Your Mama was wrong

The normal viewing of pornography is neither sinful nor ungodly, despite what Mama said. Jesus condemned lust, not erotic arousal. The Bible supports the creation of erotic art. The mainstream Christian world did not condemn nude or erotic art for 1800 years. The early Christians were nude in public without guilt. The modern evangelical attitude towards erotica and pornography is not based in scripture or Christian tradition, but is rather the outgrowth of William Wilberforce’s “reformation of manners” and the resulting Victorian moralist views of the 19th century and the Social Gospel of the early 20th century. Finally, as New Testament Christians, our question should not be, “Is porn sin.” We should rather, using scripture as our guide, ask, “Does watching porn make our lives (and our neighbors lives) more or less Godly, fulfilled, and healthy?” I believe that the question can be “Yes.”
I will develop each of these themes in a separate post.

What is the difference between erotica and pornography?

The greek word “pornio” is interpreted as fornication and can be more loosely translated as simply “sinful sex”. The greek word “eros” refers to sexual arousal. “-graphy” is, simply, writing or printing. So, technically, the difference between erotica is anything that increases sexual desire and pornography is the writing or printing of representations of sinful sex. Pornography, then, is erotica that is about sinful sex. So, by a strict Bible interpretation, pornography would include any depiction of a sex act with 2 or more people that were not married, but any act between married persons would NOT be pornography and would simply be erotica. Meanwhile, depictions of masturbation (which everyone agrees – I hope – is not sinful and does not cause hairy palms or blindness) would also not be porn.

This, of course, is not the definition that anyone in the rest of the world would agree with. Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously proclaimed that he didn’t know what porn as opposed to erotica was but, “I know it when I see it.” In popular use, erotica is considered sexual depictions that can proclaim to be art, while porn is low-budget erotica. So, Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” is erotica, but Playboy TV’s “Adult Film School” in which (most often) married couples make a sex tape is considered porn.

The false dichotomy is silly. The artsy world of elitist high art is not known for being particularly less sinful than Hugh Hefner. Therefore, for the purposes of this facebook group, I will use the words interchangeably. We will probably want to have a discussion about whether depictions of sex between unmarried persons is sinful while depictions sex between married couples is allowed. In that case I will simply use the term married couple porn and porn with unmarried people.