Love, Lust, Porn and the Church

Pornography is “so focused on yourself, you don’t even have another person. . . . [It] is everything the Bible says is not what sex is supposed to be.” Dr. Tim Keller

I remember a college class called science, technology, and society, actually a philosophy class, in which the professor posited that the images we watch on television become more real to us than the reality around us.

He gave as his example the first (the second hadn’t happened yet) Challenger disaster. He talked about how the tragedies we watch on television can affect us more deeply than local events we don’t see.

What we watch on screens affects us more than we know. And what others see influences the world around us more than we realize.

In his sermon/podcast “Love and Lust,” Dr. Timothy Keller explains that porn affects all our relationships. That porn influences social aspects from fashion choices to marriage rates, asserting that the drop in American marriage rates is largely due to porn.

Keller quotes Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker’s book Premarital Sex in America: How Young Americans Meet, Mate, and Think about Marrying:

“People who use pornography have crushingly unrealistic expectations regarding physical appearance and sexual performance. . . .

“A significant number of male porn users experience a diminished tolerance for the difficulties of real relationships, . . . shrink[ing] the marriage pool for women. . . .”

Pornography is “why the number of people getting married is going down.”

That’s easy to see. But fashion trends?

“All women . . . are increasingly being forced to accommodate sexual behaviors and their appearances to the images and style of pornography.”

The fashion industry influenced by porn? That seems far-fetched.

But Andi Zeisler agrees with Keller, and Regnerus and Uecker. “Porn is now not only represented in, but an indelible part of, everything from high culture to fashion magazines to college curricula,” she writes.

The discussion comes full circle when Zeisler references Naomi Wolf who predicted nearly two decades ago that “far from turning men into the raving, sex-mad predators that anti-porn crusaders . . . once warned against, [porn] is turning them off of regular, nondigital women.” 

Marriage rates support Wolf’s thesis. But not all porn watchers are rejecting sex with a partner altogether.

Ponder this: Rod Dreher’s citation of The Telegraph: “A GP [general practitioner physician] let’s call her Sue, said: ‘I’m afraid things are much worse than people suspect.’ In recent years, Sue had treated growing numbers of teenage girls with internal injuries [caused by frequent deviant sex] . . . not, as Sue found out, because she wanted to, or because she enjoyed it – on the contrary – but because a boy expected her to. “I’ll spare you the gruesome details,” said Sue, “but these girls are very young and slight and their bodies are simply not designed for that.”

What else is porn doing to women and girls?

We imagine the stereotypical porn user as a man sitting in his basement (perhaps his mother’s) in the dark in front of a flickering screen (his phone or computer). He is glassy-eyed and probably unemployed.

But Zeisler cites Adella O’Neal, publicist for Digital Playground, pointing out that “in 2000 roughly 9 percent of the company’s consumers were women; four years later, that figure . . . bloomed to 53 percent.”

Fox News reports: “Women aren’t excluded from this heavy porn-watching either. Pornhub released information in 2017 that revealed women spending more time watching porn than men, reports anti-porn advocacy group Fight the New Drug. Women were also more likely to search for harder versions of porn than men.”

That may be how we moved from the idea that porn exploits and victimizes women to the emerging notion that sex work empowers them.

Sadly many in the Church have been drinking the poison too.

Fox News continues: Covenant Eyes [a porn addiction recovery organization]” reports that “64 percent of Christian men and 15 percent of Christian women report watching porn at least once a month.”

Porn gives us a distorted view of ourselves and others. And this distorted vision is downloaded into the minds of a majority of Christian men and a significant percentage of Christian women–at least monthly–often daily.

Also this from Dreher: “At a conservative Christian college not long ago, a campus minister told me that every single young man he works with, helping them to prepare for seminary after graduation, is addicted to pornography (meaning that they use it compulsively, and find it impossible to stop, even though they want to). Sixteen young men — conservative, churchgoing men who want to serve God and others as pastors — caught in that trap.” 

In Pure Desire: How One Man’s Triumph Can Help Others Break Free from Sexual Temptation, Ted Roberts writes: “Sexual addiction is not just a struggle over a mental perspective; it touches God’s very image, as well as the depths of a man’s soul.”

Here’s an ironic reality. Psychology Today quotes a scholarly study that shows porn use actually lessens sexual satisfaction rather than enhancing it.

“Notably, under no circumstances was pornography use associated with greater sexual satisfaction. These findings, while correlational, suggest that even infrequent use of pornography has negative effects on sexual satisfaction.”

Satan’s counterfeits never match up to what God intended in giving humans the gift of sex.

Where is hope for us?

As mentioned above, Covenant Eyes is a good place to start.

But first, we must recognize the problem. And it’s much more pervasive than we want to think it is.

It’s a heart issue.

We want what we want. We’ve bought so far into materialism and pleasure that we have lost sight of who we are. Of who every other person is.

Each one, imago Dei, the image of God. Each one, His poiema, God’s masterpiece.

Every one.

The child in the womb. The person on the street, homeless, alone, and hungry. The woman on the screen.

And everyone who sits on the other side of the screen.

From Ted Roberts: “Numerous authors have written books concerning the clinical aspects of sexual addictions, and even more books call for believers to seek holiness. But our [ministry’s] ultimate focus is more specific . . . . [We want to] persuade the Church to become a place of hope and healing rather than of shame for those fighting sexual battles. . . .

We need ruthless honesty that exceeds our comfort zones and pursues God’s heart, no matter the cost.”

Individuals and ministries need to pursue God’s heart. Such pursuit comes with a great cost.

The cost of ignoring this issue is much greater.

“Flee sexual immorality. Every other sin that a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought for a price: therefore glorify God in your body,” I Corinthians 6: 18-20.

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