The internet has made a tremendous impact on the world and how things are done. Some of the impact has been good, such as improved communication. But it has also brought an ugly side – the skeleton in the church closet. Nobody wants to talk about it. I’m talking about pornography. When someone says that pornography is not a problem in the church, I have to question their contact with those in the church.
The internet has brought into every home what was once only available in adult stores or in trash cans and hidden stashes. I know many guys from my Christian high school, my churches, my college, and even the Focus on the Family Institute who have struggled with this evil. These friends do not come from unchurched backgrounds, but from “good families.”
According to the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families publications, “Studies show boys ages 12-17 are among the primary consumers of porn – a major source of their sex education.” In a small survey of Christians at the Focus on the Family Institute and a separate youth group, I found that the average age of exposure to internet pornography was 15, which is a bit higher than the national average. This is due to the fact that a large number of those surveyed were around 20 years old, and the internet came along during their teen years. The average age for first seeing a pornographic magazine was around 11.5 years. The most interesting part to me was that, among the males, 64 percent had at some point purposely viewed pornography.
According to one internet source that deals with the issue of pornography, “At one Promise Keepers event, 50 percent of the attendees admitted to dabbling in porn during the previous week.” This is a problem that is not just outside of the church, but one that is hitting churches from the pew to the pulpit.
So why are we not addressing this problem? The church is called to bring healing to the hurting. I was motivated to write this article by a strong passion and burden that we must start to deal with this dangerous problem that is attacking those in the church, and targeting continually lowering ages. Before we can try to minister to those around us who are struggling with this issue, we must first model healthy sexuality in our own lives.
Part of being able to deal honestly with this issue is to have an understanding of the addiction to pornography. We also need to understand biblical sexuality. There are many levels and types of pornography. Fundamentally, “pornography is anything you can see, read or hear that’s designed to cause sexual arousal, including magazines, books, movies, music, computers, etc.” The most accessible type of pornography is found on the internet. However, the same principles apply to all sources of porn. Knowing that porn covers a wide variety of media, you and I must not think that pornography only affects a select few. Instead, we must realize that nearly everyone is affected. Many who simply stumble upon pornography slowly develop a gradual desire for more, and if not dealt with early on, it can consume the person and change his or her thinking about sexuality and the opposite sex.
There are five basic stages that one goes through when addicted to pornography, according to Dr. Victor Cline . . .
1. Early exposure – Most guys who get addicted to porn start early. They see the stuff when they are very young, and it gets its foot in the door.
2. Addiction – Later comes addiction. You keep coming back to porn. It becomes a regular part of your life. You’re hooked. You can’t quit.
3. Escalation – After awhile, escalation begins. You start to look for more and more graphic porn. You start using porn that would have disgusted you when you started. Now it excites you.
4. Desensitization – Eventually, you start to become numb. Even the most graphic, degrading porn doesn’t excite you anymore. You become desperate to feel the same thrill again, but can’t find it.
5. Acting out sexually – At this point, many men take a dangerous jump and start acting out sexually. They move from the paper and plastic images of porn to the real world.
The stages of addiction show that it is a progressive addiction, much like an itch. It starts small, but over time the itch needs more and more scratching for it to be satisfied. Those who struggle with an addiction come from all types of homes and backgrounds, even those that look totally healthy on the outside.
The Bible says we are to guard our hearts (Proverbs 4:23). We are not to look lustfully at another person (Matthew 5:28). We are to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:19).
Every church has a closet. And today, more than ever, in that closet there is pornography. We can ignore it. But that won’t make it go away.
About the Author
Tim Roberts is a frequent writer for Focus on the Family. He writes on marriage and family issues, offering hope for the contemporary family under attack from modern culture.