“Finally…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
As a teenager, there were few activities I enjoyed quite as much as reading. I remember many, many nights when my imagination was so captivated by a novel that I simply couldn’t bring myself to set it aside until the last punctuation mark finally brought me to a halt. My taste in fiction was quite simple–I wanted a good story, and I wanted it to be clean. As a result, I chose mainly from those books marked Christian Fiction, naively believing that anything with a Christian label would serve as quality reading material.
After covering a lot of ground in my local library, I came across a series of novels written by a popular Christian author. Her stories were enthralling, and I quickly devoured one after another. I remember being pulled into each and every drama, imagining myself in the heroine’s place, thinking what she thought, and feeling what she felt. Unfortunately, lacking in discernment as I was, it took me longer than it should have to realize that the thoughts and feelings these stories inspired in me were not always good or pleasing to the Lord. Looking back now on what I remember of those novels, I find that the only images etched in my mind are romantic scenes, some mild and others closer to the hot and spicy side. In my immaturity, I failed to fully recognize that my choice of reading material was enticing me away from the path of purity and down the path of youthful lusts.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being caught up in a great story, but we must carefully guard against being caught by the subject matter of our reading selections. As women, we’re emotionally geared to be fascinated by stories. In general, men love to look, while women love to feel. Just as men must guard their eyes from images that incite lust, so we as women must exercise wisdom by protecting our thoughts not only from actual images, but also from stories which would arouse sinful desires.
Rachel Coyle tackles this important issue in her contribution to the book Women Counseling Women, “The Taboo Topic: Pornography and Women.” As she addresses the increase of pornography use among women, Rachel also deals with the related dangers of becoming enslaved by sensual reading material. Her words provide wise guidance for women desiring to follow Christ down the path of purity:
Pornography is available in many forms. Most of us associate pornography with what we can see with our eyes: pictures, movies, television, Web sites, etc. Some women do look at such images, which tend to comprise the form of pornography that men use. However, there is another more subtle, more socially acceptable, yet dangerous form of pornography that women are drawn to: reading material. Erotic literature, even if it doesn’t have any actual pictures, is pornography. Scenes and stories that entertain the imagination have the greatest tendency to attract women. Romance novels, magazine articles, and Internet chat rooms may contain contents that conjure up impure images in our minds. They can warp our expectations and beliefs about relationships and sex…
The fact is, our mind’s eye (what we think about or imagine) is just as powerful and dangerous as our physical eye (what we look at). In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Jesus teaches that both our physical eye and our mind’s eye can cause us to sin. Sin is not just what we do; we can have sinful thoughts as well (Matthew 15:19; Mark 7:21). Although Jesus makes reference to men in this passage, the lesson is the same for women: We can commit adultery in our hearts by having lustful, impure thoughts about any man.
Applying this principle to pornography, from God’s perspective there is no difference between watching a pornographic video and reading a graphic romance novel that conjures up an impure fantasy. Both are sinful, both are dangerous, both embed images deeply into our memories, and both can lead to addiction or—in biblical terms—slavery to sin (see Romans 6:12-16; 2 Peter 2:19).
Please understand that I am not saying that every romance novel is pornographic, or that everyone who reads romance novels is enslaved to pornography. Rather, I’m referring to steamy or graphic literature. We need to stop and consider what we are allowing into our mind, and how this may influence our expectations, beliefs, and behavior. Most importantly, we should consider whether or not the books or magazines we read please Almighty God or make us love Him more.
(Women Counseling Women, pp. 281-282)
Photo: Rodrigo Galindo