Death of Porn

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A row of men and women stand shackled. Society sees but says it's normal. They say, "This is the natural order of things". But one old man is rallying men to fight it. To fight this modern day slavery: pornography.

Hi, my name is Terence and I'm your host for Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you. Today I review "The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility" by Ray Ortlund.

A Budget for Porn
Porn addiction is a subject that many Christians find uncomfortable to read or talk about. We know it's wrong. The fact that we continue to struggle against it and often fail puts our faith in doubt. For how can Christians who sing praises to a Holy God, who claim Jesus Christ as Lord over all, who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, can have, as Ortlund puts it, "a budget for porn in their consciences".

The way to win a spiritual battle is to cast darkness into the light. To speak it out into the open. And this book, "The Death of Porn", does just that.

The Author
The man behind this book, Ray Ortlund, is the Senior Pastor at Emmanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee and served as Professor of Old Testament at Trinity Divinity School, Chicago for nine years.

Today's book, "The Death of Porn", is in a different category from the theological books or commentaries Ortlund has written. This is a book of six chapters; six chapters written as six personal letter from an older man - Ray Ortlund is over 70 years old - to a younger man.

Modern Day Slavery
Every chapter begins with, "Dear Son". Although he recognises women can be trapped by porn, this book is written to men. But if you are a woman, keep listening because this book could be of help to you or to someone you love.

Ortlund was inspired to write this book because of a letter. In 1791, John Wesley wrote to William Wilberforce that unless the divine power had raised Wilberforce up, Wesley could not see how Wilberforce can continue to oppose that cursed villainy that is slavery.

I quote from Wesley's letter:

Unless God has raised you up for this very thing, you will be worn out by the opposition of men and devils. But if God be for you, who can be against you? Are all of them together stronger than God? O be not weary of well doing! Go on, in the name of God and in the power of His might, till even American slavery (the vilest that ever saw the sun) shall vanish away with it.

Later, Ortlund writes:

... this old letter got me thinking: What about us today? What if not just one man but a whole generation of men takes a bold stand against the new slave trade of our time - pornography?

Pornography is not simply a matter of private conscience or private sin, it's a matter of injustice. I am reminded of J. F. Kennedy who said at his Berlin speech, "When one man is enslaved, all are not free." He was speaking of communism but what he said equally applies to pornography. In this book, Ortlund envisions the death of porn, not just for the individual but for nations.

Structure
He divides the book into two parts, three chapters each. The first part is titled: "Reintroducing the Characters" with the chapters, or letters, "You are Royalty", "She is Royalty" and "He is Royalty", Jesus is royalty. Part One is foundational to Part Two. Foundational in the sense if you have all the identities right, men, women and Jesus, then you build on them a good life. But some of us may not know how to build on those foundations and that is where Part Two comes in. Part Two gives practical support and guide on how to overcome porn.

The second part is titled: "Reimagining the Future" with the chapters, "We Can Do This", "We Can Work Together", and "We Can Make a World of Difference".

Dear Son
Let me quote from the first letter Ortlund writes. Listen to the warmth and comfort he offers:

Dear Son,
You matter. You matter more than you know. That's what I want to talk to you about - your dignity before God, what it's worth to you, and how it empowers you to change the future.
Do you believe in your own nobility? Yes, you're a nice guy. But being a nice, likeable guy hardly rises to the stature of your true identity.
Long ago, a Christian leader named Irenaeus got right to the point: "The glory of God is a man fully alive."

This is not a theological dissection of what is sin. Nor is it just a feel-good pep talk. Ortlund presents biblical truths couched in six personal letters, from Christian to Christian, man to man.

In a Crossway Podcast interview, Ortlund explains why he wrote this book:

I'm so fed up with Christian man being scolded, shamed, pressured, cornered, belittled as if that would help them, as if that would change them.

Ray Ortlund has a wonderful radio voice and listening to his gentle and tender voice will likely move you to read the book.

Does being gentle mean coddling? Is he offering a cushion of positive self-esteem? Not at all. In the first chapter titled "You are Royalty", he at one point writes: "We are royal, and we are evil." Ortlund does not offer a psychological solution. he offers the cross of Christ. Addressing the shame men may feel, Ortlund comforts:

Do you really think, after the cross, your shame drives God away? Nope. Your shame is precisely where he can re-create you the most gloriously.

She is Royalty
In the second chapter, "She is Royalty", he quotes Genesis 1:27 "God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

He unpacks the verse:

Back when the Bible was written, nobody else was saying that. It's not as though human thought was evolving upward, inching its way toward the equal royalty of the sexes. It's not as though the ancient philosophers and gurus got the ball in the red zone, and then the Bible finally scored the touchdown. No, Genesis 1:27 surprised everyone. It was God speaking into our abusive world with a bold claim: a woman deserves all the respect any man deserves, because she is created in God's image as much as any man.

Up next is one of my favourite parts of the book.

If you are trying to describe the royalty of women, how would you do it? What picture or illustration would you give that would portray royalty? Ortlund invites us to see every woman as Galadriel, the queen of the elves in the Lord of the Rings. If you have watched the movie where Gimli the dwarf warrior meets Galadriel, you get an idea. God has created every woman with honour, and men are to treasure and protect that honour, even to die for it.

The ideas that Ortlund introduces seem to be from an earlier age. Today, do women need to be protected? Today women are doctors, pilots, police officers, presidents and whatever else they desire to be. Do women need protection?

Let us listen to one woman's story. Ortlund interviews her for this book. Her name is Tara. She says:

My first memory in life was when I was four years old, and I was being assaulted in a bathroom. By the time I was eighteen, I had been hurt by eight people on many occasions. I can't remember a time in my life when I wasn't hurting or being hurt.

She continues with how she came to work in sex clubs, how she was first video recorded, how she felt, and finally, thankfully, how she was redeemed in Christ. Her story is a harrowing read. Women like her need our protection.

Ortlund asks Tara, "What would you want to say to men who look at porn?" I quote the first paragraph of her answer:

What if it was your sister? The women used in the sex industry don't just have a face and a body. They have a soul too. They have a name. No woman grows up thinking, I hope I'll spend my life being abused. But every woman in porn has been trafficked. Trafficking is simply making a profit from someone else's sex act. That's every woman in porn. It's all coercive. Every woman is under duress. Every woman would rather be anywhere else.

Here I want to respond to a possible push back from some readers. This is not something the book addresses at length, but if you are like me, you might push back against the idea that all women in the sex industry are coerced, under duress and would rather be anywhere else. All women? Some, many, most, sure. But certainly not all.

Superfreakonomics, a bestselling book by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, was first published in 2011 has one chapter on the economics of prostitution. The authors interviewed Allie. Allie was a programmer. Allie then chose to be a high end escort. In a subsequent online Q&A session, Allie affirms it was her choice. It was not because she was desperate for money or was trapped. She grew up in a healthy family. She goes so far as to even assert:

If the social and legal ramifications were gone, I think that being an escort might be like being a therapist.

If seeing a prostitute is like seeing a therapist, that would salve the consciences of many men. Perhaps the problem is not porn but illegal, forced, enslaved porn. Perhaps what we need is not the death of porn but the regulation of porn to make sure that only willing women enter the sex industry.

Just like the problem was not slavery but illegal, forced and enslaved slavery. What we need is not the abolition of slavery but the regulation of slavery to make sure that only willing women enter the sex industry and willing men get addicted to it.

Ortlund rightly calls pornography a justice issue. If we start with the fact that women are royalty then a regulated sex industry does not make sense. For we are not so depraved yet that we don't understand what it means to be treated like royals. It certainly doesn't mean being treated like a prostitute.

The call for men of integrity to build a world of nobility is not for men to procure willing sex slaves but to completely demolish, abolish, destroy this slave trade that enslaves both men and women. To realise the glory of men and women as royalty under God's good design.

What You Want is Jesus
And the ground, the foundation on which we build this world of nobility is Jesus Christ. In the third chapter, Ortlund quickly dismisses two false versions of Jesus. There is the "Feel-Good" Jesus who "always smiles, always approves, never disagrees". There is the "Feel-Bad" Jesus, for whom your best is never good enough, and who insists you try harder and put your mind to it.

What we need is the real Jesus. What we truly hunger and thirst for is Jesus Christ. In one provocative sentence, Ortlund writes:

It seems crazy, but it's true. Every time you log on to a porn site, what you're really looking for is Jesus.

Jesus is the Conquering Lion. Jesus is the Slain Lamb. Ortlund explains how knowing the lion and the lamb leads to a life free from porn.

At this point, Ortlund has written three letters, titled "You are Royalty", "She is Royalty" and "He is Royalty". With our identities secured, what next? Well, death to porn. Part Two tells us various ways. In this review, I'll just speak on one way because this seems to me the most effective way. Let's talk about brotherhood.

Brotherhood
Brotherhood here does not refer to a men's group or accountability partner. Brotherhood is more than that. It is men sharing a struggle. It is the difference between me fighting together with you in the foxhole against a common enemy vs me advising you from afar, from the pulpit or as an accountability partner.

To see brotherhood is to see the incarnation of Christ. Love in the flesh, real and authentic.

As I read Ortlund's description of brotherhood, I realise this was not my first time reading about this.

Samson and the Pirate Monks
I read about Christians struggling with sexual sins and brotherhood as a solution in another book: "Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood" by Nate Larkin.

Nate Larkin was a preacher who writes his true story of sexual sins, lies and his descent into, what I can only describe as, hell on earth.

Larkin writes:

I was willing to trust Christ, but I was not ready to trust the body of Christ. To be honest, even my confidence in Christ had worn thin. Evangelists and pastors had promised that all my problems would be solved by a personal relationship with Jesus. I had been reaching out for that relationship for almost my whole life, and where had it gotten me? My biggest problem had grown progressively worse, until I was a lying loner hooked on porn and prostitutes. By the time I hit my bottom, even my wife didn’t like me anymore.
Of course, my relationship with Jesus had never been quite what the preachers described, not even after I became the preacher. The nagging awareness of my religious hypocrisy had prompted countless silent promises to do better. I had vowed to spend more time with God, get up earlier, pray longer, and memorize more Scripture. I had made these promises in good faith, but I lacked the discipline to follow through on them for more than a few days, and I felt terrible about that. My personal relationship with Christ hadn’t worked, and I knew it was my fault. What I did not yet understand was that while Jesus does offer a personal relationship to every one of his disciples, he never promises any of us a private one.

Now next is a spoiler. I try to avoid spoilers in my reviews but when it comes to porn addiction, I think men need to hear that victory is possible. Like any good story you should read the journey and not just the final conclusion. At one point in his story, Nate Larkin confesses his sins to his wife.

I quote:

Yes, I finally said, and told her about the prostitutes. With almost clinical detachment, she asked for more information. When did it start? How many were there? What were they like? Were they young? Were they pretty? When was the last time? Had I been tested for sexually transmitted diseases? I answered every question as truthfully as I could, and Allie cried. She kept crying, and I was powerless to comfort her.

Skipping forward:

For the next week, Allie and I barely spoke. Then one afternoon while I was at work, my phone rang. “Here’s the thing,” Allie said. “It’s clear to me now that our marriage was a joke, and I honestly don’t think we can fix it. You destroyed whatever we had. I can’t even describe how much it hurts to think of you—” She paused for a few seconds, then continued. “But I do realize that you have changed. You are not the man you used to be. I’m willing to start over again with the new you, but it will take some time. I think you should move out for a while. Then we can start dating again, and take it slow from the beginning.”

I hope that as a reader you would want to know who was the man Larkin used to be. And how did he change. Larkin's book is a story of his redemption through Christ, through authentic brotherhood, and what he experienced is available to you.

Death of Porn vs Samson and the Pirate Monks
Although today's episode is a review of Ortlund's Death of Porn, a quick comparison between Ortlund's and Larkin's book will show you what each has to offer.

Both show you the horror of sexual sin. Both show you the hope beyond your sin. Neither of them are self-help books, both books offer brotherhood as a solution to porn.

As to how they are different...

One obvious difference is the title. Ortlund's book is titled, "Death of Porn". You pass this book to any guy and neither of you have to say anything. The subject matter is clear from the title. Larkin's book is titled, "Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood". I got this book at a discount, thinking it was an adventure novel. Samson and the Pirate Monks. I got a shock when I read about this man's descent into sexual hell.

Larkin's book is his story. He is on a stage and sharing his testimony. And testimonies, as you know are powerful. The abolition of slavery was achieved partly through stories.

Ortlund's book is not his story. He is not on stage telling about his life. He is writing a personal heartfelt letter to you.

Ortlund's book is easier to read. Both are written for the popular reader. Larkin's book is a bit longer 224 pages while Ortlund's is 160 page but that's not why "Death of Porn" is easier to read. Larkin's book is one long story while Ortlund's book is six separate letters. Ortlund wrote it in such a way that you can finish one letter in one seating.

Ease of reading is important because if you are getting this book for someone, maybe yourself, you need to know which book to get. If your guy is a reader, who likes to read biographies, then Larkin's is a good fit. But many don't read, have no time to read, or have very short attention spans. Some people have told me they read can one chapter today and forget the chapter tomorrow.

If you are that type, then you should definitely get Ortlund's book. Again, one letter in one seating. Six letters in all. Easy for the busy man.

Conclusion
And you really want to get more men to read the book so that they don't freak out. Imagine. I go to you. You are a brother in Christ. I start spewing out my deepest darkest sin and shame. You listen. And you don't know what to say. You don't know why I'm sharing with you all these. And you get the feeling that the next things out of your mouth better be good or things are going to get bad fast. Of course, I exaggerate for effect but the truth is it would be good if everyone was on the same page.

So unless you have someone in your church who is teaching this or better yet modelling brotherhood, you might be the only guy looking for a brotherhood. You don't have to wait for the church leadership to start a teaching on brotherhood. If you can't explain, this book helps you to explain. You can't read yourself out of porn, but through this book you can know how God looks at men and women and how we are to look at Jesus and to see God's solution in his people. Through this book and it's encouragement and other solutions which I did not cover, we can altogether call for the Death of Porn.

This is a Reading and Readers review of "Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility" by Ray Ortlund.

The book is available for USD11.99 at Amazon and USD13.99 at Logos.

I'm hoping Crossway might do that thing they sometimes do, which is make the book available for free if you sign up to Crossway. If you want to know more about the book, you should listen to the three Crossway Podcast episodes: the first episode is an interview, second is the author reading the introduction and first chapter of the book, and the third is a Q&A session.

I recommend you subscribe to the Crossway Podcast, especially if you like reading. And if you liked reading, you will like Reading and Readers, a podcast where I review Christian books for you.

I reviewed this book as part of the Crossway Blog Review Programme but I didn't receive any benefits other than the review copy.

Book List
"The Death of Porn: Men of Integrity Building a World of Nobility" by Ray Ortlund. Amazon. Logos.
  • "Samson and the Pirate Monks: Calling Men to Authentic Brotherhood" by Nate Larkin. Amazon.

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