General Synod Statements: Pornography

In 1972, the Commission on Christian Action responded to the Report of the Commission on Obscenity and Pornography, published in 1970. The Commission on Obscenity and Pornography was set up by President Lyndon Johnson to study pornography. The report of the presidential commission controversially concluded that there was no measurable correlation between the use of pornography and anti-social behavior. The Christian Action report says that the presidential commission's report fails to take into consideration the large number of variables that work together to affect human behavior. It goes on to say that dealing with pornography in a Christian manner requires looking at the totality of a person rather than at a few behaviors. The report also concludes that is logical to believe that there is a correlation between pornography and violence, since both tend to treat the individual as having little worth. The commission notes that 1) Christians should encourage sex education classes that seek to teach that humans are more than just sexual playthings, 2) Christians should understand how to judge between acceptable and unacceptable materials in literature and art rather than merely censoring inappropriate words and pictures, and 3) other institutions and individuals should be judged by the same standard as art and literature. (MGS 1972: 203-206; read the full report (PDF))

In 1978, the General Synod passed four resolutions against different forms of pornography:

  • General Synod urged the members of the RCA to call upon their legislators to enact legislation to control pornographic film making.
  • General Synod called on RCA members to make known their objections (to their families and friends and to those who more directly control the media) when television portrays an image of human sexuality abhorrent to the biblical images of persons.
  • General Synod called upon the members of the Reformed Church in America to respond to the desensitizing "spillage" from pornography, and to boycott those who indulge in advertising techniques that use pornography and inform them of those decisions and actions out of a commitment to be good stewards of God's precious gifts.
  • General Synod urged RCA churches to avail themselves of various types of Christian sex education materials; marriage enrichment, preparation, and growth seminars; and groups involved in halting the spread of pornography, and that as much as possible the education process would occur at the family and church level. (MGS 1978: 197-199; read the full report)

In 1987, the Commission on Christian Action reported to the General Synod on the issue of pornography. Their report stated that congregations should support those laws that require store owners to display the fact that they sell pornographic materials, and that such materials be made separate and off limits to minors. Since pornography by definition dehumanizes the persons portrayed in its material, Christians must resist its presence. Pornography distorts the humanness of women and perverts the nature of the male-female relation, the very image of God (Genesis 1:27). The church cannot, in the name of "rights," defend those who produce that which engenders violence against persons. Pornography must be recognized as a symptom of a societal sickness, a phenomenon that cannot be eliminated simply by sophisticated laws or rigorous prosecution. Until the alienation between persons—the loss of the God given intimacy in which we are made to be human—is overcome, pornography will find fertile soil in which to take root. (MGS 1987: 56-57; read the full report)

In 2008, the Commission on Christian Action's report to General Synod included a paper titled "Pornography and the Internet." As the paper states, the Internet offers hundreds of millions of pornographic web pages, and this new availability has heightened ethical concerns. Studies show that there has been a huge increase in the number of people who access pornography and that a much wider cross-section of people, including women and children and many pastors, now obtain pornography. Because access takes place in the privacy of a home, people can avoid the social stigma that kept many of them from associating themselves with pornography in the past. The paper calls attention to the use of the Internet to distribute child pornography and as a tool for pedophiles and sexual predators to seek victims. It also mentions that Internet pornography is the main component of a new psychological disorder called "cybersex addiction" that has proved very difficult to treat. While acknowledging that fighting the multi-billion dollar porn industry with all its advocates and lobbyists is daunting, the paper concludes by stating: "Despair is not the appropriate Christian response...Some information regarding pornography is available, but most in the church are not aware that it exists and prefer to ignore the problems pornography is responsible for both in the church and in society. With all the information that is available, the church remains silent. It must, at a minimum, inform and educate its members. 'Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin' (James 4:17)." The commission concludes its report with a recommendation to have a denominational pornography awareness day, which synod approved. (MGS 2008: 223-225; read the full report)