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Fight against porn starts with the heart, new columnist writes
Credit: Comstock.
Credit: Comstock.

.- CNA's new columnist Matt McGuiness offers a different approach to the widespread problem of pornography through an “education of desire,” or examining what the human heart truly longs for.

“We really have to look within ourselves and see what it is that we want...Christ wants our hearts, he wants us to go to the depths of the questions that are deep within our hearts,” McGuiness said in Jan. 9 interview.

His series of three columns, called “A second look at porn,” will appear on CNA starting Jan. 15.

In his first installment, McGuiness critiques popular attempts at combating porn use, which tend to “focus on the moral question in isolation,” he says. Some of these methods include 12-step-type programs, sheer willpower or frequent confession without examining the root of the problem.

When Catholic speakers give bristly fire and brimstone talks on the evils of pornography, for example, McGuiness thinks they have failed to take the human condition seriously.

While certainly acknowledging the immorality of pornography – “for Pete's sake I'm not saying throw out the ten commandments,” he assured – McGuiness believes moralizing “tends to preach to the converted” and is neither attractive nor useful.

“The deeper question is, what is it that men are seeking? There's some lack...and pornography is a sign of that...it is a sign of our desire for happiness.”

McGuiness says he penned his new columns in the hope that “people would just be more honest” about their struggles with pornography; a now multi-billion dollar industry that continues to skyrocket as internet availability increases worldwide.

“What I hope, is people would be open to seeing that porn is just a symptom of a deeper need that's in everyone's heart. And that's the desire for happiness. If we take that desire for happiness seriously, I think porn loses its allure.”

This focus on happiness – or, human flourishing which everyone hopes for – is the means which can help men to overcome the allure of pornography, McGuiness holds.

“If we take the comparison of here's what I want, and here's what porn offers, it's a simple question...do I desire my happiness or don't I? And if I do, porn can't help me, but in a sense is just a distraction from that, and then it loses its attractiveness.”

McGuiness maintains that while this “education of desire” involves a risk, “the risk is lesser than the danger of not taking desire seriously.”

“Desire, is a curious thing. If you follow it willy-nilly, it takes you to all kinds of dark places. If you try to suppress or deny it, it comes out and bites you on the butt; so I think the only way to deal with it is head-on.”

The education of desire, McGuiness says, is inspired by the Gospels and “involves staying with the question, 'What do I want?'”

He recalled the episode in John's Gospel in which two disciples of John the Baptist followed Christ, and he questioned them, “What seek you?”

“I think he does that with us,” McGuiness reflected. “I look at the Gospels and I don't just see a historical record. I see that this is how, because of the Incarnation, God deals with men.”

“There are archetypical moments that are present in our lives, and are opportunities, and I think porn is really an opportunity to say, 'What do you want?' Christ is asking guys, 'Really, what do you want?'”

Ultimately, an encounter with Christ's beauty is what can tear men away from pornography, McGuiness believes.

“Encountering the gaze of Christ, whether that's through Adoration or a conversation with a friend, and I make the comparison of what Christ offers and what porn offers, its obvious: Christ is the answer.”

McGuiness also says his approach reflects a sound theological anthropology, grounded in the creation account of Genesis.

“We're made in the image and likeness of God. And if that's true, then the things I desire are connected somehow with that. Yes there's sin, but we're not Calvinists...it's not as if the divine image has been totally annihilated or pulverized, we're wounded.”

Flight from all desire is not characteristic of Christianity, but of far eastern traditions, the columnist noted. “If I say what I have to do is suppress all my desire, then I'm becoming a Buddhist; if not in name, in fact.”

“Because if desire is so dangerous it has to be suppressed, what I'm really saying is, Christ can't save me,” McGuiness added. “It's too much, he can't handle my lust. He's too weak.”

“But if desire comes into the light of day, then you can have a conversation with it, and say, 'What are you after? What is it you really want?'”

Tags: Pornography


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