Pornography and the Christian – How Do We Battle?

One of the major issues that is facing people today is the issue of pornography.  My approach today is going to be to attempt to cover a fairly wide range of topics in relation to pornography to give as much information as I can with the goal of seeking to equip you to engage in battle in the sexual sin of pornography perhaps in your own life or in the lives of those that you care about. The sin of consuming pornography is one that can get a stranglehold on the lives of people and as we know sin can strangle the Christian just as it can strangle the unbeliever yet as a follower of Jesus Christ we are redeemed and called to wage war against our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit however that sin manifest itself in our lives.

Brief History of Pornography

As we engage in the conversation of pornography I think it is important to have an understanding of the history of pornography for a couple of different reasons, the most important reason being that we have to understand that we are not dealing with your father’s or grandfather’s porn today in 2019. Sexual sin and temptations of a sexual nature have been around since man’s fall into sin as we can see in the historical pages of the Holy Scriptures. One could argue that these stories paint somewhat of a pornographic scene at different places. From Lot and his Daughters [Gen. 19:30-38] to David and Bathsheba [2 Samuel 11] to Sodom and Gomorrah [Gen. 18] to The story of Tamar [Gen 38] to Solomon’s desire for women. Again sexual sin is not new, but sexual sin has become so easily accessible and at lightning speed that it is becoming not only a sin problem but also it is becoming a health crisis. In fact, 11 States have declared a public health crisis due to pornography.[1]

Though porn of various forms has been available in some form through the history of humanity, well know and highly distributed pornography is a fairly new thing. The first Playboy magazine was published in December of 1953.[2] Though I would not ever call Playboy classy, it is said that one of the biggest changes on the landscape of porn was when the “less classy” individual by the name of Larry Flynt came on the scene and began to not only publish on a mass scale pictures of naked women, but pictures of naked women engaging in sex acts. By the 1970s and 1980s, Hustler had 3 million readers per month.[3] This reality began to push the social norms of what was considered acceptable in some fashion. Flynt would be challenged in court by evangelical Christians but ultimately would be allowed to continue down the path of anything goes in the realm of pornography all under the protection of the first amendment.

In the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s and even early 2000s, the content was being pushed more and more down an extreme path but the delivery method was still fairly consistent. During this time the main way you had to get access to pornography was in a face-to-face process. A person had to go to the shady store and buy magazines or videos. You had to go to the section of the video store that had a curtain dividing it from the rest of the store. You had to at least risk being identified with your sinful behavior. Not only was their more social risk the images that were being consumed were of a more static nature and it was difficult to consume a great amount of content in a short period of time. The behavior was just as sinful in the earlier days of porn but the consequence for the individual in viewing that material was not as damaging from a physical point of view.

With widespread access to the Internet, pornography began to change in that it was much more accessible with much less social risk attached to the viewing of pornography. The early days of Internet porn were still fairly static views. It was more picture based and any videos had to be downloaded onto a computer to be viewed and the process was slow. The year 2006 is the year that is sighted as the time when everything changed due to high-speed Internet.[4] With Larry Flynt came a push in the realm of mainstreaming what is often referred to as hardcore pornographic content, and in 2006 with high-speed Internet came a change in how pornography was accessed and the speed in which it was accessed. This bought about the websites of short video clips of pornography that could now be viewed at lightning speed. The technology has only continued to make pornography more and more accessible at faster and faster speeds and it is no longer even connected to a wall of a home or an office, but rather is in every one of our pockets on our smartphones. The means that pornography comes today has created an epidemic in our society.

Statistics of Pornography

Much of my research and data comes from non-Christian sources and the one that I have found to be the most helpful is Gary Wilson and his work in “Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction.” He clearly is not arguing against the use of pornography on any moral grounds as he writes,

“I am not saying you should have a problem with porn. I am not trying to start some kind of moral panic, or to say what is and isn’t ‘natural’ in human sexuality. If you don’t feel you have a problem, then I am not here to argue with you. It’s up to each of us to decide what we think about graphic sexual content and the industry that produces much of it.”[5]

It should not surprise us when science confirms things that are clearly laid out in scripture as what is and is not good for us as human beings. What might be surprising is when the nonbelieving community admits that what is laid out in the word of God is a good thing even if they are not looking to credit God’s Word for saying it first. Wilson seeks to lay out the research that pornography specifically in its current form is extremely damaging to individuals.

Wilson cites two studies from the year 2016[6] that look at porn users and have found an addiction rate as high as 28%. This alongside another study[7] that found that 19% of college-age men are addicted to pornography. It should be noted that addiction to pornography is not the easiest thing to classify but as I will seek to point out later in the paper the physiological effects that happen when one begins view pornography in great amounts are very real. There are those on both sides of this issue that reject that one can be physically addicted to using pornography, yet the evidence seems great that there are real effects of consuming pornography. These addiction numbers are alarming, but it is other statistics that are even more concerning in my opinion when it is understood that one does not need to be addicted to pornography for pornography to affect the viewer as Wilson states in his writing, “Studies reveal that even a small amount of supernormal stimulation can rapidly alter the brain and change behavior.[8]

A report from the Pew Internet and American life project suggests that 70 percent of 15-17-year-old internet uses accidentally view porn ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ often and the National center on Sexual Exploitation states that 64 percent of young people ages 13-24 actively seek out porn weekly or more often.[9] In 2004 a study was published about Swedish young men and it stated that 99 percent had viewed pornography.[10] The amount of content has to keep up with demand and in America the demand is high. “Americans rent upwards of 800 million pornographic videos and DVD’s (about 1 in 5 of all rented movies is porn).”[11] This requires massive amounts of new content and where there is a market someone will deliver if there is money to be made. There are about 11,000 pornographic films created each year. Numbers always very but when 66% of 18-34-year-olds visit pornographic websites on a monthly basis.[12] There is a lot of money to be made and some report the money spent on pornography as high as 4,000,000,000 dollars.[13]

Statistics of Christians and Pornography

The follow up to some general statistics of the population as a whole to consider, is what role does pornography play in the lives of Christians? We must always keep in mind that the goal of the Church is to bring Christ to broken and sinful people of which we all qualify and pornography is one area of brokenness that is very prevalent in and outside of the Church. The numbers that are presented about those within the church do come with a note as explained by Barna in their research. “It is likely practicing Christians use porn less frequently, as reported, but there may also be under-reporting since porn use within the Christian community is much less socially acceptable than in the wider culture.”[14] The biggest indicator of an effect on pornography use was not whether an individual identified as a Christian or if they even regularly attended worship services, but rather if they identified that faith was actually highly important to them.[15] From this point forward this group will be defined as “Practicing Christians.” 13% of practicing Christians report using pornography on at least a monthly basis, which will be referred to as “regular use” from this point forward. Though this is better than the general population, which reports a 33% regular use rate, there is still plenty of concern with the numbers that are reported among practicing Christians. With Males, 41% of 13-24-year-olds and 23% of 25+-year-olds who identify as practicing Christians report regular pornography use along with Females at 13% of 13-24-year-olds and 5% of 25+-year-olds of practicing Christians.[16] It is an issue for Christians and we as the body of Christ need to seek to bring God’s grace to this situation and seek to free people from the bondage that pornography can so easily become.

The issue of pornography is not only something that affects the laity it is also a problem for pastors. 14% of senior pastors[17] report that pornography is a current problem for them and half of the 14% report being “regular users.” Youth pastors are at an even higher rate at 21% and slightly over half of the 21% said they were “regular users.”[18] Higher numbers within youth pastors simply seem to reflect that younger people tend to use pornography at a higher rate of which more youth pastors would be on the younger age range compared to senior pastors. Clergy and Church workers at not immune to the problems of pornography yet the costs for clergy, church workers and the churches they serve are much greater if they are discovered due to their leadership roles within a church.

The good news is that it does appear that a majority of Christians still view pornography as a sinful behavior to engage in and do in fact consume it at a lesser rate than the nonbeliever of comparable ages. The bad news is that it is still a major issue of sin that is plaguing people’s lives and putting them into bondage. The Church must not stay silent on sin or sin will bring great harm to the Church.

Physiological Effects of Pornography

Humans are creatures who are body and soul and the author of this paper is of the opinion that when we are dealing with sin it is not only a soul issue, but it is also often times a body issue. There are some who dismiss the physical effects of pornography and treat it only as a spiritual issue. While I don’t disagree that pornography is a major spiritual issue to ignore how we have been created to work as physical beings doesn’t do justice to God and his creation nor do I think we will best equip people to overcome the sin of pornography by addressing only the spiritual damage that pornography brings into people’s lives. In this section, I hope to show that natural revelation of the study of the human body mirrors the special revelation given to us in God’s holy word.

A basic understanding of how the brain works should help in how we approach this topic when we are seeking to combat it with people. “The desire and motivation to pursue sex arises largely from the neurochemical called dopamine. Dopamine amps up the centerpiece… of the brain known as the reward circuitry. It’s where you experience cravings and pleasure and where you get addicted.”[19] There are many things that cause the release of dopamine but, “Sexual stimulation and orgasm add up to the biggest natural blast of dopamine and opioids available to you reward circuitry.”[20] Sometimes dopamine is called the pleasure molecule but it would be better understood as the seeking and searching for pleasure molecule. That is why dopamine rises with anticipation and drives an individual to pursue pleasure.[21] The final reward or what we experience as feelings of pleasure involves the release of endogenous opioids, which is morphine-like chemicals. A climax appears to arise from a large release of opioids. An oversimplified way to think about this would be to see dopamine as wanting and opioids as liking.[22]

When seeking to understand the damage that pornography can do to the individual it is important to understand that “we seek more than we are satisfied.”[23] This reality is what makes the current forms of pornography so damaging to the individual in a physiological way while also acknowledging the damage that sexual sin and all forms of sin are spiritually damaging. As stated earlier dopamine is the seeking molecule and when there is something to be sought after that is new or novel there is a surge in dopamine.[24]

“Internet porn is especially enticing because novelty is always just a click away. It could be a novel ‘mate’, unusual scene, strange sexual act, or you fill in the blank. Popular porn tube sites present dozens of different clips and genres on every page. They engross us with inexhaustible sexual novelty”[25]

Dopamine’s effects are amplified by other emotions as well. Things like surprise, shock, and anxiety are all things that elevate dopamine as well as the release of stress hormones and neurotransmitters, which actually amplify the effects of the dopamine on the reward circuitry. What can then happen to an individual is that they begin to think that anxiety is sexual arousal.[26] This reality has a tendency to then push the porn consumption to more extreme levels to produce more of everything in the brain to get the same feeling that was once attained by less shocking material. Producers of pornography are well aware of how their material works with its consumers’ brains, Jack Morrison, writing for “Adult Video News,” says porn companies have sought the advice of clinicians who help people to overcome cyber-sex addictions on how to attract more customers to their websites.[27]

It is clear that pornography leads to an escalation of behavior, at the very minimum in the type of pornography that needs to be consumed in order to maintain the same feelings and sensations. This issue will be addressed at other points in this paper but what is observed in science seems to be given to us in scripture as well.

Romans 1:24-31 24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [28]

When one continues to pursue sin, which is always, wrapped up in the ultimate sin of idolatry, they find themselves deeper and deeper in the sin. That moving deeper and deeper into sin in many ways they can be said to be being handed over into sin. As seen in the research our bodies which are corrupted by sin are currently operating with the function that allows one to actually become addicted or need more and more of something to attain the same pleasure or feelings.

Sex does trigger very powerful chemical reactions in the brain that can and do become addicting. Sexual addiction is a recognized psychological/physical malady. Any form of improper sexual activity can become the drug of choice in sexual addiction. In Rome, when Paul Says that God gave those engaged in homosexual practices over to a debased mind, he may very well have been identifying what we now know to be medically true. People’s brain chemistry can become dependent on unhealthy, sinful, sexual practices to the point where their flesh craves sex like an addict craves his or her next fix.[29]

Adolescence and Pornography

Pornography is an issue for people of all ages yet it seems as though pornography presents even deeper problems when it comes to those who are younger. A common misconception with pornography is that it is simply used by teens and young adults as an outlet in a period of life when their sex drive is higher than at other points of life. That misconception leads to the idea that they will “grow out” of using pornography when they get older or they find a mate to have actual sexual intercourse with. The problem is that this does not seem to be true, and in fact, because of the brain development in adolescence, it seems that pornography is not a “safe” alternative to sex but that it actually can alter the brain make up of the viewer.

Adolescents wire together experiences and arousal much faster and more easily than young adults will just years later. Teens are especially vulnerable because their reward circuitry is in overdrive. In response to Internet novelty, their brains produce higher spikes of dopamine but become bored more easily. Their brains are more sensitive to dopamine and produce more DeltaFosB (to remember and repeat) the adolescent brain’s over-sensitivity to reward also means its owner is more vulnerable to addiction.[30]

This can lead to a teen brain conditioning itself into making actual sex an alien experience and only be drawn to the artificial sexual content. Wilson states that through pornography one can actually alter their sexual tastes.[31] Sexual arousal is conditional particularly prior to adulthood. The major effect that pornography has on the adolescent brain should bring about concern when the numbers that were cited earlier in the paper on the number of people in that age group consuming pornography are considered. At this point, it cannot be known what the long term effect of the type of pornography of the current age will have because it is still fairly new and those who have grown up with that as a part of their lives are still fairly young.

Harmful Physical Effects of Pornography Addiction

To be addicted to anything is problematic as action now controls your life to some extent. That addiction often brings with it other health problems and pornography is no different. One of the challenges with pornography is that there is still no agreement on this issue in the medical world and even if there is a belief that pornography brings with it other problems they are often times misdiagnosed as other issues. There is strong evidence that pornography addiction can lead to problems such as social anxiety, low self-esteem, concentration problems, lack of motivation, depression, sexual performance anxiety, and other conditions. Many of these conditions can lead to and result in suicidal thoughts and self-harm all of which studies have linked to moderate or severe addiction to the internet[32] which is wrapped up in the pornography issue.[33]

The issues that arise do not only manifest themselves in areas of mental illness but there appears to also be physical effects that arise when there are issues of pornography addiction. Sexual issues are common among users of pornography that range from erectile dysfunction, belief that one has become a sexual pervert, and the inability to ejaculate without porn in extreme cases.[34] Some of the most compelling evidence for the side effects of pornography is seen when considering the erectile dysfunction numbers with men under 40 years old. As stated in the history of pornography the biggest change came with access to high-speed Internet that is considered to have happened around 2006. Since 2002 men under the age of 40 have seen a 1000% increase in erectile dysfunction. 1948 – 2002 the historic rates of ED for men under 40 were consistently 2-3%. However, since 2010 six studies have found ED rates of 14-33% in young men.[35] Anecdotal evidence for this is the fact that when one listens to radio that is targeted at 20-40-year-old men you will likely hear a high amount of commercials for ED medication in one form or another. There is clearly a market but the question is why is that the case? There are other health issues that can cause ED in men, yet none of them have risen at a rate that could be blamed for this rapid increase in ED in men. There are also studies that show men recovering from ED after giving up pornography which this process can take up to 6 months or more to recover. The younger you start with porn it appears the longer it will take to recover due to the more extensive rewiring of your brain than in older men. There are other side effects that accompany this process, as the brain has to relearn and rewire itself to respond again to normal sexual stimuli and not supernormal stimulation found in pornography.[36] The evidence seems to point to the reality that pornography brings with it problems for the consumer, but as we know most things that are addictive are harmful to the one that is consuming it.

Influence of Pornography on Sexual Practices

Pornography not only has a damaging effect on the individual’s personal life it also changes how one views the sexual relationships that they will have with other human beings. “Humans evolved to learn by watching others doing things, so videos are powerful ‘how to lessons.’”[37] No matter one’s position of evolution we can all agree that humans learn by watching things and when the rate of pornography use is as high as the numbers show it would be foolish to think that did not affect the sexual practices of society as a whole. One example of this can be found in the article “Anal hetero-sex among young people and implications for health promotion: a qualitative study in the UK.” This study puts forward numbers that almost 1 in 5 16-24 year-olds had engaged in anal sex within the last year. “The main reasons given for young people having anal sex were that men wanted to copy what they saw in pornography”[38] Pornography provides conscious learning or “this is how people have sex and this is how I should do it” as well as unconscious learning “This is what turns me on or at a brain level this is what jacks up my dopamine and opioids.”[39]

The fact of the matter is that sex has become a transactional commodity in our society. Sexual pleasure is seen as something that we need and how a person gets that viewed in the same way that they get food or gas as a transaction at the store. One can get something that doesn’t cost them much of anything and “fulfills a need” or one can try to “spend more capital for something better.” Mark Regnerus writes in Cheap Sex, “ Pornography creates competition, It lowers the price of sex among sexual gatekeeper: … young women on campuses say that if they do not offer what porn offers, they cannot expect to hold a guy.”[40] He also cites ‘liberal feminist’ author Naomi Wolf who says similar things, “For two decades, I have watched young women experience the continual “mission creep” of how pornography and now Internet pornography has lowered their sense of their own sexual value and their actual sexual value.”[41] If women are seen as being in competition with porn they are going to have to lower the bar when it comes to the amount of effort that it takes to gain access to sexual pleasure and they are also going to have to be willing to perform sexual acts that mirror what is done regularly on pornographic websites. Men are being trained that sex variety is simply a search in a search bar, whatever can be imagined should be available. Women are being trained that these requests and desires are a normal thing when it comes to sexual intercourse.

Sexual intercourse is not the only area that is affected. More and more we are seeing that young people are engaging in not only viewing pornographic material but also producing pornographic material in different forms. The growth in technology has not only changed the viewing of porn it has made it easy to produce and distribute pornographic material. Over and over again it is reported in the news that a celebrity has been hacked and their nude video or photographs are now all over the Internet. It is not only happening to celebrities but they are the only ones that we hear about because the world doesn’t care about a naked 18-year-old college student because those are a dime a dozen in 2019. Why the amount of self-produced porn? Jennifer Lawrence was a victim of her photos being hacked and leaked to the world and her response is telling in the attitude of many people in our society. “Either your boyfriend is going to look at porn or he’s going to look at you.”[42] When porn becomes mainstream individuals believe they have to engage in it or they will be left behind. “Surveys have shown that 12-16% of youths aged 10-19 years old have sent a sexual photo to someone else.”[43] The damage to an individual on a worldly level by this activity is exponentially greater than simply viewing pornography. Psychology Today’s article Sexing and Suicide chronicles the ultimate cost of the act of sexting. In this article, they cite that 1/3 of college students engage in sexting actives.[44] No matter if one believes the numbers are inflated or not it is clearly an issue that is not going away anytime soon in a culture that continues to travel down a path of cheapening sexual activity in every way. It is clear there is a major issue within our culture and as stated earlier the church also affected by this issue. Yet it is the position of this author that the church is uniquely placed and equipped to truly deal with this issue of pornography along with the matters of all sexual sin.

A Biblical Response

The reality is that most people don’t want to touch sexual topics with a ten-foot pole because of how big of a reaction that it will typically get from people. Even within “conservative” congregations, you will receive push back when you begin to simply teach what God’s word says about the topic of sex. Even when there is agreement on the subject matter the fact of the matter is that people don’t want to put the work in or ruffle any feathers to attempt to battle for truth on this subject. “American Christians still value lifelong, monogamous matrimony. But many have an aversion to actually doing what it takes to accomplish it.”[45] The fact is though Jesus thought it was worth teaching on the matter and so did his followers, so who are we to believe that we to should not take a stand on this issue because it is difficult. One example of this in the gospels is the account of how John the Baptizer lost his life.

17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because he had married her. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her. 27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.[46]

John stood on and preached the word of God that has a clear understanding of what is and is not in line with the will of God in the realm of sexual behavior. The issue of pornography is one that we would think was not an issue that was dealt with in the time of Christ, yet Jesus himself deals with the topic of not only the act of sex as being sinful outside of the context of marriage, but lusting after a person and desiring sexual actions in your mind is sinful as well. Matthew 5:27-28 2“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.[47] This speaks directly to the issue of lust and pornography. In all reality, though the ten commandments already deal with this issue in the realm of coveting yet Jesus here attaches the act of lust to what is often considered a “worse” sin, the sin of adultery to show the seriousness of sin in all its forms.

There are different ways that “Christians” attempt to deal with sexual sin specifically pornography in this case. One is to ignore the sin and just hope that it goes away on its own.

1 John 1:5-8 This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. [48]

This is simply one example from scripture that stresses the fact that sin must be dealt with. The church cannot simply ignore sin but rather it must be dealt with through the means which Christ has put forward for us to deal with the sin in our lives.

Others attempt not to ignore it, but rather “baptize” sin and make it something that is considered to be a good thing. There are individuals who just flat out say that pornography is something that can be used by people and if the pornography is created in an ‘ethically sourced’ way that it is good and should not be spoken against. The most famous individual who makes this point and is identified, as a Christian is Nadia Bolz-Weber.[49] This is directly counter what the scriptures say and is, in fact, warned about that it would happen. Romans 1:32 is the conclusion of a section of scripture that talks directly about the depravity of humanity that they walk in that are counter to not only God’s special revelation, the written word of God but also God’s natural revelation, the natural order of creation. Romans 1:32 says 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. [50] Today we have people of all sorts of strips celebrating depravity one of those deprived acts being the use of pornographic materials. One of the reasons that it seems as there is a reaction by some who call themselves Christians to go to the extreme of celebrating sin does stem from misuse at times of God’s law to bludgeon a broken sinner to death.

Attempts to use God’s law, as a weapon to make people “act the right way” is sadly how it gets used at times and that is often completely apart from the gospel. This is not a dismissal of God’s law as a guide for the Christian but God’s law is of course not the means as to change anyone or their sinful actions. Groups holding up “God hates fags” signs are not going change anyone rather they are only going to put bigger hurdles in fount of people to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus speaks very clearly on matters of sexual sin in many different places including lust being sinful. Jesus is also seen as very forgiving to those who have been broken by sins of a sexual nature.

John 7:53-8:11 53 [[They went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ]][51]

Luke 7:36-5036 One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee’s house and reclined at table. 37 And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, 38 and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. 39 Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” 40 And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” 50 And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” [52]

Both of these examples show no acceptance or softening of the sin in Jesus’s teaching but it does show that Jesus is abundantly gracious to those who are repentant of their sin. As a biblical Christian knows both Law and Gospel must be applied to the sinner not wavering on either or both become something that there were never intended to be. We seek for people to see their sin that is revealed by the law just as Romans 7:7 points to What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.”[53] The church needs to be ready with the gospel for the broken and repentant sinner especially in the case of the sin of pornography because many carry heavy guilt and shame when it comes to the use of porn. Even though pornography has become more mainstream people still don’t want to be identified as one who uses this and they go to great lengths to hide their use of pornography. In fact, people’s Internet history is being used as a hostage to extort money from people all over the world.[54] A message for those who are burdened by the sin of pornography use is Matthew 11:28 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. [55] Christ is the only place that a sinner will find true rest and it is only in Christ that one can overcome pornography because it is only in Christ that one has forgiveness and is empowered to battle against the sin of the flesh.

Practical Steps in Combating the Sin of Pornography

When a person comes to the point that they understand that pornography is sinful and want to actually seek to remove it from usage there are many practical steps along with spiritual steps that will assist in this process. Saying forgiven me Jesus is good but we all know that sin doesn’t just disappear because we have asked for forgiveness. If that does take place for anyone praise God, but that is not the normal occurrence for most people especially in the realm of addictive behavior.

The first practical step is to remove or limit access to the material. There are many different porn blockers and accountability programs that exist in the world and the most well-known one in Christian circles is called “Covent Eyes.” It should be noted though a porn blocker will not stop most people from viewing pornography. Covent Eyes is designed with this in mind and it is more of an accountability program than a straight content blocker. “Internet filters don’t work for most people over the age of 13. They are easy to circumvent and actually tempt people to get around them.”[56] The process of circumventing a blocker can actually be a way to have your brain produce dopamine as you seek to get around an obstacle.[57] Another thing to be aware of is that on phones and app-driven computing devices it is not simply the internet browser that you can access the internet from and you can often times access pornographic material within the app itself or through the browsing feature of the app. This would include apps such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to name some of the more popular social media apps. There is a newer product called “Bark” that does monitor activity across apps. This product would be useful for parents as it monitors not only pornographic material but can give warnings in the realm of online bullying and other dangerous behavior that happens on social media. This again is an accountability program not a strict blocker of content. All of these are tools, not solutions.

As individuals battle the use of pornography they need to begin to learn about themselves. People must learn their triggers by taking note of what is going on in their lives when they have the urge to use pornography and masturbate. When the urge hits questions that should be asked of one’s self are what emotions am I feeling right now? What time is it? Who else is around? What did I just do? Where am I? What do I see, hear, and smell? All of these questions will begin to help a person understand some of the triggers that cause them to have a desire to view pornography. Along with this, a plan needs to be put into place when the urge hits. An example of this may be if someone gets these urges to have a set activity to put into place to replace the behavior that is trying to be replaced. Things such as exercise, social interaction, going to a public place are all ways to try to replace the behavior of looking at porn and masturbating. With this process, it is helpful to keep a journal as to what is working and what is not working along with noting the triggers that seem to set a person down the porn path. Some of these replacement activities are just good things to do as they will help even when you are not feeling the temptation of pornography. Exercise does produce dopamine in a non-sexual way and can help the brain achieve balance as the individual seeks to “reset” their brain.

Another area that can be helpful for people is to simply study and understand the reality behind the production of pornography. Most people who struggle with pornography are not monsters in the sense that they have no compassion for other human beings on a horizontal level. If the individual can handle it reading about and studying the testimony of those who have been a part of the pornography industry can give a perspective on what is truly happening to these people. If you believe that the people you are viewing are doing this because it is what they want and they find joy in the act of making porn it is a lot easier to view porn in a positive light. This is not reality as many have found themselves trapped in the industry and have their own personal issues that have led them down this path. Porn is not sexy when you see it for what it truly is.[58] As Christians not only should we be seeking to live lives that are consistent with who we are in Christ in our personal lives but we should also be seeking to care for our neighbor. The fact of the matter is that viewing the material does harm to those who produce it and for many, they are willing to give something up for others even if it is hard to do for the good of themselves.

Romans 13:8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. [59]

1 John 3:16 16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.[60]

This is not an attempt to give more law to fix the person but rather to help the individual see the performer how God sees that performer, as someone He was willing to have His Son die for so that they could have forgiveness as well.

When individuals who are in some way addicted to pornography begin to remove it from their lives they need to be aware of some symptoms that they may face in their recovery. There are withdrawal symptoms that can drive people back to pornography just like those who battle other issues of addiction. Symptoms that are described by those recovering are exaggerated stress response, feelings of hopelessness or “The world feels gray, ” irritability, anxiety, panic, unaccustomed tears, restlessness, headache, brain fog, depression, mood swings, desire to isolate, muscle tightness, insomnia, severe cravings for porn, and flatling which is a lack of any sex drive at all.[61] One needs to know that these are normal responses and be prepared for them knowing that they are often the worst in the first two weeks but can last longer for especially for those who have begun pornography use at a younger age and attempting to quit as an older individual.

Recovery or riding oneself of the using of pornography must never be presented as a straight-line process. There will be ups and downs along the way. There will be Romans 7 days, which should not be an excuse to sin, but it deals in the reality of the sin that still clings to the believer.

Romans 7:21-25 21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. [62]

Spiritual Steps in Combating the Sin of Pornography

Accountability is key in the process of seeking to break out of the use of pornography. The church needs to be a place where people can talk about real struggles with real issues and the sin of pornography is one of those prevalent sins in our society. With accountability being so important it is only a natural thing that private confession and absolution be something that is used to apply law and gospel to the individual who is dealing with the sin of pornography. This practice is making a comeback in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod but it still remains an alien practice to many within the LCMS. Pornography is such a “secret” sin that without multiple layers of accountability it is going to be a very difficult thing to overcome in one’s life. Ron Dehass founder of Covent Eyes says “filters can’t replace relationships for keeping people accountable.”[63]

One thing that pastors need to be aware of as they seek to confront sin and apply the healing balm of the gospel to the sin of pornography is that often times pornography is sought out to do what the gospel is supposed to do for individuals. Pornography is often an attempt to get rid of the pain of other issues in a person’s life. These could include other sins that they have committed but often time’s people are trying to numb pain because of sins that were committed against them. Covering pain is a common theme in the arena of sexual sins. Just as drugs are often times an attempt to cover pain so to is sex as it uses the same system in the brain.

Pastors are not the only area of spiritual accountability as husbands and wives need to work together in their own lives and fathers and mothers need to be leading their family in many of these conversations about topics of pornography, sex, and other difficult topics in the context of the Christian faith guided by the word of God.

Spiritual steps in the battle with pornography don’t simply have to deal with pornography directly. One of the ideas behind quitting any bad habit is to replace bad habits with good habits. Building good spiritual habits is going to benefit in many areas one of those areas being one’s battle against pornography. These habits included active participation in the worship life of the congregation, active participation in Bible study within the congregation, individual pray life, individual reading of the scriptures both devotionally and active study of the scriptures. In these activities, the individual will continually be confronted by God’s Law and continually receive the gospel in all its forms. In this battle, one must always remember who they are and that is someone that Christ has died for and forgiven.

Conclusion

There is much that can be said about the topic of pornography but what I hope that is clear from this paper is that this is not a small issue of a few people of society. This is a widespread issue both inside and outside the church. My hope and prayer is that you will take the matter seriously both in your own lives and in the lives of those around you. In this research I have had times of being overwhelmed with how big of an issue this seems to be and it is only one of the issues our world is facing. Yet what I continued to return to is not the bigness of the issue, but the greatness of our God who hates this sin yet loves you even more. So we continue to cling to the cross and point others there as well for that is our only hope. Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [64]

[1] Fight the New Drug. (2019). These 11 U.S. States Passed Resolutions Declaring Porn a Public Health Issue. [online] Available at: https://fightthenewdrug.org/here-are-the-states-that-have-passed-resolutions/ [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

[2] Nytimes.com. (2019). Playboy in Popular Culture. [online] Available at: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/09/28/business/media/playboy-hugh-hefner.html [Accessed 21 Feb. 2019].

[3] Horn, D. (2018). The Making of A Hustler. USA Today, p.1A.

 

[4] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (25).

[5] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (21).

[6] Wéry, A., & Billieux, J. (2016). Online sexual activities: An exploratory study of problematic and non-problematic usage patterns in a sample of men. Computers In Human Behavior56, 257-266. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.11.046

Kraus, S., Martino, S., & Potenza, M. (2016). Clinical Characteristics of Men Interested in Seeking Treatment for Use of Pornography. Journal Of Behavioral Addictions5(2), 169-178. doi: 10.1556/2006.5.2016.036

[7] Giordano, A., & Cashwell, C. (2017). Cybersex Addiction Among College Students: A Prevalence Study. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity24(1-2), 47-57. doi: 10.1080/10720162.2017.1287612

[8] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (96).

[9] Januszewski, A. (2018). Your Kids Face an Avalanche of Digital Smut. Dallas Morning News.

[10] Tydén, T., & Rogala, C. (2004). Sexual behaviour among young men in Sweden and the impact of pornography. International Journal Of STD & AIDS15(9), 590-593. doi: 10.1258/0956462041724299

[11] Hughes, D., & Stoner, J. (2010). The social costs of pornography. Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute. (4)

[12] Hughes, D., & Stoner, J. (2010) The social costs of pornography. Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute. (4)

[13] Hughes, D., & Stoner, J. (2010) The social costs of pornography. Princeton, NJ: Witherspoon Institute. (4) These statistics are very similar to what Barna presents in “The impact of pornography in the digital age” which is sighted later due to specific numbers on Christianity and pornography.

[14] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (32).

[15] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (46).

[16] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (33).

[17] This title could be misunderstood depending on the normal verbiage of your church body. This would qualify as any pastor who is not primarily in charge of youth. See Pg. 135 of the Barna report sighted above.

[18] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (81).

[19] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (66).

[20] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (66).

[21] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (66-67).

[22] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (67).

[23] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (67).

[24] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (68).

[25] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (68).

[26] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (69).

[27] Fradd, M. (2017). The porn myth: Exposing the reality behind the fantasy of pornography. San Francisco: Ignatius Press.

 

[28] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 1:24–32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[29] Rueger, M. (2016). Sexual morality in a Christless world. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (88).

 

[30] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (81).

[31] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (74).

[32] There is much more to be said about the issue of internet addiction which is also a controversial topic. The issue of porn and internet use are intertwined but keeping kids away from porn does not mean that they are safe from addiction to the internet. Pornography just seems to add a sexual reinforcement to the Internet use issues that are facing our youth today. Screens and Internet content also hijack the reward system in a similar way although even if it lacks the most powerful natural brain reinforcement of sexual pleasure. For more information on internet addiction and the side effects see Daine, K., Hawton, K., Singaravelu, V., Stewart, A., Simkin, S., & Montgomery, P. (2013). The Power of the Web: A Systematic Review of Studies of the Influence of the Internet on Self-Harm and Suicide in Young People. PLoS ONE,8(10). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077555

[33] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (35).

[34] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (40).

[35] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (42).

[36] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (43-44).

[37] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (71).

[38] Marston, C., & Lewis, R. (2014). Anal heterosex among young people and implications for health promotion: A qualitative study in the UK. BMJ Open,4(8). doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2014-004996

[39] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (80).

[40] Regnerus, M. (2017). Cheap sex: The transformation of men, marriage, and monogamy. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. (109).

[41] Regnerus, M. (2017). Cheap sex: The transformation of men, marriage, and monogamy. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. (109).

[42] Regnerus, M. (2017). Cheap sex: The transformation of men, marriage, and monogamy. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. (109).

[43] Moreno MA. What Parents Need to Know About Sexting. JAMA Pediatr. 2018;172(4):400. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2017.5745

[44] ‘Sexting’ and Suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/gender-and-schooling/200912/sexting-and-suicide

 

[45] Regnerus, M. (2017). Cheap sex: The transformation of men, marriage, and monogamy. New York, NY, United States of America: Oxford University Press. (210).

[46] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 6:17–29). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[47] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 5:27–28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[48] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 1:5–8). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[49] Nadia Bolz-Weber does ministry differently. (2018, October 24). Retrieved from https://outinjersey.net/nadia-bolz-weber-does-ministry-differently/

 

[50] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 1:32). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[51] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Jn 7:53–8:11). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[52] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Lk 7:36–50). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[53] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 7:7). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[54] Casciani, D. (2019, April 09). Zain Qaiser: Student jailed for blackmailing porn users worldwide. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47800378

[55] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 11:28). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[56] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (130).

[57] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (110).

[58] Articles related to this reality:

10 Ex-Porn Performers Reveal the Brutal Truth Behind Their Most Popular Scenes. (2019, January 03). Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/10-porn-stars-speak-openly-about-their-most-popular-scenes/?fbclid=IwAR1kytopOskZVTMHLFrAzhH46DdOuuH5hC9fc4xs0SYSpdIG1qSdRjsTtlo

How The Porn Industry Directly Fuels Sex Trafficking (VIDEO). (2018, January 29). Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/how-your-porn-supports-someone-elses-slavery/

The Porn Industry’s Dark Secrets. (2018, June 26). Retrieved from https://fightthenewdrug.org/the-porn-industrys-dark-secrets/

[59] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 13:8–10). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[60] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (1 Jn 3:16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[61] Wilson, G. (2017). Your brain on porn. Commonwealth Publishing. (33-34).

[62] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ro 7:21–25). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[63] The porn phenomenon: The impact of pornography in the digital age. (2016). Ventura, CA: Barna Group. (130).

[64] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mt 11:28–30). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

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