An Open Letter to Helen Andrews

This is another letter from the trashcan. This was about an article on pornography where the author placed blame squarely on Baby Boomers. I disagreed.

               I take umbrage, more annoyance than offense, with mid-30s Helen Andrews remark: “I predict the anti-pornography fight in the next 10 to 15 years will become more salient once the baby boomers finally fade from the scene” (WORLD, “Generational Battles”, Oct. 9, 2021, p. 32). But then again what would one expect from the woman who wrote the book Boomers: The Men and Women Who Promised Freedom and Delivered Disaster? Talk about painting with a broad-brush; talk about inability to distinguish between noble and ignoble paganism let alone the men and women Baby Boomers who grew up in turbulent times yet by God’s grace either remained in the faith or by greater grace still were brought back to it.

               Surely, he doth protest to much, huh? Perhaps, but I preached my first sermon specifically on pornography in 1994 when Ms. Andrews was probably 10. It was entitled, “Pornography: Danger Close”. The last part refers to calling in artillery on a position where friendly troops are close by. The point being that the danger of pornography was close to us all. In 2006 I sent Higher Things, a Lutheran magazine for teens, an article specifically on masturbation with an accompanying email saying that kids songs, shows, and peers openly talk about this acceptingly, we should talk about it Scripturally. They wouldn’t accept the paper as written. I redid the paper to make it about besetting sin in general. I published the original on my blog. Higher Things is controlled by Millennials not by Boomers.

               Andrews is right. It was the famous Supreme Court folderol about not being able to define obscenity but knowing what it was when you see it where the battle was lost, and pornography became protected free speech. However, that wasn’t my generation; that was the WW II generation. The one’s known as the greatest but should also be known as the greatest for regarding God, Mother, and Apple pie institutions as always being right. Here I paint with an equally broad brush.

               I wasn’t in high school when that decision was made, but by the 70s I had to deal with the advent of hardcore pornography in glossy magazines not just black and white postcards. Then there were the X and XX rated movies shown on drive-in movie screens as big if not bigger than the Millennials’ I-Max. And it was outdoors! You didn’t really need sound to follow the plot.

               Then in the Army pornography was everywhere. The Army expected that you would be sexually active. Outside the gate of every Army base there was all that lust could want and God forbids. Sometimes, the post commander would declare a place off limits, but it wasn’t to keep you sexually pure. It was to keep you alive or not robbed.

               The floodgates of pornography were opened to my generation and perhaps by us in this regard: VCR’s. I remember reading in the 90s that 400 pornographic videos a week were being produced. They could be rented not just at Adult Bookstores but at a mom and pop video stores. But what sent pornography into warp drive was technology. That new frontier is not the domain of Boomers like me but of Millennials.

               Two things Ms. Andrews had to deal with that I did not. There we’re promiscuous girls in my growing up, but they were few, and there was still a stigma attached to being one. Now, a 20-something tells me, pornography is being monetized so an individual can get paid for being promiscuous at least on camera.

               The second thing is the ubiquitous screen. Growing up – this includes high school, the Army, and college – there were societal hurdles not just religious mores you had to cross to reach pornography. Now it’s like H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man. His, the original book, is not the Abbott and Costello or Chevy Chase funny movie you think it is. The man who can become invisible finds he can’t handle it because nothing stops him from doing whatever he lusts after. No one will know it’s him. And so with the smartphone. You don’t have to go anywhere, pay anyone, be seen by anyone to feed a lust that can NEVER be satisfied and will certainly take your soul if not your life.

               Let’s agree Ms. Andrews: Each generation sees the sins of the one before and after clearer than they do their own. Second, those in Christ, ultimately see there is no answer for the sins confronting any generation apart from Him.

Rev. Paul R. Harris

23 November 2021

About Paul Harris

Pastor Harris retired from congregational ministry after 40 years in office on 31 December 2023. He is now devoting himself to being a husband, father, and grandfather. He still thinks cenobitic monasticism is overrated and cave dwelling under.
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