Matt Walsh, We've Got a Problem
At the end of last week, I had the grave misfortune to read this article by Matt Walsh. In its essence, the article is a scathing condemnation of porn users, and a prediction of the terrible activities some (read: many) of them will engage in due to the alarmingly corrupting nature of porn. I include the link out of a vague notion of fairness, not because I think anyone should ever actually read it. It's taken me about a week to process my feelings about it. Admittedly, before this article, I'd seen Matt Walsh's name here and there, but I didn't really know who he was. After reading this article, I found this short bio on The Daily Wire, an online publication for which Matt regularly writes: "Matt Walsh is a writer, speaker, author, and one of the religious Right's most influential young voices. He is known for boldly tackling the tough subjects and speaking out on faith and culture in a way that connects with his generation and beyond."
"Matt Walsh is a writer, speaker, author..." Fine. I can live with that. I sincerely hope the rest of that bio is false, however, because I have a problem with Matt Walsh - specifically, I have a problem with how Matt Walsh handles tough topics, like porn addiction, terrorism, and mental health. In fairness to Mr. Walsh, I read some more of his articles. I didn't want to judge him based on this one piece alone, in spite of the fact that this issue is close to my heart. One other piece in particular stood out to me, which you can read here, if you must. The article was written in response to the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, TX, and it makes the argument that our country, and our world by extension (because whatever seems to be true for America also seems to be universally applicable), does not just suffer from a mental health crisis, but a spiritual crisis. And it's the spiritual crisis of American life that should receive the bulk of our focus.
And here's the thing - on this point, I don't disagree with him. In fact, on a lot of points, I don't disagree with him. I wish I did. It would certainly make it easier for me to be angry with him, and Lord knows I don't like to work harder than I have to. But I don't. I completely agree that our country is facing a massive spiritual crisis, and that it is the responsibility of the church located in these very temporary United States to be on the front lines of addressing that crisis. 100%. Here's where I differ from Matt Walsh: if I was going to bother to make the distinction between the mental health and spiritual health crises that are currently impacting our country, I would also provide my audience with some steps to take to make a difference in both.
Matt's article contains 1038 words. Of those words, only the final 13 are devoted to how to address the spiritual crisis. Just 13 words. That's just over 1% of the whole article. And they're not even particularly helpful words in this context. Walsh writes, "And there is only one antidote that really works. His name is Christ." Again, I 100% agree that Christ is the best and only medicine to cure a spiritually sick world, and it sure feels good and spiritual to read and say those words - but I'm willing to bet that most of Matt's readers already agree with the sentiment they express, too. For those who don't agree, or for those who do agree but maybe aren't well-versed in evangelism, discipleship, church culture, etc. - how exactly is Christ the antidote? What does it mean for Christ to be the antidote? How does one get their spiritual hands on this antidote and share it with others? It's this last question that particularly occupies my mind, because almost every article Matt writes is an indictment of someone, and I can't find a single example of him being genuinely interested in actually demonstrating the love of Christ to those he's indicting.
All of this brings me back to the first article I mentioned. In the article, Matt describes the negative impact of pornography on the brain, the social life, one's understanding of what sex is and is for, and society. It also describes some of the kinds of perversion that porn addiction can lead to: namely, sexual assault, rape, and murder. And - again - I struggle to disagree with him. Porn does have a profoundly negative impact on users, and it does contribute significantly to other kinds of sin - sin that destroys individuals and families every day. And that is a true horror that we must all reckon with. In fact, I would even take Matt's argument one step further, and say that porn itself is a perversion in the strictest sense - it is an effort to take something beyond its original intent and corrupt it.
That being said, that article contains 1150 words total. Wanna guess how many words of that article are dedicated to helping porn addicts improve their lives and leave porn behind? Zero. None. I could speculate why this is - maybe Matt thinks porn addicts are a lost cause, or maybe he just doesn't care about helping them, or maybe he thinks helping them is somebody else's problem, or maybe (to give him the benefit of a doubt I'm not convinced he's earned) he intends to expand on this idea by writing a lengthy companion piece on how to help the porn addict in your life. But I don't think any of these are the real reason. I think the reason Matt Walsh says nothing about how to come alongside porn addicts is because, as a writer, Matt does not deal in hope, in kindness, or in love. Matt's trades are anger, fear, and self-righteousness. Matt would never presume to impress upon his readers a responsibility to make the world better - such an inconvenience would be too heavy to bear, he fears, and so he simply complains loudly and harshly about the things he already knows that his readers fear or dislike. This is a kind of subtle, evangelical whining: self-enforcing, negative, and ultimately useless.
If you or someone you love has struggled or is struggling with a porn addiction, there are a few things you should know. One - you are a sinner before God, as we all are. But God in His infinite love and wisdom sent His Son, Jesus Christ, down from their perfect, infinite existence together to the Earth, to be born, live perfectly, and die, as a human being, so that His life could be the sacrifice that paid the penalty for all of our sins. All you need to do to accept this sacrifice and the offer of eternal life and permanent forgiveness for your sins that comes with it is confess the truth of it in prayer. Then you can live your life according to the good will and commands of God, changed and made new. Two - you can find healing from your addiction. You can be free from its impacts and the hold it has on you. Three - your experiences with porn can be redeemed as you empathize with and help other people trapped in the same struggle. Four - your addiction is not a sentence. Yes, it has negative consequences. One of those consequences is how pornography affects the brain. But each individual has the God-given opportunity to turn from sin and start afresh. You aren’t doomed to a life of criminal activity. Five - there’s help. Recovery is a long, difficult process and no one should do this alone. If you’re local to the Warsaw area, we’d love to journey with you towards freedom. If you’re not local, we’d love to connect with you long distance or help you find a local resource.
And at the end of the day, here's the thing. All Matt Walsh needs to do to turn that around is to devote as much time to what we as Christ followers can do to impact the world in His name as he does to what's wrong with the world. It's not a hard task, in and of itself. Matt Walsh is a great truth speaker - and so I'm fine with him being an author, writer, and speaker. But the Bible calls us to do more than speak the truth - it calls us to speak the truth in love. Love, by definition, is self-sacrifice, and though it may seem that Matt Walsh takes a bold and brave stance on tough issues, the truth is that it costs him nothing to state these sharp-barbed opinions in front of a crowded internet throng that already agrees with him. I hope that one of two things happen: either Matt adds love to his truth, or he fades as an influence on his generation. Begrudgingly, I'd prefer the former. Humanly, I could live with either.