Schwyzer: A Defense of “Moralistic Sermons”

Hugo Schwyzer reclaims the concept of “moralistic sermons” for what they are at their best, compassion guided by wisdom…

I’m a big, big proponent of fighting most social vices by reducing demand first…

Smoking has been greatly reduced in this country. Yes, higher prices for cigarettes and greater restrictions on where one can smoke have played a part, but the real source in the drop in cigarette consumption has been the growing awareness of just how bad tobacco is for living creatures…

…in the internet age, there is growing evidence that online porn addiction is bringing devastation and heartache. There is growing evidence that as with cigarettes, there are few “casual” users… The porn industry makes its money on those who are willing to run up credit card bills, stay up late at night on the computer, and often compromise their social and romantic obligations in order to hunt down the next exciting image of a stranger (usually young, poor, and female) unclothed…

Now, I like me the occasional moralistic sermon. A good sermon — delivered either in secular or openly theistic tones — challenges people to think about themselves and their behavior in a radically new way. A good sermon doesn’t have to be modeled on a William Wigglesworth or a Jonathan Edwards. It can be modeled on a Dr. King, who had a clear and compelling way of delivering uncomfortable truths to an overly comfortable audience…

Sermons alone didn’t change America’s attitudes on race. Sermons, backed up by direct action (often including civil disobedience) did…. A good sermon — which can be given on the blog, in the classroom, in a casual conversation at work as well as from a pulpit — inspires people to believe that they can do what they had not previously believed was possible… A good sermon, filled with anecdotal and research-derived evidence about the effects of porn on families, about the effects of the industry on those who are its “stars”, can really begin the process of changing hearts, changing minds, and more to the point, changing behavior and spending habits…

The way to put an industry out of business that profits from exploitation and degradation is through taking away their customers, one at a time.
And we do that by changing their hearts. And we change their hearts by holding them accountable, by refusing to accept or enable, by lovingly challenging them. I’ve seen it work in my life, and in the lives of friends of mine. And that’s how I intend to keep fighting against pornography.

See also:

Commerce, Addictive Products, and Harm: Lessons from The Cigarette Century

Porn is a product that addicts
many, often with consequences that can be dire (loss of family, loss of
job), affect innocent parties (abuse, molestation, secondary effects),
and take a long time to manifest. During this time, the addict
generates handsome profits for the companies that perpetuate his

The industry, not surprisingly, aggressively protests the notion that
its products cause harm, or argues that any harm is solely the
responsibility of the consumer. It objects to the slightest
regulations, such as adult-use zoning, as impermissible restrictions on
an individual’s choices.

Protest Pictured in Gazette; Letter Criticizes “Moral Police”
Defenders of the porn shop like to dismiss objectors as “moral police”,
but the evidence of the harm of porn to porn workers, consumers and
communities is strong and growing.

Shame, Not Always a Bad Thing
Shame is a natural and healthy emotion when you are in fact doing
something wrong, something shameful. To be shameless is to act without
regard for the interests of others, to be heedless. A sense of shame,
like a sense of physical pain, can guide you to interact with the world
in a healthy way…

We say that profiting from suffering,
such as Capital Video and the Goldbergs are proposing to do at 135 King
Street, is shameful, and should be publicly known and criticized.
Movies and magazines that encourage viewers to use and dump women, to enjoy tying people up regardless of how they feel about it, are shameful. Movies that promote despair about marriage and celebrate cheating are shameful. Fighting a small town (Kittery)
over a well-documented health hazard (private viewing booths) is
shameful. Locating a large porn shop next to homes, schools, mental
health counseling centers and houses of worship, despite the well-known
risks of secondary effects, is shameful.

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