Voters in Los Angeles sent a clear message on November 6th that they weren’t going to put up with the gross immorality that was threatening their community any longer. Although the vote wasn’t a landslide (56% vs. 44%), a majority of the city still agreed that enough was enough, with the end result being the enactment of a new law.
Porn stars must now wear condoms.
“Measure B,” which was sponsored by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, was lauded as “a major referendum on the subject of safer sex,” according to the Foundation’s President Michael Weinstein. Not everyone agrees with Mr. Weinstein, however.
The adult film industry complained that, "Our individual rights have been fading fast since the Patriot Act. Do-gooders such as New York Mayor Bloomberg seek to create a nanny state where our behavior is increasingly regulated for our own good.'' One porn actor went so far as to complain that they are “currently being persecuted”.
While initially amusing, the pornographer’s dissatisfaction with the election outcome does highlight the fallacy of the oftentimes heard assertion: “you can’t impose your morality on someone else.” Such thinking misunderstands, first, that every law has a moral basis to it in some form or fashion. Second, someone’s morality will always be imposed on others; it’s just a question of whose morality it will be.
The Nature of a Thing
Many years ago, a major pornographer was put on trial in the southern United States for the very explicit material he was producing. Morally outraged and insistent that his rights were being infringed upon, he and his attorney set up each potential witness at the trial in the following way:
Question: “Have you ever paid to go to an art gallery that displayed the works of the Grand Masters…?”
Question: “Have you ever paid to go to an art gallery where the subjects of the art were naked…?”
Question: “Can you explain to me the difference between that art and the art my client produces?”
How would you have answered that final question?
We could rephrase the question more broadly to be, how do you know whether something is inherently good or bad? I’d offer the following method: the nature or essence of a thing can be known by the effects it causes. In other words, an effect always resembles the cause from which it is produced.
For example, if I don’t have love then I can’t give love; a wrecking ball tends to produce wreckage; and political dictators like Hitler (despite claims by hatetheists that he was a Christian) and Pol Pot cause unimaginable carnage and suffering.
So let’s ask the question, what are the effects of pornography? Although certainly not exhaustive, the following consequences of porn are typically acknowledged:
- Exploitation, degradation, and representation of women as mere sex objects
- The tendency of the viewer to not be satisfied with normal sexual practices
- A move from mutual partner sexual satisfaction to only self satisfaction
- Progression/addiction to harder forms of porn, and base and vulgar sexual practices
- Desensitization to abusive treatment of human beings for sexual pleasure
- Dissatisfied marriages leading to feelings of betrayal and broken marriages
- Possible pathway to horrible crimes (e.g. Ted Bundy, in his last interview, divulged that his serial killing spree began with an addiction to pornography)
Now, when was the last time such effects were observed from the viewing of Rembrandt’s or da Vinci’s works?
Gnats and Camels
No one argues that preventing the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS is certainly a good thing to pursue, which is what the proponents of Measure B want to accomplish (as an aside, let me say there’s actually a nearly iron-clad way to do that: adhere to monogamous, lifelong, male-female marriages that God prescribes in the Bible).
But, given such a clear understanding of pornography’s effects, isn’t it sad and ironic what the people of Los Angeles are willing and not willing to accept? All the end results of pornography listed above? OK. Porn stars not wearing condoms? Now, that’s crossing the line. It’s akin to being content with drinking sewage, but being upset with a spot on your shirt.
During His stinging rebuke of that day’s religious leaders, Jesus described how they really missed the big picture of God’s moral law: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” (Matt. 23:23–24).
Notice how Jesus calls out the fact that there are weightier provisions of the law. In other words, there are big picture things that matter much more than others.
In the Los Angeles case, if there wasn’t a pornography industry in the first place, there wouldn’t be a need to ensure its purveyors didn’t spread sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, they’ve strained out the proverbial gnat and swallowed something much worse.
No Surprise with No Standard
We shouldn’t be surprised at such massive misses when it comes to morality in a country that is rapidly abandoning God. Three times in Romans 1, Paul says that, in societies that snub God, He “gave them over” (vv. 24, 26, 28) to gross immorality and depraved mind, “to do those things that are not proper” (vs. 28). Does that sound familiar to what we see today in America – a country that produces 89% of the pornographic web pages on the Internet?
Although secular humanists react with ear-piercing cries at this fact, the truth is, you cannot ground morality without God. Can a person understand right/wrong and disbelieve in God? Of course; Romans 2 plainly states that every man and woman carries within them the moral imprint of God, so there’s no argument there.
But ground morality without God? Not a chance. Why, you ask? The logic works this way:
If there’s such a thing as evil, you must assume there’s such a thing as good.
If you assume there’s such a thing as good, you must possess a moral framework to make distinctions between good and evil.
If you assume a moral framework, you must have a set of absolute and unchanging moral laws that are used to comprise that framework (and they must be absolute or you can never be sure of what’s truly right and wrong).
If you assume there’s such a thing as absolute moral laws, you must posit an absolute moral lawgiver (because laws don’t give themselves), but that would be God – the one whom the humanist doesn’t believe exists.
So now rewind: if there’s not an absolute moral lawgiver, there’s no absolute moral law. If there’s no absolute moral law, there’s no moral framework. If there’s no moral framework, there’s no good. If there’s no good, there’s no evil.
Therefore, what you are left with in the end is a society where morality is a matter of majority, emotive opinion.
Or, put another way, you have a world putting condoms on porn stars and believing that they have done their moral best.