Wednesday, August 10, 2016

A Land Flowing With...Porn and Heroin?

Being a minister means being an observer of culture. Kind of like "people watching" at the airport, but in a more comprehensive (think societal) and spiritual way. Which is why I am interested in two cultural insights making the rounds right now. 

The first is the announcement of a Barna Group research project called The Porn Phenomenon, (you can read a summary of the 150-page report here) -- a new nationwide study about pornography. It is a massive research project examining teenagers, young adults, and Americans in general as well as ministers and youth ministers – more than 3,000 interviews in total across a range of questions. The results of the study are sobering and support what many of us already suspected...that pornography is a HUGE problem. Do read the summary here to get up to speed. Take home for ministers is that we have a problem with porn, as do our church members, and there needs to be biblical, helpful teaching on biblical sexuality which takes into account the prevalence of porn in the sexual lives of our people. We have to help people beat this addiction and understand that pornography use is sin.

The second item of note is our country's HUGE (there's that word again) heroin (and opiate) addiction. The faces of heroin include the young, middle-to-upper class and suburban. It is THE major drug problem in the United States. What was once thought of as an inner-city problem is now a national epidemic and heroin use is showing up everywhere, including high schools. The reasons for the rise of the epidemic are very interesting, and are chronicled in a significant newer book titled Dreamland: The True Tale of America's Opiate Epidemic by Sam Quinones. To get a flavor for what Dreamland records, you can watch the most recent 60 Minutes segment which focused on heroin use in small-town America. They focused mostly on Ohio. What's so striking about it all is how pervasive the problem is and how many folks around us are likely affected by it. Case in point, one of the young women interviewed - a fresh-faced young suburban Ohio woman and recovering heroin addict who told 60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker about shooting up in the high school bathroom. Her name is Hannah Morris. It started with pot, then went to pills, then to smoking heroin, then shooting it up:
Bill Whitaker: So you were what, 15?
Hannah Morris: Yeah. And I was like, oh my gosh that was amazing.
Bill Whitaker: You remember it even now?
Hannah Morris: Oh yeah. Let’s say I’ve never done a drug in my life. I would normally be happiness at a six or a seven, at a scale out of 10, you know. And then you take heroin and you’re automatically at a 26. And you’re like, I want that again.
Hannah says the heroin was so addictive that rather quickly she and several other students went from smoking it at parties to shooting it up at high school.
Hannah Morris: Like, doing it at school in the bathroom.
Bill Whitaker: A syringe?
Hannah Morris: A syringe. I would have it in my purse, all ready to go.
Why the interest on my part? Because I want to reach our culture with the gospel, to see the captives set free in Jesus Christ. And this is us. A land flowing with milk and honey but also porn and heroin. And not only are these medical and addiction problems, they are ultimately spiritual problems. If this is the country we've become, what will the Church do?