The family practices mentioned above can quickly kill body shame and instill body acceptance. But open verbal communication is just as essential in porn-proofing children as open visual illustration. Children will be strong in behavior only when strong in understanding. Still living in a world where the body is toxically sexualized, they will be bombarded with sex-obsessed messages in the media and confronted by people indoctrinated by them. When questions arise, parents must be prayerfully open and ready to discuss the truth and its implications. Body acceptance is a holy way of seeing that is stronger than the cultural falsehood of body shame. Only by keeping children grounded in the truth about the body can they walk in freedom from the lie of porn. Pastor David L. Hatton
It Starts at HomeWhen I was barely five, I remember being in my mother’s bedroom and seeing her naked pregnant body as she dressed. When she let me put my ear to her belly, I recall saying, “Hello in there!” After she gave birth to my youngest sister, I often saw her breasts as she nursed. Not until years later did I see those breasts again, when I did an EKG on my mom in the ER where I was an RN. Finally, caring for her at home as she died of a brain tumor, I saw her fully naked several times. How beautiful her body was, even at age seventy-five.
Self-Fulfilling AssumptionHere in modern America, most of our parents stopped letting us see family nakedness early in childhood. The assumption behind this restriction is that, after “the age of innocence,” the naked body becomes a sexual temptation. Unfortunately, that assumption itself plants the seed of such a temptation, the restriction inevitably cultivates it, and society reaps the harvest of a pornographic view of the body. I’m not blaming my parents or yours. They were misled by the prevailing culture, just as their parents were before them. But I do blame the church, not just for its past and present leadership in promoting a sexualized view of the body, but for its negligence in theologically correcting this error through a mature, realistic, incarnational view of human embodiment.
The Assumption is FalseMissionaries and cross-cultural workers living among naked people groups get to see what happens when this aversion to nudity is absent. They themselves quickly become accustomed to seeing nakedness everywhere. Although they learned the body taboo just as we did, they soon stop experiencing the sexual temptation it preaches. This alone should cause church leaders to tremble and ask, “What have I been teaching?” But culture is blinding. Its authority can render normally intelligent minds oblivious to the obvious.
What If…?But stop and think. What would it be like to grow up in a naked culture? What if the bare bodies of friends, neighbors, and family members became a daily sight? Bodily growth from infancy to old age would be routinely visible. Adolescent emotional worries about the physical changes of puberty would be replaced by realistic expectations. Young people would grow up with total visual knowledge of the opposite sex, thus eliminating any prurient curiosity about body parts and their functions. Pornography could gain no foothold in such an environment, because a pornographic view of the body would be nonexistent. In the next blog post I will discuss some practical ways to teach and practice a non-pornographic view of the body as a means to porn-proofing our kids. Pastor David L. Hatton
We’re Not AloneWe launched the MCAG website knowing that our articles would be unique and controversial. We ourselves had been converted from skepticism to realism, and we could not be silent about the truth. Imagine our surprise at discovering that our website was validated by the teachings of a published psychologist. Not long after our website was up and running, a lady wrote to congratulate us. Our message, she said, was similar to that of psychologist Gary R. Brooks. She attached an excerpt from his book, The Centerfold Syndrome, photocopied from a college anthology. What an encouragement to find ourselves “on the same page” with this counselor!
Insightful ObservationsHere are the five principal components of “the Centerfold Syndrome,” with quotes from Dr. Brooks:
- Voyeurism: “The culture at large seems to be generally indifferent to this trend [of female body glorification], seeing it as harmless titillation, pretty much a natural product of men’s biological makeup. I strongly disagree with this position. It is my contention that this mania, this explosion of glorification and objectification of women’s bodies, promotes unreal images of women, distorts physical reality, creates obsessions with visual stimulation, and trivializes all other features of a healthy psychosexual relationship.”
- Objectification: “. . .when a man in a relationship is continually distracted by a fantasy life dominated by visual images of idealized bodies of strangers, that man will frequently be emotionally absent from his partner; he will be unable to have intense, here-and-now experiences with her. Tragically, if he spends most of his emotional energy on sexual fantasies about inaccessible people, he frequently will not be available for even the most intimate emotional and sexual moments with the most important person in his life.”
- Need for Validation: “[Men] are programmed to crave validation of their masculinity, and they frequently view women’s bodies as a medium for that validation. This need for validation disempowers them and creates an odd yet vitally important inversion of the traditional power relationship between women and men. . . . When women are envisioned as sexual objects and made the centerpiece of men’s visual world, they become imbued with enormous psychosocial power.”
- Trophyism: “While collecting new and different sexual trophies may be celebrated among adolescents, it is a sign of emotional immaturity in the world of adults. . . . Women’s bodies age, losing their trophy-like characteristics, especially in comparison to newer varieties. Hence, the trophy-hunting man, initially satisfied with his trophy-wife, must eventually face the maddening reality that his prize will eventually lose her luster, while other potential prizes will emit near-irresistible allure.”
- Fear of True Intimacy: “. . .men are taught to suppress their needs for intimacy and sensuality, and come to invest too much emotional and psychological power in some women’s bodies. Fearing their potential overdependence on women, men develop a preoccupation with sexuality, which powerfully handicaps their capacity for emotionally intimate relationships with men and for nonsexual relationships with women.”
Worth Reading…Dr. Brooks sees the Centerfold Syndrome as epidemic in America. His personal experience in counseling men suffering from it has made him an expert in describing the problem of a pornographic view of women’s bodies. In fact, even if you have no trouble grasping the concepts we share on MCAG, studying his perspective will reinforce your understanding. For that reason, we obtained his permission to use two large excerpts from his book as a resource for our readers. We encourage you to purchase and read the whole book. — Pastor David =========================== For more on this topic: Leave a Comment on this post. Please share this blog with others…
He’s Patient, but Not Passive…I used to parrot the “moral majority” by defiling my Gospel preaching with a message that unwittingly portrayed women and their breasts as sex objects. Sadly, this cultural idolatry pervades the American church. God has already passed judgment on this pornographic view of the body by turning over our nation to the scourge of porn addiction that inevitably results from it.
It’s Cultural, Not NaturalBlind to how culture shapes thinking, many Christians teach that men are compelled by the sin nature to lust at the sight of women’s bodies, especially their breasts. If this doctrine were true, it would eliminate from fallen humanity all societies where breasts are customarily naked in public, yet such societies exist. This ridiculous falsehood is further exposed by the response to it from these cultures themselves.
Breasts Are for Babies, Not MenCarolyn Latteier, the author of Breasts, The Women’s Perspective on an American Obsession, wrote, We do have a peculiar obsession with breasts in this culture. A lot of people think it’s just the human nature to be fascinated with breasts, but in many cultures breasts aren’t sexual at all. I interviewed a young anthropologist working with women in Mali, a country in Africa where women go around with bare breasts. They’re always feeding their babies. And when she told them that in our culture men are fascinated with breasts, there was an instant of shock. The women burst out laughing. They laughed so hard, they fell on the floor. They said, “You mean, men act like babies?”
They’re Beautiful, Not SexualThis false theology may sound funny to them, but to me it’s emasculating. As a man who has helped tens of thousands of women nurse their newborns, I’ve never lost any male appreciation for the beauty of breasts or for the part they play in God’s awesome design of femininity. Yet, even at the outset of my nursing career, I realized I wasn’t reacting to them in the lustful way I’d been taught to expect! My culture had fed me a lie, and that deception came most consistently from the same lips that preached the Christian Gospel.
Repentance… Not PruderyThe bottom line is “we’ve acted like babies!”—not in a ludicrous way that makes bare-breasted women in Mali laugh—but with such utter immaturity that we should be shedding tears.
- How could we—while claiming to honor the Creator—so decadently degrade His anatomical wisdom and artistic design in the female breast?
- How could we—by social and religious precept—lead generation after generation of children to turn their natural, wholesome attraction to breasts into a lifelong perverted obsession?
Mistaken “Modesty” promotes Lust, Not PurityImmodesty isn’t the occasionally naked breast but the exploited one, strategically hidden or partially revealed by social custom. The habit of making breasts visible only for sexual activity socially defines them as avenues of sexual enticement. More modesty is shown when they’re laid bare for nursing on a crowded subway, exposed for modeling in an art class, or uncovered for sunning on a clothing optional beach. Treating unclad body parts realistically and respectfully is always modest. But when clothing is unnaturally trusted as a moral prevention for lust, then immodesty infects a whole culture, as it has ours. Our mistaken morality wraps the body up in a fantasy that tempts sinners and saints alike. I believe God abhors it.
God’s View, Not the World’sDid you grow up with our culture’s pornographic view of breasts. Your only hope of expelling it from your mind and heart is by learning to see breasts the way their Designer does. His view is the truth, and only the truth will set you free. — Pastor David =========================== For more on this topic: Teaching God’s Design for Breasts—A Message about the ‘Visible Breast’ for Christian Leaders and The Pornographic View of the Body This article is also found on Pastor David’s Blog. Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post. Please share this blog with others…
The Undraped Body Is Not PervertedWhen the God of truth spoke creation into existence, He deemed everything “very good” (Genesis 1:31), including naked male and female bodies. The sin of our first parents didn’t change the truth about that goodness. All parts of the human form are still “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). It was the heart—not our gender-specific anatomy—that became corrupt:
- A sinfully perverted perception of the body usurped our Sovereign Maker’s evaluation.
- Misled human reasoning replaced the truth of God with a lie.
- What was pure in God’s creative reality became pornographic in the human imagination.
Debunking the Doctrine of Body ShameIf the Fall intrinsically distorted how humans perceive nakedness, cultural history would demonstrate this change universally. It doesn’t. Modern responses to nudity, in the context of art, healthcare, or cross-cultural experience, also fail to substantiate this popular religious doctrine. In such cases, the absence of automatic sexual arousal at the sight of the nude body disproves the inevitable lust predicted by this teaching. Actually, these ordinary naked situations affirm the original goodness God saw in bare bodies. They prove that body shame is culturally learned, not humanly inherited. If it was inborn, all descendants of Adam would naturally have it. Since they don’t, this doctrine must be false.
Repenting of Cultural IdolatryAllegiance to this dysfunctional cultural standard undermines God’s truth about our bodies. Under pressure to conform to false thinking in a fallen world, we must surrender our bodies to God (Romans 12:1, 2). The truth of body acceptance liberates us by the power of Him Who embodied Truth (John 14:6), God Incarnate (1 Timothy 3:16), the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Our male and female bodies, just as God made them, play a central role in His creation plan. Let the truth about them displace all distorted images with His image. Make a radical departure from cultural falsehood into a life where the God of truth—and the truth of God—dispel all lies. This the way out of porn. — Pastor David =========================== For more on this topic: The Pornographic View of the Body and My View on Nudity. Feel free to Leave a Comment on this post. Please share this blog with others…