The use of pornographic material among Christians continues to rise, reaching near epidemic proportions in the church. Shocking statistics released by Net Accountability reveal that 50 percent of evangelical pastors viewed pornography last year. A study by Internet Filter Review revealed that 53 percent of Promise Keeper men viewed pornography the week before the survey, and 17 percent of women admitted to struggling with pornography addiction. Focus on the Family recently reported that one in seven calls to their pastoral care line concern Internet pornography. Why the recent rise in pornographic use among Christians?
Many blame the Internet, which affords users anonymity, affordability, and accessibility. Individuals reluctant to purchase pornography at a local convenience store where others might see them can now indulge their fantasies in the privacy of their own home, sitting in front of the computer. Some delude themselves into thinking that it's "no big deal."
Maryanne would tell you otherwise. Her husband, a pastor and "a brilliant scholar of the Bible," battles an addiction to pornography. She and her husband have not had a physical relationship in years. When I asked her whether her husband shared his struggle with anyone, she replied, "Absolutely not! We'd probably be tarred and feathered and run out of town!" While that may sound dramatic, it may not be too far off the mark in some churches.
This raises the question, "How do committed Christian men and women become addicted to pornography?"
Understanding Pornography Addiction
Steven Earll, MA, MS, LPC, LAC, answers that question in his article "Why Do People Become Addicts. "After spending years studying the issue and counseling addicts, I can tell you that addictions are very complex. Yet, I also know that many people who engage in harmful behavior (even if they would not be clinically diagnosed as an addict) do so as a result of unresolved family trauma." Events such as separation and divorce, family loss, abuse, parental addictions, major medical or psychological problems, and even death can all trigger an addiction to pornography. Research suggests that memories of experiences that occur at times of emotional and sexual arousal are locked into the brain by an adrenal gland hormone, epinephrine, making them difficult to erase. However, several ministries offer tools and resources to help individuals overcome their addiction.
- Pure Intimacy (www.pureintimacy.org), a ministry of Focus on the Family, provides resources for pastors and ministry leaders, parents, and couples dealing with sexual addiction. Included on their website are guidelines for developing accountability relationships and steps for confronting a spouse's secret sin.
- New Life Ministries (www.newlife.com) offers the Every Man's Battle Workshop, a three-day workshop for men struggling with sexual addiction, along with practical tools that help preserve sexual integrity. The workshop offers insight into the nature of sexual temptation, daily disciplines in recovery, restoring trust and communication in marriage, and relapse prevention.
- Pure Life Ministries (http://www.purelifeministries.org) offers books, articles, audiotapes, and both a live-in and an at-home program to help men overcome sexual addiction. The site also offers help for wives whose husbands struggle with pornography.
Overcoming Your Addiction
If you are in bondage to pornography, you can begin the healing process today by taking these important first steps.
- First, recognize that you have a problem. " He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion" (Proverbs 28:13, NASB).
- Confess your problem to God, a mature believer who can hold you accountable, and your spouse. " Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16, NASB).
- Seek guidance from your pastor, a mature believer of the same sex, or a trained professional to resolve past trauma and facilitate healing in your marriage. "For by wise guidance you will wage war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory" (Proverbs 24:6).
- Be wise. Purchase filtering software for your computer. "By wisdom a house is built" (Proverbs 24:3).
- Recognize that victory over addiction will be a marathon, not a sprint. "A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again" (Proverbs 24:16).
You need not suffer in silence. There is help and healing for those who seek it. However, just as addictions take time to develop, so does recovery. Be patient with yourself and persevere. Trust God to grant you the grace and strength you need--one step at a time.
Every Man's Battle
Fires of Darkness
Pure Life Ministries
Restoring the Soul