If you haven’t noticed, our public sexual ethic stands at a place of severe brokenness.
I do not think the brokenness has anything like a newness about it, but there does seem to be a brazenness about our current climate, a brazenness non-existent before the advent of the internet. Where the transfer of commodities and ideas once took years, trafficking of these things now takes less than one second. Old news, of course. Our consumption of information grows and grows, but our learning shrinks. We cannot deeply read, but we do consume. What we consume makes or breaks us at both the individual and cultural levels.
And now for the great evangelical toe-curling moment. At least one seller of online pornography states their wares categorized as “transgender” made up ten percent of their sales in 2015. I will not speculate on whether or not the trend rose or fell since then. The bare fact of its existence ought to sober us and cause us to lament.
Lament must come before outrage. It must come instead of the usual, “UGH! GROSS!” A child can rage, rant, and rave. A child possesses the ability to produce a faux visceral gross-out reaction. If all we do as adults consists of repeating our childhood behaviors, then our children will do the same and never learn anything else. If Christians desire to stand in the tradition of the prophets (and I submit to you that they should), then we must learn to lament. If we must rage, then we must rage against those who line their pockets the with the ill-gotten gains of selling the bodies of men and women for consumption, for they shall chew up and spit out every subject of their sales and every buyer who squanders his or her earnings on such things. Even so, take heart, Christian; as they build larger stores for their many possessions, they do not know that soon their lives will be required of them.
Why lament? We lament because our sinful world commodifies everything, even sexual confusion. Nothing cannot descend into the category of a mere ware for peddling. Have you a young man confused by his feelings and the messages pouring into his mind? Affirm and make erotic his confusion, then sell his photo; many desire to vicariously experience such an individual. Somewhere around one in ten paying customers, in fact. We lack the ability to even quantify the number of people consuming materials produced freely because the subject desires “likes” on various websites and social media outlets.
Lamentably, what we face proves a multi-pronged attack on humanity. Yes, humanity. Pornography strikes at the heart of human dignity and wreaks havoc on marriages, families, and jobs, the most basic of human institutions.
At the base of our theology of mankind (anthropology) rests the creation of Man in Genesis 1:26-27. Moses records three basic truths about the creation of Man by God. First, God creates Man in his own image. On whatever sort of material he had, with the precious ink he possessed, Moses records Man’s creation in God’s image a striking three times in these two verses. Second, Man receives charge of the other creatures of the earth. Third, God creates Man male and female. The last part follows the two repetitions concerning Man made in God’s image. Humanity bears a likeness to God no other creature possesses. When men and women become commodities for buying and selling, the dignity of people made in God’s image groans in pain and reproach.
As if such a thing did not provide enough harm to men and women, we simultaneously face a distinct category of pornography inhabiting a larger portion of interest than anyone would like to admit. To repeat the above statistic, around one tenth of pornography consumed using one outlet bases itself around transgender identities.
Let’s take a deep breath and think with clarity here: other than saying “sin corrupted every part of mankind” or restating the classic Reformed doctrine of total depravity, no simple answer exists for the transgender phenomenon. Though never entirely welcome in any polite society, it appears across the globe and throughout history. Labeling it as a “nowadays” kind of deviation to dismiss it as a problem perpetrated and perpetuated by millennials won’t do at all. To be sure, some individual somewhere identifies as transgender purely out of spite for authority in the spirit of rebellion. However, the general narrative espoused by those calling themselves transgender speaks more of confusion early in life than anything else. As with many people possessing a penchant for showmanship and brazenness, such behavior usually masks deep introvertedness and insecurity. To draw a parallel, the rare adulterer speeds out of his driveway bent on heaping refuse on his marriage vows, leaving a weeping wife clutching a wedding album to her chest. No, the adulterous man generally stumbles into another’s bed through compromise, unwise actions, and failure to uphold a standard in which he professes belief.
Rather, imagine this: think of the time you were most unsure of yourself. Think of the confusion, the hesitancy, and the lack of feeling like anyone truly knew you. Now add to that the confusion of not knowing yourself to the point of questioning if you were indeed the sex you are. Do you hope that someone would care for you and help you rather than ridicule you? Can you imagine that confusion and lack of confidence and stress growing and festering and combining the hormonal swings of adolescence as you mature physiologically? Does that not prick your heart? Would you not hope for mercy and grace?
Individuals such as these have their internal mental, emotional, and spiritual struggles sexualized for pornography. Then other individuals consume it. Still others profit from it.
The individuals who are the subjects of such pornography stand as some of the most abused people in the world. What else would the sexual objectification be?
The individuals who consume this vicariously take part in the abuse, and it twists their own sexuality as well. And as best we can tell, if ten young people in our church have enslaved their minds to pornography, one of them consumes pornography featuring a transgender individual. The rottenness grows deeper and more insidiously than we thought. If it does not scare you, it should. It’s not merely a thing that boys do as they age into adulthood. Instead, a sledgehammer rains down blows upon their understanding of sexuality. The fornication may “only” be vicarious (principle in Matthew 5:28), but the sin and damage could not be more real.
The gender revolution produces no freedom, only further enslavement. It produces men and women who suffer confusion leading to despondency often leading to suicide. Likewise, pornography precludes healthy expression of sexuality. Instead of actual sex with a real spouse, one person consumes another vicariously. No reciprocal declarations of love exist in such a context, and no security of a covenant and vows support it. A fish out of water persists on as a fish, but instead of swimming gracefully, it flops around suffocating in a sick parody of fulfilling its purpose. So it is with all sex, whether actual or virtual, outside of a marriage covenant. Add to the problem confused gender identity, and arsenic combines with antifreeze producing a deadly cocktail.
The really, really uncomfortable stat about porn is not made so because porn consumers are being seduced by freaks. No, human freaks do not exist. No person lacks God’s image. These people are not jokes to be laughed at or objects for ridicule. Instead, they remain as a descendent of the one man, Adam (Acts 17:26). They should be objects of mercy, not people who suffer under the affirmation of confusion. I cannot think of a circumstance in which we would want to agree with peddlers of pornography. So when such people tell us these are indeed people to be sexualized and vicariously consumed, we should immediately answer, “No, they most certainly are not.” Rather, they are sinners broken in Adam who may become glorious new creations (2 Corinthians 5:17), sexually whole, in Christ Jesus.