“You know the guy I’m talking about. He spends hours into the night playing video games and surfing for pornography. He fears he’s a loser… For some time now, studies have shown us that porn and gaming can become compulsive and addicting. What we too often don’t recognize, though, is why.”
So writes Russell Moore in his excellent article, “Fake Love, Fake War:Why So Many Men Are Addicted to Internet Porn and Video Games.” Dr. Moore is President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.
He quotes a recent book by a couple of psychologists who are arguing that “we may lose an entire generation of men to pornography and video-gaming addictions.” They worry that “the nature of these addictions in reshaping the pattern of desires necessary for community.”
Dr. Moore observes:
If you’re addicted to sugar or tequila or heroin, you want more and more of that substance. But porn and video games both are built on novelty — on the quest for newer and different experiences. That’s why you rarely find a man addicted to a single pornographic image. He’s entrapped in an ever-expanding kaleidoscope.
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.
Pornography promises [pleasure] without intimacy. Video warfare promises adrenaline without danger. The arousal that makes these so attractive is ultimately spiritual to the core.
But Dr. Moore isn’t simply criticizing, or even just diagnosing the problem. He writes of “the good drive for ecstasy and valor,” and rightly observes that in marriage, God has provided a real fulfillment for the physical drives men have. And he notes that “a man is meant to, when necessary, fight for his family, his people, and for the weak and vulnerable who are being oppressed.” Both of these drives in men are actually deeply connected to the Gospel–the union of Christ and the Church, and the “Shepherd Christ who grabs his sheep from the jaws of the wolves.”
When these drives are directed toward the illusion of ever-expanding novelty, they kill joy. The search for a mate is good, but blessedness isn’t in the parade of novelty before Adam. It is in finding the one who is fitted for him, and living with her in the mission of cultivating the next generation. When necessary, it is right to fight. But God’s warfare isn’t forever novel. It ends in a supper, and in a perpetual peace.
Moreover, these addictions foster the seemingly opposite vices of passivity and hyper-aggression…In both cases, one seeks the sensation of being a real lover or a real fighter, but by venting one’s reproductive or adrenal glands over pixilated images, not flesh and blood for which one is responsible.
Finally, Dr, Moore turns prescriptive, and urges us to “fight arousal with arousal.”
Set forth the gospel vision of a Christ who loves his bride and who fights to save her. And then let’s train our young men to follow Christ by learning to love a real woman, sometimes by fighting his own desires and the spirit beings who would eat him up. Let’s teach our men to make love, and to make war . . . for real.
There’s a lot to think about here. And we can take it further. It is pretty safe to assume that for many in our young adults group, video games are a diversion, and for some, pornography use may be a sin that needs to be repented of. But Dr. Moore is helpfully pressing us to see even deeper than simply acknowledging the problem. He wants us to see that a preoccupation to fantasy in general is harmful and sinful. It’s harmful because it promises something good but ends up harming us (whether by acting on us and twisting us, or by robbing us of time which should be spent on other things). It’s harmful because it wastes the good things God’s put inside of us on sin and nothingness. It’s the essence of what the scriptures call “dissipation,” like taking water meant to power a hydro-electric dam and letting it run all over the place in a big flood.
God did not give us life so we could waste it by avoiding reality to escape to fantasy. If we live our real lives waiting to get back to our fake worlds, we’re sinning–because we’re refusing to accept the gift of living that God gave us. It’s a high and holy thing God has given to every man and woman–to be made in the image of God and given life to live on his good earth. To whom much is given, much is required. So to refuse to step into that is, well, it’s evil.
You may have noticed that we haven’t even touched the issue of the actual presence of evil in the images and games themselves. it should go without saying for followers of Christ that we’re called to “set no wicked things before our eyes” and that love doesn’t rejoice in sin, but in truth.
So there is that, but there’s also this problem of escaping to fantasy. And friends, there are real people to love, and real things to fight for. Reality is always better than fantasy. And following Christ will lead you into actually discovering and living reality. We have things to do. God has good works prepared for us to walk in. Let’s repent of our infatuation with fantasy, all the TV and Netflix and You Tube and gaming and swiping– whichever screen it comes through–and let’s embrace the lives God’s called us to live.