Other people's pornography

There is little doubt that an appetite for pornography is endemic in the modern West. That this is the case was driven home on a recent voyage. On my outward journey, I settled in to my seat for what was going to be a monster trip. Within a few moments, to my immediate right, one passenger was offering to another one of those lurid British tabloids with some kind of vulgarity and/or nudity on every page. Fortunately, before long, the offending organ was put away.

My own screen broke before a couple of hours had passed, and so I spent much of the journey reading, thinking, a little typing, and just mentally wandering. Of course, when this happens, the attention begins to roam also, and half a day's concentration is too much for this particular soul to bear. At one stage, a kind steward offered me the use of an empty chair with a working screen. Fine, except that it left me sitting next to a pleasant woman with a toddler-in-arms who was indulging in one of those seedy European films that features a fair amount of tawdry sordidness. Before long, I went back to my seat. When I did, I lifted my eyes, and a few rows ahead of me was a fellow with one of those much-envied bulkhead seats. On this particular aircraft, his screen, of a reasonable size, is set into the wall in front of him. On this screen, for him and anyone else with eyes in their heads, was a stream of Hollywood filth, all toned and bronzed flesh heaving and sweating in a display of aggressive and unrealistic hyper-sexuality. It struck me that not many years ago to indulge in this kind and degree of pornography (however it masquerades as art or entertainment) would at least have involved some kind of personal secrecy and social embarrassment. But now the whole is paraded on screens for men and women, boys and girls, to watch or glimpse without a seeming shred of moral awareness. Seeking to tear away and keep away my eyes, and so guard my heart, I looked in the other direction, and something similar was on another screen across the aisle directly in my line of vision!

I eventually took prayerful refuge in a combination of a book, the ceiling, one of those funky eye masks, and the "Bible study" of the chap next to me who turned out to be a Jehovah's Witness, but who was simultaneously plugged into a pair of earbuds that made conversation nigh-on impossible. It was at least a mercy that his screen did not have more naked flesh alluringly presented upon it.

On the journey home I was better prepared, spiritually and mentally, and managed to negotiate the pornstorm more effectively, but I was also more aware of it, and conscious of how it was being held before me on every front. Though the challenge has existed before, I honestly cannot remember such a deluge of other people's porn. For many of us, this may be where the battle is joined. Perhaps God in his mercy has entirely or largely spared us from indulgence in pornography in secret. Perhaps we have been exposed to it and repented of it and kept away from it. Perhaps we have patterns of work and leisure in which we deliberately keep our screens and our pages in clear view of others. Perhaps we have ditched our screens - cutting off our right hands, as it were - in order to keep us from sin and the punishments that follow. Perhaps we have accountability partners and software that help keep our feet to the fire. But what we cannot entirely avoid is other people's porn.

This is where we need more than a software installation or a gentleman's (or lady's) agreement with a friend or an open door and a visible screen. This is where we need a covenant with our eyes (Job 31:1). This is a battle that is fought and won or lost, first of all, in the heart of man, and the battle is joined at Eye-Gate, with these aggressive, invasive, enticing images that are held before us and around us on every side. Here we could potentially indulge without anyone but God knowing, though the Lord will know it. It is here that we need to pray for ourselves and others that we would not allow our eyes to roam and our hearts to wander and our souls to drink at the cistern of filth, not allow Eye-Gate to be broken through, but rather bar it up and hold it fast against all assaults and onslaughts. When pornography has become the entertainment norm, a regular diet for men and women, unremarkable and unremarked, it is ultimately a covenant with the eyes and a commitment of the heart, made in humble and prayerful dependence upon the Lord, that will serve us best and keep us pure.