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Be vigilant against pornography, Land exhorts Southwestern faculty

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP)–Seminary professors must guard themselves and prepare ministers to avoid the trap of pornography, the president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission said in a faculty retreat at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Aug. 15.

“If you were to ask me what is the greatest, most pressing challenge facing Americans today, I would say pornography, and I would say particularly pornography on the Internet because I believe it is destroying more than 4,000 lives a day,” Land said in an address titled “Critical Ethical Issues in America’s Society: An Update and Perspective.”

Land reminded the faculty that they are the ones responsible for educating our leadership on critical issues such as pornography, abortion and human embryo cloning so that they can, in turn, educate the laity.

If he had been asked during the past 25 years what was the greatest social issue facing America, Land said he would have answered “the challenge to the sanctity of human life” because some 4,000 babies have been aborted in this country every day since 1973.

Three years ago, he said he changed his answer.

Pornography is one of the great hidden causes of divorce and, thus, the decline of our society, Land said.

Some hours of the day the most significant activity on the Internet is on pornographic websites, he said, noting that it has grown to a $10 billion a year industry in the United States. “The material that until a few years ago was available only in the worst parts of the worst cities in America is now available to anybody anywhere in the country who is hooked up to the Internet,” he said.

“Because of the Internet, the average age of first exposure of American males to pornography has dropped from 14 to 8. I personally know of two 9-year-olds in counseling because of their addiction to hard-core pornography.”

Pornography, Land said, is a satanic distortion of human sexuality because, in part, “you become totally preoccupied with self-gratification. The most scary thing about it is that we now know that it rewires you physiologically and neurologically.

“Pornography, I can assure you, is in your church. It’s on this campus.” Land said he knows a sister seminary where at least two professors have lost their ministries, their wives and their families because of addiction to Internet pornography. “It is creating human tragedy every day.

“I believe that if there was ever an opportunity for us to be salt and light, this is it,” Land said. “Salt does everything it can to stop the degeneration and the rot of pornography. We have got to do everything we can to stop this spiritual and emotional toxic waste, this subterranean electronic river of slime that is just under the surface of our homes and under the surface of our communities. But we’ve also got to be light. We’ve got to tell the story of why it is that God created us as sexual beings and talk about what God intended for sex within the confines of holy matrimony.”

Land offered professors, ministers and others practical suggestions to help avoid pornography. Police yourself, he said. “Nobody needs to have private, unaudited access to a computer. In your home, computers should be in a semi-public place. No child should have a computer in their own room,” he said.

In addition to pornography, there are many things that are toxic to marriage in today’s society, Land said. It is much harder to have a good marriage today versus 30 years ago, he said, and thus seminary professors must train ministers to do a better job of nurturing marriages.

Land recited a long list of statistics detailing the benefits of marriage to men and women, children and society. Land said a 10-year study by Princeton University found that boys who grew up without a father in the home were 300 times more likely to get in trouble with the law and engage in socially and self-destructive behavior than those reared with a father in the home.

The recent study “Does Divorce Make People Happy?” by a University of Chicago research team found that married couples who describe their marriages as “very unhappy” are three times more likely to be happy in five years if they remain married versus those who divorce, Land said.

Today’s children “have seen the shipwreck that divorce has made of their parents’ lives, their grandparents’ lives, their aunts and uncles’ lives, their older brothers and sisters’ lives, and they don’t want that for themselves. And they don’t want for their children the trauma that they have experienced,” Land said. “Divorce is not a crisis that children get over. It is a trauma that has a continuing ripple effect.”

Seminary faculty, he said, need to do a better job of training ministers to insist on rigorous premarital counseling. “We need to help our pastors to understand that they need to set very strict guidelines before they go to a church about what their regulations and what their rules are on who they’ll marry and who they will not marry and under what circumstances. If the church is gonna give its blessing to a marriage, we ought to do all we can from keeping bad marriages from happening in the first place.”

Discussing the role of religion in society, Land said perhaps the most challenging ethical issue facing the church today is the debate over embryonic stem cell research and cloning.

He recounted that he was 14 years old when John F. Kennedy came to Houston and promised the Baptist ministers there that he would not let his Catholicism interfere with his oath of office and his ability to be president of the United States. Everyone at his church was so pleased when their pastor reported this. “That’s sad to require that a man jettison his faith having anything to do with his performance of his office in order to be considered qualified for the office,” Land reflected.

Also during the retreat, Southwestern Seminary President Kenneth S. Hemphill shared with faculty several critical needs in the life of the seminary community. “We’ve got to get serious about this lifelong learning strategy,” he told them. “Our goal is to create a lifelong learning strategy for our alumni, that they will come back on a regular basis, to upgrade and tune up, for laity that we can bring in, … and leaders across the community.”

Hemphill called “cutting-edge integration of learning and practice” another critical need.

“I think Southwestern’s distinctive has always been this integration of learning and practice, this integration of missions and evangelism with all of our curriculum across the board, that no matter whether you’re in music or education or counseling or theology or church history, that we’re always looking toward the fact that our people are going to be practitioners, and that they’re going to be effective when they hit the mission field or wherever they are.”

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  • David Porter