Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Pastors and Pornography-- A Dirty Little Secret

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.

38 comments:

bobbie said...

thank you ben - i am a woman, a former youth pastor's wife and a recovering sexual addict.

i have blogged a lot about my own addiction and recovery. i was one of those girls you mentioned who was raped and sexually abused as a child. it left me very confused and ill prepared for life as an adult.

i realized that i had no tools to deal with my addiction and shame and the church gave me less than any help in coming to grips with this. i was shamed and shamed myself and it drove me into years of addiction and depression.

i know that the hope that i found came in the form of the 12 steps. these are biblically based tools we can use to deal with our shame and break through to a life that is capable of intimacy and real relationships.

it saddens me that most churches are terrified to touch this issue. i believe there is an epidemic in our pews (and pulpits) and the very thing we should be propogating (relationships, community and healing) is being twarted by the shame of sexual addiction.

pastors forced to keep friends and family at arms length to keep their secret lives secret signal to all they shepherd that keeping on the mask is necessary and important to participate in the congregation.

i have a theory that i will blog on tomorrow regarding the cause and effect this has brought to the kingdom and how it can be extricated from our midst.

i pray this can be helped. i fear it is partly the seminary experience that creates the distance between the heart and the head that deepens the void and the need to have it filled with the false intimacy that pornagraphy brings.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Bobbie for sharing. I don't think seminary always has that effect. We here live by the motto where head and heart go hand in hand, and integrate spiritual formation into everything.

Blessings,

Ben

pornstudent said...

I think if a minister thinks porn is a sin and he can't stop looking at it then he should start looking for another job.

Mark said...

Thanks for a painfully true post. We ministers are definitely susceptible to this, and I've had many seminary friends who've struggled with it. In fact, I haven't known a single male person who--in a setting where they could be honest--DOESN'T struggle with sin of this nature. In the church, we are way too far behind in combating the problem. Down the road from where I preach, in a little country church, a man got fired for saying "sex" in the pulpit. How can we fight an enemy that we won't even acknowledge? Somehow, by the grace of God we are going to have to make strides in this battle, because we're currently losing it big time.

bobbie said...

i didn't mean to paint all seminary training with the same brush - i know there are people doing good work out there. i just fear that there is far too much disconnect at times.

Ben Witherington said...

Pornstudent:
It s not a matter of thinking porn is a sin--- it is. Period.

It is an objectifying of someone else's body which you have no right to be intimate with, even in or through pictures. It involves treating a sexual person of sacred worth as a sex object-- treating a she or a he as an it. It is always wrong. This practice has no redeeming features, socially or otherwise. It is especially demeaning to some of the most vulnerable persons in our society and preys on their vulnerability and desire to be loved and appreciated.

Human sexuality is too beautiful a gift from God to trash it in this way, and demean it in this way.
It does not matter if someone has put themselves on display. We should politely refuse to look and so avoid the double sin of exhibitionism followed by internet or any other kind of voyeurism.

Too often pornography is the resort of a person who simply can't manage the hard work of having a real relationship with a real person that involves respect and modesty and love. Our culture is so screwed up, pardon the pun, that it mistakes being in heat for being in love. Its not the same thing.

And as for the pastor who has troubling stopping the viewing. There is human help and also the grace of God, which can change a person internally as well as their overt habits.

Blessings,

Ben

Dee Dee Warren said...

Ben, that is a bit misleading from what I understand - the poll rated ministers that even accidentally viewed porn. Think that is impossible? Not with google searches which frequently turn up porn on even innocuous searches and there are sites that have pornographic ads on them (so called dating ads) that one would not necessarily expect (i.e. on non-porn sites). If we are going to indict our pastors we ought to be accurate about it, we do enough wrong without positing things that are not accurate. I have the source material for this if you would like.

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Dee Dee:

There are several of these studies, all of them not good in their results. I am not talking about accidentally viewing porn. That was not the subject of the study quoted this morning in chapel here. Of course it is unfair to lambast anyone based on faulty evidence.

However, I have to tell you-- I am afraid that such studies are only dealing with the tip of the iceberg. Many people, especially pastors, will not disclose their behavior even in a blind study. I know because I talk and counsel with them.

Ben

Dee Dee Warren said...

Hello Ben, a thoughtful post on this issue was posted at the TheologyWeb forums here:

http://www.theologyweb.com/campus/showpost.php?p=1632231&postcount=19

I think that was a helpful analysis. I don't believe the statistics you quoted have hard and reliable data behind them, and I think we ought to be careful in that regard. If your point is that Christians are sinners and porn might be a problem, agreed. However if you are going to make this a mammoth problem in the church there has to be more than our own anecdotes, this is the Body of Christ we are speaking of, and though self-loathing is in vogue with some (no I am not suggesting that is you at all) we must be responsible.

I do think it is a problem we are humans, but I do not think it is the problem represented. I don't believe that out of every two male pastors I meet, one of them has a porn problem of some degree. What good is the Holy Spirit to our lives?

Ben Witherington said...

Dee Dee-- fair enough, but even if the percentages are way lower, it is way too many. God expect better of us.

Scott said...

As a third generation Nazarene, I can testify to the "code of silence" that comes from (having to give) a profession of "entire sanctification.

I remember growing up with the distinct awareness that I wasn't supposed to admit I was wrong/bad/sinful. That was, ironically for a denomination focused on proclaiming scriptural holiness so that people could live it, taboo.

I say no more than to say that we have to address this issue--and more broadly, the issue of sexuality in general. I find it odd that we in the church don't address (or very rarely address) a subject that is in our faces 24/7 in Western culture. The same could be said for money. Is it our tendency towards an gnostic Christianity that keeps us there? Jesus is interested in my soul going to heaven--not necessarily my body that wants sex.

What does a Christian spirituality of sexuality look like? One that proclaims the goodness of creation and the goodness of sex?

Thanks for the wake-up call Ben!

Ben Dubow said...

Thanks for posting this Ben.

XXXChurch is a great ministry!!!

We hosted PornSunday at our church last year and it led to great things! I highly recommend that every church do this.

I suspect that one reason many pastors are uncomfortable bring Porn Sunday to their churches is because of their own struggles... all the more reason to do it!

The XXXChurch guys are the real deal and a great resource to churches and the Kingdom!

Trierr said...

Professor Witherington,

Thanks for posting on porn. In my last men's group, I guy from my Sunday school class showed up one morning. He talked about hearing me talk about the enormity of the problem during class. Sadly, he never dealt with his addiction to porn until his wife left him, her faith and her dreams shattered.

I personally agree the problem is bigger and more pernicious than most want to admit. It is one of the most powerful addictions I know of. I have friends who have kicked alcoholism and cocaine addiction, but still battle with porn. Unfortunately, we as the Church often don't really know how do help people in the fight.

The one thing I would ask you to consider is that it takes more than accountability, it take community/fellowship. It takes a healthy embodiment of intimacy. (Isn't that what koinonia is supposed to be?) We have to learn how to heal our view of intimacy. And sadly, pastors are unlikely to have healthy, intimate friendships.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Trierr:

I quite agree with you entirely about the issue of real community and koinonia....

Ben

Jerry said...

Hi Dr. Ben,

It is a travesty that we have had to deal with this 'dirty little secret' alone for so long, and even more sad that there are churches that are unwilling to recognize the problem in their own backyard.

One of the several comments you made regarding healthy relationships led me to recall Henri Nouwen and his book 'Reaching Out.' It is a solid book about movement from lonliness to solitude among other sprirtual movements. Nouwen (and not to forget Thomas Merton) had a lot to say about developing healthy relationships in regards to combating lonliness and, further, neediness in the soul. I think some of our addictions do come out of an unhealthy connection with those we mingle with and more importantly, those we call our closest friends or our lovers. I think that once we learn to deal with our lonliness, which is no easy or quick task, we (as men) will begin to understand how to live in harmony with God's most beautiful of creations, woman.

I hate to say that its not enough to fight the fight at the surface (although a good start, i.e. nixing internet, TV and other various media outlets.) We need to learn how to be content alone and confident in ourselves and our relationships with others, and ultimately, God.

Thanks for a great post. It is not often to see a scholar use an academic outlet to make the body aware of the church's 'dirty little secret.'

signed
a currently struggling servant.

Shea said...

Blogs like this " was, is, and wil" be needed, if I can put it like that. We have to remember that thigs like X-3watch and accountibility are only tools to help the problem cease. I must finally come down to complete humility, vulnerability, trust, and brokeness with God and friends.
My friends and I were talking about this tonight in out cell-group (small group for my fraternity). We concluded that we must be willing to get in each others lives and allow each other to get in our own. We must dig deep and pull up all our junk.
The only answer that seems to fit is a filling of hunger by the God of the bible. He is present and near. He feels our pain and understands our hurts. He shour, he made us!
We must also be sure to have a biblical balance in our views on sexuality and how it works. All forms of sexuality are not bad just because they are abused. God made sex for a reason with boundaries, not to hold us back, but to protect us, because he loves us.
May we embrace the good (1 Tim. 4.4). Don't throw the baby out with the bath water. haha!

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks Shea and Jerry: I entirely agree with what you say. Nouwen, Merton, Buechner, Peterson they all help immensely to get one's head on straight about dealing with loneliness and one's stuff.

Blessings,

Ben

Neil said...

Ben, thanks for doing a great job of tackling a tough subject. I applaud churches who have ministries dealing with this problem.

If our vocabularies consisted solely of words we heard in worship service or Sunday School, would many of us even know what "pornography," "abortion" and other controversial words mean? It's as if we pretend they don't exist.

I read somewhere that before the days of extensive travel and TV most people would see a dozen or so beautiful women in their lives, and of course they were mostly clothed. Now the average person is assaulted with hundreds or even thousands of images and real people every day via TV, billboards, church(!), and more.

Terry Hamblin said...

I find it difficult to know how to take this subject. I am not convinced that reliable statistics on how common the problem is exist, but being human I am pretty sure that every male and most females have to wrestle with the problem of inappropriate sexual activities or fantasies. The very mention of porn attracts a prurient interest. Pornographic images are used by advertising firms to sell their wares, and they continue to do so because it works; this is the human condition. It would be foolhardy to deny that pastors have the same reactions as everybody else.

On the other hand, pastors must condemn pornography from the pulpit, which opens them up to the charge of hypocrisy.

The second problem is that, because we are hard-wired to be interested in sex, we tend to magnify sexual sins and belittle other sins. I find that Christians are often mean-spirited, proud, gossipy, ungenerous, unkind, tax-dodgers who enjoy breaking the speed limit in their automobiles; yet these sins pass uncommented on.

The truth is that we are all sinners and fall short of the standards set for us by Jesus, or even for ourselves. Hurrying on to perfection is what we ought to be, but my impression is that those who are spiritually mature are more concious of their sin not less.

Not for nothing did Jesus condemn the man who commits 'adultery of the heart'. I suspect that the man who believes himself free of that deceives himself.

Thank God for grace; else we should all perish.

It is, of course, sensible to impose disciplines on ourselves in our use of the internet and television. Avoidance of temptation is wise advice. But anyone who believes that he is invulnerable to temptation had better beware. In avoiding one trap we may more easily fall into another. The Devil is as happy harvesting a hard-hearted, hypocrite as he is a pornographer.

Brian said...

another really great resource to lead people to is www.settingcaptivesfree.com.

I have been through it before and have been porn free for going on three years now.

I agree that the church should not be quite so quick to defrock all ministers for this problem but instead work to help them resolve the issues that lead to it and provide a menas to help and accountability.

I also think we need to allow ministers to have time to nurture their relationship with loved ones and close friends which, imo, really goes a long way to resolving the deeper issues that lead to porn addiction.

David Johnson said...

I think one of the problems for paid (professional?) ministers is the enormous workload that churches place upon them. Visitation, funerals, teaching classes Sunday and Wednesday, preaching two (sometimes 3) times a week, counseling....I honestly don't understand how some ministers manage. The fact is that the growth that a minister receives from constantly preparing for all of this is in itself a factor that separates him from the congregation. When I look at the New Testament, I see churches where the work within the congregation was spread much more evenly. Maybe that's just me looking at the NT church through the lenses of my heritage. Reading through the comments, I notice that some people have brought up the fact that most churches seem to know little to nothing about how to practice koinonia--we talk about and how we need it, but our people are just as disparate and individual as anyone else.

When I think about pornography, I think about a line from Men in Black. Tommy Lee Jones' character is about to retire, and he tells Will Smith's character: "I've just been down the gullet of an interstellar cockroach. That's one of a hundred memories I don't want." I've been an addict since I was 12. I remember my dad telling my brother and me when I was about 5 that pornography is like a constrictor--it'll wrap itself around your mind and squeeze everything else out. One of the problems that I face on a day-to-day basis is the fact that all these images that I've seen take up so much of my mind that it's difficult for me to do anything without some unbidden erotic thought or image coming to the fore of my thoughts. Unerasable. Unforgettable. Inexcusable.

One of the things that saddens me is that my father and his brothers struggled with this, and their inability to face the problem and get help that they desperately needed has meant that when they became fathers, the same aspects of their personalities that made them so susceptible to pornographic/sexual temptation have rubbed off on their sons. Every one of my cousins struggles with this. This is truly an addictive thing, and it makes the whole family co-addicts.

Peter O said...

Thanks Ben. If you had trackback activated I'd have linked you back to my post picking up your piece.

XXXchurch stuff is SO cool - really helped me a few years ago. So easy to install, BUT requires a major realignment of the will to commit.

C. Stirling Bartholomew said...

Ben,

It isn't news that christians struggle with sin. What about totally secular people?

I just finished a photo biography of Paul Desmond (d. 1977) who played alto saxophone. The book is called Take Five and was published in the last year or two. Obviously it focuses on Desmond's musical life but the book also tells us what kind a life he lead when he wasn't playing music. I think Desmond could be called the Jazz Musician's equivalent of Hugh Hefner. The list of vices includes drugs (sans heroin), alcohol, tobacco (killed him), pornography, sex, gambling, seducing the wives of close friends, writing bad checks ... Have I over looked any?

Some of the stuff Desmond did sent Brubeck around the bend. Like hawking the expensive tires on Brubeck's car, not showing up for gigs because he was up all night drinking.

It would not be fair to say that Desmond struggled with sin. He didn't struggle at all. He gave himself to sin without any restraint. He tried to kill himself with booze but the tobacco is what got him.

A few years ago I read To a Violent Grave: An Oral Biography of Jackson Pollock. When I finshed reading about Pollock, I wondered why anyone, particularly the women in his life, would put up with Jackson Pollock. He was clearly a sociopath. He died in a drunken driving auto accident which killed one and maimed the other passenger, two young women.

What is it about our culture that makes heros out of Pollock and Desmond? Why are we willing to overlook Desmond's life because he played the alto saxophone like no one else?

I know, this is really off topic. Has little to do with the pornography problem among christians.

Bill Barnwell said...

I've always been a bit perplexed at how sexual sins are typically a death sentence for a pastor while other ministers have done some incredibly dishonest things with finances, or have been extremely emotionally and/or psychologically manipulative, and these guys often times are given a slap on the wrist or restored after an interim period of counseling. I think we need strong ministerial standards and ethics in all areas and need to be consistent (though with an attitude of grace and love).

Anyway, I too find the 51% figure a bit suspect, but even if the number was 1%, it is certainly too many. I think, like others have alluded to, the bigger problem is the "Church's" approach to sexuality in general. It's almost completely negative. Sure, there's some lines thrown out there about how sex is God's gift and how it's a beautiful thing, but beyond that, there isn't a ton positive said about sexuality or those who are struggling in whatever area of sexual sin, at least that how I and many others felt.

For all of the emphasis on "pratical application," in churches, it seems more often than not the focus on sexual sin is just this: "Don't do it, it's bad." Most people know that adultery is bad. Most people who look at porn are not particularly proud of that. And so on. But people feel utterly trapped and they are not given the tools to get out of this stuff. All they hear is how bad their sin is and how much God hates it. That's true, but many people want to know how they can overcome these things. Certainly God can zap people on the spot and fix everything, but for most who struggle with this kind of stuff it's not that easy and I know that from my own experience. I got saved when I was in my later teenage years. I did not have the same morals and beliefs before my conversion. My heart was changed but all my actions didn't change overnight. It for me at least took some time (and much guilt and self-loathing) and only after breaking through that culture of fear and finding help from others that weren't so freaked out by the subject of sexuality. Going it alone just doesn't work. This is now how I try to approach things in my own ministry. It's not a matter of watering down standards or the Biblical teachings, but providing an atmosphere and tools that are conducive to victory.

That's why I appreciate more unconventional ministries like xxxchurch that is actually trying to give people some practical tools (though they have a ton of critics from more traditionalist sectors who are happy with sticking to "Don't do it, it's wrong). There have been some breakthroughs in some popular Chrisitan literature and with some ministries, but I think there's still a long way to go.

One more thing, this idea that lust is a male problem only is ridiculous. There are plenty of women having affairs, and as pointed out, more and more are delving into pornography. And even when it doesn't go that far, women have their more accepted forms of lust that don't get much mention. Take for example that millions of teenage, young adult (and some older adult) women who hang up posters of sweaty bare chested "hot guys" all over their walls or dorm rooms. And most romance novels directed towards women I'd label "mental porn." So yes, the problem with men is arguably more severe, and men by their makeup are more prone to more extreme manifestations of this sin, but they hardly have a monopoly on it. This is a general human problem.

There are still many who need to be convinced it's a problem. Many others, however, know it is but need help finding a way out. That's where the Christian community needs to do a better job.

TB said...

I fear that what I am about to comment might be taken the wrong way, so please apply a little grace.
I can't remember ever hearing a pastor or anyone in church leadership say that they enjoy sex with their wife. Paul is very clear that husbands and wives should not deny each other. Indeed, I think it's quite clear in Scripture that God intends the giving of one to the other sexually. But churches neither teach nor celebrate that. Why?
In fact, (and from here on is where I take quite a risk and need you to cut me some grace in your reading), we seem to put such a downer on sex as if there are far more important and 'spiritual' things to be getting on with. Pardon me if I'm wrong, but sharing an orgasm with my wife is a God-created, God-purposed thing.
We absolutely must not make excuses for porn, but I tend to feel that perhaps we don't help people to have a healthy sexual appetite, because the only time we talk about sex is when we're putting a downer on sexual appetite.

On another note, picking up on Bobbie's point - in my personal experience of seminary and from what I know of others (in the UK) from friends, there is very little emphasis placed on preparing future pastors so that they are ready to sustain a healthy work-life balance and be able to turn down demands placed on their time. One of the key NT qualifications for those in leadership is who and how they are as husbands and fathers. Our seminaries place the bulk of the 'qualifications' in the realm of completing a (mostly) academic course. A husband who's in love with his wife because he has time to be with her and know her is going to be in a better place with God (he'll have plenty to give thanks for!), is going to be a better pastor (he'll be able to speak authoritatively about loving one's spouse) and is going to be in a rush to get home or get off the internet because he'll have the promise of a horny wife!

Ben Witherington said...

Yes indeed, the church sends out mixed signals at best about sex. The essence of the message I was given when in MYF as a teen went like this--- "Sex is dirty. Save it for the one you really love and marry." Talk about a mixed message.

In my view this is a body life problem which contains within it a family problem. The truth is, that many of a person's emotional needs should be met by a variety of friendships. The spouse should not have to bear the burden of fullfilling every last need of their mate. That's simply unBiblical.

Obviously one's spouse should fulfill those needs which are exclusive to the husband and wife relationship. But most emotional needs for brotherly and sisterly love do not involve sexual needs necessarily. I am working on 1 Pet. 1-2 where we are told to "love each other deeply from the heart" and the subject there is 'philadelphia' not marital love. Of course we need to be careful since there is a fine line between one's spirtuality and one's sexuality, and sometimes those lines can be blurred especially when one is a passionate person in both spheres.

Part of the problem in low church Protestantism is we turn the nuclear family into an idol, then suggest that if your mate is not meeting all your needs there is something wrong with your mate or relationship with your mate.

We need a 'Focus on the Family of Faith' that is at least as persistent and insistent as a 'Focus on the Family'.

In the body of Christ, we all can support each other, mourn with those who mourn, rejoice with those who rejoice, and our immediate family hopefully will be fitted into that larger church family. The church does not exist to meet the physical family's needs. To the contrary it is the job of every Christian family to serve the church, the body of Christ, the family of faith.

If we had our heads screwed on right about Christian relationships in general, and how the Body of Christ is the place where our needs are met, needs of both single persons and married persons, we would all be healthier.

Blessings,

Ben

bobbie said...

hi ben,

i was able to complete that blog post today:

emerging sideways...: dirty little secrets - porn & the church

i'd be interested to see what you think about it. thanks a lot for your attention to this subject matter!

Marc Axelrod said...

I think what makes pornography so pernicious is that it brings the red light district into the workplace and into the home. You hit a link or type in a url and just like that, you've entered into a addicting world of deception and lust.

I think that this is a generational sin. Most people I know get into pornography because when they were kids, they found a stash of their dad's Penthouse magazines in a bedroom closet hidden under some clothes.

Or they got into it because they were at a friend's house, and they discovered it there.

Galatians 5:16-24 speaks to me about how to combat this. Live by the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the sinful nature. It goes back to what you said in your original post: Get involved in ministry and don't leave yourself time and opportunity to indulge. And get rid of the laptop or PC or TV if necessary.

And accountability. Like other addictions, it is a battle you cannot win on your own. You mentioned that it isn't a good diea to get a family member to be a partner, but I think if you have a proactive and understanding spouse, they could be a good accountability partner.

Neil said...

One of the most helpful books I am aware of is "Every Man's Battle" by Arterburn and Stoeker. It is very thorough and has lots of specific things men can do to avoid temptation and lust.

PamBG said...

Thirdly, pornography, even today is overwhelmingly a male problem, and overwhelmingly it is males who are pastors, unfortunately.

The statistics on ministers and pornography are very interesting. I have wondered for the last 30 years whether a phenemenon like this is behind the church's obsession with sex when there are so many other personal and collective sins that are much more urgent.

Layla said...

Thanks for talking about this. Found you through Bobbie. I am one of those statistics (1 in three women have been abused). I was molested as a toddler, abused as an adolescent and raped as both a teen and adult. Logically it seems that those things would cause someone to hate sex or anything sexual but as you know - the opposite is often true.

I know several pastors who have confessed issues in this area and they are now accountable and doing well.

I wish there was an easy answer but bringing it out in the open is a great step in the right direction.

Thank you

Anne Jackson said...

another woman recovering here - i recently wrote an article for relevant magazine on the topic and it received a lot of feedback from...more women.

you can read the article but also please read the responses here:

http://relevantmagazine.com/life_article.php?id=7209

Marc said...

I problem is not just porn, but the fact that the people of God are terrified of being truly genuine and authentic with one another. We are commanded to share our faults with one another, but I bet that this is a command that most of us break.

I wonder if we had more places where we could truly be loved and accepted for who we are if porn would be such a problem?

Tiber Jumper said...

Pope Paul VI predicted in the 1960's that the widespread use of artifical contraception would lead to the devaluing of women and more broken marriages as well as abortion. Without flaming me here folks, perhaps there is some logic to this when sex becomes an activity like a sport, rather than an imaging of God's nature, creative. The Catholic Church maintains that when we separate the unitive act from the procreative act, we are heading for trouble. Perhaps , Pope Paul was onto something.

hosea heart said...

Thanks for talking about this problem. I hope in the future churches will begin to offer real help for those of us who are trying to deal with these issues and have healthy marriages and families.

A servant said...

I think that xxxchurch.com is well-intentioned and that they have a noble goal. However, I question some of their tactics.

Is it really right of them to call themselves a "Christian porn site"? This strikes me as deceptive advertising. If anything, they are ANTI-porn!

Also, I think it's unwise to use the slogan "Jesus loves porn stars." Let's face it; while this is technically true, most people would construe that as acceptance of the porn industry.

More thought on these matters can be found here: http://berean-cogitations.blogspot.com/2006/10/my-thoughts-on-1-christian-porn-site.html

A servant said...

Let me hyperlink that last URL:

http://berean-cogitations.blogspot.com/2006/10/my-thoughts-on-1-christian-porn-site.html.

WoundedEgo said...

I am an ex-minister, of sorts. That is, I was a Christian singer-songwriter. I can testify that the sexual urges in a functioning human being do not understand "commandments!"

I just bought some condoms for my son. It turns out that 75 percent of the people of the USA are nominally Christians. But we have the highest rate of sexually transmitted disease! I'm trying to do my small part, because I know my son would be sooooo embarrassed to buy his own condoms in WalMart!

"Ju, never prey on girls, but if you're going to have sex, then it is OK, natural, FUN, and not a big deal... kind of like masturbating.. which you have already, no doubt, discovered, is as inevitable, and as frequent, and as pleasant as a the rain..."

I read the whole report by the Attrney General's commission on porn. James Dobson served on the committee. What did they find? Porn, in and of itself, presents no observable damage. Only when coupled with violence (ie: the "Rape Myth") is there evidence that it is damaging.

So enjoy!

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com
http://woundedego.com
http://bibleshockers.com