Earlier this month, four Republican members of the U.S. House sent a letter to the U.S. Attorney General recommending that he declare “the prosecution of obscene pornography a criminal justice priority,” and that he advise U.S. attorneys to start prosecuting the “major producers and distributors of such material.”
The Congressmen point out that as a candidate, President Trump signed an anti-pornography pledge stating he would enforce federal obscenity laws to stop the explosion of pornography. “This pledge has so far been ignored in the Trump administration,” they note, “with the result that the harms of illegal pornography have continued unabated, affecting children and adults so acutely to the point that 15 state legislatures have declared that pornography is causing a public health crisis.”
The letter, and its endorsement by some social conservatives, sparked a backlash from many people on the political right. A large number of conservatives and libertarians (including some who consider themselves followers of Jesus) are complaining that regulating or banning pornography goes against their political principles* As New York Times columnist Ross Douthat sardonically responded to the anti-ban conservatives, “Whatever happens in the legal/cultural battle over porn itself, I’m quite confident that the claim that ‘obscenity laws are un-conservative’ will eventually sound like gibberish to everyone save scholars of late-20th-century American political arcana.”
Remember When Christians Hated Porn?
What is most shocking about the shift is that is anti-ban position is either held by or silently supported by many Christians. That wasn’t always the case. Evangelicals, in particular, once considered it our duty to prevent the spread and normalization of porn.
For example, in 1976, evangelicals were scandalized that a presidential candidate would agree to be interviewed by Playboy magazine. As Jerry Falwell, a Baptist pastor and co-founder of the Moral Majority, said in 1981, “Giving an interview to Playboy magazine was lending the credence and the dignity of the highest office in the land to a salacious, vulgar magazine that did not even deserve the time of his day.”
Forty years later, though, many of those same evangelicals (including Falwell’s son) supported a presidential candidate who not only was interviewed by that publication but appeared on the cover, made a cameo appearance in Playboy’s…