Writer, editor, stumbler after Jesus

My porn habit

EVERY TIME IT’S over, I promise myself that I will never do it again. The rush of emotion fired by watching the intimate encounter fades, leaving me feeling like a skeezy voyeur. But then I happen across another tempting online link and I’m pulled back into my porn habit.

My philanthro-porn habit, to be precise. That’s when you get a buzz from watching other people do good things. And I have to admit, I’m a sucker for a good old sob-fest video of candid kindness; a recent Super Bowl-related one comes to mind.

But, in my sober moments, the lure of hardcore handouts leaves me with a few questions. First about some of these people who post videos of themselves do-gooding. I know it’s not for me to question other people’s motives, but I am going to. What’s all this, Look at how noble I am act about?

Haven’t they ever read Jesus’s instruction that “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:3)? Or that those who do their religious thing in public “that they may be seen by others . . . have received their reward” (Matt. 6:5)?

So, yes, there’s the argument that sharing acts of care for others to see might have a multiplying effect. It can be a way to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb. 10:24). And there have been times I have seen something good and thought, Hey, I can do that too.

But if multiplication is the only motive, then why don’t these people film someone else doing the good works, rather than getting someone else to film them doing acts of kindness?

And I wonder how much the multiplication thing really pans out. Maybe, just as porn can diminish actual sexual activity with another, philanthro-porn can satisfy a desire for goodness without having to offer any of your own.

Then there’s the question of the recipients in these videoed acts. Are they given waivers to sign? Or is their complicity assumed; that they don’t or won’t mind being exposed in their need, whatever it might be, because they are getting some food or a pair of shoes in return?

This is an age-old issue for media professionals: how do we address exploitation and abuse without further exploiting and abusing the victims? However, in the age of social media, when everyone’s a would-be journalist or videographer, it’s one for each of us to wrestle with.

I’m struck by how few of the people who “help”—or are “helped”—in the New Testament are actually identified. There are some exceptions, but we know most of them only as the poor widow, the lame guy, the blind fellow, the Centurion with lots of faith, the woman caught in adultery, or the kid with the packed lunch.

Why the anonymity? Is it because God doesn’t want them to be belittled because of their need? Or to become big-headed because of their generosity?

Much as I recognize the draw, I can’t help wondering whether, just as porn cheapens lovemaking, the watch-me-give-them-the-money shot of philanthro-porn cheapens kindness. Some naked moments aren’t for broadcasting.

Photo by Woopi on Foter.com/CC BY-NC-SA

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