Everywhere you turn, someone is warning Americans about the dangers of childhood obesity. Celebrity chef Jamie Oliver toured the country preaching the gospel of healthier school lunches. The first lady has made fighting childhood obesity her top priority.
While I'm all for healthier eating and exercise, I can't help but think, however, that in our concern over our kids' waistlines, we have overlooked a far bigger threat-the one to their souls.
The threat I'm referring to is pornography. In the latest issue of First Things, Mary Eberstadt of the Hoover Institution writes about the impact of the "widespread gorging on pornographic imagery"-what she calls "sexual obesity." "Sexual obesity," Eberstadt tells us, is "deleterious and unhealthy," yet it elicits "nowhere near" the "universal public concern" as the physical kind.
It should. Consuming all that smut, she writes, is "far more likely to make [our kids'] future lives miserable than carrying those extra pounds ever will."
And even kids who don't download pornography are exposed to it through its "incursions into popular media": video games, popular music, television and even their cell phones!
This increased exposure is correlated with a host of ills, some of them literally ills: teenagers who use pornography are more likely to test positive for chlamydia.
Even worse than what pornography does to our bodies is what it does to our minds. There is evidence that pornography robs frequent users of "the ability to relate to or be close to women." As philosopher Roger Scruton put it, porn users "risk the loss of love, in a world where only love brings happiness."
Given what we know about the damage caused by "sexual obesity," why ignore it while obsessing over school lunches? Why are people who scrutinize nutrition labels and flee trans-fats like the plague clueless about what their kids are watching and how it shapes their character?
Part of the answer is that our media-driven culture is literally superficial. We are obsessed with outward appearances, not virtue.
Then there's the way our culture equates sexual license with freedom.
This isn't new. Since the Enlightenment, sexual license has been the preferred way to express western man's emancipation from the Christian moral order. As the atheist philosopher Voltaire flippantly put it, "God created sex. Priests created marriage."
The tragic belief that "sexual license equals freedom" is why proposals to require that pornographic websites end in ".XXX" are regarded as the slippery slope to tyranny. It's why Apple's attempt to remove "overtly sexual content" from its iPhone app store prompted talk of a boycott.
Since our culture isn't willing to take measures against sexual obesity, Christians need to be especially mindful of what their kids are consuming online.
Just as you wouldn't feed your children deep-fried Twinkies for dinner, you shouldn't give them unlimited and unfiltered access to the internet. A little diligence can make a big difference-the kind of difference you won't get from reading a nutrition label.