St. Augustine penned these words centuries ago in his Confessions.
“To love and be loved in return was what excited me, especially if I could enjoy my lover’s body. So I polluted the stream of friendship with the filth of lust and obscured its brightness with foul passions. But despite the shameful and degrading behavior, in my excessive vanity, I hoped to be regarded as elegant and civilized.”
We live in a culture that has engineered a massive effort to mainstream lust, if not to make it “elegant and civilized.” And yet as my wife and I walked past the two large theater screens set aside for Fifty Shades of Grey on our way to see another movie last night, I noticed the furtive glances of those walking past with us. Did they wonder what was being portrayed inside? Did they secretly want to see it? Did they wonder which of their friends or neighbors might be inside
The faint presence of shame was in the air.
Despite the fact that pornography has never been more present and more accessible and despite continual attempts to use soft-core porn as a bridge to using its hard version, most people understand that Fifty Shades and its ilk will create nothing but a disturbance in their souls. Watching it will leave them feeling inelegant and uncivilized. Why?
After seeing Fifty Shades, the true lust addicted person will only experience agitation of the soul, the kind that will drive them to internet porn within hours of seeing the movie. The “gateway” soul, relatively inexperienced in these matters and naively hoping for either a romance or relationship “zinger,” will be left with frustration and disappointment. If seeing it with a partner, they may be surprised that viewing it will do something quite different in their partner, something they may not like. Hoping to be drawn closer, they may actually be driven apart.
Forty years ago, before the mainstreaming of porn, I attended one of those famous informal college seminars. It was called “Sense and Non-sense in Sex.” The speaker was a very liberal religion professor. He essentially ridiculed pornography, saying there was no way viewing a celluloid movie could take the place of real people being together. But he was wrong. Unfortunately, many people today have made that trade, most tragically, many married people.
In Augustine’s words, they have “obscured the brightness of friendship with foul passions.” But there is a way out. It is by paying attention to the voice inside that speaks to us of the value and eternal worth of our souls. When we surrender to Him and wait for his provision in relationships and sexuality, in the way that He chooses to give it, we will find that it was all worth waiting for. While we wait, we can rejoice that our soul is not being poisoned by drinking the unquenching sea water of lust.
One thing is for sure. There will be other attempts to utterly eliminate the shame connected with porn. But as long as humans continue to be born with souls, that attempt will fail. There is something indelible within us that knows beyond any doubt there is something better. That instinct prevailed in those who chose to attend another movie last night and in doing so acknowledged lust for what it truly is..the gradual and often undetected killer of souls.