What's the modern equivalent of the Roman emperors' bread and circuses? Here's my suggestion: beer and porn.
The Justice Department, according to TheHill.com (1/31/2013) is now suing Anheuser-Busch in order to control beer prices. The assistant attorney general in charge of the Antitrust Division, Bill Baer said, "It's a pocketbook issue. This is the sort of product that matters to consumers."
After reading the article, it occurred to me that the DOJ is more concerned about keeping the price of beer down than limiting the number of pornographers. Since 2009 the department has not filed a single suit against a producer or distributor of adult pornography. Last year Americans spent more money on pornography than on any one of the major league sports. So is this administration pacifying the population, just as the ancient Roman emperors did, by providing the modern equivalent of bread and circuses?
The ancient "circuses" were nothing like today's acrobats on elephants. The Roman games (ludi circenses) included a variety of exhibitions in the Roman Colosseum, including gladiatorial combat. The Roman emperors paid for these spectacles to demonstrate their generosity and placate the people. At their height, the cost was one third of the total income of the Roman Empire.
It was a brave Christian who, in 404 AD, finally brought an end to the carnage. Telemachus, a hermit on a pilgrimage to Rome, stepped into the arena and stood between two gladiators, crying for them to stop in the name of Christ. The enraged crowd pelted him with stones, and he joined the other Christian martyrs who had died there. But his death signaled the last gladiatorial combat in the Colosseum. Three days later, the Emperor Honorius sent a decree throughout the empire ending the gladiatorial games.
Today where is the outcry from Christians against pornography that is tearing at people's souls and piercing their hearts? Pornography may not kill physically, but it can kill the soul and destroy homes and marriages and even lead to criminal behavior.
How extensive is pornography use? Here are the estimates:
• 40 million Americans are regular visitors to internet porn sites.
• 20 percent of men admit to watching porn online at work.
• 70 percent of men age 18–24 visit porn sites in a typical month.
But pornography isn't just a problem among men. One out of three women views porn.
Porn is saturating the internet.
• 8 percent of all emails per day are pornographic (2.5 billion)
• 25 percent of all search engine requests are related to pornographic content (68 million a day)
• 35 percent of all internet downloads are pornographic.
• 35 percent of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to porn through pop-up ads, misdirected links, or emails.
The effects of pornography on society have been well-researched and documented. A 2009 report, "The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family, and Community," by the Marriage and Religion Research Institute (MARRI) concludes that pornography "is a major threat to marriage, to family, to children, and to individual happiness."
Viewing pornography affects the body and is very often addictive. The release of the dopamine hormone sets up transmission pathways to the pleasure centers of the brain. Every time the brain sends signals along those pathways it strengthens the pathway and the body begins to crave that same sensation of pleasure.
It also affects the mind and the heart. The report states: "Pornography, as a visual (mis)representation of sexuality, distorts an individual's concept of sexual relations by objectifying them, which, in turn, alters both sexual attitudes and behavior."
This distortion of attitudes and perceptions about the nature of sexual intercourse moves a person's moral compass. As Dr. Patrick Fagan, author of the report, writes, "Men who habitually look at pornography have a higher tolerance for abnormal sexual behaviors, sexual aggression, promiscuity, and even rape."
This "higher tolerance for abnormal sexual behaviors," has devastating effects when people resort to pornography for their sexual gratification and attempt to satisfy their desires for physical intimacy outside of God's design in marriage.
This is a matter of the heart. As Dr. Fagan explains, "Pornography affects people's emotional lives." It tends to loosen bonds of faithfulness to one's spouse. One study showed that in 56 percent of divorce cases, one party had "an obsessive interest in pornographic websites."
Ironically, the most popular day of the week for viewing porn is Sunday - or maybe that's not so ironic. As church attendance decreases and the claims of Christian morality are marginalized, immoral behavior increases. Habitual porn use correlates with adultery, promiscuity, sadomasochism, bestiality, engaging in anal intercourse, and "trivializing 'nonviolent forms of the sexual abuse of children.'"
No surprise then that The Christian Post reported [12/20/2012] that regular viewing of pornography also correlates with support for same-sex marriage. Those who have a "higher tolerance for abnormal sexual behaviors" are less likely to see anything "intolerable" in homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage.
Like all sin, pornography is spiritual in its origin and comes from the sinful heart of man. Jesus Christ has solved the problem of our sinful heart by paying for our sins and cleansing us from them. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to turn from our habitual patterns of sin and live a new life in Christ. If you, or your spouse, or a family member have a problem with pornography there are many helpful resources available at such sites as: pureintimacy.org; pureonline.com; sexualintegrity.org; and covenanteyes.com.
The MARRI report documents how pornography hurts adults, children, couples, families, and society. "Our present and future families need protection from this insidious enemy of love, affection, and of family and social stability," says Dr. Fagan.
As Christians we should not stand silently outside of the arena. We should be crying out, as Telemachus did, "Stop in the name of Christ!"