Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Book Notes: Captured by a Better Vision: Living Porn Free by Tim Chester

Why every Christian man should read this book.

Surveys of Christians and pornography all come to the same conclusion - about a third of people surveyed are addicts or regular accessers of porn. Amongst younger people the figures are even higher, for men higher than for women, and for those in church leadership no different than amongst congregations. That means that you have almost certainly either seen porn, currently use it - or will be exposed to it in the near future. Furthermore you probably won't even have to go looking for it - some unscrupulous spammer might just send it you anyway. Pornography has saturated our culture in the last generation, the shame of asking for 'top-shelf' publications has been replaced with what one Psychologist called the three 'A's: Anonymity, Affordability & Accessibility.

Tim Chester's book is good news for anyone who needs to be freed from the addictive grip of pornography. Likewise it is good news for anyone not addicted to it - but who knows that they need to have all their appetites tamed, so that when the inevitable temptation comes, they are in a position to defend their integrity, and make the active choice to honour God, not indulge their lusts.

Part One investigates the effects of porn, physically, psychologically, in family relationships and marriage, as well as exposing some of the abuse and misery that goes on behind the scenes in the porn industry - to which consumers contribute. Dryly, Chester notes that given the high percentage of Christians who use porn, and the high percentage of them who back the "Stop the Traffik" campaign against people-trafficking; some of the same people are both opposing and funding the same nefarious trade. Going beyond what might be strictly considered to be porn today (but might have been so classified in previous generations) he also speaks about the devastating effect on the young of the bombardment of over-sexualised imagery in everyday life. Chester's "12 Reasons to avoid porn" is a sad, but important chapter. It concludes with this paragraph:

So far - much of what is written there could form the basis of any standard self-help book. This book however goes way-beyond that, and seeks rather to develop a Christian response to porn; specifically pointing out the ways that the gospel both makes porn abhorrent - and motivates and empowers the believer to part with it. Chester outlines the way in which use of porn is in theological terms both idolatrous and unbelieving. He writes from a position of human responsibility for our actions - hence he mocks any excuse that tries to blame a lower-libido'd spouse, or any claim that it is outwith the user's control, or any pretence that 'my willy made me do it'! If learning to despise the porn itself, (rather than just the shame associated with it) is a starting point - taking responsibility is a next step.

The book then very persuasively demonstrates that the deep-seated spiritual and psychological needs which are the drivers which attract people to porn - are actually needs which are met by God when we walk with Him. As such, anything which stands in God's place is an idol - to be rejected. However, porn can only disappoint, as it offers the user a twisted form of self-worship, but has been proven again and again to actually deliver self-loathing. The grace of God is then massively significant, because it is in responding to the gospel of Christ that any sinner (that's all of us in one way or another) can know the forgiveness, cleansing, healing and empowering presence of God - and most significantly His love and approval. The good news is that we can feast on Him - which makes sin redundant.

Only after laying down such important spiritual principles does Chester go on to explore the practicalities of computer Internet filters, accountability structures and the like. These, have their place in allowing the determined person, motivated by the gospel, to 'crucify the flesh' and turn good intentions into practical purity. He also explores something of the Biblical concept of positive sexuality, as in the Song of Songs. The beauty, power, gentleness, mutuality, poetry and delight of sex depicted here is a view of sex that many porn users have had robbed from them by the exploitation, selfishness or violence of pornography. In so doing, he makes a useful contribution to the promotion of a Christian view of marriage, and also strikes a blow against the all-pervasive sexual objectification of women, in our society. This book teaches men who have been reared on a diet of advertising which uses the female form as a marketing tool - to instead honour women as God intends.

Sometimes the more important something is - the more power it has both for good and for harm. The power of sexual attraction is just such a powerful force - yet each of us has the responsibility to use this power positively in service to God. "Captured by a Better Vision" I think is an ideal place to begin to explore what for Christian men this means in today's world, whether you have had dealings with porn or not. As I stated earlier on, the statistics are bewildering. It means that there it is almost certain that that there are some readers of this blog who are under the power of this sin - who need to come into the freedom that Christ both offers and demands. The rest of you will face temptation of this nature very soon, and need to be prepared for that.

Now, going into your local Christian bookshop and saying to the old-dear behind the counter, "Excuse me, do you have Tim Chester's book about Pornography?" will elicit the most strange looks and awkward exchange (she fumbles with the till and receipts, trying to avoid eye-contact, while trying not to make it too obvious that none is being made!). So I wouldn't blame you if you didn't want to have such an encounter, but Christian men - you should read this book. You can get it online, here, here or here.


Anonymous said...

do no Christian women need to read it?

That Hideous Man said...

They probably do. The reason I singled out men was that Chester says that he did a lot of research on this before writing - especially using anonymous questionaires. The results were markedly different between the genders - and he seems to write predominantly from a male perspective addressing the issues and temptations which the male respondants overwhelmingly highlighted.