And so the campaign began. After years of accidents in an area where many families lived, the campaign to reduce the speed limit to 20mph got underway with parents agitating for change. Of course, it wasn’t just children who got injured but parents felt a special responsibility to their offspring. They held many meetings with the council, the police and the Highways Agency and a number of counter arguments were heard. ‘Some drivers are just determined to speed, you won’t stop all of them’, ‘It will restrict those who drive perfectly sensibly at 30mph- why should they be punished?’, ‘It is simply unenforceable’, ‘Surely it’s the parents’ responsibility to make sure their children cross the road safely’ and many others. The new limit was agreed but with one proviso: The parents were required to attend a class in road safety with their dependent children before it was instigated. At the final meeting the local headteachers agreed to educate their pupils regularly on the dangers of the road and how to navigate the local area confidently. The results were encouraging. Most speeding traffic was eliminated but some inevitably slipped through. It was shocking to see the complete disregard for safety of some deviant drivers even though the police set up speed traps to catch them. Young children were usually accompanied by their parents but it was seen as somewhat strange when teenagers were- parents had been taught that by the time of leaving Primary School, all pupils should be confident in avoiding the dangers posed by the road. Sadly, there were still occasional casualties but no-one had pretended that this was a perfect system.
For the best counter-argument to filters read @crimperman ‘Internet blocking will still not protect our children’ http://bit.ly/14GntLe
Someone recently suggested that Christians talk too much about pornography (and that this is unhealthy). It’s certainly true that on Twitter there are a number of different individuals discussing this subject right now. There are dangers and I’ll name two: Firstly, that Christians are only seen as being interested in the socially conservative sins rather than the wider agenda (e.g. UK child poverty and overseas development aid). This is a perception of long-standing that will not change overnight, but I don’t believe that a solution is to keep quiet about something as damaging as pornography. It destroys lives and is therefore a matter of social justice. Yes, we need to advocate on other issues too – and thankfully the Christian community is much more comprehensive in its range of interests (e.g. personal debt, FairTrade, climate change). Secondly, that by talking about it we provoke further curiosity, thus leading others to fall into the trap. If I’ve written something that has been unhelpful then I want to hear about it,but my conviction is that we don’t talk about it enough.
In the last year or so a number of bloggers and organisations have taken up this issue with persistence in a way that might just indicate God’s guiding hand orchestrating a truth-telling and grace-filled response. It is better to bring troubling issues out into the light than to leave them festering in the darkness where the isolated individual has nowhere to turn. We were created as relational beings and our willingness to offer support is testimony to our God-given humanity. I recently talked to a church leader about this issue and he said ‘Oh – I thought pornography was looking at naked women’. Well, yes it is, but there is a staggering lack of understanding of what the 53% of Christian men viewing the stuff are looking at if that’s all you think it is. Clearly, we are not talking about it enough in our churches where the majority of pastoral support takes place. There is definitely a place for men’s groups to talk about it and for youth workers to address it with their teenagers. But this is not an issue that can be consigned to specialist silos. It needs to be addressed in plenary gatherings (albeit sensitively & appropriately), so that everyone knows that the issue is taken seriously and that help is readily at hand. And if we are worrying that some in our congregations might be shocked and outraged then I have a solution: Preach and model the gospel of grace. Because shock and outrage belong to the non-gospel of self-righteousness.
If you would like more help with this issue, click here.
Reading Gail Dines’ ‘Pornland’ makes me feel quite ill in places. In my quest to find out more about the porn industry, I’ve been keen to avoid seeing any images (that would simply perpetuate the abuse), but rather read descriptions in order to redeem this knowledge for good purposes. And it’s tough stuff. Whether you focus on the physical effects (e.g. anal reparative surgery) or the mental consequences (e.g. self-destructive behaviour), it really is tortuous and bleak.
On a wider level, it is heart-breaking to read about how young women’s body confidence is being dismantled – in some cases destroyed – by the ruinous expectations set up by the porn industry. So many feel the need to look like porn stars, with the endless waxing involved, otherwise they risk rejection by potential partners. (Pornland, Dines p99ff) Reading the disgust with which some have been greeted for not waxing sufficiently demonstrates the totalitarianism of the porn industry – ‘it’s our way or social exclusion’. And the mainstream ‘women’s’ magazines who peddle the same line in more acceptable ways simply add fuel to this fire. This is, of course, before we get into the details of what might be demanded in the bedroom. I recently heard of a case where a marriage broke up within a couple of years because the husband’s previous porn consumption had led to demands that could not (and should not) be fulfilled by his wife. I’m sure this is a widespread issue leading to misery, separation and possibly violence.
So here’s a suggestion I open up for discussion: is there a place for education about pornography, its values and its effects, in Relationships and Sex Education in Schools? Could it be taught in age-appropriate ways through the age range Year 6 to Year 11 in a way that builds self-esteem for both sexes? And could parents be sent a summary of the presentations to provoke family conversations?
Your thoughts are most welcome…
This post is slightly tangential and I certainly had no idea I’d be posting on this subject when the series first began. But having spent some time considering what is going on at a more international level, I stumbled across a couple of interesting news reports from the recent archives. Firstly, in 2008 there were a series of threats to a French TV station concerning their regular broadcasts of pornography into North Africa. The originator of the threats self-identified as a Muslim and threatened to blow-up the headquarters of Canal+. I can find no record of this being carried out. Secondly, after the US Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Laden it was widely reported that he had a sizeable catalogue of porn videos. As ‘A Tale of Two Cultures‘ has correctly identified his entrapment in this seedy, degrading world may well have acted as a compelling motive to oppose the values of the West or the Christian nations as he would have seen it. And this led me to thinking- is our silence on this issue actually fuelling Islamic fundamentalism? It is difficult for us in the UK & US to come to terms with the fact that for the vast majority in Islamic nations we are seen as Christian countries. Our Christian witness is damaged whenever we remain silent about, tolerate or promote anything that assaults our common human dignity. Whether our governments act is something we cannot be held responsible for but (whether through fear, wearied fatalism or lack of care) our silence is. It is not for me to comment further on the Islamic approach to sexual expression. But it is enough to know that pornography is considered a subversive medium & a threat to society that gives us common cause. Maybe if we were more vocal and developed more strategic campaigns on this issue we might discover new allies, make new friends and act as peacemakers. It’s an optimistic vision- a dream if you like- but nothing was ever achieved without a vision. If you doubt the admittedly swift trajectory of this argument, have a look at one of the commenters on the report of the Canal+ threats:
‘as long as there are christians to defend pornography france is safe’