The Golden Calf of Pornography

One of the very first Bible stories you may have learned growing up in Sunday School was one of Israel’s notorious lowlights: The Golden Calf. The short version is this: Moses went to the top of Mount Sinai to receive The Ten Commandments on tablets of stone (the Israelites had already heard them verbally after one of Moses’s previous trips up the mountain), and while there, God tells him that the people “have corrupted themselves” by making, worshiping and sacrificing to a golden calf and that Moses had better hot foot it back down the mountain. After pleading with God to spare the Israelites from total annihilation, Moses heads down the mountain and back to camp where he is met by complete madness.

The Israelites had indeed asked Aaron to create gods to take over where they believed Moses had left off. To appease their request, Aaron said this,

…“Break off the golden earrings which are in the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.” So all the people broke off the golden earrings which were in their ears, and brought them to Aaron. And he received the gold from their hand, and he fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molded calf. Then they said, “This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!” Exodus 32:2-4 NKJ

Once the calf was made, Aaron built an alter for it and declared a feast “to the Lord” scheduled for the next day.

The Israelites woke “early” (I sense excitement), offered burnt and peace offerings, ate their feast and rose up “to play”. (The word “play” here has a sexual connotation to it.)

It’s at this point that Moses returns to the camp to find the calf and the “playing”. He reacts by throwing down the tablets, burning the calf, grinding it to powder (mixed with water) and making them drink it.

He then turns to Aaron and in today’s vernacular rhetorically asks, “What is wrong with you?!”

Aaron plays it fast and loose: giving the gist of the story while leaving out important details and passing himself off as a bystander of sorts. He claims he merely said, “Whoever has any gold, let them break it off…so I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out.” He fails to mention that he specifically requested the gold from the women and children and that he had taken the time and effort to “fashion it with an engraving tool” using his own two hands.

This is where things are quite shocking. Moses looks and sees that “the people were simply running wild…disgracing themselves…” (Exodus 32:25 The Message) The King James Version says, “the people were naked” and the NIV says they were making themselves “a laughingstock

So Moses orders the Levites to go throughout the camp and slaughter about three thousand of the unrestrained men (notice it just says the men).

Here is what I see in this story:

  1.  The Israelites didn’t care if the golden calf was the real thing (God), it just needed to stand in as the real thing.
  2. The “delivered you from Egypt” declaration, the feasts, and the offerings were acts of worship that belonged solely to God, but given to the calf.
  3. They took from their women and children to construct the calf.
  4. Even though this is the first instance of idolatry for the Israelites, the debauchery hits a fever pitch of frenzied energy that continues even after the calf is gone (burned and drank); the people were still out of control.
  5. Regardless if the women and children were or were not consenting to relinquishing their earrings or to the sexual immorality that followed, once the calf was made, it was the men that were held responsible.

Are you seeing what I’m seeing? By the title, I think you know where I’m going with this: pornography is one of today’s golden calves. So let’s address each of these similarities in order.

First, porn is not authentic: it is a dangerous and sleezy imitation of reality; a travesty. Everyone knows that watching porn does not mean you had sex anymore than the children of Israel thought they were actually worshipping the God that delivered them from Egypt. No need to belabor this point.

Second, our bodies are God’s first (1 Cor. 6:19) and our spouse’s second (1 Cor. 7:4), therefore pornography is an usurper; it claims territory that rightfully belongs to someone else.

My third and main observation is that you will have to exploit women and children to get it.

As the Israelite women were given gold earrings by God (You can catch up on that on your own in Exodus 3:20-22 and Exodus 12:35-36) when they came out of Egypt, so God gives all women worth. Technically, you can’t take that from her like they did the earrings, but you can dismiss and abuse it.

When you want to use a women’s body but ignore her soul, you have parsed her personhood from her person and stripped her down to nothing more than generic anatomy. This makes her a cheap commodity; common and banal – easily used and cast off, and there is no value in that.

I love what John Paul II said:

“There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.”

Women are also made in the image of God; she is a monument to Himself. This too makes her highly regarded: a cherished treasured. And because women intrinsically show the creation their Creator (Gen.1:27), exuding volumes about the God she is mirroring, pornography is therefore a vandal: a portrait of God that is raped, ravished and trashed.

But please don’t miss that they didn’t just take the women’s earrings, they took the children’s too. Children are the most vulnerable of any society and are always the first to be victimized – neither idol worship nor pornography are an exception in this regard. Take a look at these disturbing statistics.

  • More than 20,000 images of child pornography are posted on the Internet every week (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, 10/8/03). More babies and toddlers are appearing on the net and the abuse is getting worse. It is more torturous and sadistic than it was before. The typical age of children is between six and 12, but the profile is getting younger (Prof. Max Taylor, Combating Pedophile Information Networks in Europe, March 2003).
  • Approximately 20% of all Internet pornography involves children (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement. Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2003).
  • Teenage girls now make up the biggest slice of viewable porn. Which by definition is considered trafficking.”

Onto similarity number four: Porn doesn’t end when the visual stimulus is over. Once the hooks have sunk in, a poisoned sex drive and unquenchable fixation take over. The calf got them so worked up that they couldn’t or at least didn’t stop; on and on they went. I can’t say they were addicted, but I see they were no longer in control, which is much like the acutely formed habit that comes with pornography.

So ironically, this is the point where it all comes back around. While porn is degrading to women, it demeans men too. Pornography warps men into predators with an appetite instead of protectors with a conscience. It downgrades their own God-given heart and role in society as honorable heroes and respectable leaders to sleazy cheaters (Matt. 5:28) and seedy addicts. Pornography makes men something they were never meant to be: a deadened shell of a man operating on instincts and dirty complusions; a vessel of self-reproach and shame.

And finally, pornography is (like any other industry) fueled by demand. I don’t think anyone would argue, as a rule, men (virtual johns) create that demand. To meet that order, other men (directors, producers, camera crews, pimps and traffickers) are creating the supply to fill it. So pornography exists because of men. Obviously there are some consenting women making it, (although the connection between pornography and sex trafficking is surprising (see here))but men are the driving force behind it and I believe the ones that will be held responsible for it.

So what do we do with this? So what if there are similarities between The Golden Calf and pornorgraphy? It’s important because the prescription in dealing with them is the same. Times are different, culture’s change and Satan’s tactics have to do some adjusting (then it was a molded piece of gold and today he’s has gone digital), but his purpose remains; that we would devastate ourselves and victimize those around us with anything (porn or idolatry) that can take the place of God. And since the purpose is the same, the antidote is too.

As Moses took this idol worship offense very seriously, we need to follow in his footsteps. Romans 8:13 says,

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.” KJV

See that? “Mortify”. Be uncompromising and ruthlessly aggressive concerning evil. Deal with porn like Moses dealt with the calf: figuratively burn it and drink it – treat it like the cancer it is.  We need the men of this world to bankrupt the system one less click of the mouse at a time – it is the only way this industry will suffocate and die. The women and children of this world need them to step up and be the knights they were intended to be. So we ask, “Will you?”


“Porn will not make you a better man. It will make you smaller. It will make you a liar. It will kill that instinct inside you that calls you to protect and honor women. It will turn you into something you never wanted to be. It will turn you into a sneaky, shameful pervert.” Matt Walsh

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