I recently finished Samuel Perry’s book Addicted to Lust: Pornography in the Lives of Conservative Protestants. It’s a devastating read, citing statistic after statistic that demonstrate how pornography has infiltrated secular society as well as the lives of those who name Christ. It’s not the type of book I would recommend as a primary source for someone who is seeking to break free of a pornography addiction. There are other books for that. Rather, it is a high-level book that seeks to survey the broader landscape and psychology underlying the behavior and response of this phenomenon within the lives of conservative protestants. As a psychology minor, I found it deeply insightful and eye-opening.
There are a few concerns that I have with the book, however; among them are the application of critical theory that Perry freely admits to utilizing, and the one-eyebrow-raised, arms-length stance at biblical complementarianism as opposed to feminist egalitarianism.
Leaving those aside, another thought-provoking issue in the book is what Perry refers to as sexual exceptionalism. Perry argues that the West, and particularly the United States, puts a higher emphasis on pietistic idealism and purity in regards to sexuality than it does to other areas of life. That is, protestant conservatives in the U.S. prize sexual uprightness — and denounce sexual debauchery — as a chief, defining characteristic of one’s spiritual state. Compared to other sins, such as deception, greed, or gossipping, sexual impurity is considered a far greater priority and concern in the U.S. than it is in other countries and parts of the world, where vices are prioritized in a more equal fashion. Peery indicates that this sexual exceptionalism espoused by conservative protestants is problematic because it makes admission of wrongdoing harder and blocks the path to confession, accountability, forgiveness, and healing. Towards the end of the book, Perry recommends that we learn to put sexual immorality in its proper place, as one sin along a list of other equally sinful practices, all of which require the same repentance and confession; sexual sins need not be necessarily more taboo than others.
Has the West placed an imbalanced emphasis on the importance of purity in regards to sexuality? I don’t think so. When we turn to the Bible, the primary example of idolatry working itself out in a real-life context is homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27). Sexual sins are the first to be listed in Paul’s 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 list, as well as his Galatians 5:19-21 list. And when you read 1 Cor 6:18, it certainly makes abundantly clear that Paul, writing on the authority of God, saw sexual immorality as uniquely damaging.
Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.
The word “immorality” in the Greek there is πορνείαν, from which we get the word “pornography.” There is something exceptional about sexual sins. In saying this, Paul is really just repeating what Solomon in his wisdom wrote in Proverbs 6:30-32:
Men do not despise a thief if he steals to satisfy himself when he is hungry; but when he is found, he must repay sevenfold; he must give all the substance of his house. The one who commits adultery with a woman is lacking sense; he who would destroy himself does it.
The United States produces more pornography than any other country in the world. False churches have normalized divorce and are moving on to embrace LGBT agendas. Pornography-driven masturbation and internet sex are nearly as common amongst conservative protestants as the surrounding agnostic society. Following Perry’s advice, of leaving so-called sexual exceptionalism, is a step in the wrong direction, away from what the Bible has to say. More than ever, Christians need to faithfully live out sexual purity and proclaim its unique importance. Immorality, unlike every other sin, is a sin against one’s own body. That’s the God-breathed verdict by the mouth of Paul the Apostle.1
- For another New Testament witness, see also 1 Peter 2:9-10. ↩︎