The evil of pornography pervades our culture. Who can open a newspaper or look something up on the internet (let alone watch TV and movies) and not be confronted with it? Yet it destroys relationships among people and with God. Rev Archbald of the RCNZ, while addressing the FRCA Synod Albany 2021, spoke of pornography being a major concern in the RCNZ. I suspect that we in the FRCA, too, have reason to be concerned. The following article by Rev W B Slomp of the Canadian Reformed Churches speaks of this pernicious problem[i] and we do well to take his message to heart.
Addiction to Pornography
The sins you find in the world, you will find in the church as well. God’s people are negatively affected by the degradation in which they live. Sadly, that is the case with pornography as well.
Pornography is more readily available in today’s society than at any other time in the history of western civilization. Its lewd visuals are projected onto billboards, are embedded in magazines and movies, and are widely dispersed throughout the Internet. It is hard to escape pornographic images. Morals within society have changed considerably over the last few decades, allowing an avalanche of pornographic material to flood the market place.
Pornography is big business. It is estimated that $10 billion to $14 billion a year is spent in the United States alone. That is more than is spent annually on gambling! And like gambling, it is powerfully addictive.
Sadly, it is also a great problem for Christian men. According to Focus on the Family, sixteen percent of married men within the church, including ministers, have a serious problem with pornography.
Pornography and illicit sex have been with us since the beginning. When Adam and Eve fell into sin they immediately felt the need to cover their naked bodies. They realized that their desires for each other were no longer pure. As a result, they desired each other for selfish reasons and for selfish gratification.
Indeed, the presence of sexual sins and pornography can be evidenced throughout the pages of the Bible. As in the case of Adam and Eve, the beautiful gift of sex, intended for a lawfully married couple alone, has become perverted and distorted time and time again. For example, even a godly man such as David was sexually aroused when he watched Bathsheba bathing, and he subsequently committed adultery with her.
What causes someone to turn to pornography? There is no doubt that the root cause of people turning to pornography is the sinful heart. It says in Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” When humankind fell into sin we became totally corrupt. We were no longer capable of wholeness. We became estranged from God, and estranged from others. An empty void emerged in our life that needed to be filled. Humans cry out for union, for completeness. We need to feel satisfied and we need to feel good about ourselves. As a result, we strive to fill this void.
There are many ways to fill the empty void for the moment. For this reason, we are easily enslaved to one kind of addiction or another. And such slavery is very hard to break. The power of slavery is dramatically illustrated by the Israelites after they left Egypt. They were slaves to the Egyptians, but God, through Moses, set them free. However, once they were in the desert they wanted to go back to their slavery – they wanted to go back because their needs were no longer being met as rapidly as they wanted. They craved the immediate gratification of the flesh. They were not willing to wait for God to feed them and to give them drink. In Egypt, even though they had harsh taskmasters over them, they were well-fed and they felt safe and secure. But in the desert they faced an uncertain future, and they had to get used to new experiences. The Lord had to inflict harsh discipline in order to have them break away from their slavery.
The same thing is true of slavery to pornography. Like many other things, pornography is abhorrent, but it is also pleasurable. Once you are enslaved, the pleasurable aspects often win out over the abhorrent and familiar ones. And it is especially easy to succumb to the temptations when you are weak and do not trust in the Lord to deliver you.
People who are addicted to pornography do a lot of damage, not only to themselves, but also to the ones they love. For example, men who are enslaved by it will often treat women as objects of their pleasure, and shun intimacy. They are immature and do not want to invest in an intimate relationship. In their minds it is easier to relate to an inanimate object that does not require accountability. And as a result, relationships deteriorate and become broken. But these consequences pale in comparison to the effects that this addiction has upon the addict’s relationship with God. The use of pornography results in a broken relationship with the Holy One. Paul says in Ephesians 5:3, “But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality. . . because these are improper for God’s holy people.” He says further that no immoral person has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. And so within the church of God sexual immorality should not be swept under the rug. We must deal with it.
It is very hard to correct behaviour – especially addictive behaviour. Satan wants to keep us in slavery. However, God requires us to deal with our sins, and to help others overcome their sins. We cannot do this without God’s help. And so, correcting addictive behaviour has to be done prayerfully, with a true desire to live our lives to the glory of God. Our relationship with God has to be our first priority. Only He can fill the empty void in our lives.
Those who are addicted to pornography typically think, like the Israelites in the wilderness, that God must fulfill their needs. If He does not, they refuse to honour Him and his laws. Addicts must change this way of thinking and repent. Those close to the addicted – wives, elders, parents, etc. – must hold them accountable to God and his laws. The addicted are fornicators and adulterers and must be treated as such.
In addition, addicts must also restore their relationship with loved ones, and deal with the reasons for their unwillingness, and apparent inability, to be truly intimate with others. It is possible that they have been hurt by others in the past. As a result they feel unloved and experience hurt. They are angry, and typically suffer from low self-esteem. They do not have intimate relationships because they are afraid to be hurt again and consequently they are lonely. All of these issues need to be dealt with openly and honestly in order to reverse these negative patterns.
Furthermore, those engaged in pornography have to allow themselves to be accountable to loved ones. Typically, pornography is viewed in secret. For example, a man will look at pornographic materials when his wife is not home or when she has gone to bed; teenagers will keep their magazines hidden or watch pornography on the computer screen or a TV screen in a place where no one is watching. Therefore, in order to make addicts accountable, Internet, TV and movie access has to be monitored. Children should not have access to these media, except under carefully controlled conditions, and from a place open to all, such as the kitchen or the living room.
On the Internet there are also web sites available that help hold others accountable for Internet use. There is, for example, a website known as “The Covenant Eyes Program” (http://www.covenanteyes.com). When you join this program, you are asked to provide the names of at least one “Accountability Partner” who is a person with whom you have a mutually accountable relationship. Then, on a regular basis, each person will receive an accountability log that will show a record of all of the sites visited, including the web addresses and amount of time spent on the Internet. This log is e-mailed to the Accountability Partner. This program is maintained on computers somewhere in the United States, and so the history of sites visited by the member cannot be erased.
Finally, married men should agree to go to bed at the same time with their wife, and be willing to speak to their spouse about their life together.
Satan is out to destroy the church. He wants to destroy our youth and our marriages. Pornography is one of the tools in his arsenal. Let us not allow Satan to do his destructive work in the church. Let us destroy the work of darkness. We can do this in the victory of Christ. He has set us free from sin and the devil. And that must show in our lives.
[i] This article appeared in Clarion Vol. 53:2 and is published here with Rev Slomp’s kind permission.