Baptists, Porn, Videogames, and My Generation

I wrote this piece a few months ago about video games. I got really charged up by an article I read that a friend sent to me, written by Russell Moore, that was published in 2012.

I decided to publish this anyway because I think it’s still valid, albeit a bit of a cheap shot on the old boy (Perhaps he is a die-hard Xbox-er now?). Also, I haven’t posted anything on the site in a while, and nothing like some controversy to get the magic back.

Enjoy!

A brilliant cultural analysis from a leading theologian:

“There’s a key difference between porn and gaming. Pornography can’t be consumed in moderation because it is, by definition, immoral. A video game can be a harmless diversion along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition. But the compulsive form of gaming shares a key element with porn: both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.”

// Russell Moore, in this article from Desiring God.

Just to reiterate, the first sentence of the above paragraph says: “There’s a key difference between porn and gaming.” Dr. Moore, respectfully, is this a typo? Do you understand the flippant assocation you just made? You did say key difference, but still: Just one difference between porn and gaming?

Oh, but there is a way that a game can be harmless “…along the lines of a low-stakes athletic competition.”

It is societally acceptable if (and only if) gamer-fun looks like the popular kids version of fun (‘low stakes athletic competition’).

So, low-stakes athletic competition is good but the real enemy is that ‘key element’, as you say, that both video games and porn share: ‘both are meant to simulate something, something for which men long.’

So that is the culprit, then? Simulation? Longing? “Low stakes athletic competition” is good. Simulation is . . . ? Bad, I guess. You have that foreboding tone, and you title your article “Fake Love Fake War” which also seems to indicate that this concept of ‘simulation’ terrifies you.

But let’s think about that. Sports, or “low-stakes athletic competition” also share that ‘key element.’

Who does a kid pretend to be when he plays baseball, Dr. Moore? Does he pretend to be a “low-stakes athletic competitor” or does he pretend to be Derek Jeter? In a sense, every kid longs to be Jeter. Or how about John Piper? How many guys who read your post on Desiring God long to be John Piper. And how many of them consume every article on Desiring God with the same fervent intensity to become a hero like Pastor John that my nephew has when he searches for the final ‘gold brick’ on Lego Batman: 3 for his playstation?

I know that imagination is scary. But it isn’t sinful. Video games are not bad. Simulation is another word for story-hearing (the opposite side of story-telling). When you watch a movie, you are in a “simulator” of sorts. Your brain is empathizing with the hero. Your emotions and anxieties rise and fall throughout the hero’s adventure. You are simulating his plight. This is the point of all movies and, in a broader sense, all stories. Jesus’ parables use this same technique: “To some who were self-righteous, Jesus told this parable. Two men went up to a mountain to pray . . .” Jesus is saying: “Simulate that you are going up a mountain to pray. This will help you understand a fundamental truth about the way things are.”

I was recently at a conference and I met this sweet 58 year old lady. Let me tell you about her:

She was in a typical conservative evangelical church for years. And it was there that she was emotionally abused. For years.

She isn’t ready to go back yet. She just isn’t. I know, man! The bible says she should, doesn’t it? Guess what, she isn’t ready yet. Because someone emotionally abused her for years.

She plays video games now. I don’t understand it, but this woman plays video games now. Can you believe that? She plays video games.

You know what’s strange? Last time she was describing to me how much fun she has with her online Gamer group (a random smattering of people across the world, mostly younger men, that call her their “Gamer Mom,”), I forgot to ask:

“Hey Susan, did you know that there’s a key difference between porn and gaming?”

In your paradigm, I can never really be safe and play video games, can I? I will have to feel that jolt of shame every time your next blog post publishes. I will have to constantly explain to my Christian friends, in the metrics that you gave to them, how my enjoyment of a game is just for fun and is not meant to “simulate” anything. Good work, Jake! They will say. And then that sweet lusty scent of man’s approval will rush over me. I can’t wait, Russ.

My point is, if your only understanding of something that a lot of people love to do (including 50-something ex-Church-going females) is:

BE CAUTIOUS IT’S LIKE PORN

then don’t be shocked when we quit listening.

“. . . [T]his is a generation mired in fake love and fake war, and that is dangerous. A man who learns to be a lover through porn will simultaneously love everyone and no one. A man obsessed with violent gaming can learn to fight everyone and no one.”

Yes. Obsessions are bad. But is our obsession worse than your generation’s obsessions? That is the explicit thesis of your little paper. Games are porn. And the next generation is screwed.

Really dude? Let me just take an aside and say: This paper isn’t original. Your lips aren’t the first ones to touch this particular bullhorn. We’ve heard it before. “The men of the next generation are pussies!” And this particular subset of that philosophy: “Gamers are geeky porn-addicted weirdos!”

We’re tired of it. You might not say bad words, but you just cursed my entire generation.

If this is only for your context, then please specify that. “My church is dealing with a particular problem.” That at least makes it sound like you had to do some actual thinking before you just adopted the most contemporary Conservative Christian-bashing method.

Dude, if we are the curse of the world, then we aren’t the only curse.

Your generation is a trainwreck.

Seriously. Let’s just talk about the heroes that you propped up for us.

Mark Driscoll didn’t like porn or video games either. But he liked control. Apparently he liked it a lot. Do you remember the war he started? If our generation is mired in fake love and war, then your generation is mired in real war. If we can define war as “institutionalized emotional manipulation” that has swept through churches (baptist churches even!) and utterly destroyed lives.

Our generation has caught on. You guys say: DON’T BE ADDICTED TO VIDEO-GAMES, SCUM! But your generation has committed a number of shameful atrocities, am I right?

How about the corporatization of church? How about the exorbitant student debts that you put my entire generation in? Baylor – a baptist university – estimates $24,697.17 for one year of undergraduate education – how much was it when you went to college? So your generation gets ‘greed’, too, then. And last but not least:

PORN ADDICTION.

It’s not just the millenials. You guys have porn addiction, or, if you haven’t figured out how to clear your browser history yet, then you at least have lust.

The point is: Even if video-games are our idol, may I suggest you pretend like you are one idol-addict addressing another group of idol-addicts? Because this current tone with which you exhort is really grinding my gears.

I know that what you’re really concerned about is people’s behavior. In a sense, you see the way they are behaving (like animalistic addicts – a.k.a.: human beings) and you want to fix it. You aren’t helping by destroying a distinction between a beloved pasttime like video-games (that has been proven to increase brain elasticity) and the incredibly shameful act of observing others engage in coitus for one’s own sexual gratification.

“Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.”

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity. Do you get the crushing heaviness of life, Dr. Moore? Do you get what it’s like to be 26 years old, terrified of marriage because the Southern Baptist marriages that you have witnessed (having grown up Southern Baptist) are largely loveless and definitely strange?

Romance is about waiting for the unexpected. It’s about the moment your wife says she loves you when you know you don’t deserve it. The baptist model, the one that seems to underly the simplicity with which you talk about “making love for real,” is completely bogus and – in most actual iterations of it that I have seen – unbiblical. It sets up these props of good moral examples – guys who know that they are sinners but pretend they cracked the code – who the sinners are supposed to emulate. Pastors, dads, celebrity pastors. BE LIKE THEM! (says the Christian girlfriend, with a terrified conscience that maybe her sexual urges render her a whore).

Then all these old, perfect Christian men start making up Proverbs like it’s all figured out:

“Sometimes women are hard to understand, son.”
(READ: Your mom and I almost got divorced five times.)

“Sometimes you need to go to a quiet place, like your room, and just pray for God to help you love her.”
(READ: I packed my bags twice and wanted to leave all of this behind.)

“Lust is a real problem, son. Make sure to stay away from it, otherwise you won’t be together as many years as your mom and I have been.”
(READ: I made some bad decisions at a late-night work session with a female associate. I’m so lucky I never got caught.)

We know that “making love” isn’t as easy as you say. It’s so difficult. You know this and I do, too. Can we tell the kids now?

Subtracting porn from your life, or even finding “THE ONE” doesn’t equal instant glory. It just doesn’t. Sorry. We aren’t playing Texas Hold ‘Em against God. I can’t bluff him into giving me the perfect life. He knows that my addictive personality isn’t a generation problem but a sin and death problem. I’m getting concerned that you might not know that.

Human glory is hard stuff to come by under the sun, and it usually disintegrates before we can even grasp it.

The gospel belongs to the Gamers as much as it does to all of the Baptist preachers out there addicted to porn. And maybe if we sing them a gospel lullaby instead of contextualizing and dramatizing the Baptist’s version of a Riot Act, they will start to break free from idols.

Should I go ahead and “Farewell” myself out of your guys’ party?

Good. I have cars to steal anyway.

( . . . on Grand Theft Auto 3 or 4 or whatever iteration it is. I’m going to play it right now out of frustration. See what the Baptists made me do?)

2 Comments

Add yours →

  1. We aren’t playing Texas Hold ‘Em against God. I can’t bluff him into giving me the perfect life. Love this.

  2. Jackson O'Brien July 10, 2016 — 6:55 pm

    Hey Jacob!

    Maybe it’s because I’m from a foreign country (Canada) and I don’t know the latest on your doings, but I’ve really appreciated your thoughts and work, mostly from what I’ve listened to over Theology After Dark. So I’m not sure if more is coming or not or if you guys are on a hiatus, because for some reason I’ve been unable to access your website to keep up with the latest. We get Internet here, I swear, so it may just be other things going on in your guys’ life right now or for the past few months which have put stuff off. And truly, that is understandable… but either way, I like what you’ve created in TAD. And this blog post reflects your character that I’ve come to know. It’s like Sassiness in the best sense of the term. Close to Righteous Anger, but you’re just missing the whip in the temple.

    But for whatever it’s worth, I’m grateful for thoughtful, grace-seeking people like yourself. And Rich too; I’ve loved how you two work together. Give my best to him and his family if you ever read this!

    Keep loving God’s world, within all of it’s complexity. I’m encouraged when I’m reminded of fellow millenials who are enamored with the Gospel of Christ and it’s proclamation. So thanks!

    Grace and peace,

    Jackson

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: