It’s the foundational concept of today’s multi-billion dollar advertising industry. What’s in front of our faces stays in our mind. Everybody know’s this is true. It’s a concept thousands of years old. And yet some Christians still play with fire and make excuses thinking it doesn’t apply to them.
Ezekiel 14:3 “Son of man, these men have set up idols in their hearts and put wicked stumbling blocks before their faces. Should I let them inquire of me at all?
4 Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: When any Israelite sets up idols in his heart and puts a wicked stumbling block before his face and then goes to a prophet, I the LORD will answer him myself in keeping with his great idolatry.
5 I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel, who have all deserted me for their idols.’
“You’re being too judgemental Warren.” “It’s not illegal, he needs some fun.” “Everybody needs something.” “It’s totally normal.” “The Bible doesn’t say that you can’t watch those sorts of movies.” “There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Pharisee.” “You should be more loving.” These older women were really laying into me. By this stage I was half way into my Theology degree, but was surprised their responses mirrored what would have been the same from the secular feminist theologians.
“You’ve watched them before, and it didn’t do anything to you” pipes up the former offender once he knew that he had the support of the women in the group.
But I noticed the other 2 former offenders were staying deathly quiet, almost as in shock. We were sitting around in a lounge, mid 2013, part way through our Wednesday night meeting for prison ministry. The purpose of this group was to help former sex offenders reintegrate into society, from a Christian perspective. Child sex offenders. I’d been asked to join this particular group several years earlier because I was a Christian who was the same age as the former offender. Somewhat ironically, if you stuck the two of us side by side, those who didn’t know always picked me as the offender, and him as the support person. Maybe it was my limp, missing teeth and scars. But we were there for a purpose that night, and as far I was concerned, things were not going well.
Over the previous couple of years I had got to know this guy fairly well, being the same age we’d had many of the same experiences growing up, the same rejections, similar heartbreaks, and many of the same choices. Before I joined this group I had all of the usual preconceptions about Child Sex Offenders that most people have. They’re mentally ill, they can’t help it, they’re retarded, there must be something wrong with them. But I noticed that, as we had spent time comparing our lives, we had had many of the same opportunities with drugs and alcohol and women, the only difference was that I just made different choices. While I hadn’t always been a Christian, throughout my whole life I have had this crazy notion of settling down with a wife, 2.5 kids, white picket fence, and a dog. And I have sort of tried not wasting too much time chasing pleasures that didn’t fit that picture. But although this guy held that as a dream, he hadn’t ever actually started working towards it. He’d always been the type to seek pleasure now. But with his criminal record, he had become shy to introduce himself with women, which was a part of the reason why he sought pleasure in younger girls. We’d talked about it a lot, and I’d heard every excuse from him. But at the same time, I noticed that he did develop relationships with women in his church and his workplace, and he had a couple of crushes, and got on good socially with them. He’d had physical relationships with older women and enjoyed them! His excuses were simply that. Excuses to take the easiest route. It wasn’t that he was only attracted to children. His reasons will be dealt with more in a page called Theology of a paedophile.
So I was there to help him reintegrate again, and I was happy to do it. I’d had similar struggles with self image etc, and had got through them, and after several business disappointments in life, I had started again with nothing. Several times. I knew that I could help. Though connections at church we had got him a job, he already had a PARS apartment, and WINZ was paying his phone expenses still. And for several years he had been coming to this Wednesday night group, which was support and encouragement with a Christian flavour, and a Friday night social group that I ran. I’d spend at least 6-10 hours a week with this guy, and the others. He enjoyed the fuss he got from us all.
However it was clear to me, after several years, that he was in a rut. He was not moving forward. He still had his walls of his apartment lined with DVD’s and videos of movies with child stars in them. Films like Bring It On, the Sound of Music, almost any DVD that had child stars in it, he collected. I’d spoken to his probation officer about these, and she said it’s OK because it’s not illegal, and he needs some release. I quizzed her about the legitimacy of him ‘releasing’ to young children, and she reiterated that there was nothing Corrections could do. I spoke with the prison shrink. He agreed with me, but thought that we’d try a different approach. And the former offender told me that he had the Spring Break DVD. Hey this wasn’t kosher!
Now I am a guy, and I know how images and video’s affect guys thinking. I’d once had the Spring Break DVD’s too, or at least one of them. The whole advertising industry is based on getting images repeatedly before us. I still remember the Coke Is It slogan from the 70’s. And at the 2016 Promise Keepers, while talking about how images take hold of us, the guy asked for a show of hands how many of us could visualise Janet Jackson and her snake (a centrefold from the 80’s). My hand went up, as did many others. The younger guys didn’t have a clue what was happening. But at the time Janet Jackson and her snake were major news. Hung in workshops, bar toilets, offices, garages. The image sticks. This knowledge of repetitive brand marketing has been around for thousands of years. We keep our idols in front of our faces. Pictures in our wallet, posters on our walls.
There were several steps that I went through to get rid of porn form my life, and the first was actually getting rid of it! Delete if 0ff of hard-drives, backup drives, throwing out DVDs, video-tapes, posters, everything. I’ve always had adblockers, so never had the pop-up issue that some guys have. Once you have got rid of it, there’s nowhere to go when you feel you need to, the next step is to train yourself to think on other things when you get to that space. But I’d been through all of this many times with this former offender, but he still wasn’t prepared to go that first step. But, at Church, and on Wednesday nights with the support group, he was the super spiritual Christian. He had lovely prayers, a testimony that had everyone focused on him, and give him a lot of sympathy and empathy and love. His life was no harder than any other guy’s life was growing up. If anything, I thought that he had been spoilt.
So at this meeting I brought up the issue of watching these children’s videos. These were the idol’s that he was filling his spare time with. His face fell immediately. His secret was out. He looked hurt, and all of the women in the room jumped in to his defence.
“You’re being too judgemental Warren.” “It’s not illegal, he needs some fun.” “Everybody needs something.” “It’s totally normal.” “The Bible doesn’t say that you can’t watch those sorts of movies.” “There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Pharisee.” “You should be more loving.”
Yeah, that’s fine, they won that night. I wasn’t there to try and argue against my own Christian ministry group. They were very loving, and very motherly. Just like they thought Jesus was. I was not going to get to throw any tables in the Temple that night. But where does this story end several months later?
His sentencing report, available as a link on the page above, reveals a number of dangerous issues. While he has evidently told the Judge this was not pre-planned, I knew that he had been around to his friends house the evening previous and told them he wouldn’t be around for a while because he was going to ground. His offending was pre-meditated. He had been swimming many times before, and we’d all seen how badly sunburnt he got because he was fixated on watching children in their togs. The report didn’t acknowledge that he was watching child videos at home the last four years, even though I’d notified his probation officer face to face. This indicated to me that he was no different than before. The report says that he showed remarkable insight. Of course he did. He knows exactly what he was doing, and these guys know exactly how to play psychologists. Many have told me that. They are not going to say anything that would lengthen their sentence, and yet they know they have to ‘give them something’ some secret, usually an extra unknown offence, to prove they are cooperating with treatment. From our conversations, and even the magazine article that he brought to show me, I know Paul is looking forward to a day when it is legalised. I was around at his place one day when he was on the phone to his mate in the next room. He’d forgotten I was there. Church was something that he had to do for parole. And yet, when he is with Christian women, he is mournfully repentant, and the perfect Christian. Plays the Christian system so well. Unbelievably dangerous, those idols we keep in front of our faces.