The world is a blurry place.
I feel like the lines between right and wrong, dark and light, good and bad, used to be more obvious.
Words like “Christian,” “porn,” and “addiction” would not have been used in the same sentence just a few decades ago. But, in this post, we want to bring them together and shed light on a serious issue in the church today and how church leaders have a unique opportunity to help their people who are looking at porn.
(Here you can get a sneak peek at our answer to creating a more open, grace-filled culture at your church. But, don’t miss reading the rest of this post too.)
The Difference Between Right and Wrong Was More Obvious
“Those videos” were in that other section of the store. “Those movies” were only available at the XXX store downtown or late at night on HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax (and only rich kids had those channels). “Those people” only hung out in that part of town. Far away from the protective shield of the “Neighborhood Watch” program operating in my neighborhood.
Most depravity had some sort of physical barrier or access, distance, or cost that prevented most people from being exposed to its seductive pull. Finding it required an element of intentionality.
The Internet changed everything. The Internet took the far away, the forbidden, the hard-to-access, and the expensive, and made it accessible, affordable, and relatively anoynomous. No barrier to entry. No passwords. No limits.
Our postmodern culture also changed everything. Objective truth was replaced with factual relativism. Morality based on an absolute truth was replaced with morality that adjusts to fit the views, experiences, and feelings of every person. No one is wrong. No one is right.
Therefore, it’s hard to tell the difference.
Even Israel Lost Its Way
The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). These are actually God’s words. He is talking specifically about the nation of Israel.
Israel had become a nation where darkness was pronounced as good. For the nation of Israel, the fade from clear to fuzzy (and downright backward) happened slowly. As king after king strayed further and further away from God, the nation followed. The fade to darkness happened so slowly that people didn’t realize they were in it. Everything seemed normal to them. They had so completely accepted the abject, the detestable, and the abnormal, that even evil seemed like it was good. Even darkness seemed like light.
America seems to be following suit. Increasingly, our nation accepts the loud voices of those screaming, “Evil is good! Good is evil!” Those who call attention to the darkness are often bashed as ignorant, intolerant, and old-fashioned. According to a blog written by Sunny Slope Church of Christ:
“Standing firm on righteous principles is portrayed as extreme, even eccentric.And most of the righteous among us seem to contribute to the problem by simply saying nothing in opposition to what is happening. We sit on the sidelines watching, but doing nothing to stop the digression.”
Church, where are you?
Are you a church leader who feels like sexual sin represents every other issue you deal with in your church? If so, download some quick help through our e-book, Fight Porn in Your Church.
Porn Companies Are Winning the Cultural Battle–Here’s How
Most American young people believe that looking at porn is no big deal. Data gathered by Barna in 2016 supports this assertion, as teens and young adults ages 13-24 rated not recycling as a greater societal issue than watching pornography. How did we get here? What deliberate steps were taken to move our moral tolerance from split, single beds for Lucy and Ricky to a time where minors are depicted partially nude in Abercrombie’s fall catalog?
They’re winning the attention battle.
One of the web’s largest pornographic websites publishes annual figures to brag about the quantity and types of porn consumed on its website. On the surface, what they are doing to brag about their statistics is horrifying. But, it’s genius for their cause. It gets attention. When you’re a porn company, all attention really is good attention.
They’re winning the nice battle.
The same porn company that publishes their usage statistic has campaigns that attempt to help people and the planet. A few examples of marketing efforts used by porn companies include:
- For Arbor Day, they planted trees once a viewer watched a certain minimum number of pornographic videos, using the campaign, “We give America wood.”
- One porn company hired plow trucks, put magnetic stickers with their name on the side, and went through neighborhoods plowing driveways for free in Buffalo, NY, under the campaign “We get you plowed!”
- Popular porn websites are creating sex education forums (“Human beings were made for sex! We’ll show you how! Aren’t we helpful?”).
Imagine the children out building snow forts in the yard, saying to each other, “Hey, that’s really nice! We like those trucks!” as the Pornhub plow truck goes by. A dark seed has been planted.
They’re winning the cool technology battle.
Consider this excerpt from my blog post titled “Pokémon Go and the Evolution of Porn“:
“Not surprisingly, the porn industry has quickly boarded the virtual reality train. Pornhub is the largest pornography distributor in the world, with over 3 million videos, and over 60 million daily visitors. In March 2016, it launched a free virtual reality channel, the first in the porn industry, where viewers are invited to a growing library of free 360-degree trailers.
Through Pornhub, smartphone users are treated to virtual reality videos optimized for both Android and iOS, playable through most virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard.”
This same site has taken the popularity of Snapchat’s image filters and invites users to use them on nudes. Snapchat is the most popular social media platform among teens and young adults. The more that the digital porn ecosystem mirrors their favorite digital ecosystems, the more normal porn becomes.
They’re winning the needs battle.
Similar to social media companies, creators of digital porn are highly educated on the emotional needs of its consumers, and they are creating pornographic experiences to meet these deep needs. I wrote this about what porn companies know about our emotional needs:
“One VR porn creator spoke about the emphasis virtual reality porn puts on creating an emotional connection with the viewer through actual conversation. She said the “closeness” of VR porn makes fostering emotional intimacy easy. Further, she noted the desire for companionship is a big part of the adult industry that’s often overlooked, and that VR porn provides companionship that 2-D screens just can’t compete with.
Closeness. Intimacy. Conversation. Companionship. These needs are imprinted on every human soul. Our brains are wired to reward experiences that satisfy these needs.”
Ultimately, their goal is to inject porn in so many parts of regular life that it just feels normal. I heard a millennial recently say, “And porn is now seen as another rung on the sexual ladder.”
Want to learn more about how porn impacts your brain? Download Covenant Eyes’ free e-book, Your Brain on Porn, and learn five ways digital pornography warps your brain and three biblical ways to renew your mind.
Christians and Porn–We Need the Church!
What you just read is the porn narrative. “Normal.” “Cool.” “Helpful.” What is the counter-narrative? In most churches, it’s silence. And, in the silence, young people fumble around, desperately searching for sexual identity and finding it one click away. They’re finding it through the lens of YouTube, social media, and often through pornography.
Like wearing a dirty pair of glasses, watching pornography causes our view of sex to be fuzzy. Similar to the old days of watching a TV show with a misplaced antennae, you can partly make out the image, but it’s blurred and distorted.
We need the Church to be a clear voice. We need the Church to not just tell people why pornography is bad, but why God’s ideas are the best thing for us.
In April 2016, Ron DeHaas, CEO and Founder of Covenant Eyes made this bold statement in front of 900 church leaders, “The Church must take the lead in cultural change.”
4 Specific Steps for the Church
1. Reject the “me” narrative.
People love to come to church to be “fed.” While on staff in a local church, I noticed the prevalence of the “feed me, do what makes me feel good,” prosperity attitude. People have been chasing self-fulfillment for centuries. At the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, after indulging in every luxury imaginable, King Solomon came to this humbling conclusion:
“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).
In other words, we must counter the narrative that human beings need sex to survive. Instead, they need Jesus. Are we constantly reminding people that the only true satisfaction comes from Jesus Christ? Are we teaching our people that we were created as spiritual beings before sexual beings? We need more of HIM. Not more of IT.
2. Treat sin as sin.
How many times did you learn in Sunday School that all sin creates separation? Yet, many of us have placed sexual sin on the throne as the “queen mother.” After all, have you ever seen an addiction recovery group for greed or pride?
It was C.S. Lewis who said this in Mere Christianity:
“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasure of power, or hatred […] That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”
Well said, Mr. Lewis. Does church leadership exude any amount of bias, spoken or unspoken, toward sexual sin? Examine the sermon illustrations. Examine your own gossip. What do people whisper about? Are there recovery programs in place for a multitude of issues, including sexual sin, that invite participants to be open, authentic, accountable, and judgment-free? Is the pastor leading by example with open and honest sharing about his or her own struggles?
Yes, we must shine light in the dark places where porn consumption and sexual sin thrive, but maybe it’s a light with the same lumens as the light we shine on laziness and gluttony.
3. Explain the “why” behind the “no.”
Historically, the church is wonderful at giving a list of “thou shall nots!” but not so skilled at explaining why God’s plan is abundantly better.
In the case of sexual addiction and porn consumption, the Scriptures clearly scream “flee from sexual sin!” but now a growing list of scientists and activists show us why pornography harms so many people (list adapted from The Porn Phenomenon).
- Porn erases human dignity.
- Porn says people are property to be consumed.
- Porn represents TAKE. Love represents GIVE.
- Porn presents a picture of sex that is carnal, aggressive, and often unrealistic.
- Porn preys on the vulnerable (including children) and by design or accident incites sex slavery and human trafficking.
- Porn is cruel, degrading, misogynistic, and distorts expectations of both masculinity and femininity.
- Porn rewires human brains and porn users show all the common markers of addiction.
How could your church embrace science and culture as a means of furthering conversation about pornography instead of simply shutting it down?
4. The Bible encourages God-honoring sex. So should the church. Talk about it.
In Genesis 1:27-28, we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Later in Genesis 2:23-24, there is a sense of excitement and oneness that leads me to believe that sex was intended for more than just making babies. The very design of our male and female bodies points clearly towards a physical form that just works well together.
Church leaders can talk opening about sex and pornography, showing the chasm that exists between God’s plans for oneness, unity, enjoyment, and giving and porn’s lies of distance, secrecy, consumption, and taking. Silence from the pulpit and from parents to their kids actually whispers “this is dirty, naughty, and bad” and points curious little minds toward the endless pages of Google’s answers to the question, “What is sex?”
Churches must be willing to tackle tough topics. There’s no passive pastoring in the digital age. There are too many competing, twisted, digital voices. And, many of them, like the temptations of Israel hundreds of years ago, may even look and sound pretty good.
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