“Love conquers all.”

Three words in a longer sentence, and an even longer paragraph and story. The words are about porn, for short; about the problem of pornography and the way that it rewires the human brain, to say more. For example, “Repetitive viewing of pornography resets neural pathways, creating the need for a type and level of stimulation not satiable in real life. The user is thrilled, then doomed.”

Teaching young adults as I do, I assume a problem with pornography. It is not that I ask about it, but that I choose to explore the meaning of sexuality as a way into the rest of life, we do spend some time on porn, and the ways that it skews the mind and heart, soul and strength, of everyone.

With care I offer an essay by Naomi Wolf, “The Porn Myth,” from the New York magazine, warning my students that they have to be so very careful putting the word “porn” into a google search. In the essay, she writes about the irony of pornography, that the more exposure one has, the less one is interested in honest, face-to-face, flesh-to-flesh sex. She is a good writer, and she makes her point persuasively, even if it is a very sober, hard-to-believe point.

The above quote is from an article in the Wall Street Journal. While honestly looking at the problem that porn is for younger people learning about love and life, there is a miss before all is said and done. The author writes about a porn addiction clinic in Utah, where “teetotalism” is the cure, and where pornography problems are seen as “brain failure.” Neural pathways are messed up and need rewiring, simply said.

I will say this: we are never less than our neural pathways, but we are always more. We are brains, and our brains do work in certain ways; but we are also human beings, and more mysterious and complex than our brain functions. As Walker Percy never tires of saying, “A person can get all A’s and still flunk life.”

It made me think of the novel and film, “A Clockwork Orange.” A violent criminal is finally captured and is chosen for a new behavioral therapy in prison. Strapped to a chair while the most horribly violent images are shown on a screen, he “learns” to vomit in response. The question the author explores is this: does he lose his humanity if his responsibility is removed? Much more could be said about this.

The WSJ article concludes:

“This rehabilitative mental process, it turns out, is a lot like the one we use when we fall in love, getting over one person and meeting someone new. First we “unlearn” old pathways, cutting and rewiring billions of connections in our brain. Then we make fresh ones. So, in a way, love actually conquers all—even porn. Please tell the nearest teen.”

Love conquers all, huh? If we are only talking about “brain failure,” then love has nothing to do with it. Like B.F. Skinner saw a generation ago, if we are rats in cages—and he believed with all his brilliant mind that we are –then we must stop talking about freedom and dignity. At our best and at our worst, we are determined, “the fix is already in,” and no choices are possible because choice is itself a fiction.

Love requires more, because it only makes sense in a universe where we can choose… to love or not to love.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323628004578456710204395042.html?mod=itp

The Professor of Marketplace Theology and Leadership at Regent College and Director of Regent’s Master of Arts in Leadership, Theology, and Society program, Steven is the founder of The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture in Washington, D.C.

Meet Dr. Steven Garber