Recycling vs. Porn: Thoughts on the Latest Barna Report

Below you can see a poll taken by the Barna Institute n the summer of 2015. Note this is not a poll of Christians, but of the general population. Polls are not airtight. What the specific question was, how many people were asked, what their background was, etc. can all play a roll in the final statistics. But polls like this can give us a general feel for the trajectory of a society. Sometimes when we hear a presidential candidate is ahead in the polls by 10 percentage points we know that poll does not sync with reality we see around us. Something is off. However, with this Barna poll, we are not surprised by what we read. What the poll says is lines up with what we see in the world around us. When the poll says that 76% of people under the age 24 do not think it is wrong to watch sexually explicit scenes on TV or in a movie is anyone surprised? You can read the whole report along with some analysis here. Here are few randoms thoughts I had from the report.

First, it is clear that the younger generation is not bothered nearly as much by sexually explicit material whether pornographic or otherwise. I am not sure there is much difference between a sexually explicit scene in a movie and porn. Many shows on HBO and Netflix contain graphic sexual content. I am 38 and this comes as no shock at all. I am surprised the numbers are as high as they are. But remember porn is the fruit, not the tree. The tree is loss of the authority of God’s Word to dictate both actions and attitude. 
Second, but even in the older generation 46% of people do not think it is wrong to view porn and 63% do not think watching sexually explicit TV shows is wrong. Those are still awful numbers. We are so dead to this sin that we consider it a victory when roughly one out of two people think porn is bad. 
Third, my guess is the question  about “reading erotic or pornographic content” is directly connected to Fifty Shades of Grey. There were erotic stories around before that book. But that book popularized the erotic story, though sex scenes in romantic novels are common place.  
Fourth, the discrepancy between recycling and porn among the younger generation is striking. 56% of young people think it is always wrong or usually wrong to not recycle. While on 32% would say the same about view pornographic images. Not recycling is a moral failure much greater than porn. Young people think it is a greater moral duty to put aluminum cans in the recycle bin than it is to avoid watching other people have sex.  
Fifth, the third item in each list is lying. But among the younger generation the percentage who think it is wrong has dropped by 16 points. Lying is still considered a moral failure, but by fewer and fewer people. Almost 3 out of every 10 folks under 24 think it is fine to lie. This disturbs me almost as much as the porn statistic. 
Sixth, I am not sure about this, but my guess is that the reason certain actions are higher is because they directly affect other people.  Why would porn be so low, but adultery be so high? Both are sexual sins. According to Jesus porn is adultery on some level (Matthew 5:28). But porn is considered innocent because no one is harmed while in adultery someone is harmed. I would also guess that is why theft still remains so high. We are taking something from someone else. Here we see the shift from sin as an affront to God’s character and a breaking of His law to sin as that which harms someone else. Once this switch is made the only question becomes, “Does anyone get hurt?” If the answer is no then it cannot be wrong. Why is recycling so high and watching Game of Thrones so low? Not recycling hurts our planet and ultimately our children. Watching sex and nudity on TV does not harm anyone or so the culture says. Until the church once again preaches the fear of God and man’s need for obedience from the heart she will find her members defining sin less and less in line with God’s character as given in His Word and more and more in line with what the culture considers “harmful.” 
Seventh, while adultery is still high it does drop over 13 points between generations. 
Finally, notice the drop in covetousness or as the poll so delicately put it “wanting something that belongs to someone else.” There was a drop of 25 points from the older generation to the younger one. 68% of those 24 and under think it is fine to covet. More people think it is wrong to consume too much electricity than it is to covet. This is not surprising at all given my sixth point. Sin has become something which harms others. How can lusting after my neighbor’s car or my neighbor’s wife be a problem when no one gets hurt? What I find interesting is for Paul coveting was the key to showing him his own need for Christ (Romans 7:7). 
There is one way this data could be interpreted more positively. Young people are often ignorant and foolish to the results of certain actions. As they grow up their beliefs change and generally become more conservative. It is possible that many of the 20 year olds who think porn is just fine now and recycling is so terrible will not think the same thing when they are 40. However, this requires that they be taught, learn, and grow. It also usually requires marriage, children, and a job. And while this has often been the pattern in the past, I am not holding my breath that it will repeat itself in the coming decades. My fear is that our educational system, impotent pastors and fathers, a failure to preach God’s Word in all its fullness and to exhort people to obey it, a government that keeps men dependent, a hatred of women, children, and marriage, and a coddling of minds and bodies will not lead to the 15 to 20 year olds growing up. At the current rate and in the current cultural situation, it is hard to view these statistics getting better. 

Psalm 119:17-19~Help for Pilgrims


Psalm 119:17-19 reminds us that the grace of God is essential for obedience to his Word and understanding of his Word. The Psalmist understands that he is weak and blind. He knows that God’s Word requires much of him. He knows that God’s Word is often shrouded in darkness. The meaning and the application of it can be hard to discern. He knows the human heart is like a rock unable to receive the seed of the Word. He knows that we are fallen, weak men who need God’s strength to help us obey.  Therefore he begins this third section of Psalm 119 with a plea for help.

He asks God to deal bountifully with him. This word is used in several other Psalms to express God’s great kindness (Psalm 13:6, 116:7, 142:7). The psalmist is asking the Lord to open up the treasures of his grace and pour out his goodness upon him. The psalmist is a servant of the Lord. But what does he ask God to do for him? He wants God to be kind to him by helping him walk according to God’s Word. What a great prayer!  Oh, Lord show me your grace so that I might obey your commandments. The Psalmist understands that grace, God’s unmerited kindness, precedes obedience. If he is going to live and keep the Word, grace must come first. 

Next the psalmist cries out to God for understanding of his Word. The phrase translated “wondrous things” means something that is surpassing in its greatness, but at times hard to understand. God’s Word is wonderful and filled with treasure beyond all the wealth of this world. But it can be difficult to grasp. There are passages that we must think about a long time before we come to understand them. Sometimes we understand what a passage means, but are not sure how it impacts our lives.  The psalmist knows that he is blind. He needs God to remove the scales so that he can understand and obey. Verse 18 is a great little prayer to recite prior to reading God’s Word or hearing the Word preached.

Finally the psalmist asks God to unveil his Word because he is as stranger in this world.  He, like all Christians, is passing through looking for that final house whose builder is God.  It is the nature of man to find himself too at home in the world. He forgets eternity and his own immortality. He becomes too entangled in the affairs of this earth and the end becomes blurry. An older author described this as putting anchors down in the world. We become tied to this world by a thousand ropes. While Christians can and should enjoy the many gifts God gives in this life, our eyes should not lose sight of the final destination. Calvin says we are to “aspire after the place we are invited.” We are to long for our heavenly home. But why does this lead the psalmist to pray that God would not hide his commandments from him? What is the connection between being a stranger in this world and seeing God’s commands rightly?

Any stranger in a foreign land needs maps and brochures to keep him from straying and to bring him safely back home. God’s Word furnishes us with a map for navigating this world. We are strangers, but the Word can give us direction. It tells what to believe and not to believe. It provides us with a picture of sin and death. It reminds us of God’s purposes for this world and how it can be used to his glory. But it also reminds us that our final home is not here, but there.  The Word provides comfort when we grieve in this fallen world by pointing us to the next world.  Finally, the Word draws our eyes forward to the new Heavens and Earth when we will swim in the glory of God, when all things will be made new, when all pain, death, and sorrow will be eliminated, when our old bodies will put on incorruption, and when we shall Christ as He is.  He prays Psalm 119:19 because God’s Word provides direction, comfort, and vision for wandering pilgrims, like us. 

The key point of these three verses is that we need the grace of God to obey his Word, to understand his Word, and to use his word to guide us in this world. 

Other Posts on Psalm 119
Psalm 119:2-4
Psalm 119:7
Psalm 119:9
Psalm 119:11
Psalm 119:13
Psalm 119:14
Psalm 119:15-16