The undeserving, the scroungers, the abusers…. A worthy cause?

Your mission is to the undeserving – the scroungers who could help themselves if they weren’t so lazy, the illegals who shouldn’t even be here, the perpetrators of abuse, the ones who know what they’re doing is wrong but  find it easier to continue than to try to stop.  Your task is to bless them beyond their wildest dreams and certainly way, way beyond anything they deserve.  Would you accept the mission?  Can you imagine what the Daily Mail would have to say?

This is what Easter is about – this was Jesus’ mission.

The scrounger who found it easier to live off other people (Zacchaeus) found something far greater than material wealth – forgiveness, acceptance, generosity and restoration to his community.

The illegals who shouldn’t even be in the community in the first place – the lepers who were supposed to stay outside the town where they couldn’t contaminate anyone – they weren’t ordered out of town, they were touched by a gentle, fearless hand, healed and restored to God and man.

The perpetrators of abuse – those men who dragged a woman from her lover’s bed (leaving him unscathed, of course), hauled her naked and shamefaced through the street without stopping to enquire what kind of abuse made her flee her husband in the first place – they were given a chance to find within themselves a place of humility and compassion which opened a door to living differently in future, a gesture that made real change possible.

And the one who knew what he was doing was wrong, but found it easier to continue – Pilate, the man who knew even as he washed his hands of the whole affair that he’d had the chance to save the life of an innocent man and had chosen not to – he too was encompassed in that “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”

And me.  The one who would sometimes rather nurse a comforting grievance than walk the costly path of forgiveness.  The one who, from the security of marriage, used to look down on those whose sexual mores didn’t conform to Biblical norms – until the marriage failed and I found myself a single mum on benefits.  I will admit that changed my perspective.  The one who is so often more concerned with being right than with admitting my imperfection and my need of grace.  His mission was to me, too.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow at first – that God cares as much about the burglar who ransacked your home, the abuser who stole your innocence, the drug dealer lurking outside your local school, the drunk driver who killed your precious child, as he does about you.

But it’s also a glorious draught of freedom.  Because if God’s love does not encompass all of humanity, there’s a possibility that I could do something that puts myself beyond its scope.  As it is, I know that nothing, nothing I will ever do, no secret I carefully buried in the past, no scornful abuser making me feel less than nothing, no stinking pride and superiority making me feel better than everyone, no grinding poverty and no choking wealth will ever put me beyond the scope of the love of God.  That was Jesus’ mission, and with His cry of “It is finished!” He was announcing, “Mission accomplished.”

How to celebrate International Women’s Day

Friday 8th March is International Women’s Day.  The No More Page 3 campaign would like to see the day celebrated by removing the bare boobs from Page 3 of The Sun.  The campaign focuses on the fact that objectifying women in this way is degrading, offensive and very outdated, as well as being inappropriate in a publication that is likely to be seen by children at the breakfast table.

All these are very valid reasons for getting rid of naked female models from page 3.  To illustrate the point, Lucy Cox has imagined the effect if the gender were reversed, and you can see her witty and pointed video here:

However, there is a deeper issue at stake here.  Soft porn images such as are seen in The Sun, scandalous when they were first introduced in 1970, are very tame by comparison with the material that is readily available now on the Internet and elsewhere.  But at the same time we are now so much more aware of the progressive nature of pornography addiction, and the devastating way in which it ravages lives, that we ought to be more wary than ever before in history of placing the first step of that ladder in front of anyone.

Much research has been done into porn addiction and its effects on both addicts and their partners.  Such is the escalating nature of porn addiction on men (because the vast majority of porn addicts are men) that things which would appal and repulse at the start of the addiction process end up by becoming the minimum necessary for the stimulation the addict is seeking, and many addicts go on to act out these fantasies.  They become unable to function in normal relationships.  At the least they treat their partners with contempt and disrespect.  A porn addict has no concept of his partner’s needs and looks only to gratify himself.  Research has established a direct link between porn addiction and erectile dysfunction – the irony of porn is that, far from turning men into super-studs, it robs them of their true sexuality.

All addictions have some things in common – the self-absorption, the using others for selfish ends, the lies and deception that destroy trust in a relationship.  For a long time partners of addicts have been told that they were co-dependent co-addicts.  But research (detailed in a book by Barbara Steffens and Marsha Means, “Your sexually addicted spouse: how partners can cope and heal”) has shown that there is a difference between sex and porn addiction and all other addictions.

It may be the case that partners of drug, alcohol or gambling addicts have clues to indicate when their partner is drinking, gambling or taking drugs – there are many tell-tale signs – but by and large this is not true of sex or porn addiction.  A partner really can be completely unaware of what is going on behind her back.  She may sense that something is desperately wrong with the relationship, but have no idea why, and can in the end begin to question her own sanity – a very frightening and disorientating place to be in, resulting in living in a heightened state of alertness which floods her body with stress hormones.  The discovery, when it comes, can be both a shock and a relief.

An added trauma for partners of sex and porn addicts is that the addiction is inherently immoral and entails infidelity.  As a result, these partners, far from being co-dependent, are now known to be suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a condition for which recovery can take many years, and of which the effects can be devastating, including clinical depression, nightmares and flashbacks, loss of employment, divorce, fear of the former partner and an inability to form new, trusting relationships.  For these reasons women married to sex and porn addicts have been found to be at high risk of spending their later years in poverty.

What has all this to do with page 3 of The Sun?  Just as we can’t predict who will become addicted to other things – the first drink, spliff or flutter could be the last or could lead to alcoholism, drug or gambling addiction – so we don’t know who will be affected by the exposure to naked women in a newspaper.  Some young men or boys will feel a passing flutter of excitement, some will not be interested at all, and some will be hooked and dragged down into something from which they are unable to get free and which will go on escalating, lead them into very dark places and eventually cost them their job or their marriage and family.  We have no way of knowing who will be affected.

No responsible parent would sit down to breakfast and hand their child a tumbler of whisky or an ecstasy pill.  Yet a significant number of fathers sit down to breakfast and spread out The Sun newspaper to have a quick ogle at page 3 before going off to work, unaware of the terrible doorway they may be opening for their watching children.  That’s why I support the No More Page 3 campaign, and why I’ve signed the petition.  If you want to sign it too, you can find it here: