Utah vs. Porn
Pornography is legal here in the United States, and it will very likely remain so. Even if it were made illegal (like Utah hasn’t exactly done but is trying to do (Utah vs Porn – or kind of trying to do) the illegality of certain images would likely inspire a prohibition-style underground while failing to actually curb all images that can cause a person to lust.
So, it’s legal. Mostly.
For clarity’s sake, not all pornography is legal. The First Amendment defines two categories of pornography as out-of-bounds: “obscenity” and child pornography. While child pornography is relatively easy to define, that which falls into the category of “obscenity” is quite a bit harder to nail down. The goal of the obscenity limitation is to help avoid extremes, but anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the kinds of pornography on the internet realize that’s a pretty tall order that’s barely being filled.
(Keep in mind, we’re talking about pornography on a civic, societal, or governmental level. For a Christian, the question isn’t really “What can I get away with under the law?” but rather “What is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable? I want to think about these kinds of things.”)
Porn addiction is a broken behavior that comes from a broken desire – lust – that comes from a broken relationship with God.
So, it’s legal and not nearly as regulated as it could be.
What are we to do? The oddness of the Utah resolution gives us a pretty good chance to think about the best response. State Senator Todd Weiler’s resolution, proposed this past January and signed by the governor on July 7th (2016), actually includes fines and potential jail time for anyone who owns porn magazines or is caught watching pornography of any kind. This is odd because, as we’ve established, the First Amendment literally protects some of the things this resolution prohibits (one can only expect that this won’t be the end of this story.)
Nevertheless, let’s imagine that the story didn’t continue with legal challenges, but rather with adherence. What if not only Utah, but also the other 49 states outlawed porn, increased education on the dangers or porn, and found efficient ways to actually enforce this policy? Would it work?
In some ways, maybe. If you’re a pragmatist at heart, you can see how this would make life a little easier. It would make it harder for young boys to hide magazines because the magazines wouldn’t be published. It would be harder for 8-11 year old kids to have their first exposure to pornography because it wouldn’t be so freely available.
But it wouldn’t solve the real problem. Porn addiction is a broken behavior that comes from a broken desire – lust – that comes from a broken relationship with God. The problem of porn is the problem of sin, and the solution to sin isn’t the law – whether God’s law or the government’s law. The law can help on the surface level, but it can’t really lead to a solution. Making porn illegal doesn’t make it so people don’t want porn. Threatening jail time for porn use doesn’t make it so people don’t want porn – they just don’t want to go to jail.
If we want to affect motivation, to transform people’s desire from being focused on base, sexual wants to being focused on more glorious ideals, the only solution is the message of Jesus’ unconditional love. Gospel-driven motivation is the only motivation that has a place in a transformed life. Grace-driven motivation is the only motivation that can take a person who is running toward hell and turn them around so they pursue God. The law, at best, can only slow them down – it can’t turn them around.
So, kudos be to Utah, for the moment.
Praise, honor, glory, and strength be to Christ, forever.
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