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Earlier this month, four Republican members of the U.S. House sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general recommending that he declare “the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority,” and that he advise U.S. attorneys to start prosecuting the “major producers and distributors of such material.”

The Congressmen point out that as a candidate, President Trump signed an anti-pornography pledge stating he would enforce federal obscenity laws to stop the explosion of pornography. “This pledge has so far been ignored in the Trump administration,” they note, “with the result that the harms of illegal pornography have continued unabated, affecting children and adults so acutely to the point that 15 state legislatures have declared that pornography is causing a public health crisis.”

The letter, and its endorsement by some social conservatives, sparked a backlash from many people on the political right. A large number of conservatives and libertarians (including some who consider themselves followers of Jesus) are complaining that regulating or banning pornography goes against their political principles.* As The New York Times columnist Ross Douthat sardonically responded to the anti-ban conservatives, “Whatever happens in the legal/cultural battle over porn itself, I’m quite confident that the claim that ‘obscenity laws are un-conservative’ will eventually sound like gibberish to everyone save scholars of late-20th-century American political arcana.”

Remember When Christians Hated Porn?

Most shocking about the shift, the anti-ban position is either held by or silently supported by many Christians. That wasn’t always the case. Evangelicals, in particular, once considered it our duty to prevent the spread and normalization of porn.

For example, in 1976, evangelicals were scandalized that a presidential candidate would agree to be interviewed by Playboy magazine. As Jerry Falwell, a Baptist pastor and co-founder of the Moral Majority, said in 1981, “Giving an interview to Playboy magazine was lending the credence and the dignity of the highest office in the land to a salacious, vulgar magazine that did not even deserve the time of his day.”

Forty years later, though, many of those same evangelicals (including Falwell’s son) supported a  presidential candidate who not only was interviewed by that publication but even appeared on the cover, made a cameo appearance in Playboy’s softcore porn videos, and (allegedly) cheated on his wife with a Playboy model.

While we may express concern about the nefarious effect of porn, our actions reveal what we truly believe. Here are four reasons we Christians should once again seek to rid our country from the poison of pornography.

1. Porn is a dangerously harmful product that is largely unregulated.

In the interest of public safety, the government regulates a broad range of products, including food; human and veterinary drugs; biological products and medical devices intended for human use; dietary supplements; radiation-emitting electronic products; cosmetics; and tobacco products. In a 2018 op-ed titled “Let’s Ban Porn,” Douthat wrote, “[U]nlike many structural forces with which moralists of the left and right contend, porn is also just a product—something made and distributed and sold, and therefore subject to regulation and restriction if we so desire.”

Porn is a product that causes social anxietydepressionlow motivationerectile dysfunctionconcentration problems, and negative self-perceptions in terms of physical appearance and sexual functioning. Additionally, the product is associated with increases in loneliness, divorce, and acceptance of sexual assault and harassment. But despite being one of the most harmful products for consumption, porn is largely free from government regulation.

2. Porn rewires the brain.

Sexually explicit material triggers mirror neurons in the male brain. These neurons, which are involved with the process for how to mimic a behavior, contain a motor system that correlates to the planning out of a behavior. In the case of pornography, this mirror neuron system triggers arousal, which leads to sexual tension and a need for an outlet. Seeking a release through porn leads to hormonal and neurological consequences, which are designed to bind a man to the object he is focusing on.

“In God’s plan, this would be his wife, but for many men it is an image on a screen,” says William M. Struthers, associate professor of psychology at Wheaton College. “Pornography thus enslaves the viewer to an image, hijacking the biological response intended to bond a man to his wife and therefore inevitably loosening that bond.”

3. Porn makes us complicit in sex trafficking.

In October, the owners and employees of two popular porn websites were charged with sex trafficking and other crimes, including coercing several women to engage in sex videos that were posted on the internet. Although prosecution for such crimes is relatively rare, the porn industry is deeply connected to sex trafficking. According to the anti-trafficking nonprofit, Rescue:Freedom, in nine countries, 49 percent of sexually exploited women said that pornography was made of them while they were being sold for sex.

“[W]ould you buy from a company if you knew that some, but not all, of their products were made with child labor? Would you support a store that abused some, but not all, of their female employees?” the anti-porn group Fight the New Drug asks. “How can it be okay to say that ‘porn is okay because participants give their consent,’ when we know for a fact that some—probably much more than you think—do not?”

And as Marlo Safi adds, “If someone contributed even one view to the 28.5 billion views of free porn online in the last year, he may have watched a victim of sex trafficking appearing under duress on camera.” Just as no Christian should risk harm to their own body by view porn, we should not risk the harm to other people’s bodies by creating a demand for this evil product. By condoning the consumption of porn, we are complicit in the rape and sexual assault of thousands of children, women, and men.

4. Porn harms children.

As Prevent Child Abuse America notes, children or adolescents may experience autonomic sexual arousal at the sight of pornography, which can confuse them into thinking they “like” what they see, when in fact their bodies are reacting instinctively without the “approval” of their brain. Additionally, children and adolescents can become “de-sensitized” to pornography exposure and this can result in acting out sexualized behaviors with other children and engaging in high-risk sexual experiences by adolescents.

Many well-meaning people say that it’s the duty of parents to keep their children from being exposed to pornography. But as research has shown, it is nearly impossible for parents to do it alone.

Ten years ago, a Université de Montréal researcher, funded by the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Family Violence and Violence Against Women, launched a study to examine the effects of pornography on men. “We started our research seeking men in their twenties who had never consumed pornography,” researcher Simon Louis Lajeunesse sais. “We couldn’t find any.”

Porn consumption is so ubiquitous among the young that an estimated 93 percent of boys and 62 percent of girls younger than 18 have seen porn. There is likely no product in America that is having a more nefarious effect on shaping our children’s views of sexuality than porn. The only solution is to impose stronger regulations—and ban as much as possible—to protect our families and the future of America.

Sometimes invoking Lovejoy’s Law (“What about the children?”) is an excuse to limit people’s freedom. But porn is a product so irredeemably evil it should not exist. Rather than limiting an individual’s freedom, by limiting access to porn we are preventing their enslavement.

In every age and culture, certain habits of sinful behavior are particularly common and overwhelmingly destructive. In American today one of the most soul-destroying habits is consumption of pornography. If we truly love our neighbor—especially children and the sexually exploited—we should stop making excuses and start supporting a ban on pornography.


* If you’re a Christian whose political principles put you at odds with the standards of God, the commonsense protection of children, and the promotion of human flourishing, you might want to re-evaluate your view to ensure you aren’t making an idol of your political philosophy.

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