Porn is Slowly Killing Evangelicalism

Porn is Slowly Killing Evangelicalism June 12, 2018

Pornography is single-handedly one of the worst epidemics facing the Evangelical church today. There are a myriad of other factors which appear to be eroding the Western church from the inside-out, yet Evangelicals scarcely address the root of the problem of pornography within the church. On the whole, human sexuality is undergoing an existential crisis. Yet the church is placed squarely in the midst of this crisis, often not even addressing its own underlying issues until far too late. Leader after leader (after leader!) disqualifies himself through sexual misconduct, all the while the name of Christ is slandered. Lest we focus on only Evangelical leaders though, sexual misconduct, including rampant use of porn, is very much present within the laity of the church.

Researchers have shown the phenomena physically alters the structure of our brains. We even know desensitization occurs, as warped views of human sexuality increase in order to even experience sexual gratification. Furthermore, we are fully aware of the correlation between sex trafficking and the multi-billion dollar porn industry. We are also startlingly aware of the correlation between viewing pornography and committing sex-crimes. It also isn’t shocking to find that an individual engaging in private infidelity through porn is more likely to carry out the physical expression if given the opportunity, even though both result in an increased likelihood of divorce.

One might be tempted to look at these things from a purely clinical perspective, but Scriptural precedent clearly establishes a direct correlation between all forms of sexual perversion and a hatred of God and our fellow man. Yet Evangelical Christians are still participating in these deeds of darkness without much forethought to the long-term consequences. Here we stand, at the precipice of cultural, sexual anarchy, enjoying the same titillating nonsense this world so eagerly digests. What is dumbfounding to me is how we continue to see Evangelical leaders fall after allegations of sexual misconduct – yet we fail to draw the proper correlation back to the epidemic that is sexual immorality. Why? We hedge our definitions.

A Personal Excursus

I vividly remember the first time I was exposed to pornography as a child. I was seven years old. Seven. These were the days of latchkey children; both parents would be working whilst their children exercised dominion over their neighborhoods. Long summer days were filled with bike-riding, scratch games of street hockey or baseball, and the regular mischief any child gets into when they have hours of free time before mom and dad come home.

On one such day my neighbor’s children easily conned me into riding our bikes past the highway – something we were all strictly forbidden of. We made our way past the busy road, closing our eyes as we darted across lanes of traffic with “no handlebars”, and found the familiar trails we had worn bare. This time though, we took a new path, one my friends assured me would lead us to stumble upon something cool when we “got there”.

We rode for about ten minutes until we reached a small clearing the new path had taken us to. While there were many amenities for the homeless man who made this patch of grass his abode, the three I remember are the Penthouse magazine, a liter of gin, and a pack of smokes. All three of us partook in the spoils of our find – and incidentally enough, those three items which rocked our adolescence provided the fodder for a plethora of pitfalls. I was seven years old. Seven.

My son, if sinners entice you, do not yield to them (Proverbs 1:10).

While there are many object lessons bound within my own story – parents would do well not to base decisions upon fear, but rather, act with prudential foresight into the very real, ever-present devastation that sin brings. My experience was 24 years ago. I am a man now equipped to deal with the baggage and weight of sin, but then I was not. I had no clue what I was getting myself into, nor did I recognize the consequences of this folly would be so long-lasting.

I did not have a father who trained me in Scripture and pleaded with me to avoid sexual sin. I grew up in a home that glorified sexual exploits at a young age (my father was an unbeliever until my early 20’s). Thus, when I entered middle school and heard the tales of my father’s youthful indiscretions, my pre-pubescent awkwardness was at its height. I was not confident. I was not able to attract women in that manner. Of course, I didn’t quite understand, beyond a vague notion of “saving yourself for the one you love”, that this was completely unhealthy for a twelve year-old, let alone a warped view of sexuality as it were.

But, I had my old standby. Porn, though hard to come by at first, was an easy outlet for my bumbling misunderstanding of sexuality. Even though I had to be sneaky because there was this sense of privatized shame attached to it, the explosion of the internet made it easy for kids. We were learning how to use it at the same time as our parents and teachers – and we were quicker students. We could already navigate past firewalls and security filters; we could clear our browser history; we could fool adults into thinking there was nothing sketchy about our internet usage.

Quite the opposite was true though. This was a time when the internet was still relatively new – so even if you didn’t know these work-arounds, you could type in a given number of innocuous keywords that would bring up pornography as you were researching for a school paper. Anyone who grew up during this timeframe knows what I speak of. Natural curiosity implanted a sense of easy mischief, one we could feign innocence in if we got caught by the librarian simply because even when you weren’t looking for porn it turned up.

I bring this foray into my personal history up because I don’t sense my experience to be all that unique. Sure – perhaps few were introduced to a Penthouse magazine when they were seven, but those in my age group surely found themselves introduced to porn much earlier than anyone would have imagined. Yet it would be absolute folly to imagine this problem was relegated to my youth and does not affect younger (and older) generations – especially as the statistics show quite the contrary.

General Statistics

While not fully up-to-date, Pornhub’s 2017 Year in Review[1] has shown the website catered to some 28.5 billion visitors. In terms of SEO count, that’s 81 million unique visitors per day. They further boasted of 24.7 billion searches in the year, which they say translates to about 50,000 searches per minute, or 800 searches per second. If that’s not easy enough to compute – they break it down a bit more practically for readers. Incidentally, that’s the same number of burgers that McDonalds sells every second.

In one year, the hours of porn uploaded to the site translated into 68 years if watched non-stop. The staggering amount of data being used to stream the website’s data was 118 GB per second – something the article boasts is enough to fill the storage of all the world’s iPhones. Put another way: in just five minutes, Pornhub’s servers transmits more data than the entire contents of the New York Public Library’s 50 million books.

While the data is limited – it doesn’t compare any statistical data of underage users – it does clearly show the majority of users are those aged 18-34 (61%). And if you think this is just a young male’s problem – you are surely mistaken. The average proportion of women world-wide is approximately 26%, showing a steady increase from year to year in every country (save Russia). Given the rapidly increasing figures, it shouldn’t be terribly long before men and women are on equal footing. Remember, these figures are from just one porn website.

Then we can take the results of Barna’s 2016 study, which shows people do not define pornography in clear-cut terms. Rather, they define porn on the basis of the function it serves; if it is meant for arousal, its porn. Thus, most would define pornography outside of the bounds of things meant for entertainment purposes, even if the sexual depictions were graphic in nature. Keeping this in mind, the poll revealed 21% of youth pastors and 14% of pastors admit they currently struggle with pornography. Furthermore, teens and young adults overwhelmingly speak of pornography in neutral, accepting, or encouraging ways. Only 1 in 20 young adults, and 1 in 10 teens, believed viewing pornography was morally wrong.

Even more recently, we find Gallup’s study revealing the current social acceptance of pornography has grown 7% from last year, with 43% of people believing it is morally acceptable. While the isolated statistics are fascinating in and of themselves in showing the steady growth of acceptance in nearly every category, the alarming trend for religious individuals has also seen an increase. 22% of those holding that religion is very important to them believe pornography is morally acceptable, followed by 50% for those who say religion is moderately important, and 76% percent of those who say religion is not very important to them at all.

Pornography: Not Simply a Crisis for the Unbeliever

While those outside of organized religion are at higher rates of acceptance, nearly 1 in 4 who claim religion is highly important to them still view pornography as morally acceptable. This is with a loose definition of porn that doesn’t see nudity as anything pornographic – so in terms of sexually immoral content as defined by Scripture (Gal. 5:19), those statistics, staggering as they are, still do not accurately reflect the problem amongst Christians. By that criteria alone – and especially in terms of the current reader who claims Christ whilst dismissing the last two sentences, we’ve already lost the battle.

We easily justify ingesting pornographic expressions in popular culture because it isn’t as racy as the hardcore porn we have to go and find at the click of a mouse. We ogle those whom we’d be ashamed of if they were our daughters and praise that in ourselves which we would be ashamed of in our sons. We seek to find the proverbial line, which we utterly bind in subjectivity, and toe it – occasionally slipping over to the wrong side from time to time. We feel the shame connected to that, yet are perplexed at why we can’t quite be free from the bondage of sexual sin.

I am convinced that many don’t commit adulterous affairs – not out of a love for God – but because they wouldn’t know how to carry one out without getting caught or they simply just don’t have the opportunity provided to them. If this weren’t true, it seems that pornography wouldn’t be such a huge issue within the church for men and women. Porn offers a similar experience without the inherent risks of that physical expression – yet interestingly, the stats demonstrate those with a porn addiction are more than twice as likely to seek out that physical expression. The point being, porn is as much of a pit of death that Solomon warns of as the one enticing you into their bedroom; they lead to the same place.

Incidentally, Solomon also describes this same individual as brutish and utterly senseless. The adverb he uses in Proverbs 7:22 describes his sudden interest in the harlot as that which we would describe idiomatically as “in the blink of an eye”. He has no second thoughts about his actions, but is impulse-driven, like cattle led to slaughter, or the foolish criminal who simply goes from shackle to shackle. The harlot is so enticing to him that he literally shows no hesitation as he goes to his own destruction.

Porn: Not simply a Moral Crisis – But an Existential One

When we deny a metaphysics of personhood the sole enterprise becomes one in which men and women seek pleasure. In essence, pleasure is the vehicle through which people have come to identify themselves. Any form of human expression outside of human sexuality (i.e. the sexually chaste) is seen as un-whole. It is the fundamental degradation of humanity itself as it debases that which is unique in all humans (the Imago Dei) in favor of that which makes us similar to all other mammals: sex.

Women are viewed as the sole objects of pleasure, and they are encouraged in the midst of a #MeToo era to explore sexual fetishes that perpetuate the misogyny they rally against. Men are in a perpetual state of adolescence wherein they seek sexual expression without the risks of human interaction and the messiness of relationships. Behind each of these distortions of sexuality is the faulty notion that in some capacity, sexuality is intrinsically linked to what confers personhood.

This is not merely a moral crisis – it is an existential crisis, namely, because people have removed any purpose to sexuality other than pleasure. If we sense pornography does not facilitate this with abundant ease, we are naïve at best. If we sense the church has not bought into this lie, well, the statistic show otherwise. The experience of young men and women struggling with porn in our churches demonstrates otherwise. The percentage of pastors who are being ousted due to sexual misconduct also demolishes this notion. The amount of ministry leaders keeping their sin private, if the above statistics are even accurate, also exhibit the contrary.

We live in a culture that consumes pornography at the same rate as hamburgers – and we don’t see that as an absolutely terrifying trend. We don’t see the correlation between rampant sexual misconduct and the liberalization of the church – and the increased acceptance of sexual immorality behind her doors. We don’t see these things because we don’t properly understand humanity in terms of relation to God, but instead, we see it in terms of sexuality. Thereby, people adopt an ethic of harm or purpose when it comes to deriving meaning and understanding of sexuality, yet neither of these will do enough.

No, we must understand sexuality in terms of ontology – that is, how we relate to God, rather than mere, moral aesthetics. Any consumption of pornography within the churched simply demonstrates how low a view of God, truth, and virtue we possess, yet how high a view of man we maintain as we cling to our sin. It is no small wonder we see such strong ties to sexually immoral behavior and idolatry within the Scriptures. May God have mercy on us – for though we don’t see it, the Evangelical church is in existential crisis as she relates to human sexuality and flourishing. The canary in the coal mine is dead.

 

 

[1] I do not link to the site here, namely, because there are outbound links to porn within the article.

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  • Salvatore Anthony Luiso

    In the mid-1980s, David Wilkerson said in his book Set the Trumpet to Thy Mouth that many Christian ministers secretly use pornography. When I first read this, I was incredulous. Years later I read and heard statistics about the use of pornography by Christian ministers which make me think he may well have been right. If the statistics I have read are true–including the ones cited in this article–then I do not understand how the so many churches still function as well as they do. It is an awful problem for both ministers and laity. I agree that it is deadly.

    I do not excuse sexual lust, but I think we should recognize the fact that contemporary American society is historically anomalous in its quantity of temptations to it. I am not thinking merely of pornography, or of modern technology such as television and the Internet. I am also thinking of the fact that every day one may see women walking on the street who, by our standards, are adequately covered with clothing, but which by the standards of all Western societies from the First Century to the first half of the 20th Century would have been considered to be inadequately covered to be in public. I am not saying that women should go back to wearing hoop skirts or anything likewise excessive. I am saying that undergarments which women wore in the 19th Century were less revealing than shirts, shorts, and skirts which are commonly worn today.

    I think the author knows that there are Christians ministries which are focused against the use of pornography. One which I especially like is pureHOPE. It is concerned about much more than pornography. The main page of their website says “PURSUING A WORLD FREE OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND BROKENNESS”, and:

    We provide Christian solutions in a sexualized culture. Our content, resources, and equipping experiences are transformative because they point people to Jesus, our Hope. Purity is not an accomplishment, it is a relationship with the One who is pure.

    I do not understand this sentence: “Any form of human expression outside of human sexuality (i.e. the sexually chaste) is seen as un-whole”. By “sexually chaste” does the author mean celibate or virginal? Chastity is not a synonym of these words.

  • HpO

    I can’t believe you actually sought the endorsement of Solomon for your article. Or don’t you know that the author of that Ancient Jewish Book of Porn, The Song of Solomon, was himself a porn addict and a womanizer? If you’ve taken heed that “porn is as much of a pit of death that Solomon warns of as the one enticing you into their bedroom; they lead to the same place” – you might as well have taken into advisement the cautionary remarks coming from St. Guccione of Penthouse and St. Hefner of Playboy.

    • Gilsongraybert

      There are days I wonder if I’ll see a comment that tops the charts of folly, and then it appears.

    • Rod Bristol

      Solomon did not write Song of Songs. Solomon appears in the text merely as a foil of comparison to the celebrated lover. Song of Songs is erotic, but not pornographic. Song of Songs contributed to the separation of the people from the idolatry that featured sexual immorality. Healthy, God-honoring sexuality would eliminate the market for porn.

      • HpO

        No.

        According to Anda E. Greeney, “The Queen of Sheba Possibly Adored in the Song of Songs”, The Bible in the Arts and the Humanities, Harvard University, August 6, 2014:

        “The Song of Solomon is about the Queen of Sheba … an allegory of King Solomon’s love of the Queen of Sheba. … A heart-broken King Solomon [is] expounding on a lost love. … Its sexual nature confirms that Solomon and Sheba were romantically engaged. … So the King James translation of 5:1, ‘I am come into my garden, my sister my spouse…’ is about coming in for sexual purposes. … This translation should read in the perfect tense of, ‘I have come into [sexual] my garden…’ In total … the Song of Songs is about consummated love. … And this subtle and erotic language mirrors an implied relationship between Solomon and Sheba centered on cerebral riddles and cerebral flirtation, with an undertone of sexual passion and lust.”

        End of story.

        • Jeff Hinkle

          The Queen of Sheba had a tasty muff lol

      • Jeff Hinkle

        Listen to Zappa’s “Jewish Princess”. That’s what SoS is all about lol awesome.

  • The list of things killing evangelicalism is long and porn doesn’t even crack the top 20.

    • Gilsongraybert

      Second sentence. While we may disagree on the particulars of all the issues within Evangelicalism, it is clearly a huge issue, both in and outside of the church.

      • You are right. And there is nothing to say we can’t address many issues at once.

    • Theodore A. Jones

      What is #1 in that the top 20 you’ve referenced?

      • Christianity as a cultural affectation, a mere lifestyle choice, rather than a way of life.

        Modern Christianity looks like the rest of the world with a patina of Christianity. Often it is barely distinguishable from the “lost” and their lives, hobbies, concerns, and priorities save for some pious-sounding language and church attendance. There is no sacrifice, no dying to self, no following the Jesus of the New Testament. Make sense?

        • Theodore A. Jones

          I reached the same conclusion over thirty years ago, but my conclusion is that the major in common defect all contemporary churches have is an incorrect soteriological assumption.

        • Jeff Hinkle

          That’s actually good. The fact that most christians are so “bad” at it is the reason we are able to live in a society that functions lol. Islam needs to become as mediocre as christianity, then our troubles with them will pretty much end as well. The good religious people are the ones who barely believe.

  • aeforester

    My thoughts…

    I truly believe that speaking openly with children from an early age when they express curiosity about their bodies is imperative to having a healthy view about human sexuality. When you grow up with the sense that anything to do with your private parts, or feelings and sensations that you might experience are something to be ashamed of, or something that’s dirty… it leaves one feeling very confused. I believe this leads to the behavior of looking at pornography as a means to delve secretly for answers…or the behavior of inappropriate interactions with peers. Secrecy and shame lead to sneaking to find the answers they are seeking. If a child is asking questions about sex or human sexuality, answering their questions in age appropriate language allows for them to understand that it is perfectly natural to have thoughts and feelings… healthy even… The cultivation of an attitude of secrecy, shame, and damnation is the root cause of the rampant porn industry… at least in my beliefs. Making it a taboo subject simply makes one all the more determined to figure out what the “secrets” might be. I was very matter of fact with my child. If she had questions, I spoke to her openly. I never tried to hush her up or make her feel like there was anything to feel dirty or ashamed about. And, the idea that it has anything to do with the clothes women wear is offensive and misogynistic… It’s natural to find beauty in the human body. It’s natural to experience arousal and excitement. It’s natural to be curious. What isn’t natural is for men to feel that they are somehow entitled to gratifying themselves because women somehow tempted them to do so. And if couples would speak openly about their desires with each other, and learn to give each other pleasure… try new things… try new positions… excite each other and keep their sexual lives vibrant, perhaps their wouldn’t be such a need for pornography.

  • Stefan Stackhouse

    I do not suffer from this addiction myself (there but for the grace of God go I!). However, like just about everybody with eyes and ears, I am constantly assaulted by sexually explicit images and come-ons. One cannot use the Internet, go through a supermarket checkout line, watch television, or even drive down the highway without seeing these enticements.

    What I have found useful, and what I counsel others to try: Whenever you see one of these things, then pray for the person being depicted. Pray that they would be delivered from whatever has led them to be used in this degrading manner. Pray that God would turn their life around, lead them to Christ, and help them to a life of sexual purity. The power in this little mini-discipline is that it immediately transforms the person in the image from an object to be used for selfish gratification into a subject of selfless compassion. Once one’s thinking about them has been changed in this way, it is unlikely that one will see them as an object of desire again. For me, this does work, and I suspect it would for most people as well. Those who are deeply into porn addiction do still need professional help, however.

    • P. McCoy

      Since 1995 I have owned 6 desktop PCs ; right now, I have 3 smartphones and 3 android tablets. I have had various internet service providers. In ALL of that time, I have NEVER turned on ANY device and had “porn” leap right into my face!
      On the contrary I had to really dig into search engines and look for it, worrying most about viruses.
      So I am skeptical about this so called ‘porn’ mass invasion. If I’m not running into it why are YOU, unless you see things that are not there.
      Porn can mean many things to many people- to some, it’s a lingerie or a yoga exercise commercial, to another it’s a commercial on selling stilettos. For another it’s a man and woman having sex on a movie channel ; for me it is violence done to Women or children in a sexual manner Americans don’t mind showing a shadow or actual knifed up chests of Women, but not chests touched in a non violent loving way.

      To me the way Christians go on about sex, it is like Aesop’s fable about the Fox and the Grapes…

      • Stefan Stackhouse

        Only once or twice have I clicked on something that turned out to be far different than what I thought it would be. Rare, but it can happen. Suggestive come-on’s are indeed pervasive, however. I have even seen such ads on Christian sites. When they go for the ad money, they don’t have much say about what gets advertised.

        • P. McCoy

          Well, I don’t watch ‘Christian’ TV or much of ANY television for that matter. But then, I suppose that certain ads like a “come hither ” for food or a shampoo,” and the like, don’t constitute as “Porn” to me.

          As for the internet, I have had to be doggedly wanting to see a specific porn site or subject to have it pop up on my system. I believe that is the rule and not the exception.

  • Joseph r carreiro sr

    To not get caught up in Porn,don’t watch,stay away for if you don’t anyone can get hooked.That is how Satan works.God always give you enough time to walk away or run if you have to. If not it is on you,Think hard before tuning in. If you are a non believer tune in have a ball and pay the consequences later.In the end it is a one on one. No blame allowed.Think.Do your thing.