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A Poetic Reflection on Pornography

The bedroom shrine and the bathroom liturgy...


Photo by Luke Renoe Photography

Cognitive dissonance so thick you’ve convinced yourself you’re actually that hot doctor from Grey’s Anatomy. I’m familiar with porn: That thing that reduces you to a little boy nervously wringing the church bulletin into a telescope over and over again in the presence of a woman. It makes you insecure; it shatters your manhood. Or womanhood.

My friend Dave says everything is psychological. He asks me why I rest my head on my palm when listening to him speak and says it’s from social anxiety. I say it’s because my scruff feels nice, but he’s probably right. Porn has robbed me of a lot of confidence.

Pornography is: That focus so singular everything else pulls into the background and ceases to exist. It’s just you and your desires. In that one moment, it is the biggest thing in the universe. I know what it’s like to have no alternative and you have one extant purpose in your life: To slide open your phone or crack your laptop and type in that one phrase. To view that one video which will bring relief. That one image that will save your soul.

The bedroom shrine and the bathroom liturgy.

Our idol now comes in pocket-size.

The ancients built their three-dimensional gods out of wood, metal and stone. They constructed the Tower of Babel to touch the heavens. Genesis once said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

We decided to do them one better: “Let us build a two-dimensional idol that will enslave the population. It’ll keep them in their dark rooms. Look how flat we have formed this ruling god. Come and worship.”

A scorpion, when surrounded by a ring of fire, senses its imminent doom and begins stinging itself to death.

We have become the arachnid.

We have attached our instruments of death to our own palms and remain unaware of the destruction they promise.

Stop stinging yourself! Stop stinging yourself!

The worst sinner of them all, a.k.a. the Apostle Paul, knew addiction. I call it the do-do verse: I do not do the things I want to do, and I continue to do the things I don’t want to do.

Sound familiar?

Chicago, five and a half months ago. My pastor stands in this little exposed-brick room on the west side and says that if there is one thing that unites every human, it is addiction.

Roses are red,
violets are blue.
I was born an addict
and you were too.

Let’s learn the language of addiction since we all have it in common. It’ll come slow. You live in a foreign country long enough, meaning will eventually come of the alien voices babbling nonsense.

The more I realize the counterfeit nature of pornography, the more criterion I concocted for when exactly I would quit. It’s bizarre. Porn is a counterfeit adventure, so once my life looks like an Indiana Jones movie, I won’t struggle with it anymore. Porn is a counterfeit intimacy, so when I star in The Notebook sequel, I won’t struggle with it anymore. Once ______ happens, I’ll be able to stop.

I’ve got a stack of postcards in my room and no one to send them to. I can’t seem to shake the loneliness out of my bones.

“I’m still single so I’ve got time to quit.”

f that.

It burns you bad. It burns you so freaking bad.

Like sometimes you look at a sunset but it’s as if someone poked it with a thumbtack and drained all the color out of it.

You ever find yourself wrapping your fingers around the very thing causing you so much pain and refusing to let go? I have this recording from the turn of the 19th century and it’s one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. An old black man croons,

Leave it there,
O, leave it there.
Take your burden to the Lord
and leave it there.

A Denver mentor of mine recently told me I’ve fried my taste buds by eating so much s#!t that I no longer have a palate for delicious things. You were made for intimacy but you fry your brain with this hollow substitute.

Jesus offers us the Bread of Life and we turn it down in favor of internet doo-doo.

And He is God, that thing which is bigger than all things. God, who, when porn seems like the biggest thing in the universe, is bigger. God, who patiently waits until our session has expired and once again extends His almighty hand to help us up.

See, I’ve been overtaken by an overwhelming God and all my sermons about mercy have come true, unlike my dreams about becoming an astronaut. (Guess I can still write about heaven from down here.)

A God who turned water into wine can surely turn our years of lust into songs of victory. The same God who raised His friend Lazarus from the grave can surely sir to life our numb hearts.

AA says that the first step on the journey toward recovery is to admit your own powerlessness to help yourself. So quit trying.

Let yourself be resurrected.



2 comments on “A Poetic Reflection on Pornography

  1. Thank you for sharing Ethan. This was a great post. I like where you said

    “A Denver mentor of mine recently told me I’ve fried my taste buds by eating so much s#!t that I no longer have a palate for delicious things.”

    I had a similar conversation with my own accountability partner. I think I was maybe six months into my recovery. I was feeling like crap and tired of the battle. I told him all I could think, see, smell and taste was s#1t. That’s how low my self esteem had gotten. All from the lies of pornography.

    Keep fighting and sharing. Thank you again.


  2. Pingback: A Poetic Reflection on Pornography – Singing without Music

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