Porn, Smartstuff, and Thoughtfulness

The proverbial kid in the candy store is a striking portrait, and so is our obsession with smartstuff, the internet, and porn. The Internet and smart technology, permeated by a wonderland of varied apps and social media platforms, seem to be omnipresent in our niche of the world. And with porn being a seemingly ubiquitous part of our existence, it might be prudent for us to develop deeper levels of thoughtfulness regarding Christian discipleship.

As we at the Student Outreach speak at events across the country, a lot of parents and youth workers yearn for the details of helping students deal with porn and their technology: the methods, the words to say, the filters to use, and everything in between. And the “nitty-gritty” is important to talk about. The concern for the nitty-gritty, however, is trying to manage how to eat the candy in the candy store, but I’m concerned that we’ve refused to acknowledge that the candy might be laced with cyanide. In other words, it might not be a question of simply modeling good tech usage for our kids, or teaching them how to use their technology for the glory of God. Mr. Wonka might actually be a fiend and not a friend.

More basic than method or detail is the worldview by which we interpret the universe around us. Along with the nitty-gritty ways to help students manage the Internet and their devices, are we coming to terms with our own worldviews—and helping students come to terms with theirs—which oftentimes assume an enslaving normality?

Let’s hear from Jesus: “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Implicit in Jesus’ words is a love for Him than surpasses anything else on this planet. Christ Himself is the motivation for students and ourselves to take drastic measures in our lives, to ponder our walk thoughtfully even to the worldview level. In the wake of Him, every minute detail of life, even the thing that seems so indispensable, is to be filtered through this question: will this contribute to me following Jesus? Another way to put this would be in terms of the two great commandments: will this help me love God and love others (Matthew 22:36-40)?

One of the goals, then, of discipling students is to help cultivate in them a superior love for Christ that will enable them to formulate worldviews which are radically oriented around the Kingdom of God. To be sure, evil doesn’t begin in the candy store; sin begins in our own hearts. But the candy store can play a significant role in how our flesh roams. Assuming, then, that there’s more to be done than simply “cutting off” whatever facilitates our stumbling, let’s turn our attention to the sugar-saturated store itself.

Question the Closeness of the Internet

In helping students deal with pornography, what’s a more basic worldview question than, what are the best filtering and accountability options for my device? It’s this: is having the Internet so close to me all the time facilitating my walk with Christ? For the student who consistently struggles with pornography, the answer seems to be an emphatic no.

But let’s push things further. Shouldn’t we all be concerned with having such a powerful and potentially destructive force in our hands at all times? The answer is less emphatic, but we must certainly wrestle with the question. Practically, we would do well to consider whether any of us should have our own passwords to download any app we see fit. But more than that, it should cause us to question the very world-wide web itself and its accessibility in our lives. What if we actually removed our capabilities to access the internet on some of our devices altogether? What if, through our use of filtering software, we implemented times throughout the day during which we can’t access the Internet?

Question the Smartness of Smart Technology

As a corollary to questioning the closeness of the internet, maybe we should also thoughtfully ponder the role that smartstuff plays in our lives. Apart from the somewhat terrifying reality that smartstuff might actually be conditioning us for impulsive consumption, let’s bring our phones, our tablets, our watches, our tvs, and everything else that we can use to access pornography before the feet of Jesus.

Perhaps we should begin with this question: Should I even have smartstuff? Before we rejoice that we aren’t like that guy over there looking at porn regularly on his smart device and thus might be able to manage our technology, we should also remember that we are more like that guy than we would often care to admit. How much time are we spending on our devices, so radically close to the dangerous porn-precipice? It might be time to get rid of that tablet. It might be time to regress to a dumb phone.

I want both myself and the students whom I serve to be so radically devoted to Jesus and His Kingdom that they question the very assumptions and foundations of our modern culture. Are we helping kids to form worldviews that perceive the supremacy of God in Christ as the ultimate point of life? Are we helping them to see that everything else flows from and is informed by their primary allegiance? Are we ourselves thinking thoughtfully about the things we allow to invade our lives?

Jesus knows that anything we give up on this side of eternity will be nothing compared to what is now given to us in Him and what will be given to us by Him when we reach the other side. If we centered the discussion around our devotion to Christ, with His splendor, glory, and superior beauty, and asked hard worldview questions of the assumed pillars of our existence, we might begin to look radically different than the world around us, find a measure of sanity when it comes to porn, and most importantly become more thoughtful, intentional, and devoted followers of our Lord.”Mr. Wonka might actually be a fiend and not a friend.”

Cooper Pinson
About The Author
Cooper loves student ministry and served as Junior High Director at Briarwood Presbyterian Church (AL) before coming to study at Westminster Theological Seminary. Having volunteered, interned, and been on staff, he has served in various capacities in youth ministry and has a passion to help students live with sexual integrity and to walk with them as they follow Jesus. Cooper, a Georgia native, graduated from Samford University (AL) with a degree in History and a minor in Religion. He and his wife, Katie, have one, beautiful daughter. He loves sitting on the beach, reading fiction, drinking sweet tea, and watching the Food Network.
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