0 Shades of Grey

Homily at St Philip Evans on the Thursday after Ash Wednesday, 2015.

The Seven Word Sermon: Reject porn at all costs – it’s sin!a stylized TV set with XXX in red on a black banner

Today God asks us not to be drawn into worshipping false gods. A god is anything which has a controlling effect on our lives, and tonight I am going to speak about one such god: pornography.

In a recent survey, 75% of Christian men admitted looking at porn at least once a month. 42% of Christian men admitted having a porn addiction. That tells me it is something I need to talk about, and with 50 Shades of Grey in the news, it is all too topical.

Why is porn bad?

First, have no doubt that someone sins by making it, someone sins by distributing it and someone sins by selling it. As soon as you get involved, you are asking a whole chain of people to sin on your behalf. Anyone who causes others to sin will answer to God for their actions.

Second, recent research shows that exposure to even not-very-graphic images rewires your brain and raises our expectations of what might be possible. But you will marry a real human being, not a porn star. Your current or future spouse becomes more inadequate each time your expectations are raised. And porn becomes even worse when it suggests violence should be involved in lovemaking. This not only raises our own personal level of what to expect, it subtly raises society’s level of what might be tolerated.

Third, porn makes relationships about sex instead of about a person. But St John Paul II warned us clearly that human dignity means we must never use another person as a means to our own pleasure.

What would happen if you lived the Catholic way, and never tried sex until your wedding night?

First, you would be able to give your life partner the gift of being your first time and your only ever partner. You can only give one person your virginity. Make it count!

Second, you would never be tempted to compare your husband or wife with anyone else’s sexual performance… how would you know? St Paul reminds us that any sexual act forms a bond between two souls. This can be dealt with spiritually. But the memories remain.

Third, good sex wouldn’t be the reason you married that person. This will make your relationship more robust for the times when for reasons of health or avoiding conceiving, sex is off the menu.

Of course, any couple who followed Catholic principles wouldn’t find out if they were sexually compatible until their wedding night. But the church has provision for this – a marriage does not become sealed until it is consummated. Being unable to couple with one another is the one reason which does allow the Church to dissolve a valid marriage.

Meanwhile, what are we to do about pornography? For those tempted to use it, the only answer is self-discipline. Every day, renounce your own desires and choose to do the will of God – just as Jesus taught us in today’s Gospel. It’s not easy, but it’s the only way to be holy. It’s the only way to live a life worthy of God. When you wake up, say to yourself: “Today, I will not look at porn.” Make it a promise to God. Make it a promise to yourself. Make it a promise to your future, or current, wife. And get help. Blocking software helps. Confession helps, but don’t fall into the trap of kidding yourself that “it’s OK, I can always go to confession later.” And look for support on websites like xxxchurch and theporneffect.

All of us, whether we struggle with this or not, can make a point of asking newsagents to move dirty images to less visible shelves; and if someone asks us about 50 Shades, we can say we would never dream of going to see such a movie, because it offends human dignity.

Today God sets a path before us of life or death. Each time we choose porn, we drive a nail into our soul, a nail into our current or future spouse, a nail into the soul of each person who works in the porn industry, and a nail into the body of Christ. Each nail takes us one step closer to death. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self? Choose life!

Update: comprehensive list of useful websites now available at: www.tinyurl.com/PornPreventionResources