Justin Bieber Porn

Ok, Justin Bieber is actually some form of soft porn. Justin Bieber is the swimsuit issue in the grocery store checkout line. And yes, I realize that porn is a buzz word. It’s a bit over the top. I’ve taken to using it as a multi-purpose slur of various trends I’ve noticed here and there in the broader reformed, evangelical world. And some have wondered if I’m just blowing hot air. If it’s so elastic to include both Eastern Orthodox icons and Justin Bieber as well as pictures of nekked people, has the word ceased to mean anything?

Well let me try to assure you that I’m not smoking anything illegal, and I don’t have to do any sort of rhetorical acrobatics to pull off the connections. I believe fornication (from whence the word “porn” originates) is just a straightforward biblical category of sin and idolatry that pastors and all Christians are charged to attack, destroy, and burn to the ground. But let me get a running start here:

First off, let’s settle the fact that we are in a culture war. And in order to be in a culture war we must have at least two things: we must be asserting a culture, proposing one, cultivating one, and on the other hand, we must be throwing grenades, tomatoes, and generally giving other false, idolatrous cultures our most enthusiastic and slobbery raspberries. And to be clear, this means people are going to get hurt. You can’t bust out “culture war” rhetoric, and then whine when there’s smoke in the air and someone next to you catches shrapnel in the leg. That’s what a war is, people. This isn’t an excuse for being nasty or vengeful; but it means we can’t sit on the sidelines checking our hair in the mirrors. So for example, if I say that I think Sufjan Stevens is basically a limp-wristed poser with security issues who writes mediocre poetry set to trendy indie rebel tunes (as I think is the case), some of my friends will show up with pitch forks and some of them might think I’m attacking them. But I’m not. (Did you catch that? I’m not!) I’m actually attacking that version of culture, that version of a Christian culture, that version of masculinity, that version of popular/folk aesthetic values. I’m actually not even attacking Mr. Sufjan directly either. I’m challenging his version of the world, the way he’s telling the story, the picture he’s painting and asking us to buy, support, defend, celebrate. No thanks, Mr. Sufjan. But I do occasionally listen to his music (and I don’t become violently ill). 

Second, let’s get rid of any kind of fundamentalist knee-jerking. The fact of the matter is that we will be sure to be accused of fundamentalism if we simply obey what God says in the Bible, and so be it, but we’re not plugging our ears and closing eyes and humming peppy jingles with our heads buried in the sand. We are not isolationists; we are not escapists. We are not trappist monks paling around with unibombers in the deep north of Montana. We are not afraid of the world; we are not afraid of any culture. We are at war with worldliness, the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life, and the idolization of created things over their Creator. But we serve the God who made this world. He invented dancing and love; belly-aching laughter and melody and harmony and rhythm. God thought up Facebook and Twitter before Adam gasped his first breath. Our God sings and dances over His people. His moves make ours look childish. Jesus loves space shuttles and suspension bridges and nuclear submarines. He loves them because He imagined them when He created the universe. He buried all the pieces of glass and metal in the earth that we would need to make iPhones. He knew we’d eventually figure out High Definition television. God invented babies and all the awesome and somewhat funny steps involved in making them. So God jam packed this world full of treasures and glory and then has been in the multiplication business for the last 6,000 years giving gratuitous life to billions of  people, many of which don’t even acknowledge Him, some who explicitly deny or condemn Him. Jesus gives life to the inventors and creators and story tellers and photographers and artists and musicians. And so if Jesus gives them life, and they bear God’s image, we can and should expect them to come up with some pretty cool things. We’re not afraid of the world; we just think worldliness is a creative dead end. So we evaluate their creations with one eyebrow cocked, expecting their futile minds to produce futility with some regularity (since that’s the kind of apples those trees make).

Third, and we’re getting close to the point of this post: part of the war on God has always been to dislocate the glories of this world from the glory Giver. We’re always trying to change the glory of the incorruptible God into the image of corruptible man and birds and animals and creeping things (Rom. 1:23). That’s just what we do; that’s our default mode apart from the grace of God. And this means that we have a need to twist things, distort things. We’re a world full of con artists, trying desperately to repackage the glory we’ve stolen, trying desperately to rub off the distinguishing marks of its Maker. Looky what we found! We offer our cheap dollar store versions of glory, our knock-off versions of sex, friendship, fun, laughter, pleasure. Because we’re people descended from Adam, this tendency is in the air we breathe, and we’re contributors to the problem every time we sin. But that’s not an excuse for laziness.

Fourth, just because we’re in a culture war doesn’t mean that it works like a paint by numbers kit. You don’t identify enemies and then enact bills by congress. You don’t get a proposition on your county ballot outlawing Justin Bieber. You don’t shout down the opposition or merely sit in a disdainful, disapproving silence. That’s just not how cultures are shaped. Cultures are born in peoples’ hearts. Cultures emerge from our loyalties and loves and priorities. You don’t change uniforms with each passing song that happens to come on the radio or your iTunes. In fact, for the record, I don’t care if you happen to like a Justin Bieber song or two. Or even three. (I might draw the line at four, but I’m getting old and cranky). Seriously. I could care less what you dance to with your kids in the privacy of your own home. All I care about is that dads do in fact dance with their kids on occasion. You do dance with your children, right? You do take them in your arms and show them the goodness of their bodies, and how God meant for them to move, right? The point here is that what we should care about is what kind of appetites and loves and loyalties are being formed. Do we love Jesus most of all? Do we love His mission, His kingdom, His glory, His people, His word, and His ways best of all? Or does the thought of cute boys with messy hair dancing on the rocks at the ocean send far greater shivers up your spine?

I’ve gotten slightly side tracked, but not really, and I might as well keep counting paragraphs. So fifth, the central offensive attack on God over the last century has been the attack on the image of God: from murdering innocent babies to marital infidelity to homosex and transgender whatevers. The play being run is: anything but male and female in the image of God. Anything but that. Push the limits. It’s OK to flirt with your boss at work. It’s OK to enhance your sex life with your wife by watching sex videos online. If it’s not *hurting* anyone it’s OK to have an affair on a business trip or while your spouse is in the hospital for a prolonged sickness. It’s OK if you’re attracted to little boys, and it’s certainly OK for you to dress anyway you want. Wear what the girls are wearing, wear what the boys are wearing, and sure, even cut your hair short like the little boys. But no one’s advertising the fact that we have sick minded old men with perverted appetites driving the fashion, writing the catechism.

And that word “catechism,” at long last, brings me back to my insistance on using “porn” to describe a bunch of cultural currents I see around us. The word “porn” comes from the greek word porneias which literally means fornication. That’s the Bible’s word for sexual gratification outside of marriage. Your girl friend performing oral sex on you is fornication. Looking at pictures of naked people and masturbating is fornication. And Jesus says that when you have lusted after someone other than your spouse in your heart, you have committed adultery in your heart. But James comes along later and explains that this “heart porn” is bigger and deeper than just a momentary fantasy or daydream. James says the reason God cares about porn is because it’s a catechism for the heart, it’s a liturgy for the soul (Js. 4:4-6). You are either training your desires, your loves, your loyalties to respond to God and His Word and His Spirit, or you are training your heart and mind and soul and body to hunger and thirst for the world, the lusts of the flesh, the pride of life.

There’s nothing innately sinful about a guy dancing to a catchy, rhythmic beat. There’s no verse in the Bible that says Justin Bieber is little girl porn. But there are piles of verses that warn about your love, your loyalty, your heart. Where is your heart? What inspires you? What lifts you up with joy? What makes you want to jump up and shout? Justin Bieber is a catechism, a liturgy, a training in seeing the world in a certain way. It’s training in seeing a sexualized boy as a hero, a star, a role model, a potential spouse. Really? You’re meditating on that? You’re day dreaming about that kind of guy? You’re marinating on his words, his style, his likes, his hobbies? The whole thing more broadly is training in looking to Hollywood and MTV as curators of cool. Do we really want the glitz and so-called glamour of the Hollywood runway and the Grammys to be our standard of greatness? It’s training in emotional fornication. Do you believe in Justin Bieber? Do you know what that means? True believers know what that means, “fans” know what that means, 11 year old girls and their moms encouraging the fantasies, the infatuations, the lust — they know what this means. What are you training for? What are you practicing for? Practice makes perfect. You will become what you love, what you crave, what you worship. And maybe you’ll be over your Bieber fever in a few years, but then what next? Will the next boy star steal a little bit more of your heart? Will there be anything left for a real man, a real husband?

A guy with a real porn problem, a guy who looks at pictures or watches videos of sex online is not training to be a great lover. He’s training to be a lazy lover. He’s training himself to be instantly gratified, to have all his needs and fantasies met on a whim whenever he feels like it. Well surprise, Einstein, that’s not what a real, flesh and blood woman is like. Like wise, young girls (or their moms or older sisters) crushing on whoever the latest “hot” guys are, are not training to be great lovers, great wives, great friends. They’re training their imaginations and expectations and apetites to be attracted to a certain kind of guy, a certain kind of man. You’re practicing emotional adultery. If you’re a fan of this stuff and haven’t seen the stadiums full 12 year old girls (and have I mentioned their moms yet?), then you aren’t paying attention. Maybe you don’t have a crush on Bieber. Maybe you know it’s pretty silly, and it’s just a little fun. Then I’m not talking to you, but you should be aware of the gravitational pull.

Maybe it’s not porn for you, but you should know that it’s porn for many. I’m calling porn whatever is training the hearts of men and women to long for, desire, and love some distorted version of God’s goodness and glory. Religious icons train ideologues in self-stimulating intellectual and mystical fornication, and pop icons train middle school girls to let down their guards, to imagine being with a cute boy, and to day dream about being his special girl. Meanwhile, there are a myriad of jerks lining up to prey on these girls who have been trained and catechized that it’s just fun, it’s just the way the world works, it’s cool, it’s sexy, it’s worth it. And then you wonder how your daughter ended up pregnant out of wedlock, how she ended up committing adultery, how you ended up so unsatisfied, discontent with your own husband. Wisdom connects the dots.

Jesus sets us free from this fake glory. Jesus forgives our sins, our fornication, our fantasies, our sexual sin. Jesus is in the business of making people clean. He suffered, bled and died for it all, and He rose up from the dead to restore real glory to this world and to all those who trust in him. You don’t need a teenage boy who never said never; you need the Man who came from God who was actually willing to die. He gave His life as a ransom for many. He died to set you free from this hurt, this emotional roller coaster, this confusion. Jesus is the Man you need, the only One who can make you safe, make you secure, and meet all your needs. Jesus is telling a better story, and Jesus gives a better glory.

  1. lou lou October 20

    You know one thing Toby,
    Im a twelve year old belieber and I love Justin Bieber very much but it doesnt mean that its porn
    so calm your bones and stop your bible bashing (Im Christian btw)
    thank you

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