Today in my ward we had a couple come present to us on pornography and its effects. I’m sad to say that while their hearts were in the right place, I was not particularly impressed. They had presumably visited yourbrainonporn.com, and had some very nice science.
The science probably holds up. But I am extremely wary of taking moral directives from science. Did you know that men are naturally polygamous? Science says so!
If I could recommend a non-religious book to read (what am I talking about: all books are religious) I’d recommend Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age. This passage in particular is relevant:
“Nell did not imagine that Constable Moore wanted to get into a detailed discussion of recent events, so she changed the subject. “I think I have finally worked out what you were trying to tell me, years ago, about being intelligent,” she said.
The Constable brightened all at once. “Pleased to hear it.”
“The Vic[torians, a “phyle,” or intentional society in an anarchocapitalist future] have an elaborate code of morals and conduct. It grew out of the moral squalor of an earlier generation, just as the original Victorians were preceded by the Georgians and the Regency. The old guard believe in that code because they came to it the hard way. They raise their children to believe in that code– but their children believe it for entirely different reasons.”
“They believe it,” the Constable said, “because they have been indoctrinated to believe it.”
“Yes. Some of them never challenge it– they grow up to be smallminded people, who can tell you what they believe but not why they believe it. Others become disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the society and rebel– as did Elizabeth Finkle-McGraw.”
Which path do you intend to take, Nell?” said the Constable, sounding very interested. “Conformity or rebellion?”
“Neither one. Both ways are simple-minded– they are only for people who cannot cope with contradiction and ambiguity.”
If this blog has a mini-theme, it is “dealing with ambiguity,” which I happen to pretty bad at. But I’m getting better.
Here follow things hard to understand, mostly gleaned by my own intuition. They are meant as guideposts for your intuition to follow or work toward, not as defensible statements:
1)There is a fundamental ambiguity in just about everything. You should put money in stocks except when you shouldn’t; you should call the girl except when you shouldn’t; you should obey the laws of the land except when you shouldn’t.
2)As such, deciding what is the right choice, or “good,” in any situation is very difficult. That said, there is something about the action of deciding that is godlike.
3)Ambiguity means that you need…something else…when making decisions. I am not quite sure what that is. It would perhaps be a set of rules that change whenever they wish to. You might call that a “personality.” Fortunately, you are exactly that. We are not all that great at knowing what to choose, but we do have the guidance of God. (Un? No, I don’t think so)Fortunately, God tends to contradict Himself quite often. This is what any reasonable person would do when trying to explain reality, because, as in 1) above, reality is contradictory.
Do you see? Principles are good, but they cannot be your master. The Israelites murdered for God; the wise men lied for Him; Christ broke the Sabbath. Only God is unfailingly Good.
Things got interesting when one girl spoke up after they had finished and had a, well, impassioned outburst that the conversation was too euphemistic and one-sided.
As in most things, I was torn, because
1) She was absolutely right.
2)So were the presenters. What, did you think a straight-laced Mormon guy like your humble blogger was going to come out in favor of pornography, even after my spiel above? Nope.
My thoughts during the presentation were mostly along the lines of MCJDGI. Impassioned outburst girl was pointing out the absurdity of pretending we’re sexless androgynes (is that a word?), and she was right, but she was also bordering on heresy with some of her phrasing. Because the problem isn’t Church People Not Understanding Sex, but materialism pushing marriage back beyond normal human endurance—so, really, People Not Understanding Sex. I’m a 28-yr-old virgin dude, so I’m hardly an expert, but I have read and paid attention to Genesis, and C.S. Lewis, understanding wind by standing against it, etc.*
Why the prelude about principles and ambiguity? Because I get along best with people who try to navigate the ambiguity. Some of them have left the Church, and I mourn them; but the ones who have stayed are uncommonly capable. And this girl has the potential. She’s holding a dinner in the next few days for further discussion; I’m going, hoping to keep it from derailing into sin and rebellion, and perhaps share some of what I’ve learned here.
*“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”