where are the missionaries to the world of porn?

Ever since the 2004 HIV scare shut down the porn industry in Southern California for several weeks, I have been wondering: has anyone considered (or, better yet, developed) a ministry to those seeking to leave the world of pornography?

I do know of a couple of internet apostolates: the most impressive I have seen is xxxchurch.com, and there is also the Catholic pornnomore.com, which has good content, despite the unattractive layout. (An aside here: Sin doesn’t need good production values in order to sell — if you’ve ever seen pornographic materials, this is quite self-evident. However, I think it’s difficult to make an effective appeal to truth and beauty without a design consistent with the message. Sin is ugly – and porn proves that. Goodness, truth and beauty are awe-inspiring, and materials that want to make an appeal on behalf of these things ought to testify to their attractiveness, rather than provide a counter-witness. I really have to pick up Fr. Thomas Dubay’s book, The Evidential Power of Beauty: Science and Theology Meet).

My sense is that many Christians just find the whole business of pornography distasteful and beyond the possibility of missionary endeavor. Of course, it is a healthy instinct to recoil at the notion of porn, but recoiling from those who are the day-to-day casualties of the porn industry seems to me a deficient attitude, especially for Christians.

Last year, an article in the Los Angeles Times gave a bit of backstory about the actors in a nightmarish, oppressive industry that presents itself as victimless and, at times, even glamorous. I can’t help but believe that some of these actors would be especially open to what John Paul II has to say about the dignity of the human person, the destructive power of lust, the false freedom of shamelessness, and the desire to be loved as an unrepeatable person instead of being desired as a reproducible object.

And that is only to consider the ones producing the content. What about all of those people receiving it? Judith Reisman has done extensive research on Dr. Alfred Kinsey and the effects of pornography. I recommend a visit to her website, www.judithreisman.org. She’s done her homework. Particularly compelling is her testimony last year before the Senate: The Brain Science Behind Pornography Addiction and the Effects of Addiction on Families and Communities. Here is a brief excerpt:

Thanks to the latest advances in neuroscience, we now know that emotionally arousing images imprint and alter the brain, triggering an instant, involuntary, but lasting, biochemical memory trail.

This applies to so-called “soft-core” and “hard-core” pornography, which may, arguably, subvert the First Amendment by overriding the cognitive speech process.

Once our neurochemical pathways are established they are difficult or impossible to delete. Erotic images also commonly trigger the viewer’s “fight or flight” sex hormones producing intense arousal states that appear to fuse the conscious state of libidinous arousal with unconscious emotions of fear, shame, anger and hostility.

These media erotic fantasies become deeply imbedded, commonly coarsening, confusing, motivating and addicting many of those exposed.

So Dr. Reisman has done the research. Now who will enter the mission field? Or will no one do as St. Francis once did, when he went out to be among the lepers? The words of John Paul II haunt me:

“Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). Yes, every man is his “brother’s keeper,” because God entrusts us to one another. And it is also in view of this entrusting that God gives everyone freedom, a freedom which possesses an inherently relational dimension. This is a great gift of the Creator, placed as it is at the service of the person and of his fulfillment through the gift of self and openness to others…
Evangelium Vitae, paragraph 19

Granted, John Paul II was writing talking about abortion and contraception in this passage, but he also referenced all of the other expressions of the culture of death. Pornography certainly falls within that camp.

So here are a few questions for discussion and reflection:

  • Do you know of anyone engaged in an outreach to those who have been used by the porn industry?
  • An outreach in this arena has special demands and spiritual perils. What sort of people would best be suited for this mission field?
  • Am I praying for those in the porn industry: directors, producers, actors, and viewers/addicts? Or does my disgust with the whole business make me avoid the call of charity in this regard?

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