In the process of tossing some old files (I love throwing stuff away), I came across some notes I used for a men’s meeting over a decade ago on the subject of pornography. It occurred to me that I have not heard much about this problem in the last few years and wondered why that would be the case. Would it be because we’ve finally gotten over it? Or men no longer struggle with it like they used to? Not likely.
Maybe it’s become so engrained into our culture that we have unconsciously entered into some kind of unholy détente with it. Perhaps we purposely avoid it because of our guilt. My wife said it’s so much a part of our entertainment that we no longer notice it. This pervasive influence has been called the “pornification” of America. But whatever the reasons for why it’s not on my radar, the problem of pornography remains.
Recent reports indicate just how pervasive pornography is in American life. Josh McDowell and the Barna Group, reporting on porn in the church, have revealed some alarming statistics:
• 21% of youth pastors admit to struggling with porn
• 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with porn
• 50% of pastors view porn on a regular basis
• 68% of church going men view porn on a regular basis
• 57% of pastors says porn is the most damaging issue in their congregation
• 69% of pastors say that porn has adversely impacted the church
• Only 7% of pastors say their church has a program to help those struggling with porn
Such percentages make it clear that this is still a problem, and one that I feel responsible to address. The Christian worldview holds all human life as sacred and deserving of honor and respect as God’s image bearers. Such regard extends to the bodies containing that life. William Struthers, in Wired for Intimacy: How Pornography Hijacks the Male Brain, points out the devastating spiritual, psychological, social, and biological impact of pornography saying, “It violates our unique position in God’s creation.”
Now, I’m fully aware that I cannot adequately deal with this topic in a single blog. Besides, there’s no shortage of material available to help those who struggle and honestly want help. But just in case you may have fallen victim to the rationalism that accepts this sinful practice as normal I feel I should share a few thoughts:
First, just because the taboo associated with pornography has lessened or been entirely removed doesn’t make it any less sinful than it truly is. The entertainment industry would have us believe it’s now normal and accepted. Yet, the principles of Scripture clearly teach that pornography is sinful.
The ancient Job said, “If my heart has been seduced by a woman, or if I have lusted for my neighbor’s wife, then let my wife serve another man; let other men sleep with her. For lust is a shameful sin, a crime that should be punished. It is a fire that burns all the way to hell. It would wipe out everything I own.” (Job 31:9-12)
Second, don’t fall for what Struthers calls the “definition dodge.” This is a semantic trick that basically says, “What you call porn, I call art.” But it simply is not true that pornography is in the eye of the beholder. This kind of intellectual dishonesty serves as a crutch to support the lame excuses men make for viewing pornography. Here are a few questions you need to answer to make the distinction between what art is and what is porn.
1. Are the women (or men) portrayed as people or objects?
2. What is the producer’s intention?
3. What is your motivation for viewing?
4. Would you be embarrassed if your wife caught you viewing it? (My wife added this one.)
Finally, you need to know that your brain is being sabotaged. I could tell men who fight their porn addiction to pray harder but that won’t alter their grey matter. This is a physical issue that impacts the biological functions of your brain; functions that God created in our sexual design for our good. It’s no longer enough just to pray, download a program on your computer, or join an accountability group. All those are great, and if you struggle with porn you should do them.
However, you need to begin training your brain to act on sexual impulses as God intends, within biblical marriage. This may require discovering the wrong ideas you have about yourself, your wife, and especially your God. You owe it to yourself and your family to get the help you need to break the habit and end the addiction. The Christian life is as much about what we do with our minds as it is what we do with our bodies, and pornography involves both.