These are troubling times. Chaucer once queried "If gold rusts, what then will iron do?" and he was worred about ministers. So am I. I train them and deal with them day in and day out.
Its not just that pornography has over 400,000 of its own websites, the number one subject matter available on the Internet!!! Its not even that lots of people in the church struggle with pornography, and a large percentage of sexual misbehavior can be linked to pornography. In fact one survey says that senior citizens are the fastest growing porn market and increasingly women are viewing porn on the net. One statistic says it was up 33% among women just in the last year. These are serious problems in themselves. Those same stastics show that one in three women in the church have been sexually abused on their way to adulthood. All these are serious problems that deserve to be addressed,but what I am concerned about in this posting is pastors themselves and pornography.
One recent poll shows that 51% of all ministers admit to having at least occasionally looked at pornography on the net, and some 37% admit to having a problem with this matter. If you don't believe me, you should pay a little visit to the website www.xxxchurch.com. We were fortunate enough to have Craig Gross (an appropriately named minister when it comes to this subject) visit our campus this week. He and a fellow youth minister run this website and have a bold ministry to people who struggle with pornography, even going to porn conventions, setting up a booth, handing out Bibles and talking to people about the help the Lord can bring into these situations. They have come up with some frisk software for computers that will alert you, and also your chosen accountability partners when pornography has shown up on your computer and been viewed. You can download it for free, and they provide other resources as well to cope with this pandemic. Frighteningly enough, there are not many churches talking about this whole problem, at least not in public. There are reasons for this.
One reason is that since many pastors themselves struggle with this issue, they also are frightened to talk about it to anyone, much less from the pulpit. Let's be clear, being a minister can be one of the most lonely professions on earth in various ways, not least because it is hard for a minister to have a private life of any kind. Since so many ministers are on duty 24/7 and have little time to nurture there own private and personal family relationships they are in some ways as susceptible if not more susceptible to the temptations of pornography. Ministers have emotional needs, and too often they are being met in immoral ways.
Secondly another reason this is not much being discussed in church is of course, one can get fired on the spot if you are a minister and have this problem. In other words, most ministers know there is 0 tolerance for this in the church, and hence the code of silence. Instead of leading to more accountability this leads to cover up. And accountability, not just to God but to other believers is crucial with this problem because it is a dengenerative disease and it is addictive-- very addictive. In fact a case can be made that it is more addictive than alcohol or tobacco.
Thirdly, pornography, even today is overwhelmingly a male problem, and overwhelmingly it is males who are pastors, unfortunately. Few have thought about the fact that this in turn means that we might well expect a higher incidence of pornography use by pastors than by the majority of other church members, for that majority tends to be female in almost every church! Yikes.
In my own tradition there is a fourth problem. Wesleyan Christians believe they can and should be 'going on to perfection' or at least making progress towards entire sanctification. I once counseled a Nazarene couple who could not admit to themselves they had marital problems of any sort because they were both 'entirely sanctified'. Alas, it was not so. Perhaps especially in my tradition coming clean about and from pornography is very difficult.
And then too the problems which are linked to pornography are equally huge-- child abuse, spouse abuse, adultery, promiscious sex of all sorts, sexual harassment of women, rape, sodomy, even beastiality and we could go on. Pornography simply feeds the lust for these sorts of activities, imprinting images on the brain that are often 'unforgettable' according to the psychology experts.
And of course times have changed. We used to have something of an honor and shame culture in America, but we do not much have that any more. There is no taboo in the general culture about any sort of adult porn, and even within the church there is much less shame associated with this activity than there used to be. Pornography destroys marriages and ministries right left and center. It is not simply a problem of theological liberals.
I remember being horrified when an elementary school teacher told me that she had had a class where she asked the children to be prepared to come in and tell the class about their heroes. One little girl came up before the class and began telling her fellow 4th graders about various people whose name rang no bells for the teacher. The teacher quickly Googled them. She discovered they were porn stars, and that the little girls parents had been watching XXX stuff together with their children as a family entertainment venture!!! Craig Gross today told us about a man he drove to the peniteniary in Boston recently. This man was a devout Christian and a person who worked with children and was in the process of adopting a child. Unfortunately he was caught with child pornography and is now serving five and half years in jail. He lost his marriage, his job, and he lost most of his Christian friends and support network. There are so many of these sorts of tragic tales out there.
What can be done about this problem vis a vis pastors? Here are several starter suggestions: 1) download the software from the above mentioned website; 2) find one or hopefully more accountability partners who will keep the matter confidential but will hold your feet to the fire. 3) Disclose to them the full extent of the problem. These partners should not primarily be members of your family; 4) there are organizational meetings like Pornographers Anonymous one can attend; 5) Remove anything from your house that triggers your use of pornography-- even if you have to do something drastic like getting rid of your TV or computer. "Tis better to cut off your hand and enter the kingdom maimed than......" 6) If necessary, have someone else control your discretionary income, and monitor your time. If you don't have the money and the time and the means, you have eliminated some of the major things that allow one to develop this addiction; 7) Nurture your Christian spiritual life by being so involved in deeds of piety and charity that you have no time for such nonsense. 8) Work on nurturing your healthy Christian relationships, especially healthy sexual relationships with your spouse. A lot of what sets someone down the road to pornography is an emotional sexual void or gap in one's life.
Pastors, consider this your wake up call. Jesus is watching to see how you will respond.