Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Sure, I Masturbate to Porn, but I Mean Well



A commenter over at Facebook says that Christopher West "does not mean to 'redeem pornography' --or at least I hope not -- but he means to redeem the intentions behind the person looking at pornography."


I should add that this commenter is an intelligent and devout Catholic - and I should add he's right, this is exactly what West is trying to do.


But, I ask you, how does one redeem one's intentions when viewing pornography???


The very possiblity that one could consider this is an affront to common sense, much less the Holy Spirt who guards our conscience.


A different Facebook friend suggests that this may be due to equivocation regarding the nature of evil on West's part, but whatever the cause, this empty rationalization is precisely what West is advocating. It's the inanity of thinking we can get our rocks off and claim we're getting closer to God. It's the lie that the penetration of a hooker is moral because it's the penetration of a sacred mystery. It's the cheap unthruth that we serve God when we service our gonads. And it's all sung by West as a kind of theological pop tune.


But whatever West is pitching, it's not theological. It's simply original sin raising its ugly head. But sexual sin is typically a sin of the flesh; conjoining lust and God to rationalize sexual sin becomes a sin of the spirit, and a very serious one at that.

1 comment:

John C. Hathaway said...

Thanks for the compliment and the quote!
Like I said, I have no particular commitment to West, and I've only listened to a few of his recorded talks, and I see both sides of the issue here. You may be absolutely right about the direction you fear West is headed in.

I just happen to agree with some aspects of what he says that I think get misunderstood, or at least need more discussion in the Church.

What constitutes the near occasion of sin is going to be up to that person and his or her confessor. I know it's cliche, but people accused Jesus of putting Himself in a near occasion of sin by dining with tax collectors and prostitutes.

I keep thinking about your example in your earlier post about telling one's wife "I'm going to go to the strip club and admire the women for their objective beauty."

If that *is* what West is saying, I totally agree with you. The way I see it, the only two reactions to pornography or strip clubs or whatever are either lust or disgust. That's what I was mentioning the other night about Flannery O'Connor's discussion of pornography versus art versus the kind of "happy little elves" kitsch that many people think is "Christian." O'Connor says that, artistically, pornography is bad because it presents a world of distorted sinfulness, and an artistic world that is distortedly good can be just as dangerous.

Now, West may have over time exaggerated his positions precisely by entrenching himself against criticisms, but in his early talks, West is clearly talking about the question of art, not pornography.

There are lots of situations where people are capable of encountering the other sex without sin, such as medical professionals. Presumably, when baptism was naked and by immersion (and we had deaconnesses as chaperones for the same), bishops were looking at lots of naked women and hopefully not being tempted.

The real question is about art, and in the modern world that includes photography and film, since many Christians would say that all nudity is bad. Part of the question is cultural: in the 17th and 18th Centuries, for example, showing part of a woman's breast in art was considered a symbol of virtue, because the breast was understood to represent motherhood.

So, getting back again to the example of the strip club: no, it's not possible for a man to say, "Hey, honey, I'm going to a strip club to admire the women for their beauty without lust." It *is* possible, to walk down the street and see a beautiful woman and admire her beauty without lusting. Indeed, the basic issue of "attraction" comes into play there: I realized early in life that I wasn't necessarily attracted to every woman I considered beautiful, and that I could be attracted to a girl even though I didn't particularly find her beautiful.

It's a question of intent: the intention of the pornographer is to elicit lust. The intention of the artist is to exalt beauty.

One cannot raise pornography to art, because it isn't about exaltation. If West thinks that's possible, you're absolutely right that he's an idiot. I don't know his work enough to judge.

Art can be used as pornography, but in that case the fault is in the viewer, not the artist.

I think that West started out by trying to argue against a very common mindset that fails to see the difference between Playboy and the Venus de Milo, and would condemn both, but in doing so he blurred the distinction in the other direction.