So I have to admit that Pamela Paul’s 2005 book Pornified: How Pornography is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families [link] is not deep into the bulls-eye either of my normal reading nor of what’s typically appropriate for this blog, but this is a topic I’ve been interested in for a while and didn’t know how to become informed about.
I think my interest started a couple of years ago when I heard pornography and its impact on evangelical marriages discussed on the Family Life Radio morning show. The discussion was both earnest and vague: there was an element of the story that went something like “pornography (nearly) ruined my marriage” but it wasn’t entirely clear how; there was an element to the story that suggested that God’s redemptive work in somebody’s life had somehow been important; and finally the solution seemed to have involved the husband being accountable to his wife in a way that sounded foreign to me as someone who comes from a background where families are defined in terms of authority, in particular male headship, and the very idea of a man being accountable to his wife in any way shape or form is anathema.
And then stories surfaced about a family friend and how pornography helped ruin his marriage. He had a job that required a fair amount of driving, so he rented a post office box in a town on his route, subscribed to some magazines, and was able to keep his wife from finding out about them. However, he gradually drew distant from his wife, started asking her to do things in the bedroom that she had no interest in doing, eventually asked her to do things that were described to me as “immoral,” and finally left her because he felt he was missing out on something and didn’t want to be a grandfather.
So when I read Paul’s book (remember that? This is a post about that.) it turned out that the story above more or less fits in with the case studies she describes of men who are described as having a porn problem: secret habits, neglect and mistreatment of girlfriends or family members, and some sort of crisis leading to easily recognizable sexual sin (e.g. fornication or adultery).
This sort of case study serves as the backbone of Paul’s book, with some variations. I’ll cover more of these in a later post. The problem with this perspective is that it focuses entirely on hazards to the consumer and ignores the harm done by the production of pornography. I don’t think this is surprising: as conservatives we tend to focus primarily on individual responsibility to the exclusion of cultural or structural problems; and frankly we don’t have a social conscience that would give us a way to talk about e.g. human trafficking.
Paul’s method is appropriate for the social sciences: anecdotes, case studies, surveys of same, opinion polls, and the dreaded social sciences experiments. She revisits some of the arguments that will be familiar to students of Moral Majority era conservative Christian social activism: i.e. pornography causes violence. She doesn’t look much at the exploitation of women in the pornography industry; I am guessing this is because there’s not much existing data, acquiring good data would be difficult and expensive, and she’s able to make persuasive arguments using the methods she uses and focusing primarily on the demand side of the industry.
Next: a rundown of the book itself. Stay tuned.
This is a short (17 minutes) Christian Coalition video from 1990, after Pat Robertson had made his run for the White House and decamped to Virginia Beach to … do whatever it was he did. I think it’s fair to describe the history of the Religious Right in three phases so far: Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, and Focus on the Family. This video is from that second awkward phase, when Pat Robertson ran for President and Ralph Reed was more or less the tastemaker until he ran aground due to his association with Jack Abramoff, and the Founding Fathers somehow became the Puritans, not Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.
It’s amazing how poor the production values were twenty years ago, and how it seemed reasonable to have Ralph Reed stand at a flip chart and talk about a quarter-million-dollar media buy as if it were going to change American politics.
It’s also interesting to see the overt attempts to get Catholics into the fold. Note in particular the real clinker Robertson lets loose when he refers to John F. Kennedy and the moon landing about four minutes into Part 2. Seriously; who wouldn’t see that as blatant pandering? I have to admit that in 1980 I couldn’t have told you the difference between Pat Robertson and Jim Bakker; I can’t believe that in 1987 that the average Catholic could have either. If there was a big “Catholics for Robertson” campaign in 1988 I don’t remember hearing anything about it.
I think it’s a crying shame there isn’t more of this sort of media available on the Web. This stuff is really valuable as either a guiding light or a cautionary tale, and it’s a shame that only People for the America Way has possession of this one.
Here’s a fascinating clip from Tomorrow Coast to Coast from 1980, showing viewer feedback after Sidney Sheldon had commented in a previous broadcast on the Moral Majority. Sadly the Sheldon episode that prompted these responses is not available on YouTube.
This is an eight-minute excerpt from a two-hour interview with Jerry Falwell done by Don Carleton on October 13, 2005 for the Archive of American Television project of the Academy of Television Arts & Science Foundation.
This is real bread-and-butter stuff for Jerry: it starts with a question about his 1965 sermon “Ministers and Marches.” I haven’t seen or heard this sermon, and I have only seen characterizations of it as being critical of Martin Luther King Jr. Jerry blames the content of the sermon on what he had been taught in Bible college: that religion and politics don’t mix. He name-checks William Sloane Coffin Jr. as an example of a politically-involved liberal Christian minister of the time, and suggests that the failure of Prohibition had caused conservatives to turn away from politics for a generation.
He says he changed his mind about political involvement about this time and suggests that civil rights was the first of several issues (he mentions abortion and bans on voluntary prayer in public schools) that he got involved in. He mentions something about “baptizing black families” and the strong negative reaction he got for doing so in passing, but it isn’t clear to me how this fits the overall story.
He jokingly says the religious right “may have gone too far” but doesn’t say how.
He says Abington School District v. Schempp (1963) (school prayer) as being a major contributor to the formation of Moral Majority, but that Roe v. Wade (1973) (abortion) was “the straw that broke the camel’s back” in galvanizing something: either his own determination to start a political organization, or the attitudes of the people who got involved in Moral Majority. He says he consulted “Francis Schaeffer and others” about getting involved in politics; that he first got involved by registering people to vote, but that hearing Ronald Reagan on the radio was a major turning point.
He tried unsuccessfully to get Reagan nominated (instead of the incumbent Gerald Ford) in 1976, and then formed Moral Majority in 1979; he says at its height it included 100 000 pastors and 7 million members, one-third of which were Catholics. It had four main points:
- Pro-Israel; rejects Christian Zionist label and claims he does not support Israeli government when it’s wrong
- Pro-family; says the divorce rate was 30-40% then and is about 50% now
- Christian education; says “we’ve started 50 000 schools since then”
And says the Moral Majority included Catholics, Mormons, and conservative Protestants.
Oddly, he says they initially “looked at John Connally” before settling on Reagan, and that Reagan galvanized Moral Majority support in Dallas in August 1980 with his “I endorse you” speech at the National Affairs Briefing sponsored by the Religious Roundtable.
There’s a lot here for just eight minutes; Jerry doesn’t look well, but he’s still sharp as a tack and rattles off a surprising number of facts, talking points, names, etc. in a short period of time, only stumbling when he tries to remember the Christian education plank of the Moral Majority platform. At first glance his Sixties timeline doesn’t make an awful lot of sense, and of course he doesn’t mention the Bob Jones-IRS case as being important. It’s interesting how often he mentions Catholics, and that he mentions Mormons and not Jews as being part of Moral Majority. Finally, a casual observer might be forgiven for thinking that the Moral Majority was assembled for the sole purpose of endorsing Ronald Reagan.
Do you remember where you were when you first heard about Koyaanisqatsi?
It’s a long-form art movie by Godfrey Reggio and a soundtrack by Philip Glass (an A/B mashup with DJ Shadow’s Endtroducing… is available on YouTube [link]). It’s a bit heavy-handed with its “the modern world is destroying itself” theme, and the references to the Hopi feel a bit stuck on, but if you can get past that it’s mesmerizing, especially since it incorporates a lot of what are now vintage crowd shots (count the obese people; there are very few), vintage pop culture references, and fair use samples of early Eighties television.
This is a ten-minute clip including most of the chapter “Microchips” and all of “Prophecies,” and starting at about 5:06 there are a couple of fascinating sequences: first of a boy playing the arcade game Defender, then a tightly edited, almost overwhelming montage of Eighties television. In about thirty-five seconds (from the start of the Defender sequence to the start of the sequence of the guy in the Harley-Davidson t-shirt and the mullet) you’ll see among others
- Linda Ellerbee
- Lou Dobbs
- Ed Asner
- Johnny Carson
- Burt Reynolds
- A clip of a Dallas Cowboys-Minnesota Vikings game
- Ted Koppel
- Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA)
- Howard C. Estep
- Jerry Falwell
- Sue Willmington
- Mack Evans
- Don Norman
Four of these last five may be unfamiliar if you didn’t travel in certain circles in the Eighties; Howard Estep was the host of The King Is Coming; he hosted this show for fourteen years, and was replaced in turn by David Breese and now Ed Hindson [link]. The title card for the show is very briefly visible before a shot of Dr Estep. The current show is available on TBN and elsewhere; the only outlet I’ve found for the vintage Estep show is WVCY-TV 30 in Milwaukee [link].
Jerry is very much his dark-haired Moral Majority self in this clip; Sue, wife of Harold, was the long-time deaf interpreter at Thomas Road. After a short interruption by a newscaster I don’t recognize the movie goes back to Thomas Road and shows Mack and Don, two of the three members of the Old Time Gospel Hour Trio (Robbie Hiner is missing as best I can tell).
At the moment this is my favorite obscure Jerry Falwell appearance, not least because it has apparently eluded the sharp eyes of the folks at IMDB.
Amy Gardner in the Washington Post is covering the Nevada Senate campaign, and offers this little nugget in the Reid vs. Angle race:
Most recently, Reid claims to have uncovered information that links Angle to an obscure political movement called Christian Reconstructionism, which holds that government should rule according to biblical law. [link]
I am surprised how common this tactic is: candidate X has religious right ties, so candidate Y accuses him or her of wanting to institute a theocracy, including slavery, levirate marriage, and death by stoning for adultery and disobedience. I think Gardner estimates the influence of Reconstructionists correctly. Joseph L. Conn at Americans United takes the usual tack on this issue by focusing on the author behind Reconstructionism, Rousas John Rushdoony:
However, Rushdoony’s overarching philosophy – that secular democracy is evil and that God’s law should prevail in today’s America – became the theological and intellectual framework for early Religious Right activists.
When fundamentalists flocked into politics in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s, they had few theorists to turn to. They had always believed politics was worldly, and true Christians should focus on converting souls, not running the government. Rushdoony insisted that God wanted them to take over society and crush the infidels (literally). [link]
This is a pretty good description of the tension between fundamentalists and evangelicals, politically, but I’ve never seen any evidence that Rushdoony was more than a fringe figure. The idea that he was important, had lots of influence, etc. is a recurring refrain among people who talk about Reconstructionism, but as best I can tell their story consists of one of two things:
- a bunch of anecdotes knitted together
- a claim that Rushdoony influenced Francis Schaeffer, who in turn influenced Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority/Christian Coalition cadre
Both of these surface in Max Blumenthal’s book Republican Gomorrah; see e.g. the interview with Blumenthal at Harpers, where Blumenthal states but doesn’t substantiate
Rushdoony is also important because of his influence on Francis Schaeffer.
This is something I see repeatedly (see e.g. here), but I don’t ever recall reading a quotation of Rushdoony by Schaeffer. When I was at Liberty we still held Schaeffer in high regard, and the rainbow-striped five-volume Complete Works was kind of a secret handshake when visiting someone’s house for years after I left, but I’d never heard of Rushdoony until Time Magazine name-checked him in an article about Howard Ahmanson, Jr (another supposedly influential Evangelical I’d never heard of).
And no, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a copy of Rushdoony’s The Institutes of Biblical Law in the wild. Maybe I just don’t travel in the right circles.
Google Video offers the full-length video of The New Clinton Chronicles, an expanded version of The Clinton Chronicles, a video by Citizens for Honest Government/Jeremiah Films/Patrick Matrisciana. Jerry Falwell partly funded and promoted the original 80-85 minute version of the film [Salon]; the only version I can find online is the expanded version, which runs about 111 minutes.
I really have no idea why Jerry got involved in this mess. The movie is mostly about corruption and drug trafficking in Arkansas in the Eighties and Nineties, with a passing mention of an actual Moral Majority issue (abortion) toward the end. Perhaps there was more mention of Moral Majority core issues (school prayer, abortion, freedom of speech for religious figures) in the original, but it’s hard to imagine where in the overall story they would have fit.
Lester Roloff was one of the most important men within East Coast Fundamentalist Baptist circles in the Seventies and very early Eighties (along with John R. Rice, Lee Roberson, Bob Jones, and Jack Hyles) and helped set the standard for the kind of civil disobedience that was part of fundamentalist culture between about 1970 (when the Nixon-era IRS notified Bob Jones University that it was about to lose its tax-exempt status) (link) and the founding of the Moral Majority in 1979.
In 1976 Roloff spent five days in jail for contempt of court rather than let the state of Texas license the reform schools (for lack of a better term) for boys and girls he ran under various names. Some kind soul has posted in its entirety the Roloff documentary Freedom’s Last Call on YouTube in seven installments. Here’s the first:
Among the charges leveled against Roloff at the time was that the homes overworked the kids, fed them a raw-food vegan diet, and used corporal punishment. The early segment focused on food is fascinating; this is a film produced by Roloff’s organization, but he comes across as awkward and uncomfortable.
This is a fascinating little time capsule, and I wish it were available on DVD. If it is I can’t find it anywhere.
As I was trying to fill in some gaps in my recollection regarding Faith Partners I stumbled across a reference to “The Falwell Game,” a short-lived bit of hacking/jamming/vandalism/what-have-you that I’d heard about from the other side and forgotten about.
The basic idea was for someone with time (but no money) on their hands to invest that time in wasting the resources of an organization they disliked. It exploited the fact that the target organization paid money up front for something (an 800 number, a “free gift”) and in exchange got contact information it used to target direct-mail marketing soliciting donations. The actor (perpetrator, activist, whatever) would call the target organization and either hang up and call again, thereby wasting the target’s money on 800 calls, or sign someone (real or bogus) up for the free gift that the target then wastes money buying and mailing. This only matters if each actor calls many times, or if there are many actors; otherwise the tactic is unlikely to make much difference to the target organization.
This surfaced in early 1986 in two communities: the punk community, where individual punks famously had no money and lots of time on their hands, and the gay community, which was relatively large and well-connected. Here’s a contemporaneous article by Bob Black from Boston Review of August 1986 describing how it spread via various punk zines:
“The Falwell Game,” which has been noticed by the mass media, is a marginals’ jape. Innumerable marginals’ ’zines published instructions on how to waste the Moral Majority’s money by calling its toll-free number and hanging up or, better yet, signing up as Faith Partners to get free Falwell Bibles. Later some gay papers picked up on the Game and Jerry Falwell’s threatening response was directed toward them. Even if the gays drop it, the sub-underground, which is as fat beneath Falwell’s notice as the earliest mammals were to the lordly dinosaurs, will keep it going.
Here’s another better-researched version from James Davison Hunter’s 1992 book Culture Wars:
Another example was “The Falwell Game” advertised throughout the gay community in 1986. See Eugene Curtin, “The Gays’ ‘Falwell Game’ is a Mean, Gloomy Business,” New York Tribune, 4 April 1986. This article was based upon an article entitled “Hey kids! Let’s All Play The Falwell Game,” Seattle Gay News, 17 January 1986. The object of the game was to “squander Jerry Falwell’s millions” by encouraging “players” to call his toll-free number repeatedly so that “there would be no calls getting through at all.” “Dedicated players” call the number and “pledge to become a faith partner, with the intent of not paying.” In return the caller would be sent a free Bible. By March of that year, the “Old-Time Gospel Hour” was getting roughly 50,000 harassing calls a month, costing the ministry about $2 million in phone calls, Bibles, other written materials, and postage, according to an Associated Press story, “Harassing Calls, ‘Crisis’ Plague Falwell Ministry,” Dallas Morning News, 31 March 1986.
I’ve also seen several items online where people claim to have actually participated in this back in the day and suggesting using against some contemporary target.
I remember hearing about several variants of this at the time, because of course this made for pretty good PR on behalf of the ministry inside the subculture. We heard about people using auto-dialers to keep the 800 number busy and about people sending e.g. bags of bricks attached to a business reply card. I wonder what the net cost to the ministry was: the numbers in the Hunter note are conveniently big and round, and are probably more sticky than they are strictly speaking accurate. It’s interesting to note that the list of items wasted doesn’t include staff time.
From the little bit I’ve gathered online the tactic died out because it was labor-intensive and because defensive measures, on the part of the phone company and postal service, mostly, proved effective.
Update: I might gently suggest that $40 per harassing call sounds a little high for a 1986 phone call, especially if a significant percentage of them were hangups. According to the West Egg Inflation calculator, that’s $77.23 in 2009 dollars.