Category Archives: pornography

Shame and ministry of seeing vulnerable people


When Jesus saw her [someone crippled for 18 years], he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” (Luke 13:12)

When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6)

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. (Matthew 9:36)

When you think of Jesus’ ministry, you may think about the miracles or the sermons or the conflicts with the priests or the conversations with his disciples. But notice how much of his ministry is the work of seeing invisible and burdened people; people with shame. He sees lepers, the blind man Bartimaeus, the bleeding woman, the Samaritan woman, the centurion with a sick child, the rich young ruler and many more.

He had to see them; he had to go through Samaria. Why did he have to go? He had to go in order to meet broken people where they lived (or sat or lay).

Crossing the chasm of shame 

This past weekend I taught at Biblical Seminary on the topic of pornography and sexual addiction. The MDiv course, was designed less to help current and future pastors help addicts and more to help ministry leaders address their own struggles with sexual shame.  The truth is that we all carry around in our being some form of sexual shame. It is something we want to hide and keep from others. We don’t want this shame to be seen, even if our shame is caused by the sins of others.

During the class I asked everyone to consider one of their experiences of shame and to then list on separate post-its what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts that it might evoke (HT to the post-it queen herself–Heather Drew–for this idea!). Then, I had them consider what sensations, images, feelings and thoughts they had when they recalled a time they felt loved and cared for by someone who knew that shame story they carried. Students then placed their post-its on opposite walls of a hall. Silently the class first examined the shame side and then moved to consider the grace side. While it was easy to move from shame to grace in our activity, we considered the chasm shame creates and the impossibility of really being seen AND loved at the same time.

When I asked students how they moved from shame to grace in their own lives, the stories contained a common element. There was someone who pursued them, who stuck out a hand and drew them out of their shame. This someone was someone who saw them and love them just the same.

This is the central ministry of Jesus. He crosses the chasm of shame and sees (and touches) the unloved. Lest you think that God the father is a distant member of the trinity, remember that his first action after Adam and Eve sinned was to go find them. He pursued them. He saw them. He engaged in conversation. He provided a covering for them. Some of the most beautiful images of this ministry of seeing us in our shame and pursuing us just the same is found in the book of Hosea. Depicted as a wayward wife who has returned to prostitution, God’s people are pursued by him, bought back from the pimp and invited back into the marriage bed.

The main ministry of Jesus is pursuit of broken people, to see them and touch them. It is not to put them in a program of change as we are often want to do. Rather, Jesus invites those he loves to remain connected to him, to follow him. Consider the invitations Peter received before and after the crucifixion:

Peter said to him, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “if I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” (John 13:8)

He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” (John 21:17f)

What if the work of the church is to see and serve shamed individuals? How might this change how we evaluate Christian ministry outcomes?

 

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Filed under Biblical Seminary, pornography, sexual addiction, Uncategorized

Pastors and porn: what to do?


The latest issue of Christianity Today has an article on pastors and the struggle with pornography. Here’s a couple of pieces of data from the 770 pastors surveyed

  • Current struggle? 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors say yes
  • How frequent a struggle? 35% of both categories say “a few times per month”
  • Past struggle? 43% of both categories say yes

So, it is a problem. But here’s the data that stood out to me most of all.

  • 70% of adult Christians say that if a pastor is having this struggle, the pastor should either be fired or put on leave until the problem is resolved? While
  • Only 8% of pastors think they should leave their position if having this problem

While not surprising, it is telling. We think we should manage our own problems (or get a counselor or accountability group–that is still managing on our own) and that these problems don’t hinder our work.

What do you think?

How serious is the problem of porn use amongst pastors? Should it be cause to lose the position? Sinlessness is not a reasonable goal for pastors. But what would disqualify one from the position?

And if porn is a significant problem amongst congregants (and this study among many say so), does having a pastor with a current (even if infrequent) use of porn help or hinder care of congregants?

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Filed under Christianity: Leaders and Leadership, pastors and pastoring, pornography, Uncategorized

Help and Hope For Porn Addiction: 2 Questions


Recently, I made a presentation to a group of men about the problem of porn use/addiction. It proved to be a lively conversation and I didn’t get an opportunity to get through all of the content. Below are 2 questions I was asked. Consider these answers:

  • What is wrong with watching porn with my wife? We both enjoy it and it spices up our sex life?

Besides the clear command to avoid all sexual immorality and to not lust after another? Supposing you want more than that here are some additional thoughts. God has given us imagination as a tool to be used for our good and our pleasure. Therefore, it stands to reason that imagination is highly important in the bedroom. However, it should be used as a tool to honor each other and to promote oneness. As soon as our eyes our off our spouse (whether in a literal sense or a figurative sense), we are seeking to use another for our sexual pleasure. Porn necessarily brings images of others into your bedroom thus moving away from reality and oneness. The images porn uses are not accurate or real and only encourages disappointment in the real thing.

And may I note that I have only heard this question from men. Given my experience of hearing so many wives who have been hurt by their husband’s interest in bringing porn into their own lovemaking, I am suspicious that the wife enjoys it as much as might be thought. At the end of your lovemaking and/or porn use, does she feel special? Does she feel honored? Does she feel she cannot measure up to what is not the screen?

Despite the injunction against porn use by Christians, do not take this to mean that the sex life of Christians must be boring. Seeking to satisfy the pleasures of your spouse gives ample room for creative fun in the bedroom.

  •  How long can I enjoy looking at [name of well-known female star]  and not begin to lust? Is it always wrong to enjoy female beauty?

Of course there is no specific answer that can be given as to how many nano-seconds are pure and at what point the look ogle turns lustful.  Is it possible to enjoy beauty in a person not your spouse? Yes. I would suggest that it is impossible not to notice beauty when you see it. However, I would quickly add that some forms of beauty are more likely to turn lustful in a split second. Noticing Beyoncé’s lovely singing voice probably won’t turn to lust. Noticing her Super Bowl attire…that is another matter.

Here’s what I would like you to consider. The question you are asking, “how long can I look before sinning” may reveal a dangerous motive. It seems that you might be asking, how close can I get to the cliff without falling over? Is it okay to have one foot on solid ground but lean over the edge? Can you see the danger in this thinking? Instead, we ought to humbly recognize that it is easy for us to move from momentary admiration to fantasy. It is good to accept that we will notice beauty and that we must guard our very next thought.

One more thought for you. While noticing beauty is part of who God has made you, is it possible that you have well-trained yourself to search for beauty? Is your head on a swivel? Have you long practiced taking the second and third look? If so, then you are likely not merely noticing beauty but actively looking for images you can use for your own fantasy.  

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Filed under addiction, pornography, self-deception, Sex, sexuality, Uncategorized

New Resource for Men with Porn Addiction


A friend of mine, David White, published a book late last year with New Growth Press entitled, Sexual Sanity For Men: Re-creating Your Mind in a Crazy Culture. I commend you this book for several reasons.

  1. The topic is absolutely important. David doesn’t offer a white knuckle approach to dealing with sexual temptations. Nor does he gloss over the difficulties and give the simplistic bible answer as to why porn use is bad for you or that Jesus is a substitute for porn (see week 11, day 2 for how why he rightly says, “Jesus is not going to become like porn for you” and why many addicts imagine that he will.)
  2. The book design is perfect. By saying this I am not talking about its physical attributes. Ever read a book that has decent sized chapters and then a few questions at the end? If you are like me you might glance at those “for further thought” questions and then move on to the next chapter. The result is that you get lots of content quickly but make little to no application. David’s book is written in the format of daily readings (5 per week) for 14 weeks. Each reading is about 2-3 pages with specific reflection  and self-assessment questions with space to write. I suggest a reader complete on own but then meet up with a group of guys and discuss (hold accountable) what your read/wrote.
  3. The focus. The material and questions spend what may feel like an inordinate amount of time on discovering how deceived we are. You could feel like he is beating a dead horse. But I would suggest that David is intentionally helping readers peel back layer and layer of deceptions that allow sin to continue. How else could believers imbibe sin if they weren’t first deadening with deception? For example, he asks the reader to note where they wear the “fig leaf of ministry” as a way to mollify guilt.

I would encourage readers to add one question to each day/week: “What is one thing I am going to endeavor to do today, with God’s help, in light of what I just read?” If we only stay with the assessment, we can become defeated and discouraged by the amount of mess we find. But, God gives us a way of escape. Where is it today? Don’t promise yourself the world. You’ll break that promise. Endeavor to make one small, incremental change today. Tomorrow, you’ll do it again. And, don’t try to do it alone.

You can find David at www.harvestusa.org.

*received complimentary book from NGP but review is my own and not the result of free books. I get plenty others that never make my recommended list.

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Filed under book reviews, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction

Good Read: Covenant Eyes on Porn/Trafficking Connection


The link between the demand side of sex and trafficking has already been established by good research. But, few are aware of some of the connections and many think that porn use is only a personal decision without larger consequences.

I commend to you this link to a well-written essay by Luke Gilkerson of Covenant Eyes. (Covenant Eyes provides technology to track and filter unwanted sexual content for Internet users.) In this essay he summarizes the linkages and reminds readers that one of the best ways to get the message out is with a good video. He provides an extensive bibliography of videos on the topic of sex trade, porn, trafficking, and their impact on victims, families, and users.

Good stuff for you to consider.

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Book idea: Sexual Crises in the Church


Pastors and church leaders have to navigate a variety of sexual crises that may arise in their congregations. These crises may or may not be crises for some churches even while they devastate another community. And surely these are not the only crises a church may face. But matters of sexuality often unnerve the leadership.

What crises am I referring to? Sexual abuse allegations, date-rape, infidelity among attendees and, pastoral (or leader) sexual abuse, couples living together, sex offenders returning to church, sexual addictions, individuals struggling with sexual or gender identity issues, etc.

Where would they turn to get helps in thinking about the various issues, practical pastoral responses (to the individuals involved as well as the entire congregation)? I’m thinking about a one source document that might survey biblical foundations, explore possible responses as well as prevention plans where appropriate. Why wait til the Crisis to consider how one might want to think about it?

Anyone seen such a resource? I’ve got some other writing assignments but I could imagine an edited volume on the topic. Maybe I’ll skip grading today and see if I can start a proposal.

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Filed under Abuse, christian counseling, christian psychology, Christianity, pornography, Sex, sexual addiction, sexual identity, sexuality

OP Ed piece on pornography you should read


I subscribe to a listserv that documents abuse and exploitation around the world. Recently, I received notice of an article in the National Review (by an anonymous psychologist) entitled, “Getting Serious about Pornography”. The writer documents the known impact of pornography on men (i.e., the objectification of women) and at the same time tells of her own experience of being abandoned by her husband due to his porn addiction. I include her first paragraph. Click the link above for the essay on the original website.

Imagine a drug so powerful it can destroy a family simply by distorting a man’s perception of his wife. Picture an addiction so lethal it has the potential to render an entire generation incapable of forming lasting marriages and so widespread that it produces more annual revenue ­ $97 billion worldwide in 2006 ­ than all of the leading technology companies combined. Consider a narcotic so insidious that it evades serious scientific study and legislative action for decades, thriving instead under the ever-expanding banner of the First Amendment.

According to an online statistics firm, an estimated 40 million people use this drug on a regular basis. It doesn’t come in pill form. It can’t be smoked, injected, or snorted. And yet neurological data suggest its effects on the brain are strikingly similar to those of synthetic drugs. Indeed, two authorities on the neurochemistry of addiction, Harvey Milkman and Stanley Sunderwirth, claim it is the ability of this drug to influence all three pleasure systems in the brain ­ arousal, satiation, and fantasy ­ that makes it “the pièce de résistance among the addictions.”

For more click the link above. It is well worth the effort.

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Filed under counseling, marriage, News and politics, pornography, Psychology, Sex, sexual addiction

Connecting the dots: porn and rape


A few days ago a young woman/teen was found partially clothed and semi-conscious under a Philadelphia bridge. At the time I am writing this post, it is assumed (nothing too outlandish here) that she was assaulted and raped and left for dead. Whether or not this turns out to be the exact situation for this injured woman matters not for the rest of the post. What does matter is that we know that rape happens.

How does one get to the place of treating another human being like an object and caring nothing for that person’s feelings, interests? We’d like to believe that rape, murder, slavery, trafficking, and the sort are different sorts of animals than the wee little sins we commit. But such heinous acts have exactly the same roots as “normal” objectification.

Take porn for example. On first blush, there is not any interpersonal crime in looking at a pornographic image. The assumption goes that the individuals in the pictures have voluntarily allowed themselves to be photographed and are happy with what they are doing. Of course, we know that these two assumptions are not always true. But even IF we accept the assumption, we must also accept that the viewer of the pictures cares nothing about the person in the picture. They exist for one reason only–to provide pleasure for the viewer. They have no feelings, they are only objects on a page.

The one dimensional image allows the viewer to begin the process of not seeing the other and not seeing their abuse of the other. And we are well aware of the common path of porn use. Start with a scantily clad image, move to complete nude, then to more and more dramatic pictures of sex acts which often include bondage, pain, or other grotesque acts.

Most people would have trouble watching a friend or a loved one engage in such an act, much less act out such activity on someone in pain. Most of us couldn’t just rape a stranger–at least at this point. But the root is the same: ignoring the personhood of the person in front of us. The person who is able to rape, traffick, or enslave has just been more successful in protecting themself from empathy, putting themself in the shoes of another, etc. We haven’t yet gone that far but notice that we begin such activities by our ability to objectify people on television or even in our everyday life. We murder (in our hearts) the incompetent bagger at the grocery store. We care little about his or her life. I’m not putting a passing hateful thought on par with rape but when we fail to recognize the person on the other side we begin to make it possible to deny the humanness of the other, whether a victim of a crime or the perpetrator.

Reminds me of Miroslav Volf’s quote in Exclusion and Embrace (p. 124): 

“Forgiveness flounders because I exclude the enemy from the community of humans even as I exclude myself from the community of sinners.”

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Filed under Abuse, christian psychology, Christianity, deception, pornography, sin

Bringing light to the porn and prostitution industries


This weekend I started reading Victor Malarek’s book, The Natashas: Inside the New Global Sex Trade. It is about the 4th wave or explosion of trafficked women from Eastern Europe who are enslaved as sex slaves around the world. Not fun reading but necessary for those interested in understanding the extent and effect of sex trafficking. [WARNING: If you have suffering sexual abuse, you do not need to read this book. It would only add to your trauma. This book is for those who do not know your experience!]

I suspect that this book would be useful for those struggling with temptations to visit massage parlors, prostitutes or view on-line pornography. Each of these illicit sexual encounters is designed to convey the message that the woman wants and enjoys providing the man with pleasure. While I recognize that some individuals pursue bondage and pain oriented pornography, most find coercive imagery counterproductive to their sexual fantasy. Hence, this book would be useful in that it has the capacity to blow up pleasure oriented fantasy. Tempted to look at porn? Recognize that the pictures you find enjoyable are likely made by those exploiting and enslaving women. She may be smiling at you but she may be doing so in order to avoid further torture or death.

The author is correct when he asserts that the sex trade benefits from complicity (using women for one’s own pleasure) and complacency (assuming the women are willing victims). Unfortunately, he has no real answer other than to expose the shame of countries and politicians that turn a blind eye.  

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Filed under Abuse, book reviews, News and politics, pornography, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, prostitution, Sex, suffering

Characteristics of an on-line predator and victim


The February edition of the American Psychologist (63:2) has an article surveying the literature regarding, “Online ‘Predators’ and Their Victims.” The authors start by making this assertion, “The publicity about online “predators” who prey on naive children using trickery and violence is largely inaccurate.” (p. 111). So, what is the truth as we know it now?

1. “…Internet-initiated sex crimes–those in which sex offenders meet juvenile victims on-line–is different, more complex, and serious but less archetypically frightening than the publicity about these crimes suggests.” (p. 111-2) The on-line predators are not usually pedophiles and are rarely violent (unless you would believe that convincing a minor to have sex is by very nature a violation and therefore violent.) And yet, child porn is often found with these offenders (maybe more teen version than pre-pubescent).

2. After surveying current literature, crime stats, and law enforcement agencies, they find that most crimes, “involve men who use the Internet to meet and seduce underage adolescents into sexual encounters.” (p. 112). Generally, these men do not deceive the minors about their age. Only 5% pretended to be teens. The deceptions that are present are promises of love and romance. So, the authors suggest these crimes usually fit statutory rape (non-forced sexual contact of an adult with a minor) rather than child abuse or pedophilia. (This assumes that the latter is not as bad as the former???)

3. At the present time, it appears that Internet-initiated statutory rape accounts for 7% of all statutory rape cases. Sex crimes against youth are not increasing (based on a decrease in substantiated child sexual abuse cases and reports of sexual assaults by teens). So, the evidence of marked increase is not yet found per these authors. Of course, this does not account for the marked increase in sex exposure that is very definitely happening. Nor does it account for the increase in children being spoken to in sexual terms by other folks on-line. I would want to assume this is an offense.

4. The victims are rarely young children. Instead, they are teens (and more likely the 15-17 year olds) taking risks with personal information. What actions make these teens vulnerable? Its not so much that they post identifying information about themselves (since a very large proportion do this). Rather, they send personal information to an unknown person, chat with an unknown person (only 5% do this), have unknown persons in their “buddy” lists, use the Internet to look for sexual material, spend time on file-sharing sites, have off-line sexual abuse histories, have same-sex attraction, and/or use the Internet to make threatening comments to others (this is interesting, those willing to attack others on-line are themselves more at risk for being sexualized).

The point the authors are making is that media accounts may focus too much on the younger child victim image and miss the typical offender in his late twenties that is immature and unable to relate well to peers so he pursues younger teens to make him feel more manly. If this is the case, then they argue that our prevention plans should be to increase education regarding the nature and consequences of statutory rape, to focus more on adolescents rather than their parents. This is probably a good idea. However, having parents actually know and track their kids on-line behavior is still the best bet. There is no reason a child needs to be in a chat room. period. And just because it isn’t so much about pedophiles, lets not let our guard down. Statutory rape isn’t any better just because the victim thinks they are consenting.

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Filed under Abuse, pornography, Sex