Don’t Just #CancelNetflix

In recent days there has been a widespread call to #CancelNetflix over the new film “Cuties”, which is now streaming there. The IMDB parents guide speaks for itself. Whatever the intention of the film was (the director claims it was to expose child exploitation), the film itself is ultimately deeply troubling as children are portrayed sexually throughout.

It is not surprising that the outcry has been massive. Calls to #CancelNetflix have been successful, with countless men and women cancelling their account. Netflix stock prices have suffered. My social media feeds are full of this hashtag. I am empathetic to this call, and I appreciate the widespread indignation towards the exploitation of children. At the same time, I am certain that the meaningful change that is needed to protect children will not happen merely by cancelling Netflix. To protect children from exploitation and sex trafficking, we need to go a step further.

If you #CancelNetflix because of “Cuties” but you’re still watching pornography, then you are contributing to the crisis of child sex trafficking. The pornography industry creates the market for pedophilia. Pornography sites meet the demand by providing a platform for sex traffickers and by conditioning men and women alike to tolerate, or even crave, pornographic material that exploits minors.

If you #CancelNetflix because of “Cuties” but you’re still watching pornography, then you are contributing to the crisis of child sex trafficking.

Consider the following video about PornHub’s failure to protect child rape victims on their site:

Pornography: A Trafficking Scandal Right Out in the Open

This is not a hidden problem. It’s not something that is hard to learn about. Fox News reported only this year about the problem of child pornography and PornHub:

“Pornhub’s failure to remove nonconsensual pornography from its website is destroying lives,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said in a statement provided to Fox News on Tuesday. “I’ve spoken with many survivors who have been driven from careers, fields of study, and lost family and loved ones due to this insidious practice. In the worst cases, people have been driven to suicide.” Speier’s comment came just a day after Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr requesting an investigation into the company. Sasse pointed to a slew of high-profile incidents involving sexual exploitation on the platform, including a case from last year in which Florida police arrested a man on charges of sex crimes against an underage girl who was missing for nearly a year before her mother learned that 60 pornographic videos of her had been posted to Pornhub, Snapchat, Periscope, and ModelHub.

For consumers of pornography, there’s as much acting off screen as on-screen. User must pretend that it’s all just entertainment, produced in a studio by consenting professionals. But if you’re reading this, you’ve lost that excuse. The truth is, countless acts of sex, bondage, and rape on pornography sites is real. Real torment, real pain all for the consumption of men and women who have been conditioned to crave such things.

The New York Times has also acknowledged this problem. In 2019, NYT reporters wrote about porn producers being arrested on sex trafficking charges:

“…the owners and employees “used deception and false promises” to lure women who had answered modeling advertisements on Craigslist to participate in the videos, telling them that their identities would be shielded and that the videos would not be posted online.

International Justice Mission recently found that child sexual abuse online is up 250% in the Philippines. Those videos don’t stay there. The market is here.

To Fight Sex Trafficking, Fight Pornograpy.

According to a recent report from Huffington Post, 30% of all internet data usage is for pornography. Porn sites get more monthly visitors than Amazon, Twitter, and Netflix combined. Recently a rumor was circulated that the internet furniture store Wayfair was actually a front for child sex trafficking. It turned out to be baseless, but a great deal of energy was expended fighting WayFair, a company best known for cheap accent chairs and clearance pricing on rugs. How is it then that there is such a deafening cultural silence against pornography companies that have been proven to host child pornography on their sites? How can it be that these sites can advertise categories for “teen”, “high school”, fantasies about underage students and teachers, rape and abuse fantasy, etc. and we sit idly by or settle for “that’s just the way it is”?

Canceling Netflix feels good. It feels like we are doing something tangible. In reality, cancelling Netflix is little more than a temporary political football with hardly any long-term consequences if it does not lead to meaningful action against pornography and the pornography industry in our personal lives and in our public advocacy. We should be at war against the pornography industry. This industry not only permits and enables sex traffickers, it also creates a desire for such material in those who watch it, and is destroying the minds of young men and women who are learning about sex at a young age from its sites. Even in a porn affirming article from Psychology Today, the author admits that in porn usage for teenagers “the adolescent brain is being shaped around a sexual experience that is isolating, visceral, and completely void of any love or compassion.”

One researcher at Wichita State says that porn and sex trafficking are “inseparably connected.”

Anti-Porn as Apologetic

It is interesting to me how much time is spent in Christian ministries, particularly youth ministry, on apologetics and arguments for God that are almost entirely intellectual. While I do believe they are helpful, I also believe that many churches are ignoring one of the primary reasons many young people leave the church as soon as they have the opportunity. Young people are leaving the church because they’ve been watching hours upon hours of porn unchecked for years and the church was just a box to check to keep their parents off their case.

For a rising generation, no-strings-attached sex is the dominant religion. PornHub is their bible, and Tinder is their prayer book. One night stands are their sacrament. When these students leave the church, they aren’t leaving the faith. For many if not most of them, they’re embracing the idol they’ve worshipped all along; only now, mom and dad aren’t around to make them go to church once a week. I have seen it firsthand. I have never discipled a man that pornography was not an issue that we actively discussed. This is not a coincidence.

Porn is destroying our families, our neighbors, and our churches. It is quenching long-held desires for marriage in place of immediate sexual gratification. It is hurting sexual abuse victims and creating a market for more of them in order to satisfy the cravings of a national audience taught to hunger for video of such sexual abuse. It is shaping the minds of young men and women towards isolation and loveless intimacy.

What now?

  1. Educate Yourself: You can learn more about this issue at Fight the New Drug , IJM, and NoFap.com (for information on pornography). Only IJM is a Christian organization, so use discretion.
  2. Stop Watching Pornography
    If you’re struggling with a porn problem, get help. If you’re actively watching, stop. Some resources I recommend for a accountability in the fight against porn are your local church, confessing regularly to a friend who will fight with you and for you, Covenant Eyes (I have used this for a decade), R Tribe (with a partner or group), and Bark.
  3. Advocate for restrictions against pornography and investigation into the pornography industry. Public calls have been made to ban pornography. Sen. Ben Sasse recently called for an investigation into Pornhub. Consider contacting your representative to advocate on this issue. This is worth your time. Pornography, sex trafficking, and abortion are not separate issues.

If we want to fight sex-trafficking, we need to fight porn. If we really believe that the material on Netflix’s “Cuties” is problematic, we need to address the massive databases of material readily available online and consumed constantly nationwide. The driving force behind #CancelNetflix needs to be about more than personal discomfort on how publicly accepted such things have become. It is time to speak up against pornography, and address this problem at the root.

Blessed Are The Nobodies

[Caveat: I promise I’m not trying to make this blog about Mark Driscoll. Though I have also written about him here.]

A friend recently pointed me to the all-too-soon created website MarkDriscoll.org. At one time, Mark was influential in my life and fed me the truth of the Bible on a semi-regular basis through writings, podcasts, etc. After watching his downfall (resigning the church he founded, removed from Acts 29 Membership, publicly scorned for his abuses, exposed for crudeness in online interaction, plagiarism charges, and on and on), I was all at once surprised, appalled, and interested to see that he was starting up once more.

Pastor Mark, as his website describes him, is something of an enigma to me. Do men without pulpits call themselves pastor? Isn’t a time of retreat in order? Why start a new website now when the public eye has only recently been against you?

At the very least, it’s bad timing.

His website’s About page reads:

Pastor Mark Driscoll is a Jesus-following, mission-leading, church-serving, people-loving, Bible-preaching pastor. In 2010, Preaching magazine named him one of the 25 most influential pastors of the past 25 years. He’s grateful to be a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody.

Pastor Mark is the author of many books, has written for CNN, Fox News, and The Washington Post, and has been featured as a columnist for The Seattle Times.

With a skillful mix of bold presentation, accessible teaching, and unrelenting compassion for those who are hurting the most—particularly women who are victims of sexual and physical abuse and assault—Pastor Mark has taken biblical Christianity into cultural corners rarely explored by evangelicals. He has been grilled by Whoopi Goldberg and Barbara Walters on The View, gone head-to-head with Piers Morgan on CNN, debated the existence of evil with Deepak Chopra on ABC’s Nightline, bantered with the gang on Fox and Friends, and explained biblical sexuality on Loveline with Dr. Drew.

The page goes on to describe his accomplishments at Mars Hill Church, which is dissolving this upcoming week, and Acts 29, which removed him from membership for unrepentant sin. Needless, to say, that’s troublesome.

I remember when I first listened to Mark in 2008. I remember hearing him say that line for the first time (though I’m sure he didn’t come up with it):

I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody about Somebody.

That’s all I wanted. Someone who would put themselves to the side and show me Christ.

It was the plagiarism, the power-hungry ministry structure, and the manipulation of best-seller lists that started the downfall of Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Church. It seems to me that what follows the “just a nobody…” line in his new website’s About page is very telling.

I don’t know when, and I don’t know why it happened. What’s obvious, however, just reading through this page is that it did happen.

At some point Mark Driscoll become a Somebody trying to tell Everybody about Somebody. The problem is that when you have two Somebodies, the two tend to get confused. When the two get confused, glory can wrongly be given to the wrong Somebody.

In the current Evangelical celebrity culture, it’s really easy to get caught up in the dream of becoming Somebody. Of becoming a Voice. Of masses of Twitter followers. Of viral articles. Of sermon jams and sermon highlight clips. It can be easy to take the attitude that the greater we are for Jesus, the greater Jesus is glorified.

John the Baptist knew better when he said, “He must increase. I must decrease.”

Paul knew better when he said, “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”

We must learn to know better than to say we will become greater for his sake. He doesn’t need us. He doesn’t need our impressive About Me sections. God lacks nothing.

Let us take heed, lest we also fall and think that it’s better that a Somebody tell Everybody, than a Nobody. If all goes well, it will be the name of Jesus upon us, not our own name. We will be nobodies, so that nobodies like us will know that Somebody cares about Everybody.

Blessed are the nobodies.

Join, or Die: A Case for Unity

America today has become increasingly divided. Republicans. Democrats. Libertarians. Christians. New Atheists. Muslims. Mormons. Traditionalists. Hipsters. Black. White. Hispanic. Asian. Immigrant. Documented Worker. Upper, middle, lower class. Chick-Fil-A. Duck Dynasty.

(I can’t believe I actually included those last two.)

We settle ourselves into the divides. Each of these divides has divides.

For myself, I’m a white Evangelical, Southern Baptist Christian who is conservative in politics, middle class in social status, and could easily provide to you any number of more narrow social identifiers for myself. Social stratification is our language.

Growing up, I was taught that diversity was a good thing. I was taught that it is through the free market of ideas and dialogue that we grow as individuals and as a society. As I matured, I learned to appreciate opposing viewpoints and to see the value of spirited debate between equals.

But that’s going away. Perhaps, even, it’s gone.

The other day a conservative friend heard me say I subscribe to the New York Times and disdainfully said, “You liberal.”

Recently, a liberal buddy asked about my views on sexual morality and accused me of being hateful and oppressive.

I was told within the past few weeks multiple times that if I believe in God, I can’t possibly hope to be respected in the public sphere.

It’s a weekly affair that I’m told that I’m ignorant or miseducated because I hold a position contrary to my interlocutor.

I listened in last week as “friend A” tried earnestly to convince “friend B” that ‘B’ actually agreed with him on a given issue. He said, “Given all the fact, you can’t possibly disagree with conclusion ‘A’.”

These past few weeks I have watched a local candidate for political office argue that another candidate of the same party who agrees with him on 99.8% of all political issues of being bad for the party and the state.

That’s become pretty much par for the course.

Join or Die

Join_or_die

This famous “Join, or Die” cartoon, created by Benjamin Franklin, encouraged the British colonies in America to join together for their own sake against the French and Indians. Join together, it claimed, or be overrun. Of course, they did join together and managed to win that war.

Since then, however, the “Join, or Die” cartoon has come to take on a broader meaning. For two centuries, the logo came to stand for the unity of the American people in a larger, more abstract way. This sentiment was perhaps best captured by Abraham Lincoln, who said (borrowing from the words of Jesus in the gospel of Matthew), “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

“Join, or Die” had come to mean something more. It was an understanding among the American people that we can only survive together, or not at all. We can only flourish together, or not at all. We can only live together, or not at all.

No longer.

“Join, or die” has come to mean something very sad. “Join, or Die,” in some abstract way, is an ideal that has come to define varying sects of American culture. It has become the banner of forced conformity to a certain way.

Political lobbies spend millions ostracizing those who don’t celebrate their sexually liberated ideals. Republicans attempt to purge from their ranks the ‘RINOs’ (Republican In Name Only), which is really just another name for Republicans who don’t hold to an extreme view of small (not just limited) government, which is historically a minority position in the Republican Party. Absolute strangers harass one other over the views of a chicken sandwich restaurant owner. Schools are threatened with losing their accreditation if they don’t ‘get with the program’ on whatever the latest social innovation is. On and on it goes.

In my own field, young aspiring ministers would rather plant churches than go to older churches who are more averse to change. Let them die out, they say. Then maybe we can get their building. This is arrogant foolishness.

It’s the comma that makes all the difference. The comma in “Join, Or Die” is the difference between a necessity for society and an ultimatum to conform. Unity in this country was never supposed to mean conformity. It was supposed to mean toleration and respect for one’s opponent.

Join, Or Die

The comma has to stay. The comma says, “We must join together or we shall certainly die.” Franklin’s disjointed serpent included states who disagreed on nearly every single political issue. You would be hard-pressed to find anything they all agreed on. Likewise today, the nation that Franklin and the founding fathers of America brought forth, is deeply divided.

If we’re honest, we’ll admit that any hope of intellectual, religious, or moral uniformity is lost. There will be times that we must conform to certain ideals. I think we can all now agree, for example, that slavery should never again be a part of America. On most issues, however, we can function well if we learn to talk to one other without the threat of being ostracized or publicly scorned, without being labeled an oppressor or a persecutor.

I find myself deeply discouraged by the demand for conformity on every little thing that permeates every part of America. We have settled into idealogical ghettos and even there we are purging our ranks. In more or less words the ultimatum sounds forth: “Join [us] or die”. We can not continue to set ourselves up as the lone standards of inclusion and try to root out everyone who disagrees with us even slightly.

Ironically, it’s the entities that behave in such a manner that will die. You can’t function that way. There is a universal principle at work when the Apostle Paul writes, “If you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”

It is likely that one day America will fall. When it does, my guess is that it will not come by explosion or invasion, but by implosion. We can’t keep going this way. We must learn to respect one another. We must learn to listen to one another and disagree in a way that is both civil and charitable. We must learn to love our neighbors.

I once heard a story of a philosophy professor who went to interview for a position at a prestigious school. When he got to the interview, he discovered that the department head (a fellow philosopher) was a solipsist. As a solipsist, he believed that he was the only thing that exists. Everyone else and everything else is merely a projection of his own mind. Of course you can imagine that the entire conversation then was incredibly awkward for the interviewee. After the interview, he stopped to speak to the department’s secretary about the odd professor. He told her of the odd view and how he had felt so objectified. The secretary replied, “Yes, he’s an odd fellow, but we do try to take care of him. After all, if he goes, we all go.”

Funny as it may be, that final sentiment is a mindset we all ought to cultivate. Despite our differences, no matter how odd they may be or how uncomfortable they make our interactions, we need one another. It is together that we will flourish as communities, churches, parties, and as a society.

We must join, or die.

The Old Bondage of Newport by Win Bassett

The Old Bondage of Newport by Win Bassett

The school inaugurated its twenty-third president
at two in the afternoon—
an occasion we’ve heard about
for weeks.

Tweet this hashtag.
Tag that instagram handle.
Win a lunch with the new president at a mutually agreed upon date.
My roommate returns with an invitation.
Looks like a Visa Black Card, huh?

The Reverend Ezra Stiles might have hired more slaves
instead of paying for brunch and bluegrass in the Commons.
But who do you think poured orange juice and plated eggs today?

White guilt doesn’t keep me away. These words do.
But fear of missing out wraps me, like Lost’s smoke Monster,
and carries me downtown.

At dusk I run up Hillhouse, once Twain’s and Dickens’ beautiful street.
The workers shine under lights.

They wash the sidewalks and pick up the trash
to resurrect the beauty and bounty
still chained to a block not far from the Reverend’s College.

________________________________

Originally published at Yale Daily News.

Copyright © 2014 by Win Bassett

Ira Glass on Creative Work

One of my favorite parts of every week is Sunday night when I download that week’s episode of This American Life, a story-telling radio show based out of Chicago. This American Life is hosted by Ira Glass. In the show, the show’s staff tell stories around a given topic in 3 parts. It’s one part radio theater, one part folk story, one part investigative journalism, one part comedy.

The show is really brilliant. Every week I am amazed at how fresh and creative the episode is. I always learn something, I always laugh, and a few times I have even been deeply move (not to tears yet, but perhaps one day). My favorite episodes lately are “Bad Baby” and “Animal Sacrifice“. Perhaps my favorite episode I’ve ever heard was called “Break-Up“, which is exactly what the name suggests− an episode about breaking up in relationships. Having been on both ends of a break-up, I laughed nearly the entire episode!

Because of This American Life, Ira Glass has become something of a role model to me. I devour everything he says. Doing creative work is a large challenge for me, though I am passionate about it. His creative process, his story-telling, his demeanor has taught me a good bit about doing those things in my own life. As an aspiring preacher, I think men and women like Ira have a great deal to offer me and those like me. Crafting a sermon is an art, and art spans far beyond Christian teachers and artists. I hope you will listen to the following video for some great advice on creative work and gain as much from it as I did.

1 Is Too Many – America’s Sexual Assault Problem

The Good Fight

America is in a difficult position when it comes to sexual morality. From a divorce culture that celebrates promiscuity and adultery, no-strings-attached sex recommended nationwide as long as “protection” is used, and every form of sexual deviancy that is not just ignored but applauded, it’s clear we have a problem.

One of those problems is sexual assault.

President Obama and I disagree on a laundry list of issues dealing with sexual ethics, but we agree on this: sexual assualt is evil and it has to end.

We all play a part in ending this sex-on-demand attitude that leads to rape, abuse, sexual assault, and violence.

I am thankful for President Obama’s leadership on this issue.

 

Sexual Assault and Porn

I hope that President Obama will address one of the major contributing factors of sexual assault: pornography.

How pervasive is pornography? How serious is this problem?

porn_infographic

 

Research show that pornography has terrible effects on its viewers (See research).

Not only that, Pornography is a major contributor to sexual violence in America and the world. (See research)

 

Is anyone fighting this?

I’m really thankful for one group working on this called Unearthed Pictures.

What is Unearthed? Here’s their mission:

Our heartbeat is to see the hearts of men changed – and we want that change to result in a systemic shift in the landscape of sexual exploitation. Join the groundswell of men committed to killing sexual exploitation at its root.

Watch the video below for more information on what contributes to ‘rape culture’, what the demand for sexual assault leads to, and what we can do as Christians.

 

Groundswell from Unearthed on Vimeo.

 

See more and get educated at Pornharms.com and unearthedpictures.org

Also see, The Pornified Mind and the Gospel by Lore Ferguson.

Above all, pray to God to end this great evil in the hearts of men and women, as well as through legislative efforts worldwide.