“A growing number of young men are convinced that their sexual responses have been sabotaged because their brains were virtually marinated in porn when they were adolescents. Their generation has consumed explicit content in quantities and varieties never before possible, on devices designed to deliver content swiftly and privately, all at an age when their brains were more plastic–more prone to permanent change–than in later life.” TIME
Two interesting discussions of the effects of pornography appeared this week. One is an article in TIME magazine (discretion advised). The other is in Focus on the Family’s Citizen magazine. One gives reason to celebrate. The other one warns of a serious problem bigger than we ever dreamed possible–even within the Church itself.
The TIME article tells the story of Alexander Rhodes who got started on porn as an 11-year-old. As he grew older, he realized the damage porn had on his ability to connect sexually with a woman. He currently runs two websites that offer support and counseling to those hoping to overcome addiction to pornography. His sites have 200,000 members.
But seeking help isn’t always easy.
“The shame around a compulsive porn habit makes asking for help difficult, even though neuroscientists say it could happen to anyone. Then there’s the reverse stigma for young men who speak against the genre in a culture that celebrates sexuality.”
People are embarrassed to ask for help for a problem they don’t want to admit. And when they do speak out, they get grief for being intolerant.
The Citizen article discusses the findings of a recent Barna Study and delineates how pervasive porn use is within society–men and women–and within the Church–pastors, youth pastors, the laity.
The numbers weren’t encouraging to say the least. Some were “disturbing”. Among the young, only 32 percent say viewing pornography is “usually or always wrong” while 56 percent say not recycling is “usually or always wrong.” Twenty-seven percent of young adults first encountered porn before puberty–hardwiring pornography images and a set of expectations about sex into their brains.
Perhaps most disturbing is that only 79 percent believe “sexual acts that may be forced or painful are wrong.”
While we typically think of men as the primary viewers of porn, more than half of young women under 25 say they seek out pornography.
The problem is pervasive in society and abides in our pews and our pulpits.
Fifty-seven percent of pastors and 64 percent of youth pastors “admit to struggling with pornography usage.” Youth pastors were twice as likely to say their porn struggles “negatively affected their ministry.”
Both articles tell of the recent unanimous vote in the Utah legislature to officially deem pornography use as a “public health crisis.” David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Group, was surprised at that finding.
“This was surprising given the high Mormon population. But this is an example of what happens when conservative religious rhetoric emphasizes the dangers of sexual behavior and promotes chastity without a counter-narrative for healthy sexuality, which leads to shame, confusion, mystery, guilt, and as in the case of adolescents, unrealistic expectations about sex and sexuality. And as we’re seeing, does little to curb the use of porn.”
It’s a conversation the Church needs and needs now. But 93 percent of pastors say they have no programs in place to help those who struggle with porn.
Church should be a safe refuge for people to name their sins and find help. Are we willing to be that help? Or will we continue to pretend it just isn’t happening to us?
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